Review: The Understatement of the Year by Sarina Bowen


Title: The Understatement of the Year (The Ivy Years #3)

Author: Sarina Bowen

Publication Date: September 29, 2014




What happened in high school stayed in high school. Until now.

Five years ago, Michael Graham betrayed the only person who ever really knew him. Since then, he’s made an art of hiding his sexuality from everyone. Including himself.

So it’s a shock when his past strolls right into the Harkness College locker room, sporting a bag of hockey gear and the same slow smile that had always rendered Graham defenseless. For Graham, there is only one possible reaction: total, debilitating panic. With one loose word, the team’s new left wing could destroy Graham’s life as he knows it.

John Rikker is stuck being the new guy. Again. And it’s worse than usual, because the media has latched onto the story of the only “out” player in Division One hockey. As the satellite trucks line the sidewalk outside the rink, his new teammates are not amused.

And one player in particular looks sick every time he enters the room.

Rikker didn’t exactly expect a warm welcome from Graham. But the guy won’t even meet his eyes. From the looks of it, his former… best friend / boyfriend / whatever isn’t doing so well. He drinks too much and can’t focus during practice.

Either the two loneliest guys on the team will self destruct from all the new pressures in their lives, or they can navigate the pain to find a way back to one another. To say that it won’t be easy is the Understatement of the Year.


Warning: unlike the other books in this series, this heartbreaking love story is about two guys. Contains sexual situations, dance music, snarky t-shirts and a poker-playing grandmother.


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Jennifer’s 4 Star Review

I love it when an Author writes a series highlighting a different character in each book, and dedicates a book in the series to a M/M couple.  It’s happening more often now and I think it’s a great way to introduce new followers to the Author, and also introduce a new genre to existing fans.  With that said, I have not read any of the previous books in The Ivy Years series and had no issues at all following along with The Understatement of the Year.  This can definitely be read as a stand-alone.

If you are a fan of Ice Hockey, hot guys, romance, and a bit of angst then this is the book for you.  Although it is a New Adult book, taking place at an Ivy League college, it’s sort of has a YA feel to it.  The main characters are 21+, but I could totally see this taking place in High School, as the characters and story do have a certain immaturity to them.  It is also a very easy and light read, that had me wishing I didn’t have to go to work or take care of my kids (just kidding!) so I didn’t have to put it down.  I was really invested in the relationship between Graham and Rikker and would still keep reading about them if given the opportunity.  

My favorite types of M/M reads are those that deal with childhood best friends who fall in love and have to go through the pain and angst of accepting who they are, and then coming out to their family and friends.  This was very much the story line of The Understatement of the Year.  Michael Graham and Johnny Rikker went to the same Christian School as pre-teens.  As they get older, hours spent playing video games in the basement of Graham’s house, turns into much more.  At 15, they are caught in public and Rikker is beaten up to the point of a lengthy hospitalization. Rikker’s parents are very religious and conservative, and when they find out the reason behind the beating, they ship him off to Vermont to live with his much more accepting grandmother.  Graham, on the other hand, is scared to death about what has happened to Rikker and fearful that people will find out that he is gay.  He never sees or talks to Rikker after the beating and it’s something that sticks with him as the years go on.  He stays involved in Ice Hockey as it’s the one thing that they both had in common and it reminds him of Rikker.

Fast forward several years, and Graham is on the Ice Hockey team for Harkness, an Ivy League college.  After his coach finds out he is gay, Rikker is thrown off the Ice Hockey team at the conservative Saint B’s and is accepted onto the Ice Hockey team of the much more liberal campus of Harkness.  Graham and Rikker come face to face again after all these years, and Graham is terrified.  He has still not accepted who he is, to the point where he is sleeping with women, including the manager of the team, Bella, in order to hide his true self.  He thinks that Rikker is going to “out” him, so he avoids him at all costs.  

