Story Rating: 3.75 stars
Audio Rating: 3.5 stars
Narrator: Iggy Toma
Length: 5 hours, 11 minutes
Paul is living in a rented house that his girlfriend picked out. She left him two months ago and now he’s now stuck with rent that he can’t afford and a mountain of debt. When Paul decides to buy his ex a birthday present to win her back, he finds himself looking for jewelry in the local pawn shop.
El owns the pawn shop and buys and sells second hand items all day long. He doesn’t cling to the idea of materialistic things, he doesn’t do relationships, and while Paul’s easy nature calls to him, El’s not going to get hooked on a guy he thinks is straight who’s trying to win back his ex-girlfriend. Still, when Paul starts showing up at the store to sell pieces of a life that no longer fits, El finds a way to have Paul returning again and again.
El doesn’t want to be constantly thinking about the cute redhead, but he just can’t help himself. Paul, for his part is fairly clueless, has bought into the idea that he is always second best, and can’t even understand why El would want to be friends with him, let alone take him on a date. It’s all so confusing for Paul and, while he does admit to experimenting with a guy in high school, Paul is struggling with nothing in his life going as expected. El knows he’s setting himself up to be hurt, but sometimes love shows up when you least expect it.
Second Hand is the second book in the Tucker Springs series, but can easily be read as a stand alone. El was briefly introduced in the first book, Where Nerves End, but this book is his story and Paul’s story as well. Paul is stuck in a bad place. After his girlfriend left him, he’s been wallowing in self pity even though he is realizing their relationship wasn’t the healthiest. He let her make all of the decisions and coasts along in life in whichever direction he happens to find himself. He’s so naïve and so conditioned to being second best, he can’t see when someone is interested in him for any reason.
El is somewhat his opposite as he’s more confident and sure of himself. He takes an instant liking to Paul, but El isn’t looking for any type of relationship, yet can’t seem to help himself when it comes to thinking about Paul or helping out Paul or convincing Paul to have drinks and go dancing with him. The theme of being second runs through the book as far as El owning a shop that deals with second hand items and Paul always feeling like he has a second hand life, but it’s not overdone.
Paul is hesitant about what he sees as rearranging his life to be with a man, but his thoughts don’t go into too much depth there. Due to that it was difficult to determine if he was really falling for El or if he just liked the fact that someone was finally paying attention to him. He does have a lot of other internal thoughts and a chipmunk is constantly referenced as part of his thought process, which constantly pulled me out of the story. There are also a few other side stories. One involves a curb appeal contest in Paul’s neighborhood and the other involves El’s family, and for as much time that was dedicated to both story lines, neither felt finished at the end of the book for me.
This was an easy story of two every day guys living life and just figuring how to be together. Paul’s mother does offer support as well as a bit of comic relief and her presence was not overwhelming. While neither character made a huge impact on me, it was a lighter story with a small town appeal.
Iggy Toma is the narrator for this one and for the series. Having listened to several of his audios, his voice is distinctive and instantly recognizable. The quality of the production here remains high. The quality of the performance was a little less than what I have come to expect from this narrator, however. The voices of El and Paul were overly similar and lacked a true distinction. There were moments were El had a more accented voice in conversation, but it wasn’t all the time and it wasn’t consistent. The chapters offered dual viewpoints and when a chapter would start I would have to wait a few sentences to see whose viewpoint we were in due to the voices not being distinctive. Overall, it was a basic reading of the book by a seasoned narrator. Comparatively, it wasn’t the best performance I have heard offered from Toma, but it was certainly pleasant enough for a listen.