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The Ivy Years #3

The Understatement of the Year

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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.


308 pages, Kindle Edition

First published September 16, 2014

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About the author

Sarina Bowen

103 books15.1k followers
sarina bowen
Sarina Bowen is the twenty-four-time USA Today bestselling and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of three dozen books, including: the True North series, and Brooklyn Hockey. She's the co-author of Him/Us and the WAGs series with Elle Kennedy. She's the author of The Ivy Years series, and more!
Are you looking for a friends-to-lovers story or maybe even a secret baby book? You can read a list of Sarina's books broken out by trope and style.
Need to know what's coming next ? Get all the latest news on Sarina's website, and sign up for her newsletter so you don't miss a book or a deal.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,996 reviews
Profile Image for Heather K (dentist in my spare time).
3,861 reviews5,641 followers
March 13, 2021

Sarina Bowen absolutely CRUSHED this one, and I LOVED every second of it! To say that I adored The Understatement of the Year would be, well, the freakin' UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR!

First, I have to put an important message out to all of the lovers of the AUDIOBOOK of Him: Buy The Understatement of the Year in audio format. I'm telling you, it is worth every single penny. For those lovers of Him, you will instantly recognize the voice of Teddy Hamilton, and you will also ADORE the voice of Christian Fox. Listen up all M/M authors: These men should narrate MORE audiobooks! They have voices to DIE for, and they completely made this audiobook their BITCH. I'm in love with their readings, and they have become my top narrators to watch for.

The story was also pure new adult, sweaty hockey player gold. For me, 2016 has been my year of hockey romances, and they are my newest obsession. This book was hockey-tastic. I loved all of the hockey details, but they absolutely didn't get in the way of the romance.

The romance was... gah, amazing. I can go either way with reunited former lovers stories, but this one gutted me. Slow-burn, painful closet, sneaking around... it destroyed me in the best way. I was near tears at times, and I feeeelt for these guys. Their love story wrecked me, and I thought that their chemistry was insane.

I could go on and on gushing about this story, but the bottom line is that Sarina Bowen crafted a beautiful love story and picked perfect narrators to bring it to life. I will forever read Sarina Bowen now because this story blew me away. JUST BUY IT!

Profile Image for Christy.
3,818 reviews32.4k followers
March 12, 2022
5 stars!

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

Graham and Rikker… two hockey players. One openly gay. One not. I’ve officially read every book in The Ivy Years Series except the last, and I can say with absolute certainty that this is my favorite to date. There was something so special about this story. It’s friends to lovers, it’s second chance, it’s M/M, it’s about finding yourself and accepting who you are.

Rikker is seriously the best character. I loved that he knew who he was, and even with his struggle of being the only openly gay man in division one hockey, he still held true to himself. Graham was a different story. My heart truly hurt for him. I wanted to jump in this book and give him a huge hug. I hated that his past shaped him into the way he was- which was terrified of himself.
I was the most homophobic person alive. Because ‘homophobic’ means ‘afraid of homosexuals.’ And I was pants-shitting terrified of myself.

Getting Graham and Rikker’s past was just as great as the present. I loved them both together. I loved Bella, Rikker’s Gran and Graham’s mom as well. This story was full of fabulous characters.

Heartfelt, steamy and a truly beautiful story, The Understatement of the Year is one book you don’t want to pass up. Although I highly recommend reading ALL THE BOOKS in this series, it can definitely be read as a stand alone! I thought it was the perfect read- the only thing I would have changed was to have MORE of Graham and Rikker truly out and together. After reading the 4th book (Bella’s) you get to see a good bit of them, so my complaint is kind of not relevant. A wonderfully emotional story that gets a full 5 stars from me!

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Profile Image for Shile (Hazard's Version) on-hiatus.
1,093 reviews798 followers
January 11, 2023
Re- Listen - January 2023

Bumped to 4.95 stars

I will never get tired of this book. Rikker scale is everything.

Re-listen - May 2021

Bumped to 4.93 stars

That ending! Ugh!

Teal, I think you are onto something. She saw a squirrel.

Re-listen - April 2020

Bumped to 4.90 stars

Loved it even more. I will never get tired of this story.

Bumped to 4.85 stars, that ending still frustrates me

This story is so entertaining and the Audiobook is AMAZING! i still can't believe it is narrated by two narrators. This is dual narration perfection.


Bumped to 4.5 stars
I enjoyed the audio book , the narrators did an amazing job.

Graham....Oh this guy ....Reading for a second time i actually felt sorry for him.. he was so deep in the closet that he did not know anything else other than loneliness.

I was the most homophobic person alive. Because ‘homophobic’ means ‘afraid of homosexuals.’ And I was pants-shitting terrified of myself.

I loved Rikker.. What an amazing, easygoing, enduring character.

”I’m gay,” I whispered.
Rikker grinned. “Fuck. Finally.”

I loved it!!!


but the ending still bugs

I want to know more.


What happened after......

Jan 2017

This a nice journey for 2 boys in love, I loved Rikker he was understanding,forgiving and a good guy. I really wanted to slap Graham,this was low on steam but i still enjoyed it, i felt like this was not supposed to be the end.. I wanted to know more what happened, but was left hanging.
August 4, 2015
There are so many phenomenal reviews for this book already. Because friends I trust gave this book 4+ stars, I decided to give it a go even though I tend not to like M/M books written by M/F authors.

But this one didn't read like "chicks with dicks" at all.

Kudos to Sarina Bowen for a well-written, realistic story about two gay hockey players, one out to much publicity, another closeted and self-hating.

Michael Graham and John Rikker are well-rounded, complex characters. I adored Rikker, his bravery and capacity for forgiveness. He just wanted to be a good hockey player, not "the gay hockey player."

Best friends and lovers in high school, Rikker and Graham are torn apart by a hate crime.

Graham is so terrified of being gay, he paints his life in gray and black, not allowing himself to feel, fucking girls when he's drunk enough for everything to blur and can blame a lack of an orgasm on the alcohol.

Graham was not a sympathetic character throughout most of this story. The way he shunned and treated Rikker was despicable. I wanted Rikker to pull away, to push back, but that would not have worked with Graham, and Rikker knew it.

The secondary characters in this story really worked: Bella, the student team manager, who loves hockey AND hockey players; the coach with his inspirational speeches; Rikker's feisty and all kinds of awesome grandma; the players (except for Big-D, who was a big ol' douchebag, but there's gotta be one of those on every team); and Rikker's ex-boyfriend, whom I totally loved (want his story before he got his HEA, please!).

The plot of the story did not read young. These were MEN dealing with adult dilemmas.

But the steam level, with the vague descriptions and all fade to black, was closer to YA, which was disappointing.

Sing it with me: Because you know I'm all about that smut, that smut, no treble; I'm all 'bout that smut,'bout that smut, no treble.

Even so, this was a meaningful, enjoyable story. I would read any other M/M book by this author and can definitely recommend this one.
Profile Image for Jennifer Kyle.
2,379 reviews4,627 followers
September 30, 2014

"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."


