Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Melanie Ting’s Snowballed does what most of the other Moo U stories don’t: allows us to dream over an Asian-American hero, one so self-possessed that you can’t help but love the depth of his seriousness. For me, as I reflected on Noah, I likened him to a character from Grey’s Anatomy: Nico Kim, the incredibly handsome, but serious orthopedic surgeon resident. Like Nico, Noah’s focus oftentimes diminishes his ability to live a full life. With that comes his perceived expectations from his father, a former NHL hockey star. When Noah determines that he cannot remove the shadow of his father and his brother’s successes with hockey, he makes a choice to join the Moo U Hockey team for his final playing season. His father, angered by his son’s choice, cuts him off financially, and Noah is forced to live and work on a farm so that he has a place to live. There, he meets the heroine of Snowballed, Zoe, a vibrant, seemingly happy, and positive go-getter of a heroine. What we find as this story progresses is Zoe’s exterior is a mask to hide a depth of grief that she has never fully processed. With Noah’s too serious, too disciplined persona and Zoe’s erstwhile identity, it’s obvious that they will be a fiery match.
Ting is so careful in crafting Zoe and Noah’s journeys. Noah’s freedom allows him to gain an independence that was lacking under his father’s plan. As he engages in farm work and skates for a team wildly different from his last, he begins to gain confidence in his decision-making that allows him to move past his father’s rules for his life. In that, he is able to self-advocate. Through Noah’s story, Ting deftly reminds her readers that people must make their own choices and live their best lives without regret.
Zoe’s story, while wrapped in a package of vivacity and ambition, illustrates the importance of the grieving process. At a surface level, Zoe works hard, always puts a smile on her face, and she radiates positivity. But there are cracks. As the story progresses, Noah uncovers those fractures. Through her story, we recognize the power of therapy to delve into the difficult parts of our lives. As Ting does with Noah, she aptly crafts a heroine who is seemingly strong and motivated on the outside but has a much darker inner spirit. Ting’s careful pacing of their story allows the story to be elaborated at the right timing.
Where the story suffers, though, is in the chemistry between Noah and Zoe. Honestly, I was never quite sure that Noah was passionate about Zoe. It’s clear that he grows to like her, but the depth of their “love” is difficult to believe, mostly because Noah reads like an automaton. And, as Zoe’s mental health unravels a bit, she reads as desperate for him. With Noah’s emotional distance and Zoe’s messy feelings, their chemistry gets lost to some degree. The epilogue for this story saves it, but I don’t feel a burning passion between Zoe and Noah, which might be difficult for some readers.
I love that Melanie Ting brought Noah into the World of True North. We need diverse characters with diverse backgrounds. With Noah, we are treated to part of the Japanese culture through his bachan. Beyond that, though, Zoe and Noah’s story about letting go of parental expectations is the meat and potatoes of Snowballed, and it’s a worthy read just on that measure.
In love and romance,