The summer before his senior year of college starts, Aiden Lawrence’s long-term boyfriend breaks up with him. Aiden’s friends take him out to celebrate; they never liked Aiden’s ex anyway. They even find him someone to hook up with: Jude Matthews. Aiden is a bit shy at first, but soon discovers he and Jude have great chemistry—and that rebound sex can be liberating! Aiden would love to pursue something more with Jude, but Aiden is about to spend the bulk of his summer vacation couch surfing at several of his siblings’ homes. Still, Aiden and Jude part on good terms, and even exchange numbers to keep in touch over the summer holiday. After a few texts back and forth, it doesn’t take long for Aiden to feel something more for Jude…just when Jude finds a serious someone back in Idaho.
If Aiden thinks that Jude finding a boyfriend was a wild bit of bad luck, he is completely blindsided to discover Jude is the very man who is teaching a class Aiden is required to take in order to graduate. Now, Jude wants to keep things strictly teacher/student between them, so Aiden’s got his work cut out for himself to keep even a friendship going with Jude. And then Aiden finds out that he actually already knows Jude’s serious someone. Not to worry: Aiden is nothing if not a pro at avoiding uncomfortable situations. But these stressors in his personal life finally convince him to take advantage of the on-campus counseling services. Slowly, Aiden begins to deal with years of putting his emotional well being on the back burner. And Jude’s writing class actually helps him process some of this by putting it down on paper. And when Aiden’s ex randomly contacts Aiden after months of silence…Aiden’s in a place to explore that. Until his ex profoundly betrays Aiden’s trust, leaving Jude to pick up the pieces.
Avoiding Aiden is a contemporary work by author Chris Cole. It features a young adult and a slightly less young college instructor and covers some personal issues in great detail. I chose this for my New-to-Me Author Week challenge because I liked the idea of unrequited love between a college student and his instructor. The book is told in first person from Aiden’s perspective and I enjoyed how our main character processes a lot more than just this unrequited love. Truth be told, I was pleasantly surprised at the depth of the character. I think the framing of the story helped give me a broader sense of Aiden as a person, also. We see him talk himself through having his first-ever one-night stand, then spend his whole summer vacation at his (usually much older) siblings’ homes, enduring being set up with blind dates (that runs the gamut from terrible for the wrong reasons to terrible for the right ones), the finally returning to school where the bulk of the action takes place. To me, this time away from the university campus really developed Aiden and went a long way towards describing his avoidance tendencies.
As far as romance goes, there isn’t much. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say the story is book-ended with Aiden/Jude as a couple: first as a one-night stand, and finally as a real couple. But all the stuff in the middle is obviously affected by professional ethics and Jude’s insistence on sticking to those ethics. In other words, no fraternizing. Aiden’s response to this varied only in how much he thought he actually had a chance at being with Jude. I felt a bit conflicted watching Aiden mull over his feelings for Jude. I didn’t mind that there is a strong unrequited feelings thread going on, but it rankled a bit that it seemed like Aiden just didn’t care that Jude was (and was vocal about being) unavailable. Maybe it’s meant to show a bit of selfishness or immaturity in Aiden as a character, but it just felt so…short sighted on Aiden’s part to hope the man he’s crushing on gets his heart broken.
Another big plot element in the story revolves around Aiden’s ex/Jude’s boyfriend, Carter. Carter never appeared on page early on and Aiden only catches a glimpse of him on campus. After that, there was nothing until Carter reaches out to Aiden. This kicks off a significant thread that brings Aiden, Jude, and Carter together in an inextricable way.
The story includes a sexual assault, which does include on-page and explicit description of the event. We also see the way the trial for assault gets addressed, highlighting how few actual repercussions there are for perpetrators of sexual assault.
Overall, I thought this was a pretty strong book. Aiden’s messy personal life and being traumatized by someone he used to love come together in a story that has good flow. I enjoyed how Cole works with his themes and develops them over the course of the book. The story reflects a lot of real-world strife people face: learning how to process complex feelings, having your trust betrayed, and unrequited love. But all these elements unfolded amidst very strong characters that were by and large up to the task of carrying even the heavy themes in the book.
This review is part of our 2021 Reading Challenge Month for New-to-Me Author Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of TEN great book bundles from almost 100 authors (you can see the details on the bundles, including the fabulous authors who donated books, in our Prize Preview post)! Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by NineStar Press: a Kindle Paperwhite loaded with 50 NineStar Press books! And don’t forget if you read along with your own challenge book this week, you can earn ten contest entries for writing a mini-review! You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on New-to-Me Author Week here.