**This story can be read as a stand alone.**

Mission accomplished. I have just read my first m/m book and I seriously loved it. However, since it is my first I don’t have anything to hold this story up against in terms like is it same old story, etc. Regardless, I enjoyed Rikker and Graham’s story immensely and thought it was a great addition to the series and probably the best of the series to date!

Rikker and Graham were best friends as adolescents and fell in love as young teens when a horrific incident happens Rikker is sent away and Graham hides never to even contact his friend again. Graham has been hiding his sexuality from himself and others his whole life. He lives an exhausting existence but is confident that he handles it all well until the day his first and only love enters his Harkness College Hockey Team's locker room.

”Five years ago, he’d made it very clear that we were no longer friends. Or anything else. And it didn’t take a genius to see that Graham had decided that he was a straight guy now. Or at least deep in the closet.”

This story is told in dual pov as both male povs one of which is hiding and other outed. Rikker has been transferred and dumped by his prior college for being gay. Graham can’t even say the word gay and he dodges even looking at Rikker while Rikker struggles to fit in with the team and face public opinion.

"I was the most homophobic person alive. Because "homophobic" means "afraid of homosexuals." And I was pants - shitting terrified of myself."

This story was well written and made for a newbie to this genre a great read. The sex scenes were smoking hot as Graham goes for it with Rikker and in turn he forgives himself for how he handled their young relationship and they form a new one.


The pacing of Rikker and Graham relationship was believable and I loved when Graham finally can acknowledge his feelings to himself.

”I’m gay,” I whispered.
Rikker grinned. “Fuck. Finally.”

As for the ending, I even got choked up and was left grinning from ear to ear. Great job Sarina Bowen!

”You’re it,” I whispered. “A perfect ten on the Rikker scale.”

Please Note: Honorable Mention Award goes to Bella the team’s helper and all around great girl.


Poor Bella has it bad for Graham and is a great friend to both guys throughout the story. I’m hoping that the author is already busy writing her a book.

Special thanks to Alexandra for the buddy read!
Profile Image for Carol [Goodreads Addict].
2,354 reviews24.7k followers
April 23, 2023
The Understatement of the Year is book three in The Ivy Years series by Sarina Bowen. This is the only book I have read in this series and had no trouble jumping in. It can easily be read as a stand alone. I would call this a MM, sports, second chance, NA romance.

Michael Graham and Johnny Rikker first met in seventh grade Spanish class. They instantly became best friends. They were at that age when everything was confusing, especially the feelings that were developing between each other. But they lived in a religious community where anything nontraditional was a sin. By the time they were sixteen, their friendship had evolved to secret kissing and groping. They were so careful with their secret until that day when everything changed. It was the last time Graham had seen Rikker. Until now!

Both Graham and Rikker were hockey players and both are now twenty one. Graham played for Harkness College and is a junior. Graham has buried his attraction to men deep and has convinced himself that he will someday meet a girl that will mean enough to him to marry. That he will never give in to “that” desire again. Then, at the beginning of the season, Rikker walks into his locker room and those eyes that he hasn’t seen in five years settle on him. All he feels is panic.

Rikker can’t believe he has to start over in a new school. He wasn’t keeping his sexuality secret but wasn’t out to his team at his previous school and was outed against his will. Now he is forced to start over at Harkness and is being hailed in the press as the only out player in Division One Hockey. He is front page news which isn’t what he wants. He only wants to play the game he loves, hockey! He knew Graham would be there but didn’t expect him to act like they’d never seen each other before. He wouldn’t even look at him. Or Graham would leave the room as soon as Rikker entered.

This is a story of second chances. At that connection between these two that they will never have with anyone else. Rikker is forced to live in the spotlight and he does the best he can. His life is full of stress but I couldn’t help but to love him as he just kept powering his way through it all. My feelings towards Graham were quite different. Even though I understand why he behaved as he did, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the way he treated Rikker. Even as they began to come back together, in public they were still strangers. Graham had to accept that part of himself and until he did, he would never be whole. I loved Rikker even more because he accepted Graham for whatever he was able to give.

There was a lot to go through for both of these young men. The ending was quite abrupt, a happy for now type of ending. If there had been an epilogue, it would have helped. There is an extended novella included in the book, Extra Credit, which I have heard does give you better closure. I haven’t picked it up yet but perhaps I will.

For more about this book and so many others, come and visit me at Carol's Crazy Bookish World.

Profile Image for Rachel  L.
1,828 reviews2,189 followers
June 10, 2016
4.5 stars!

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

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This series keeps getting better and better! The Understatement of the Year is a male/male romance about hockey players Rikker and Graham. This story parallels the second story, following the same timeline but not connecting all too often. When Rikker and Graham were in middle school they were best friends. Entering into high school their feelings developed into something more. The two were headed down a romantic road until a horrible incident separated them, leaving one beaten and broken and the other paralyzed with fear.

“There weren't any time-outs, though. Not in life, and not in hockey.”

Now about 5 years later Graham is on the hockey team for his school Harkness and a new player just came on board... Rikker. The two haven't seen each other in years, and for Graham who is deeply in the closet, it's a full system shock. Rikker was outed at his last deeply conservative college and transferred to Harkness when he was pulled from his other hockey team. Rikker just wants to play hockey and move on with his life, out in the open.

As the year goes on Graham and Rikker confront each other and their buried feelings. Rikker has finally become comfortable with himself, but Graham is spiralling down a dark path and it might be up to Rikker to save him.

“We'd been so close all those years ago. My subconscious just couldn't get over the idea that we weren't anymore.”

I think I read this series at exactly the right time. I haven't read a new adult series that I wanted to devour all at once, and here I am binge reading this one. M/M is one of my favorite genres and this book blended NA with MM perfectly. For those of you hardcored MM fans out there, this one may be a little too sweet, but I loved it. I had the perfect amount of angst for me (buckets full) and Graham's struggle with who he was is what made this book so special. Yes some gay men struggle with who they are, but Graham was given the worst dose of reality of what could happen at a very young age and it scarred him and fucked him up for a while.

“It turns out that trying to ignore somebody is about the most, exhausting thing in the world.”

One of the more interesting side characters was Skippy and I loved his sass. Especially the scene with him and Rikker's mom. That one had me literally laughing out loud in public.

I was absorbed in this book from the very first page, I loved seeing the romance play out and how the complications and issues were dealt with. You would think that now, in our time people would be more open minded, but that's not the case and it makes me sad. Love is love. It's beautiful. And it's that simple to me.

(My only tiny criticism is the sex scenes were fade to black. My pervy mind wanted more! Lmao)

So if I haven't convinced you yet, please go out and read this series.
Profile Image for ✦❋Arianna✦❋.
790 reviews2,504 followers
November 22, 2014


“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.”

“Understatement of the Year” is book 3 in Sarina Bowen’s series “The Ivy Years”, but you can read it as a standalone.

“Understatement of the Year” it’s a second chances/friends to lovers story. It’s a heart aching and at the same time a heartwarming story about two boys who try to be together in a world where unfortunately homophobia exists.

