Review: The Understatement of the Year 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 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.


Hi, it’s Manu! First of all, let me tell you that this series, The Ivy Yearsis amazing! So please, check it out, it’s different and each book can be read as a standalone.

In all my favorite movies, when something bad was going to happen, the protagonist usually sensed it. He saw a sign, or felt a disturbance in the force. But that’s not how my real life worked. And I’m no action hero. So you can be sure that I didn’t see it coming.

Michael Graham’s day was going as usual until the past came knocking at his door, or better his past came into the locker room. The new guy on the Harkness College hockey team is the last person Graham is ready to see.

God. The sound of him was like being scraped raw. The rough quality of his voice turned me inside out with memories. Both good and bad.

John Rikker knew he was going to see Graham again, he thought he was ready, after 5 years you must be, right?

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. Because you never really get over your first love, right?

Graham and Rikker had been best friends for years, always being around each other, playing videogames, until they were both old enough to find out that videogames weren’t the only interesting thing in that room. So they became more interested in each other. As kids going to a Christian school (not that every Christian school is like this) they were both taught that homosexuality was wrong, but that didn’t stop them. It was really cute how their relationship developed, how worried they both were that their feelings weren’t reciprocated, but how easy it was once it started.

There was a different way that we looked at each other when we were alone. Graham has always blushed easily. In time I realized how easy it was to make him do that. All I had to do was hold his eyes a little longer than necessary, and pink spots would appear on his cheekbones. I liked that. So I did it all the time.

Obviously it was easy only when they were alone, the rest of the time they had to hide it. And that’s hard. When all you want to do is shout to the world how in love you are but you can’t, something in you breaks all the time. Getting older they also got more freedom, and once they drove to a different city, and they were so happy to be away from people they knew, that they made a terrible mistake; they kissed in public.

But I’d never been forced to witness what would happen if people knew. I hadn’t understood the sheer repulsion that I’d somehow earned by loving another boy.

I’m being sarcastic here, because they did nothing wrong. Wrong is what happened when a group of really stupid kids saw them. They ran, Graham got away, but Rikker didn’t. He was beaten and then taken to the hospital, his parents sent him away to his grandmother because they didn’t want their friends to find out that their son was gay. That was also the last time Rikker and Graham saw each other. Until now.

I was afraid to tell him how I really felt. That it was too fucking dangerous to be friends anymore. Because he made me want things that were sick.

That’s why Graham never showed at the hospital, or never tried to call Rikker. He went home that day without a scratch, at least not visible ones. From that day on, he did all he could to never feel like he felt with Rikker again, to want “normal” things, he was scared of himself.  So even now, 5 years later, Graham takes girls home, so the team won’t start asking questions, and he doesn’t even look at boys. Rikker could ruin everything in a second, telling the truth, but he won’t, because the choise of outing had been taked from him and he’d never to that to someone else.

I’d told people I was gay many, many times. I was actually pretty good at it. But you don’t say it when you’re all trapped at a table. You have to drop the bomb when your victims are free to walk away from you. Because even the people who are going to turn right back around and be there for you, often need a minute to digest the idea.

Rikker’s reacation to that terrible day was complitely different. He became stronger, he found people who loved him no matter what, and now lives accepting his sexuality. That doesn’t mean it was easy for him (or that it’s easy now), in fact when he was outed to the coach of his old hockey team he was kicked out. Here comes another important topic for the lgbt community, homosexuality and sports. Unfortunatly that’s a world in which it’s harder to be accepted, and this book deals with it perfectly in my opinion. I also loved that it was also showed how some of the teammates at first weren’t completely comfortable with Rikker, out of ignorance, and then slowly they started to understand, and in the end were there for him.

I didn’t want people to see me as a stereotype. Faggot. Queen. Fairy. I didn’t feel like any of those things, and 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.

Labels and stereotypes are so stupid, we need to stop identifying people with the things they do or like, first of all they’re people. Graham’s fears are the same fears we all go through, and it’s really not fair that we have to fear what we like or who we like. Live and let live. But back to Graham and Rikker; after confronting each other, they start spending time together again, hiding because there’s no way Graham is going to let other people know about them.

There were people in the world who would have used the word “perverse” to describe the things that Graham and I did in the bedroom. But they had it backwards. What was really perverse was the way we pretended like we didn’t know each other all the other time.

So this is a story about two young men, who went through a lot together but reacted differently, and are now trying to find their place in the world. I absolutely loved this story, it was intense, funny, and sometimes heartbreaking. The characters were really interesting and amazingly developed, even side characters as Bella for exemple, who is getting her own book next (thank goodness I loved her!). Graham and Rikker’s povs were really different and explained the story perfectly. Sarina Bowen’s writing is beautiful I couldn’t stop turning pages.

“I’m gay,” I whispered. Rikker grinned. “Fuck. Finally.” “I don’t know why that makes you so happy.” He tightened his arms around me. “Because someday, when you find that easier to say, it will make you happy, too. And I want that for you, G. I want you to be happy.”

I don’t like begging but… pleaseeee read this book and share your thoughts with me!

manuela calloway sisters

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