Story Rating: 5 stars
Audio Rating: 5 stars
Narrator: Andrew Eiden
Length: 10 hours and 14 minutes
Audiobook Buy Links: Audible
Connor has many strengths, like paying the violin beautifully and maintaining a 4.0 GPA, but all of the music and all of the top grades cannot compensate for Connor’s inability to function in a social setting. Painfully shy and living with anxiety issues, college is much tougher than Connor expected to to be. The bright spot in Connor’s days is his orchestra standmate, the free-spirited Rebecca who coerces Connor into broadening his social horizons by joining her and her friends at lunch.
Fourth string football “star” Jared has it all: popularity, lots of friends, and a car. What Jared is lacking is a passing grade in Anthropology and so Connor and Jared are brought together as tutor and tutee. The tutoring sessions allow Connor the opportunity to admire the gorgeous, curly-haired young man and unbeknownst to Connor, Jared has budding feelings for Connor as well.
The truth comes out and Jared and Connor embark on a journey of physical and emotional self- discovery, but only in the privacy of Connor’s dorm room. While in public, Jared continues to maintain his straight facade. A football player can’t be gay, Jared can’t come out, and the strain on the relationship is too much for the boys and, inevitably they split up, sending Connor into a deep depression.
Weeks later, Connor, with the help of Becca, is trying to restart living without Jared, coming out and even going on a date, but the ghost of Jared is ever present. Connor needs to find a way to let Jared go, or he risks a life of self-imposed loneliness without the man he loves.
This was a painful book to listen to and frequently I had to stop it and take a break from Connor and Jared’s story. I felt such sadness for Connor’s difficulty dealing with so many aspects of his life, from everyday interactions, to his headstrong (read: bullying) mother, as well as frustration with both Connor and Jared’s behavior towards each other. Then there was Jared’s insistence on maintaining the veneer of being the popular, straight football player with a girlfriend.
I am not saying that they were right or wrong in how they addressed their own personal situations, but from an outside standpoint, I just wanted to reach in and smack them both upside the head in the hopes of knocking some sense into them. Yes, this was another “yelling while I was driving” story.
Alva did an excellent job creating characters with depth and real emotion and I am not just speaking about Connor and Jared. Connor’s mother, a two-dimensional character on the surface, had very subtle traits that drove her behavior toward the various Owens family members. Connor’s sister exhibited empathy and emotion that caught me off guard, but that also made perfect sense once the big picture was exposed, and Rebecca showed herself to be a steady and reliable confidant for Connor.
I was well and truly sucked into their world and loved to see the power play between Connor and Jared, especially and the story progressed and I could track the slowly shifting power from Jared to Connor. This does not mean that Connor all of a sudden became a confident, outgoing guy, but rather demonstrated an increase in his confidence and an unwillingness to continue to live his life as he was before, while Jared seemed to shrink in on himself as he slowly came to terms with being gay.
As for the narration, I have found myself a new favourite narrator in Andrew Eiden. Almost every character was done in a distinct and consistent fashion with one exception. Connor’s pit bandmate, Ray, sounded an awful lot like Jared, but aside from that, an excellent job. Eiden’s narrative voice was clear, the pace perfect, and the gaps due to editing were minimal and so it was rare that I got pulled out of the story for these all too common reasons.
I was fortunate to have selected Social Skills for review; I have found a new, fantastic author to follow, and an awesome new audiobook narrator to look for, and cannot give this audiobook a high enough recommendation, it was that good.