Michael Graham and Johnny Rikker went at the same Christian School as pre-teens. They first were friends, playing hockey in the same team and later they became something more. When they were 16 they are caught in public and attacked for being gay. Rikker is beaten up and Graham escapes. Graham never visits Rikker in the hospital and he never calls because he doesn’t want to be discovered as gay. Rikker is sent by his religious parents to live in Vermont with his grandmother and Graham stays in Connecticut and continuing to play hockey, but never talking with anybody about what happened with Rikker.


Five years later, Rikker transfers from his team Saint B to Harkness, an Ivy League College after he’d been outed against his will. What he didn't expected is to find Graham plays for the same team. Rikker didn’t expected a warm welcoming from Graham, but he didn’t expect either to be treated by his former friend like a stranger.

“Crossing that crowded room, I’d only gotten a glimpse of him. But a glance was enough to make me understand just how hard this was going to be.“

Rikker is hurt of course, he knows he’s no longer Graham friend and he figured out Graham had decided that he’s a straight guy now or deep in the closet. He doesn’t care too much anyway. He just only wants to play hockey. Graham is terrified by Rikker. He expects Rikker to tell everyone his secret and what happened five years ago, but he also never forgot his first love.


If at first Rikker ignores Graham, a few months later after his arriving he begins to provoke him, just to try to get a reaction from him. Graham tried all his life not be different and now that his first lover is in the same team, he tries it harder, drinking and trying to avoid Rikker at all costs. Everything is about to change for them when they share a room together on a trip.


I didn’t have any expectation reading this one, since this is my first time reading this author, but I think she did a pretty good job, especially since it was her first time writing a m/m romance.

I didn’t have any expectation reading this one, since this is my first time reading this author. I think the author did a pretty good job, especially since it was her first time writing an m/m romance.

Every chapter starts with a definition of a hockey team. I really liked this fact. I know it’s not original, but here I enjoyed since every term is related with what happens in that chapter. The setting of the story is Harkness College and it’s written in dual POV, which I think was very helpful in understanding both main characters.

This book is not a plot driven story. Here, the story is centered around the two main characters - they feelings for each other, their relationship and of course the struggling to accept who they really are. ( Graham).

I loved Rikker. I loved everything about him. He is such a great guy. He suffered a lot when he was 16. Not only he was hospitalized, but he lost his friend, his first love. At first, he has a hard time moving on without Graham, knowing that Graham was supposed to be near him, betrayed him. He is strong when his parents kick him out, when he’s outed, but he moves on, even if he never stopped forgetting or missing Graham. He doesn’t have many friends, feeling lonely most of the time. I so wanted to give him a hug!

I admired him so much! When he is outed, he never goes back in the closet, he is who he is. He is proud of who he is, but of course like everyone else he wants to be accepted. After his transfer, he is hurt by Graham’s behavior, but he is mature and he stays strong, never thinking to reveal Graham’s secret. I really felt for him – for what happened with him back in past and for what he has to endure in the present - not only Graham’s rejection, but another player’s hurtful homophobic words too.

Rikker is not only a lover from Graham. He’s most of all a friend. What I loved the most about him is how accepting is with Graham’s struggle to accept that he’s gay. He is patient, understanding and he wants to give Graham all his love. He never judges Graham.


I must admit I had a hard time liking Rikker’s character in the beginning. In some way I understand him and I really sympathize with him even then. I’m aware that it’s not easy to accept who you are all the time, especially in his case, but I really didn’t like how he treated Rikker. There were a few times when I really wanted to smack him in the head. To say that I was frustrated with him will be a big understatement.

However, I felt for him too. He lived 5 years in denial, working every day on his appearance. He wants to be straight, like he wants later not to love Rikker, but you can’t fight who you are or who you love.


He not only lives in denial, struggling to accept who he is, he feels ashamed for what he did to Rikker too.

The author did a great job portraying Graham’s fears, denial and shame. Also, his coming out was done very well. From my perspective just how was supposed to be, gradually. Everything felt real and relatable too.

There are a few great secondary characters that warmed my heart – Rikker’s grandmother, Graham’s mother, Hartley (one of the guys in Graham and Rikker’s hockey team) and of course Bella (Graham's friend and later also Rikker's friend). Bella was such a lovely friend for both Graham and Rikker and I totally felt for her.

There are many great scenes, but one in particular broke my heart – the hospital scenes. I can’t describe in words how much I loved that scene or how much it moved me. My heart totally broke for these two guys, but especially for Graham. So much pain...

This story it’s not an erotic M/M romance, so the steam is very low. The angst is there of course with such a premise (for me it was medium), but you can figure out this aspect reading the blurb. I felt a lot reading this book – anger, despair, compassion, pity, you name it...In my opinion, a book that can make me feel so much, especially a book who feels real in every way, it’s a great book.

I was happy with the HFN ending, even if it felt a little rushed. However, I really wished for an epilogue (Maybe 1 year later, or 3, 5 years later).

Both main characters are 21 years old so the book is considered a NA. Even is a NA there were times when I felt like I was reading a YA. Mostly because of Graham’s character and of course for the fact the heat here is very low.

All in all, “Understatement of the Year” was a powerful and wonderful read and I definitely recommend it!


Profile Image for Martin.
746 reviews410 followers
October 15, 2021
What a powerful story!!

And just to think that I almost didn't pick it up because I'm not a big fan of hockey...

I believe this book is a bit on the Young Adult side. The characters are 21 and the sex is not very graphic and sometimes fade to black. But there is enough to keep us happy, do not worry.

The guys' young age is also the reason why I am being extremely forgiving towards Graham. The guy is a sweetheart, but his road to happiness is like the Passion of the Christ. Seriously....

(John) Rikker and (Michael) Graham (both guys refer to each other by their last names throughout the book, which I found pretty funny) have been best friends since middle school.
Attending the same Catholic private school brought them close together and once they're around 15, they not only share the Xbox controller, but also passionate kisses whenever they're alone.

One sad day, a terrible incident happens to both boys that leaves Rikker badly injured and sent off to live with his grandmother, whereas Graham is scared out of his mind and swears to himself to never 'be gay' ever again.

Years pass, and at the College age of 21, the guys meet again by chance: Rikker is a hockey player and gets transferred mid-year to a different college and a different hockey team.

The same team that Graham plays for.

Graham acts extremely weird upon meeting Rikker again. Pretending they don't know each other in front of the team, weeks pass before they exchange a couple of words.

And thinking about it, not much happens over the next few months, except both young men get closer again, and eventually become intimate with each other - while Graham still desperately clings to his closet and refuses to publicly acknowledge his (boy)friend Graham.

There are some extremely frustrating pages where the guys' young age is blatantly visible. Rikker loving his old friend, being caring, understanding and loyal, gratefully devouring the scraps of affection that Graham hands out whenever he feels 'safe'.
Graham knowing he cares deeply for Rikker, but unable to show anybody else outside of their 2-person circle of trust what is really going on between them.

It takes a terrible accident on the ice for Graham to realize that there are times in life when having a loyal partner is more important than the opinion of others.

