Katiebabs is a self-proclaimed present day bluestocking with her head always in a book. She runs her own book blog called Babbling about Books and More!
The Understatement of the Year (The Ivy Years #3) by Sarina Bowen is one of the best New Adult and LGBT romances I’ve read in a long time. I first heard of this book (say hello to word of mouth) from Mandi and Tori of Smexybooks, who couldn’t stop raving about it. This is New Adult done right and includes a wonderful M/M romance, if not one of the best written LGBT romances this year. The way Sarina handles the two male protagonists’ romance is well written and everything a romance should be.
Michael Graham and John Rikker were very good friends in middle school and high school. Both boys loved to play video games and hockey. They were so close that their feelings for one another become more than friendship. At fifteen, they finally acted on their attraction for one another and started a relationship they kept hidden because of their fear of being ostracized by their fellow students and parents. One day Graham and Rikker (they never call themselves by their first names) are kissing near a store. They are caught by a homophobic group, and as Graham and Rikker run away, Rikker is caught by the thugs and beaten so much he ends up in the hospital. Graham gets away without a scratch. He cuts himself off from Rikker, never seeing him or contacting him again. Rikker’s parents find out what happens and ship him off to his grandmother in Vermont for the rest of his high school years, basically disowning him.
Now almost six years later, Graham and Rikker come in contact again. Graham is a major player on the hockey team at Harkness College. Rikker transfers there and will play on the hockey team after he is outed at his old college, a Christian school, and thrown off the hockey team there. The scene with Rikker and his new coach talking about why Rikker was kicked off, and his coach supportinf him is very heartfelt because Rikker is out in the open as a gay man. He has accepted who he is, and even has dated and had a long term boyfriend, who he is still friends with. Graham is very much in the closet. He sleeps with women, usually when he’s drunk, to prove to himself he’s straight. When he sees Rikker again, the guilt and fear of what happened in high school, and of Rikker’s attack all comes back. He’s afraid Rikker will destroy his hockey career and reputation at school.
Rikker is hurt and angry at Graham because he thought Graham loved him. He wants answers from Graham, who does his best to ignore him. Rikker may act like he’s okay with his transfer and is accepted for the most part by his hockey team, but he’s lonely. Only Bella, the team’s manager and Graham’s sometimes booty call/best friend makes him feel like he belongs. He wants Graham to acknowledge him, which Graham eventually does, but he’s still distant. But then slowly Graham and Rikker talk and become comfortable with one another again. Graham can’t deny he wants Rikker, but he’s so afraid. Rikker wants Graham, and is even willing to keep things a secret again between them, but it might come at a big cost for both.
Talk about one emotional read. The way Graham’s fear and sometimes loathing at himself for loving Rikker is hard hitting. The way Rikker is very accepting of Graham’s confusion and anxiety is incredible. So many lessons are learned about forgiveness and acceptance, specifically from Rikker. Watching these two come together and be together even if they have to keep it a secret really tugs at the heart. The love these two men share for one another is poetic in a way, and the love scenes are equally poignant, sensual and very steamy.
I loved the dialogue and the internal thoughts of Graham and Rikker, both lost souls who find one another again. The secondary characters are wonderful also. Bella is great for comic relief and Skippy, Rikker’s ex-boyfriend was a joy. Rikker’s grandmother is what every grandmother should be. The scene where Graham tells his mother he’s gay will bring forth the tears. It’s a humdinger of a scene that will make your heart expand because it should be a given a parent will accept their child regardless if they agree or don’t agree with the way their child lives their life on their own terms.
The college setting and behind the scene locker room interactions is so real to life. The Understatement of the Year is what a true New Adult embodies. Real life college issues and not so much an emphasis on sex or male protagonists who are portrayed as brutish, chips on their shoulders in need of a therapist because they are so damaged every which way. Graham and Rikker have emotional problems because of how they love and who they want to love, but it doesn’t rule over them to the point it becomes a stereotypical fault found in so many current New Adult novels that irks me to no end. They accept what they are and the challenges that are thrown their way and deal with them. They end up doing it together so well.
Sarina Bowen has hit a home run with The Understatement of the Year. The romance and overall message is so powerful and very well done. It’s one of the “must reads” of this year. I don’t do this very often with a book, but I’m giving a call to action. Read The Understatement of the Year.
P.S.: I wish there was a sappy epilogue. I want to know if Graham gets his wish working for ESPN. Maybe Sarina will revisits Graham and Rikker? *hint hint*