I REALLY liked Rikker.  He was mature and confident, and someone I would be proud to call a friend.  He came out in high school, so he is used to the public scrutinization associated with being gay.  Although there are guys on the team that are extremely narrow-minded (I’m talking to you Big-D!), there are also those that are extremely supportive (love you Hartley!).  He has been through a lot but has come out stronger from it.  I REALLY disliked the way that Rikker was treated by Graham.  I understand that Graham is scared, but he treated Rikker like shit and he didn’t deserve it.  He wouldn’t allow Rikker to stay overnight in his dorm, practically not allowing him to use the bathroom, for fear that people would find out he had another guy in his room.  He wouldn’t even make eye contact or speak with Rikker anytime they were in public, and this was his teammate.  But love will make you do crazy things, and that’s what makes Rikker put up with it.  After a head injury during a game, Graham finally starts to let down his defenses and relax around Rikker in front of certain people, and I was very happy to see it.  

My main gripe (if that’s what you would call it) though, is that there was no Epilogue!!!  I need closure Ms. Bowen!  The ending was extremely rushed and I don’t feel that Graham fully came to terms with being gay.  I would have liked to have seen him not only accept who he was, but also be truly happy with himself and proud of his relationship with Rikker.  As a side note, there was a conversation near the end between Graham and Rikker about topping and bottoming.  Rikker is a top but said he would bottom for Graham.  I don’t think anything ever came of this.  Either I missed it or the author forgot about the plot point.  I wouldn’t have minded if that was followed through 😉 .  As for Big-D, it would have also been nice to see him finally accept Rikker.  

I’m definitely going back to read the first 2 books and novella in the series.  Book 4 will be Bella’s story and I’m really interested to read that one.  I do hope we continue to see Graham and Rikker in future books in the series.  This was an excellent New Adult and M/M Romance by Sarina Bowen and I absolutely recommend it to all readers.  This is also the perfect book for a first time M/M reader. Enjoy!



Also Available

#1 The Year We Fell Down (March 2014)

#2 The Year We Hid Away (June 2014)

#2.5 Blonde Date (July 2014)


Interview with Sarina

Q: Is Harkness College from the Ivy Years series based on Yale?

A: Heck yes! But it’s based on a Yale which has gone soft and fuzzy in my mind, in all the best ways. So I’ve fictionalized it to avoid the errors and inaccuracies that I’d be likely to make if I tried to get everything just right.

Q: So what parts of Harkness are the Yaliest?

A: The architecture! The turrets and gargoyles, the Harry Potteresque dining halls, the slate footpaths and the creaky oak doors. The iron gates. The courtyards. The window seats, where you perch while you wonder if you’ll find true love. (Or just do your homework.)

Q: Why did you decide to write a book about two guys this time?

A: In the first place, I didn’t really decide, so much as the idea for Graham’s struggle surgically implanted itself in my brain and would not let go. And when I pictured the two of them meeting up again in a locker room after five years of silence, I just got the chills. This became the book that I cheated on all my other books to write. (If my editors of other projects are reading this… sorry! I’ll get back to work now. Probably.)

Q. Why college hockey?

A. Because… duh! Hockey players are hot. And hockey is a fast-paced game where whining is categorically disallowed. Interestingly, fighting is not legal in college hockey, either. At the college level, it’s all about the game. I love that!

Q: How many Ivy Years books do you have planned?

A: Five, if you’re counting the novella. After Rikker and Graham’s book, Bella is going to need her own book. What, you haven’t met Bella yet? Just wait. She steals quite a few scenes in The Understatement of the Year. She is a kick-ass chick in much the same way as Corey, Scarlet and Katie. You’ll love her. You can read a bit more about all the titles on The Ivy Years page on my website.

Q: How did you come to write romance?

A: I’ve always loved novels—all kinds of novels. And my goal is to make the reader do three things when she’s reading my book: cry, laugh, and sigh. Romance is the best vehicle for that goal, and I’ve really enjoyed the ride.


About the Author

Sarina Bowen makes her home in the Green Mountains of Vermont, where she lives with her family, eight chickens and a large pile of skis and hockey equipment. She is a graduate of Yale University. 

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