Graham's metamorphosis is surprising, but still believable to me. His youth trauma took a bit of time for me to process, because Graham seemed to have all the necessary resources in order NOT to be a scared closeted young man, but his mind definitely played a trick on him, sadly.

He was just so overwhelmingly scared of what others thought of him....

But I totally recognized ALL his thoughts from my own teenage years. The author captured the fears of a young gay man perfectly in this story. There is a huge leap of growing up that Graham does towards the end of the story. His arc was incredibly satisfying to see.

Rikker on the other hand, is a completely different guy. He is naturally confident, even in the face of the constant homophobic environment that he finds himself in (let's face it, many gay teens would not accept the hardships that Rikker took in stride in order to be on the hockey team).
Rikker is a far more grown up character. And yet, the end of the story gives Graham a good opportunity to stand up for Rikker and be the partner that Rikker needs in life.

So, so good.

I also LOVED ALL the side character. Hartley is such a great captain. Bella, the man-hunting 'hockey team manager' ( I believe all the words I originally came up with to describe her role on the team are not politically correct, LOL), Skippy, the nice but micromanaging ex-boyfriend (I know several people just like him, I'm not kidding). Even the homophobic team-a**hole was well done (can't say I like him, but he felt real).

The characters are extremely life-like and easy to relate to.

Cutting my rambling short, this is clearly an excellent book that I will consider one of my best reads in this year.

The story did have some weaknesses that are the result of the men being very young. Some things that I would find unforgiving with maturer guys, like hiding affection to preserve the illusion of 'being straight' or ignoring your boyfriend when other people are nearby, I accepted here because I could see the torment behind these actions.

I understand that young guys need to grow and mature to understand the consequences of their deeds - which is exactly what happened in this book and why I liked it so much in the end.

Definitely 5 stars and a favorite of the year!

(Though I still don't like hockey, but that's not the book's fault)
Profile Image for Optimist ♰King's Wench♰.
1,765 reviews3,851 followers
September 11, 2018
Reread 9/2018

I actually did the audio this time and it gave me all feels. Again. Even though I knew what was going to happen! I think that calls for bumping this sucker to the all time faves list.

Christian Fox and Teddy Hamilton breathed life into Graham and Rikker. I had forgotten how much I liked Bella in this book. Still bummed about her book but... *shrugs*

Overall a helluva read that I would recommend til the cows come home if you like feels, second chance AND unrequited to requited love or virgins or angst or hurt/comfort so... pretty much everyone!

Original review:
"We're both easy. It's just the rest of the world that's hard."

Sarina Bowen is getting dangerously close to becoming an auto buy author and I do not auto buy. There are authors I LOVE and still I read their blurbs before deciding whether or not to pull the one-click trigger.

This is yet another second chance romance with so many feels that my face sprung a couple leaks. And I didn't even mind!

Graham and Rikker grew up together, were each other's first loves when a gay bashing sent their lives in different directions. Rikker to Vermont to live with his grandmother and mostly out of the closet whereas Graham stayed in Michigan at the Christian school that reinforced his belief that his sexuality made him an abomination.

Five years later Rikker ends up in Graham's locker room at Harkness after having been outed mortifyingly in a very public way. Things are not easily resolved between them. There is so much awkwardness and silence between them that makes them both feel more isolated and alone.

Whenever we were alone, the world shrank down to a manageable size. In his company I became my real self.

What I found the most heartbreaking as well as honest was the evolution of their relationship. There are no easy answers, no magic peen and no weird personality transplants. Graham is afraid of his own shadow even deep in the closet and Rikker knows they're probably looking at an expiration date if things don't change.

The sex is more romantic than hot but I did like Rikker being all hard and in charge. A lot.

I didn't want to be called those names. I just wanted to be Michael Graham. It's just that Michael Graham was attracted to men. And always had been.

The way this story unfolded without antics, just life got me right in the feels. Sometimes life makes decisions for us and has a tendency to put things into perspective.

I love me a sports book and this was the perfect balance between hockey and romance. Some of their teammates are douchenozzles, some are great like Hartley, but most fall somewhere in the middle which felt authentic. Coach James and Rikker's Gran provided the comic relief. Really, I loved all the secondary characters especially Bells. I felt so bad for her and I hope she finds someone that'll appreciate her amazmatasticness.

Last but not least, I loved the ending. Graham ended up achieving the elusive 10 on the Rikker scale and this book ended up being a 10 on the Cupcake scale. It's not perfect. Some of the lingo is maybe a little cheesy but I just don't care. I loved it, faults and all.

Recommend to all the peoples. Sarina Bowen's writes... they just feel so good.
Profile Image for Nark.
621 reviews872 followers
December 1, 2021
2.5 stars.

🏒 this was okay?
🏒 honestly, the romance just didn’t really work for me overall.
🏒 i didn’t really like the way their relationship developed.
🏒 i never fully got over the fact that Graham abandoned Rikker all those years ago like that.
🏒 i just needed more grovelling i think. instead, that whole situation was just pushed aside for a lot of this book.
🏒 i really hoped that i would start liking Graham by the end at least a little bit, but that didn’t happen.
🏒 Rikker was definitely more likeable. honestly, he deserved better lol.
🏒 anyways, to sum up, Wesmie are still the superior hockey couple when it comes to this author.
Profile Image for Gigi.
2,156 reviews1,049 followers
April 24, 2015

In a nutshell, this is the love story of two 21 year old boys who fell in love as teens, were separated at 15 years old for six years because of a hate crime, and had a very long and painful road back to one another because of a tremendous amount of guilt and more than a little PTSD. Set in the world of Ivy League College Hockey, there is a lot of testosterone flying around and tempers get out-of-hand. Mix that with alcohol, a college staple, and you have the makings of a disaster for a gay man trying to live the life as a straight man. That is exactly what MC Michael Graham is trying to do when old high school flame MC John Rikker shows up one September to join his team.

Sarina Bowen takes these boys from point A, meeting in the locker room for the first time in six years, to point B, their HEA, or rather their HFN (I'm sure we'll see these two again in sequels) by basically dragging them both through broken glass. The angst just about killed me! I cried a lot while reading this. I hated Graham for most of the book. But I loved this book. It was a beautiful love story about two people who refused to let go of one another, no matter how ugly and awful it got. And what's more romantic than that?

I can recommend this book to M/M romance fans, but do be prepared to experience a wide range of emotions. Also, be prepared to read this in one or two sittings. This isn't one you will be able to put down. The emotion is just too high!
Profile Image for Astrid - The Bookish Sweet Tooth.
794 reviews876 followers
April 6, 2018


Sarina Bowen is reliable. When I start one of her books I know I'll have a good time. I've also come to appreciate her sensitivity when she writes MM Romance. She always addresses issues you can easily relate to, even as a female because we all have experienced discrimination in one way or the other.

