Title: Understatement of the Year
Author: Sarina Bowen
Narrator:: Teddy Hamilton
Narrator:: Christian Fox
Series: The Ivy Years
Publisher: Audible Studios
Reviewer: Annie Tate
Release Date: 06-20-2016
Genre(s): M/M Sports Romance, M/M Coming Out, M/M YA/NA, M/M Contemporary Romance
Listening Time: 8 hours, 50 minutes
Page Count: 308
Heat Level: 3.5 flames out of 5
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
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 sexual orientation 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 on to 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.
Lives up to the hype
I bought this audiobook months ago because I love the author’s books. Then, I delayed listening because I am wary of YA/NA books in general and this one had so much hype surrounding it, I was worried I’d be disappointed by a favorite author. I am ridiculously happy to say it exceeded my expectations in pretty much every way. The narrators are excellent. They have distinct voices that work with the characters and their intonation accurately expressed the emotion of the scenes. Understatement of the Year tackles some tough subjects and thus there were many ways that the characters or story could have gone sideways. Instead, we got a powerful coming out story and second chance romance. It explored all the nuances of Rikker and Graham, validated their fears and emotions, and made sense of their actions and struggles. Even when I was frustrated with Graham, I never disliked him. There was so much depth to the characters that they truly came alive. I loved how the story progressed. We saw moments of maturity and immaturity (as I’d expect in a NA book), but overall there was significant growth individually and as a couple. The secondary characters were well flushed out, adding some conflict as well as much-needed support for Rikker and Graham. It does a good job of introducing characters that have their own books within the series, but reads as a standalone. As such, readers that stick exclusively to the m/m genre have no need to be concerned about reading this book on its own.
I’ve come to expect clean, well-written books from this author, and this one delivers on that. The writing flowed beautifully, the dialogue sounded natural, and the voices in general (internal thoughts/ perceptions) worked well for college-aged characters. The story is told in alternating first person POV. The characters’ thoughts came across cleanly and I could sense the emotion behind much of their personal conflicts as to how to handle their relationship, teammates, and family. The chemistry really came alive for me. One of the reasons I love second chance romances is the emotion the characters’ history delivers. With the thoughts and feelings of Rikker and Graham so well expressed, their pull toward one another was undeniable. The hockey details are woven seamlessly into the storyline, allowing hockey fans and those not into the sport to enjoy it equally. The foreshadowing and mystery surrounding moments from the boys’ pasts kept me engrossed. I was doing a buddy read with a friend, and we kept reading ahead of our agreed upon stopping points because we couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next. The pacing was steady, never slowing enough for my interest to wane but never feeling like the story or romance was rushed. I truly think that any fan of romance would enjoy this book.