Monday, June 1, 2015

The Understatement of the Year (The Ivy Years #3) by Sarina Bowen Review

Hey readers! Ethan here on this Sunday night with another review for you guys. What am I raving about this time? The Understatement of the Year, the third full installment in Sarina Bowen's The Ivy Years series. Before we get to my thoughts, here's a bit about the novel and our author:

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.

Sarina Bowen

Sarina Bowen writes steamy, angsty contemporary romance from Vermont's Green Mountains. (Her ancestors began logging and farming Vermont during the 18th century. These were rugged, outdoor types without benefit of a laptop or a good latte. It boggles the mind.)

Sarina enjoys skiing, skating and good food. She lives in Windsor County, Vermont, with her family, eight chickens and too much ski gear and hockey equipment.


My Thoughts:

You guys have been following my reviews of this series pretty closely and so many of us have raved about it. I am so pumped to be sharing this reading journey with so many awesome people This is seriously such an incredible series, I am so embarrassed that I just so recently became aware of it! With four full novels and a novella already released, you'd think I'd be tired of them by now, instead I think I love them more with each installment! 

Here we are again readers, my fourth review for Sarina Bowen. I won't lie to you, if nothing I have said hasn't convinced you to go out and download every one of these novels, then I don't know what else I can say! I'll go ahead and give it the old college try though.

The Understatement of the Year is probably the most unique of Bowen's Ivy Years novels as it follows the stories of Graham and Rikker, two of the male players of the Harkness men's hockey team and their... complicated relationship. I've said this in my past reviews and I'll say it again: Bowen's writing gets better and better with each passing installment and Understatement definitely fits that bill!

To date I have reviewed 5 m/m romance novels on this blog and while I will probably never say that they are my favorite to read, I have thoroughly enjoyed the store that each one has had to tell. Within this series, I'm beginning to think Bowen could write a story about the school mascot falling in love with the Dean and I'd probably still love it. While the novel being m/m is important to point out, I really think that shouldn't be a deciding factor to any reader looking to pick up this novel. I urge you to not let it push you away in any manner, because I'm here to tell ya folks, this one is amazing. A true testament to the writing of Sarina Bowen.

This one, more than the previous novels, really has a lot of spoiler-y content so I won't say too terribly much about the plot. What I will tell you is that this novel was equal parts hilarious and heart-breaking. You'll feel the full spectrum of emotions with this one. There are several big game changing scenes in the novel and I was really shocked to read about. I am starting to see a trend in m/m novels though, but I won't spoil anything by saying what the trend is. What I will say about it is that I liked this twist on the trend better than any other I've read so far. Confused? Read the book, I promise you wont be. Like the rest of the series, this one definitely has a HEA, but unlike the rest of the series, this particular HEA comes at the cost of another characters HEA (and that character gets her own novel next because of it). This was a really interesting twist on the series that I didn't really see coming, but I can tell you it really just made me want to devour the next novel even more! One of my favorite parts about this series is that Bowen tries to keep it as realistic as possible, making her college students, actual college students. They go to class, they study, they don't party 24/7, it's extremely refreshing to read about true college age students! Props to Sarina Bowen once again!

Like the previous installments of the series, we get so much more than just the stories of the two main characters. We see the stories of an entire hockey team, our previous novels MCs, friends, family, etc. This is a huge literary world and Bowen has ensured that every character gets their rightful place in the spotlight. Graham was probably one of the best written characters in the series so far. His character development from Bella's somewhat boyfriend to Rikker's soul mate really was a fantastic character transformation. It's astounding to me how we even were dealing with the same character from beginning to end. After Graham's accident, we really begin to see a much different side of him; a more mature, understanding side of him. Graham's family plays a large role in the story which I also loved. It really helped to root his character in an effort to better understand his motives. Rikker on the other hand was a close second. Rikker was just a lot of fun to read about. While he had some terrible backstory that really kept his plotline thick, he gave the novel a much needed sense of 'relief'. Rikker was fun, comical , and relatable in a lot of ways. We also see some of Rikker's family in the best possible way, his grandma was awesome! The rest of them... not so much. The interesting thing about this story is that it's about so much more than the budding romance between two guys on a hockey team, it's the story of their coming to terms with their own selves and their community, teams, families, etc also learning to open their hearts a little wider to bring Graham and Rikker in. It was truly a feels-worthy story.

Can I just say that I wish I had gone to Harkness College? What a fun place to be? The classical architecture, the house divisions, the amount of school spirit and campus pride? Yeah. I can definitely get behind that. I said this earlier, but I believe that Sarina Bowen has written the perfect college setting within Harkness. It's so awesome! I really got the feel that I, too, was attending classes next to these characters! Talk about reader immersion! In addition to Harkness, this novel sees the setting change up a bit when you visit Rikker's home in Vermont. Well, the home of his Grandmother, who is awesome. Anyway, I won't spoil that for you, but you'll see a lot more than just Harkness in this installment!

Bowen does a great job interpreting a plethora of themes with this novel, but I believe the most important one was being true to one's self. It isn't under Graham is able to comes to terms with his feeling towards Rikker and his sexuality that he is able to really become himself. He fought his true feeling for a long time, but in the end his true self prevails in a great light. Rikker faces themes pertaining to strength in the face of adversity and strength in starting anew. There are so many other themes explored in this series pertaining to grappling with the changes of becoming an adult, the stresses of college, and the responsibilities that come with both of these life events. It's truly phenomenal what Bowen is able to do with these novels.  

As you can see, I clearly enjoyed Bowen's The Understatement of the Year. It was an emotionally gripping read with a few plot twists I really did not see coming. There will be laughs and tears folks, I'll go ahead and warn you now. In true Ivy Years fashion, it should come as absolutely no surprise that I am grating this one a near-perfect 5-star review. I have nothing but positive things to say about this one! If you've loved the rest of this series, this is a must have for your bookshelves! New to the series? Good news, it's a standalone! I urge all readers of the NA genre to check out this novel, you may just come out of it a better person!

Check out my five star reviews of 
The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years #1), 
The Year We Hid Away (The Ivy Years #2), and
Blonde Date (The Ivy Years 2.5)
by clicking the covers below!

Alright readers, that is all I have for you on the topic of The Understatement of the Year. This entire series is fantastic and I cannot say enough great things! Be on the lookout for my thoughts on the next novel, The Shameless Hour, soon (like within the next day soon)! Have you read this series? Let me know in the comments below! Until next time, Happy Reading!


1 comment:

  1. Ethan! This one is my favorite out of the entire series so far! Rikker and Graham are just wonderful.