The Understatement of the Year is a perfect example of how susceptible teenagers are to negative influences. Graham and Rikker were childhood friends and lovers when a vicious homophobic assault left Rik with a couple broken ribs and bruises and Graham firmly in the closet. Graham never got over the way their attackers called them fagots and that he ran and left Rik to fend for himself. But really, what else could he have done? He was a 16 year old kid and they were outnumbered. So he buried everything about this essential part of himself and showed the hetero front everyone expected him to be.

Rik on the other hand was expelled from his bigot home and came to live with his grandmother who would become the rock in his life. When he is being kicked off the hockey team at college after being outed he comes to Harkness to continue playing for their Hockey team. Imagine his surprise when he comes face to face with the guy who was his first love, who never called after they were assaulted.
Crossing that crowded room, I’d only gotten a glimpse of him. But a glance was enough to make me understand just how hard this was going to be.

Graham puts up a front - on the outside he is this guy who has always a flippant and funny comment on his lips, gets drunk, and sleeps with women. On the inside it's a Herculean effort for him to hide that he is gay.
I was the most homophobic person alive. Because ‘homophobic’ means ‘afraid of homosexuals.’ And I was pants-shitting terrified of myself.

Sex with women only works when he gets drunk. It is super sweet to see Graham change - his immense growth from the beginning of the book to the end is touching and all kinds of beautiful. I never got mad at him for being a coward because the author made me realize that the reason for him staying in the closet was for fear of embarrassment. He lost a lot when those homophobic douchewaffles hunted Rik and him. Most of all, he lost his love and best friend. I challenge everyone not to get choked up a bit when Graham takes the first step letting go of his bottled up emotions and letting himself be vulnerable.

Rik's way of handling the new situation at Harkness is pretty admirable. He is the new guy, the one who has zero social life when he starts out again and sometimes his loneliness shines through, it's a little heartbreaking. Rikker is such a laid-back, clear-headed and kindhearted, patient guy who would never do what was done to him - out Graham against his will. He is accepting and understanding, giving him space to work this out on his own terms. I loved their friendship and connection so much. Once they moved out of the friend zone it felt like wearing your most favorite pair of jeans. Comfortable.
He kissed me between the shoulder blades. “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.

Next to the main characters there is always a cast of lovable side characters. I adored Graham's mom and Rik's gran. You could actually SEE why the two leads had become such good people. And then there is Bella whose book I can't wait to read. She is a wonderfully colorful character with a big heart and she deserves a happily ever after.

Let me say a view words about the audiobook of The Understatement of the Year. I know Teddy Hamilton as a narrator from Him and Us by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy. I knew I'd get an amazing audio experience with him. And then I heard Christian Fox and boy, the guy is good. I love how both of them put considerable voice acting skills into their performances.

Sarina Bowen always balances the anxiety with a tenderness and lightness that takes the edge off it and makes her stories supremely entertaining that will leave you with a smile on your face despite the serious topic. It's the way her characters are wonderful human beings, people you accept and embrace with all their flaws. They make you feel good and when you close one all you want to do is start the next one. Her gentle hand creating these wonderful stories with amazing characters says a lot about her as a person.

If you love MM Romance, give Ms. Bowen a chance. She always brings something special to the table, be it MM or MF Romance.
Profile Image for * A Reader Obsessed *.
2,139 reviews434 followers
November 14, 2018
3 Sad Stars

I’m gonna be honest. I didn’t enjoy myself while reading this book, and I really really wanted to love this hard because 1) hockey, and 2) Sarina Bowen.

All the points goes towards the writing. Bowen’s words and how she unfolds the story is superb as always. The relationship progression between Graham and Rikker is complex, tragic, heartbreaking - filled with bitterness and anger and so much regret. It was a terribly painful story of friends to lovers that started while these two were teens, and then that wondrous thing called a second chance comes around and ultimately, the win was beautifully delivered.

However, I just couldn't relax. I couldn’t bask in the longstanding love that Rikker and Graham held for each other, had never lost despite outside and inside forces that made it just too difficult and complicated to fight for initially.

I obviously didn’t realise just how angsty this was going to be because typically, I really can get over myself - really, I can. However, there's all different types of angst and this is my least favorite. Beware major deep-in-the-closet vibes, lots and lots of painful self flagellation, and that awful paranoia of discovery that runs so rampant when there’s too many secrets and lies that need to be kept straight. Ha ha.

To further add to my disgruntlement, there was no epilogue to soothe my indignation over a rather hasty ending, and I have to say that this was also the least explicit of Bowen’s works I’ve read. Yes, I am unapologetically greedy in what I need and want in my romances, and when you get some hot as fire UST and foreplay and basically one sentence about the goodness, my displeasure wanted to throw tantrums and break items and cause some serious pain. A lot. I’m not joking.

Sooo, it’s apparent I didn’t have too much of a good time, though points for making me cry and points for again, being excellently written. Don’t mind me because I am the rare dissenting opinion. Plenty have LOVED this hard for great and totally understandable reasons, but those reasons were why I didn’t like this. I just wanted something different than what I got. Thing is, Bowen seriously needs to get cracking on writing more MM because I’m all caught up now. Did you hear that Ms. Bowen? All. Caught. Up.

Audio highly recommended
Profile Image for Melissa.
356 reviews626 followers
April 14, 2015
The Year We Fell Down Book 1 Review

I honestly think this author has potential. Her books could be awesome if they only they didn't have those little things that annoy the hell out of me. See, I think I'm very biased when it comes to GFY and OFY. I am ridiculously lenient cause they're my guilty pleasures. They are usually OTT and unbelievable but I can never say no to one.

Warning: It's a bullet list cause I seriously don't have time to write a long ass review. Why I even read this when I should obviously be studying is beyond my comprehension. But on we go...

The Pace: It was perfect. It was fast paced book that managed to never bore me but at the same time it read as a slow paced romance. It honestly  never really felt like insta love. I think the author gave us enough back story to make everything believable and captivating.

Rikker: The guy was just amazing. Yes, he was kind of a pushover and had he been a girl I would have totally hated his guts (yes, I know, I have double standards) but he had this way of still winning me over despite his lack of restraint. He felt real in his actions and I guess sometimes love makes you do stupid shit-like forgive undeserving exes- but I digress, it's Rikker we're talking about. He was always honest and sweet and completely understanding. Definitely my favorite character here.

Graham. He was kind of an asshole. And a cowardly one at that. He did horrible things to Rikker and had I been Rikker I would have probably-ah who am I kidding? I would have DEFINITELY- kicked him out on his ass but I guess I still loved him cause this if GFY and I'm a biased little witch. I think he coulda been a murderer and this still woulda worked for me. He made the sex hot so *shrugs*<< Did I mention I make excuses for GFY?

That ending. WTF was up with that ending. I seriously think they ran out of paper when they  were printing these out cause WHERE THE HECK IS THE REST OF THE STORY??? I mean it, this book ended like before shit went down and that is not how I roll. So yeah that ticked me off.

Because yes, in my personal case I have a bone to pick. I was seriously offended how they described Christians. This was way too stereotypical for me. Like OMG we are not all like that. I'm a Chirtsian and dude I'm awesome! You can take it to the bank.

