The Understatement of the Year by Sarina Bowen – Jenn’s Review

The Understatement of the Year cover (1)


I’ve been loving the series… and this was my first m/m read.


off the charts


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 sexual orientation 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.

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Sarina Bowen has quickly become one of my favorite authors and The Understatement of the Year is just one more reason why. This is book #3 in The Ivy Years series and all books can be read as standalones. This book was a bit of a different read for me because it was m/m (male/male if you’re wondering) and I just had yet to come across an m/m book that looked interesting enough for me to pick up. Not only was this a compelling story, but I was completely captivated from start to finish.

The Ivy Years series revolves around the men’s hockey team at fictional Harkness College. The Understatement of the Year focused on the team and its players, namely, Michael Graham and new transfer student Johnny Rikker. Graham and Rikker have a relationship from the past that no one is aware of, and Graham would prefer it stay that way. Rikker was just kicked off his previous hockey team. His crime? Being gay. The further Graham distances himself from his former best friend, the less chance he has that anyone will suspect the secret he has been carrying around for years.

My stomach was in knots for about 70% of this book. The angst and longing that Sarina shows through her words are over-the-top intense. My heart broke over a dozen different times, and that was all before Graham and Rikker even started speaking to each other. Time and denial did nothing to squash the intense feelings these two had for each other when they were teenagers. There were moments I found myself holding my breath (when Graham finally acknowledges Rikker for the first time in their hotel room, I swear I didn’t breathe for the ENTIRE scene!) Talk about sexual tension!! Every time Rikker and Graham were in the same vicinity, the electricity was off the charts. They didn’t even have to make eye contact for each other for you experience the intensity of their emotions. There were touching moments that had tears streaming down my face and then moments that had me laughing out loud. This book had everything. Most importantly, it had exceptional writing, a storyline that was believable and had you completely invested in these characters lives. It had my heart breaking and mending all on the same page

Rikker and Graham’s story is so much more than a story about being gay and what that means in a “manly” sport like hockey. It is about being true and honest to yourself and with your feelings. It’s about how one person, if it’s the right person, can change your life. I have praised Sarina Bowen each time I have read and reviewed one of her books, but I can honestly say that this is her best one yet.

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