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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.
THIS BOOK IS A STANDALONE. NO CLIFFHANGERS. NO PRIOR EXPERIENCE NECESSARY.
I enjoyed so much about this book. It’s a solid NA/college/second-chances/first love/hockey story. And most of those things work for me. And the writing was solid, the story interesting, and the pace maintained itself throughout for the most part.
Problem is, I had one major issue with the book. Something I could probably overlook if it didn’t happen to be one of the MAIN characters…Michael Graham. I’ll get back to that.
Rikker and Graham were friends growing up until one tragic night changed the course of their lives. Five years later they meet up again in a college hockey locker room to find that they’d be playing together.
For the a good portion of this book, Graham just could NOT handle this. He’s closeted. He’s scarred emotionally. And he’s terrified of coming out. A part of him doesn’t even want to be gay. And though I think Graham’s struggles were written in a way that is authentic and believable, he was…exhausting. His internal battle was palpable and as much as he frustrated himself…I was also frustrated. Because, ya know, this is my book…and I wanted it to just move along. And that’s selfish, I realize. But, I found myself screaming “Get over it” or “Figure your shit out” often.
Now, to counteract Graham’s infuriating character, the author gives us Rikker. I love this guy. He’s a true…hero. He overcame so much. Set his life on course and went for it. And he loved with all his heart…though it pained him to do so.
The couple together counter-balanced really well and allowed for lots of angst and emotion and turmoil. I get scared with “in the closet” books, especially when the “we don’t accept gays” environment is played up so strongly as it was on this hockey team. I felt myself reading with so much anxiety that I’d skim a page quickly first to make sure they didn’t get caught and then go back and read that page in relief.
The last third of the book felt a bit rushed as Graham finally came to terms and found a bit of courage (or maybe he was just so tired of hiding, resigned to his fate) to be honest with himself and others. And though I was….relieved…FINALLY!…I wasn’t sure if it felt satisfying enough for me as a reader.
Still, I do love me a good HEA and I’m happy that Rikker, especially, got who he wanted and all that he deserves. And honestly, I would love to read more about these two guys.
Enjoyable, sometimes frustrating, but definitely recommended (especially if you like sports books. I think the hockey bits were spot on)
Ami – 4 stars
Title: Understatement of the Year (The Ivy Years #3)
Author: Serena Bowan
Publisher: Rennie Road Books
Pages: 281 pages
Release Date: September 29, 2014
Purchase Links: Amazon