But on a serious note-not that I wasn't being serious before cause I am awesome. Period- yes, I believe everything the bible says, I believe in Jesus and all that other good stuff. BUT THAT IS MY PREROGATIVE AND I CAN BELIEVE IN WHATEVER THE HECK I WANT TO BELIEVE. But that being said I would NEVER judge anyone for what they do or choose not to do because this is a personal choice and you have a right to choose how to live your OWN freaking life. What I do and what I believe in is my personal relationship with God but dude, everyone else can do whatever the heck pleases them. Man, for all I care you can walk the streets naked banging your dick to the beat of a drum and I'd keep on my merry way. Now maybe I know I'm not the most conventional Christian out there, you might have noticed I sometimes have a colorful vocabulary, but I'm a true believer that the way you choose to live is yours and only yours. Like I've always said and believed, my right ends where yours begins.  And vice-versa. So if the bash-Jesus jokes would have been kept to a minimum, I might have enjoyed it more.
Profile Image for Ingie.
1,344 reviews169 followers
July 21, 2016
Review written July 21, 2016

3.8 Stars - Touching sweet sport romance with two lovely young hockey players. Absolutely well worth my audiobook listening time

The Understatement of the Year is a quite popular "boys loves boys" romance from September 2014 in a mixed m/f & m/m series. Written by the same author, Sarina Bowen as the newer (and better) stunning sweet Him-book (4,5 stars from me). A book we all M/M readers still remember.

I'm a fan by Ms. Bowen's light style by now. There is a good mix of sweetness and heatness she gives us. It will be more reads from her by me. — Yum, I like!


The Understatement of the Year is a pretty standard NA sports (hockey) romance. Two young guys, college, bigotry, rememberable moments and it is all endearing and tender touching sweet.

From the blurb:
« 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. (...) 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. »
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“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.”

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Real life when you are young could be horrible hard and the fear for being outed as gay, or even accepting your own deep inner feelings, are sometimes your very worst nightmare. An old mistake, hard rough memories and broken hearts.

I felt and cared for these boys. Heartbreaking at times, hot and romantic and all in all believable. This is what I call "easygoing romance stuff" perfect for lazy summer holidays days. — Nothing new under the sun but honestly recommended for girls which are still quite new to the M/M genre.


I listened to the 8:50 hours very pleasant narrated by Teddy Hamilton and Christian Fox. It was so good with different voices for each POV and these two main character.


I LIKE - sweet young lovestories
Profile Image for Anyta Sunday.
Author 84 books2,530 followers
September 9, 2016
To say this book is good is the understatement of the year!

Smooth writing, smooth, sexy reading. I loved that it had a solid plot-line, solid romance, solid sexyness, and solid emotion. ;) That's a win for me, folks.

Profile Image for Michelle.
943 reviews223 followers
November 16, 2015
4 Second Chance Stars!
This is the third book in The Ivy Years series. I haven't read the first two books in this series and while reading this I didn't seem to mind that I hadn't.
Rikker and Graham are best friends when they are kids. They spend every moment together. They go to the same Christian private school, playing video games, same church and even on the same hockey team. One night when they are teenagers they are wrestling over the remote and they both discover that they are attracted to each other. Let the make out sessions begin. A year later they still are sneaking around making out whenever they get any privacy. One day Rikker and Graham are in a shady part of town when a gang of boys witnesses them kissing. The boys yell hateful things to them and start to chase them. Rikker and Graham both run but Rikker gets caught, beat up bad and winds up in the hospital. Graham however kept running until he got home and then shuts himself off in his room.
It doesn't take Rikkers parents long to put two and two together and they ship him off to live with his grandmother. Rikkers parents were assholes! They thought if they got him away from Graham that he will get un-gay. He never hears from Graham until 5 years later when he transfers to his hockey team.
Rikker is everything Graham is not. Rikker doesn't care who knows he's gay. Rikker is not scared to say the word gay. Rikker has had a relationship before.
Graham however can't even say the word gay. He defiantly can't look at Rikker without thinking about the past. Graham also hides his thoughts by drinking and having random sex with woman. Graham never looks anyone in the eyes because he's scared somebody will figure out his secret that he's attracted to men.
I loved Rikker and Graham at first. Then I sort of wasn't sure about Graham. I just couldn't believe he would leave his best friend like the way he did when they were in high school then the way he treated Rikker later on. I didn't understand why they had to be the way they were for so long. So yea Graham pissed me off for most of the book.
I got choked up a few times reading this. Graham's parents were great. I loved his mom. I also laughed several times. I loved Bella! I thought she was hilarious!! I couldn't believe Bella was Graham's best friend and Graham never told her anything. Graham defiantly had the must be straight act down very well. He was so scared of what others thought of him that he lived a lonely life after Rikker was shipped off when they were teenagers. I felt sorry for him but I was also pissed at him.
So why not a 5 star?
The ending was....ummm....very abrupt and I don't know rushed. I would of liked an epilogue. You know me always wanting more. lol I also was not expecting to have glossed over sex scenes either. lol
So even though Graham pissed me off with his thoughts and actions for most of the book and the rushed ending I still loved this one! I might read the rest of the books in this series one day because I am curious about the others now.
Profile Image for Kati *☆・゚ readsRomance.
531 reviews141 followers
April 18, 2023
4.5***** stars
re-listen March 2023:

huh! look at that. Me bumping up a rating from four to five stars again after a re-read. I seem to have a winning streak with that. *lol No, but honestly… I can imagine that this one fell a bit flat for me the first time, pretty much right after Him/Us, but now, giving it a second chance, (well it is a second-chance after all) I enjoyed Rikker and Graham’s story so very much —sweet boys. ♡

“Bye, John,” Graham’s mom said.
“Thanks for the coffee,” I said again. Then I slipped out the door, saving us all any additional awkwardness.

When it shut behind me, I heard her voice.
“I just love that boy.”
“He’s taken,” Graham replied.

I was heartbroken for the for the 16-year old Graham as well as for his older self with all the fear and self loathing that came with him being into boys. And I was heartbroken for the 16-year old Rikker for how he lost the boy he loved so much. But I was also glad that he, in contrast to Graham, was not alone after what happened to them. It made me so happy in the end that they (mostly Graham) overcame their struggles and hurdles and got to the point where their HEA was right there in their shared grasp.

As always Christian Fox and Teddy Hamilton did a fine job narrating the audio.
Profile Image for Wil Loves Books!.
1,123 reviews462 followers
October 22, 2021

“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.”

This is one of my all-time favorite books. I make an effort to revisit it every once in a while. It’s just so perfect. This time I listened to the audio and Christian Fox and Teddy Hamilton, who are definitely in my Top 5 of male narrators, are simply magical. I’ve always felt this book needs a sequel. I hope someday it happens.

