I have been continuing with The Ivy Years books by Sarina Bowen and they continue to be delightful. Delightful feels like such a weird word to use about a series that focuses on such relatively heavy topics and subjects. As I’ve discussed previously The Year We Hid Away and The Year We Fell Down each tackle heavy topics with a deft hand, and The Understatement of the Year, the third full novel in the series, does the same, this time venturing into the dynamics of being an out athlete, or not.
The Understatement of the Year is the story of Mike Graham and John Rikker. Graham and Rikker had been best friends in middle school, and then their friendship grew into a sexual one. During their freshman year of high school the pair were attacked the first time they slipped and showed affection in public. Graham escaped the brutality that day, Rikker did not. This story picks up five years later as Rikker and Graham see each other for the first time since the incident when Rikker walks into the locker room of Harkness College’s hockey team.
Bowen uses her three hundred pages to examine the costs of being out, or being closeted in college and specifically on a sports team. Graham has spent the past five years hiding this part of who he is – getting himself just drunk enough to hook up with women (Hi Bella! Looking forward to finishing your book soon!) and putting up his shields and not betraying his true feelings to anyone, including his family. Rikker has spent the intervening years living with his grandmother in Vermont and been out. He put himself back in the closet at his first university, but was outed and forced off his hockey team. Given the illegality of that, he was granted a transfer to Harkness. But that also means that in order to explain this unprecedented transfer, he’s now one of the first out hockey players at the college level. Bowen represents the variety of responses people have to Rikker, and his various ways of coping.
But the crux of the novel is whether or not Graham and Rikker can learn to be friends again, and if they can be together. As I have sometimes complained about in other romance novels, Graham is very one note. Admittedly, his note is huge, and real, and deserved of attention. But even in Bowen’s skilled hands I wanted to shake some hope into the kid. Thankfully for him, Rikker was way more patient than I am. What I did really like is that this book, along with Blonde Date, and The Year We Hid Away gave a much fuller look at the same year from a variety of angles. I’ve actually gone back and moved my rating of The Year We Hid Away up a star. That’s one of the reasons I really enjoy series books, the world expands naturally.
This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.