Review of THE UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR (The Ivy Years #3) by Sarina Bowen

(The Ivy Years #3)
by Sarina Bowen


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.

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.

~Book Links~


~My Review~

What an incredible read! UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR by Sarina Bowen is a powerful and masterfully written story about two young men who had been best friends since they were young, slowly fell in love with each other as teenagers, then were suddenly torn apart by a tragic event and now five years later find themselves playing for the same college hockey team. Even though they haven’t set eyes on each other in five years all the positive and negative emotions between them are suddenly forced to the forefront for them to deal with and hopefully work out. This book was impossible to put down. My heart went out to these young men right from the beginning and cheered for them all the way to the last page.

I think Ms. Bowen did an amazing job of portraying Graham and Rikker’s struggles with college life, the hockey team atmosphere and pressure, the fear of the hate and discrimination, as well as their hidden longings and heartache. I can’t say enough times how well written this story is, how quickly I was drawn into the feelings and situation of the main characters – not just Graham and Rikker, but Bella too for loving someone she has no idea can never feel the same way about her because he lost his heart a long time ago – and how invested I felt in their seemingly impossible situation working out with a happy ending. There was never a doubt how much they still felt for one another, but as Rikker says to Graham,

“Getting along together was never the problem with you and me,” he said.
“We’re both easy. It’s just the rest of the world that’s hard.”


There are so many dynamics between the various characters in this book, all so young and just trying to find their way in the world. Graham, because he’s so deep in the closet terrified of admitting his sexuality even to himself, he sleeps around with women, including Bella, drinks too much and every decision in his life is made to avoid any chance someone might think he’s anything other than a testosterone filled, hetero defenseman on Harkness University’s hockey team. Rikker, who’s been outed as gay at the college he previously attended, kicked off their hockey team, and now dealing with living as a gay athlete the public eye and with the resentment of some of his teammates for the unwanted stigma this brings. And then there’s Bella, the team manager, who tries so hard to get close to Graham because she’s fallen for him, yet hides it behind their cloak of friendship to avoid the pain of his rejection. Beyond all of this there is just so much more to the story, but I don’t want to give it away. Some parts were quite humorous, but all of it touched my heart. I shed so many tears. Some good, some ugly. It was just so wonderful to read, and must be experienced. 5 stars

~Complimentary copy received in exchange for a honest review~

~Previous Books in the Series~

#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.

~Sarina Bowen Bio~

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.

~Sarina’s Social Media Pages~

Email | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads


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