** Original Review 4-2015*

Whoa, I loved this book so much, more than I expected I would, especially since this is not a genre I read often. So far I've really liked all the books in the Ivy Years series (this is book 3), but this one by far has been my favorite. As a heads up this is an M/M book, if this is not your thing look away, but if you have an open mind and are up for a beautiful love story then this book is it. Kudos to Sarina Bowen for stepping out of the box and adding this story in the series. Off to read book 4 The Shameless Hour!
Profile Image for JAN.
1,138 reviews755 followers
March 31, 2019
I wanted to like this so much, but it was a battle between ups and downs. 🤯 I found myself from emotional to bored in a blink. Not to mention the frustrating times! 🤕
So, just kindly ignore me and read all Five and Four Stars reviews from my 🤔 hmmm... over 50 friends !! 😜
Profile Image for Elisa Glendenning.
491 reviews50 followers
September 15, 2021
3.5 Stars

The writing was solid but I can’t say it was an enjoyable experience as the homophobic content made for an uncomfortable read.

I would have liked this much more if I could have warmed up to Graham, who might well be the most closeted character I’ve ever endured. I think his portrayal was probably quite realistic but given his past history with the wonderful Rikker, he needed to redeem himself big-time in my eyes. Until 80%, he was a big fat 1 on the Rikker scale. I expected so much more. Graham was a coward. Rikker knew it, he knew it and yet he just accepted it.

I’m still on the fence because I loved Rikker, and I loved all the scenes with his gran, Skippy and Graham’s mum. But after all the build up, the ending was so rushed, felt anti-climatic and there was no epilogue - to say I was left a tad disappointed would be an understatement!
Profile Image for Ami.
5,814 reviews499 followers
January 18, 2015
I will have to state this first – I could be a snob reader sometimes especially when dealing with new-to-me author who self-published. This book will not even in my radar because 1) The author self-published, 2) The author writes in YA/NA genre, and 3) The first two books in this series are M/F. However, when a friend who is also a very tough reader gave this 4.5 stars and her review title is “Recommended”, well, I took notice.

Guess what? This one was GOOD.

Okay, first thing first, even if this one is numbered as third in the series but it is pretty much a stand-alone. I’ve never read the first two books and I had no issues at all in understanding the story. Heck, I didn’t even know if any of the characters here appeared in the first two books. It really didn’t matter.

I would be first to admit that I usually avoided YA/NA genre. Another part of me being a snob reader, I guess. I cannot stand the whole young-adult angst, or how it is all about love and emo-angst and how everything feels like it has to be so intense all the time. But this one, though, this one done everything just right and I totally loved it.

While the story was based on internal homophobia – Graham felt the guilt because five years ago, when they were just sixteen, Graham left Rikker beaten in the alley after a gang came to them with a bat shouting ‘faggots’ – and struggle of being an out athlete, this story didn’t get all too mellow and too angst. Graham’s internal conflict felt real. Rikker’s reactions towards being the new guy on the team who also happened to be gay also felt real. Heck, even the homophobic slurs and jokes from one of his teammate, who was a jackass, also felt real – without it being too over the top. There was definitely SOMETHING in Ms. Bowen’s writing that made all these conflicts and the progress of each character to mature up as down-to-earth.

I also loved how Rikker dealt with Graham’s internal homophobia. Too often I read about stories that involved someone who is too afraid to come out, and instead the love-interest gets all pushy and gives ultimatum because “it is the sign of love”. I never LIKE that plot. Coming out is a difficult process and it’s never easy. Pushing someone you claim to love to come out because ‘you’re tired of being the secret’ is never fair, I think. So how Rikker accepted Graham’s fear and being a very supportive friend when needed was, well, admirable. I loved that about this story. I loved how Graham took those steps by himself, getting more and more courageous. Graham did rise to the occasion on the right moment, the right time. And I will say this, when Graham finally told his mother about what Rikker meant for him, and when in the dark he finally able to say to Rikker that he was gay, I got my eyes all teary. Great job there, Ms. Bowen!!

And of course we had the secondary characters, with Bella as the most stand-out character. I was so happy that she wasn’t painted as ‘slut’ even if she said she wanted to sleep with most of the players. And when Bella found out Rikker was gay, she wasn’t portrayed as annoying championing fag-hag. All these characters were written with care, even the jackass of teammates.

Ms. Bowen didn’t really tie up everything with a bow – we didn’t really get the ramifications of the team finally found out about Graham and Rikker’s relationship. We still had Rikker’s mother not exactly accepting her son’s sexuality. But hey, Graham and Riker are still in university, they have their own life ahead of them. They will move on and we can leave that to them to continue their own story even after the word “the end” … happily of course. Yep, I will count the ending as happy and hopeful, no doubt about that.

PS: The anal sex is fade-to-black, though you still have the blowjobs and the handjobs. Just a warning for you all smut fans :)
Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 75 books2,514 followers
March 29, 2016
4.5 stars. This book does fine as a stand-alone.

This is a second-chances story. Two boys were falling in love in high-school, just beginning to see what that meant, when a horrible night broke them. They each got past it in their own ways, but Graham in particular is emotionally scarred and afraid. So much so that he has turned the event into a lesson, an ultimatum that he cannot be gay, must not be gay. He's tried to suppress the past and any feelings he has for other men,

And then five years later, Rikker walks into Graham's team's locker room as a newly outed, beyond hope of ever going back in the closet, Division One hockey player. And every bit of fear and guilt and want and panic that Graham has tried to bury, rises to the surface. So while Rikker has to deal with being the gay poster boy, and the guy he loved seems to not know he exists, Graham is busy trying to stuff all his fears and feelings down out of sight. It's Rikker who has the easier job, because Graham is coming apart.

I really enjoyed this book, despite losing a bit of patience with Graham and the typical not-talking thing. It's well written, and I enjoyed the characters, especially Rikker. It ends a little fast for me (I'd have liked to see more of the reactions from team, family, and outside forces) but there was a satisfying and positive HFN.
Profile Image for Jenn.
420 reviews205 followers
October 28, 2014
4.5 stars

Do you know those movies or books that just nail a certain time in your life perfectly? Even if it’s not exactly the life you led, you are immersed in the vibe and years you were there. There are thousands of books written about the college experience, but there are few I relate to or take me back to that time. I didn’t play sports, I’m not a gay male, and I live nowhere near where the MCs live and yet…I lived and breathed COLLEGE and all those pains and joys of that time in this book.

Michael Graham and John Rikker are two young hockey players, former boyfriends/loves, and both just trying to make it to the next day as any young adult tries to do.

Sarina Bowen is a new-to-me author and normally writes m/f romance, but no one should be worried this is “dressed up het”. At all. Graham and Rikker are so very special to me, and the reason their story resonates so well is because Graham’s emotional turmoil isn’t played for manipulation. Rikker’s at times understanding, sad, lonely, completely aware that he’s a fool to hang on, but in love all the same. There are those moments of awkwardness, embarrassment, drunkenness and drunken honesty, road trips, team spirit and the sports season, mundane studying and activities, and friendships.

This isn’t just a story of two men falling in love, and I love it so much the more for that reason. It’s Graham gaining confidence, becoming open with friends and family, it’s the freedom of taking off on your own for a bit, it’s the confusion of what’s not said, and really it’s just about growing comfortable with yourself, which tends to happen for many with experience and age. In this instance, Rikker is already fairly comfortable with himself, at least when it comes to his sexuality and Graham has so much self-loathing he can’t even entertain the idea that people he love might still support him.

