Book Review – The Understatement of the Year by Sarina Bowen

The Understatement of the Year (The Ivy Years #3)

Author: Sarina Bowen

Publication: September 29th, 2014

Publisher: Rennie Road Books

Format: Kindle Edition, 308 pages

Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Read: June 2017

Sarina BowenGoodreads

 

Synopsis
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.

Critically

Plot – 3 out of 5 stars
This story was a lot more emotional than I was expecting going into it. There’s a lot of drama, there’s a lot of angst as well as violence, and some scenes that include bigotry. I liked that sports were still included as well as the themes of acceptance and honestly. The ending was abrupt but overall I liked the book.

Writing Style – 4 out of 5 stars
I like the author’s writing style. It’s very simple, very easy to read and fast paced, just how I like my New Adult books. There are multiple POVs and each one has it’s own distinct voice. The writing is intense, emotional, dramatic and entertaining.

Characters – 3 out of 5 stars
This is probably my least favorite part of this book in particular. I struggled with connection with one of the two main characters which made his parts of the narrative harder to read.
John Rikker was definitely my favorite of the two. He’s the one who’s more confident in himself and open with people. He’s charming, honest and kind. He has a lot of pressures as he’s going into a new college, a new hockey team and there’s a lot about this change that he wants to keep quiet. But that doesn’t stop him from confronting challenges and from being honest with people which I loved.
Michael Graham, on the other hand, frustrated me a lot. He has a lot of insecurities and is downright scared of a lot of things. He’s very vulnerable emotionally and he’s harming himself emotionally as well. I found his point of view to be frustrating and intense but I loved how much he grew throughout the story.
I loveddd seeing all the old characters from the first two books in the series. They’re not all around as much as I wanted but they definitely played a bigger part in this book than they did in the second one so I love it! I liked the new side characters a lot and I know the next book focuses on one of my faves from this book and I’m excited.

Emotionally

I don’t know how to feel about this book to be honest. The story is full of drama, angst and raw situations. But I didn’t feel that connected with it as a whole.

The plot is raw. We follow John Rikker, who has just transferred to Harkness College after being kicked out of the hockey team at his old school. He reconnects (sort of) with an old friend whom he has a complicated past with. This story is really intense and I want to mention that it could be really triggering for some people. There’s some violence involved (mostly in hockey but also assault), bigotry and instances of homophobia. This book had a lot of different plot points that were really powerful and had a lot to say about the topics above. I had some issues with getting connected with the points of views in the series. One of the main characters was struggling with a lot of personal demons and that was a huge part of his narrative throughout the story. It made me much more interested in that side of the story than the development of the romance which I guess isn’t that great because this is supposed to be a romance haha. A huge part of me wasn’t even that interested in the main characters getting together at all. I was much more invested in their personal journeys and what was happening outside of their relationship or what they were trying to make a relationship. That part of it also bothered me a bit because I felt like the beginnings of that dynamic were toxic and pretty unhealthy. There was one character that had to go through a lot of pain to be a part of this relationship and that had to compromise their emotions to be with the other person and I just don’t think that’s good for anyone. I’m glad that things improved as the story went on, and I understand both sides of the relationship (both characters were struggling with different things as well as with their feelings for each other) but it just wasn’t something that I could actively ship and I didn’t really connect with it. I liked the book overall, mostly because I like the series and seeing so many side characters show up definitely helped me continue through it, but I feel like with this book the series overall is becoming more lack luster and I hope the next book is a bang that I’ll really enjoy.

Rikker was definitely the main character that I enjoyed the most. He was really sweet and charming. Generally open about himself and his circumstances. He’s accepting and kind even though sometimes I felt he was being too lenient in some of the ways people were treating him. He didn’t lose his temper, he didn’t lash out and I liked how he was honest with himself and did a lot of self-reflection. Graham on the other hand really annoyed me at times. I understand what he was struggling with. He had a lot of internal issues that he was struggling with that made him a harsh person and a self-destructive person. However, I did not like the way he treated Rikker or some of his friends. He was emotionally manipulative and was very hurtful in his behavior. Part of the reason I didn’t like the romance is because he kind of forced Rikker to be closeted again in a way because he wasn’t okay with being out of the closet himself. Obviously, they both made their choices and they each decided to continue a romance anyway, I just didn’t think that was fair for Rikker. Graham took a long time, to the end of the book honestly, to show Rikker that he cared about him and to be honest with himself about his sexuality. I’m torn about how I feel about that. I get the full circle moment because the catalyst was a situation in which Rikker needed him and he finally stepped up to the plate this time but at the same time, I feel like it would’ve been more honest to have had him continue to be closeted because I don’t think he was ready for the reality of that choice. Not in the beginning of the book or at the end. And there wasn’t any real lengthy resolution that transitioned how big a personal and plot conflict that was to the acceptance that was shown in the end.

I am definitely a fan of the side characters of this series. This book in particular overlapped with the story in the second book, so we didn’t get to see the characters from that book but much more of the ones from the first one which makes me happy since that was lacking for me last time. As for the ones introduced in this book for the first time, I lovedd Bella! Her attitude and general personality is amazing and I’m really excited to see her own point of view in the next book.

Overall, I had some issues with this book. I kind of feel like lowering the rating after sharing all my thoughts because it just didn’t rise to the standard that I tend to expect from the NA I read and I don’t think it deserves a four star anymore. I’m still gonna continue the series and I hope the upcoming books are more entertaining.

So that’s it for this post! Let me know if  you think I should change the rating even though I already wrote an entire review for this haha. My birthday is tomorrow by the way! If ya’ll want to be awesome and say happy birthday, you can follow me on Twitter and let me know there. Thanks to all of you for sticking with me while I’m so sporadic, I really appreciate your support. Thanks so much for reading and I’ll see you on my next post!

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