“I’m not going to be their gay son.”

It’s the ups AND downs of life, with a lot of sweet moments that made me tear up. I’m a sap sometimes. But the tears? They were good for the most part, and often not even romance or lover relationship caused. Sometimes it’s the simplest and quietest moments that will affect you the most.

“He kissed me between the shoulder blades. “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.”

Everything I love about NA was there, everything I love in this type of romance was there, and the female character Bella needs her own book — with Rikker and Graham there as well.

Happy sighs all around.

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Profile Image for Maartje.
62 reviews
February 28, 2021
Sooo I really struggled reading The Understatement of the Year... That is mostly the reason why I gave it 3 (previously 2) stars. It wasn't that bad but it wasn't that great either.

The Understatement of the Year is basically a friends to lovers to enemies to lovers story. You expect that to be great right? But instead it was kind of a dissapointment in so many ways I can't even properly explain.

Mike Graham and Johnny Rikker are estranged friends who reunite when Rikker joins Graham's hockey team. At first, Graham ignores him out of fear. Eventually both guys cannot ignore each other anymore and they reconnect romantically. There is a solid reason why Graham didn't want anything to do with Rikker but at the same time it is sad for both of them. However, everything turns out well. (I don't wanna spoil too much!!!)

I had so many issues with a lot of characters. Also, I had a hard time relating to any of the main characters until the end of the book. Besides during some moments while reading, I felt really ucomfortable because of the subtext/obvious homophobia.

Whenever Rikker was defending himself. For being gay?! That does not need any defending, at least it shouldn't! He was actually shut down by several people. That was just sad. A character that I had some issues with as well was Bella. She had a crush on Graham and although they slept together several times, he never promised her anything more. So when she discovered that he was gay, she made him feel bad about it. Graham literally apologized to her and she kept on making comments how difficult it was for her. They weren't even in a relationship... It felt all awkward because it was like Graham apologized for being gay eventually. And that is just off.

To be perfectly honest I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone. I have finished The Understatement of the Year but it wasn't the best book ever. The ending could have been better as well.

***EDIT: I forgot to mention that this was a reread for me. It had been at least 5 years since I read The Understatement of the Year for the first time and I loved it then. Rereading it now made me realize that I wasn't into the story as I was back then. However, my expectations for this book were too high. Probably because this book was etched into my memory as "great". Therefore I changed my rating from 2 into 3 stars. Because it isn't fair to base your rating on unrealistic expectations based on previous reads or experiences.
Profile Image for Oscar.
256 reviews93 followers
September 14, 2020
Miss Bowen could write the user's guide manual of some appliance and I would still read it thoroughly. After reading Top Secret last year and then this, I realized how amazing this author writes because everything feels very vivid to me. I was just flying my way through this consuming every word. The relationship between John Rikker and Michael Graham was full of angst and tension right from the very beginning that made their romance undeniably hard earned. Finishing this up, I decided to reread Him again. I'm sure this time would be different for me.
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
841 reviews3,773 followers
February 15, 2021

2.5 stars. You never know when a harsh truth will punch you in the face. Here's mine : Reading The Understatement of the Year, it made me aware of something I am not happy about : I have double standards. I wish I could slap myself, but that doesn't mean it's any less true.

See, Rikker is so in love with Graham that he's willing to accept everything : he forgives him the fact that he doesn't want to acknowledge him in public, accepts to be his hidden secret at night, bears the sight of him ignoring every homophobic joke that D.J asshole barfs, tolerates his over the top paranoia, even knowing that his life stays so very lonely because of it. Rikker is a doormat.

And this is the understatement of the year.

I wouldn't stand Rikker if he was a woman.

Granted, if Rikker was a woman, the whole story would be necessarily different because Graham's struggles are linked to the fact that he refuses to accept his sexual identity. I would never imply that I know what it's like because I don't, and never will. It remains that Graham takes and takes and takes from Rikker without barely giving him anything in exchange, and Rikker lets him. Rikker, adorable Rikker, lets him take everything for the sake of love, even though Graham is clear on the fact that he will never, ever be in an open relationship with him.

This is exactly what made me hate Tate in Ugly Love.

Here I am, though, liking - loving, even - Rikker, and I couldn't even find it in me to be annoyed over his pathetic behavior. If it's not a double standard, I don't know what that is. Yes, it makes me sad and ashamed.

Yet there's something that doesn't change, though : I am very, very pissed at the other guy, Graham. I might lack empathy - sue me - but I cannot accept his actions and root for him while he spends the whole book sorry for himself and sucking the life out of Rikker like a freaking vampire. He is a selfish douche, and 20 pages of being decent in the end do not make up for it.

Too little, too late. Way too late.

Not to mention that Graham's cowardly behavior makes for the most boring plot. Things go like this :

Locker room (Graham being a A+ jerk) - Hockey - Rikker's room (Sex scene) - Locker room (Graham being a A+ jerk) - Hockey - Rikker's room (sex scene, copy/paste and repeat*) - Locker room (Graham being a A+ jerk) - Vacations in Vermont! - Locker room (Graham being a A+ jerk) - Hockey - Rikker's room (sex scene, copy/paste and repeat*) - Locker room (Graham being a A+ jerk) - Sex in an hotel room! - Locker room - etcetera , etcetera, etcetera.

Jeez. Repetitive much?

* I am not kidding - the exact same words, guys.

However, I still cheered up at their (so very rushed) HEA, because somehow, during the 5 hours it took me to fly through this, my brain cells exploded or something.


For more of my reviews, please visit:
Profile Image for Teal.
597 reviews190 followers
May 8, 2021
**** 4.5 stars ****

Damn, I love these guys. This is one of my favorite m/m books, and it's holding up well to multiple re-reads. But why are the best books always the most difficult to review? This one deserves a real review, so I'm working on it...
Profile Image for Gustaf.
1,416 reviews127 followers
October 10, 2021
Eh.. I'm going to be the odd one out here, but I really didn't care much for this book. The first 80% was honestly dire and I was close to DNF many times. The last 20 was better though. Almost sweet. Almost. So eh... warning for a real honest review. I guess.

Look, it's probably just a me thing but I find the whole athlete with a closet full of internalized homophobia to be really tired. Like it's a real thing, sadly still happening. And it sucks. But it's not what i want out of my romance reading. I don't want to be remembered by all those things. Maybe it's me shying away from reality but nevertheless it's not what I want from my reading. And Graham, he's the freaking poster boy of internalized homophobia. He was being a selfish douche through most of the book and I never really warmed up to him. Not even when started to realize it himself. He just had one too many strikes in my book to be able to redeem himself. Rikker on the other hand was lovely and he deserved so much more than Graham. Even if I wanted to shake him at times, telling him to stop being such a doormat towards Graham.

This has been on my tbr forever and if nothing else, I'm happy I finally got around to it. Even if it was far from a win for me.
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