Story Rating: 4.75 stars
Audio Rating: 5 stars
Narrator: Chris Collins
Length: 9 hours, 3 minutes
Four years ago, a tragedy of errors left 17-year-old Sebastian Peach at the mercy of his power-hungry parents and Aiden Morrison in a prison cell for a crime he did not commit. Now, Sebastian is determined to at least try to help right that wrong, so he decides to pick up Aiden from jail on his release date and offers to let Aiden stay with him, at least until Aiden is back on his feet. Aiden has long since made peace with his broken past and he is glad to be a free man again. But with the myriad challenges ahead of him, he’s glad to have Sebastian’s support, even as he’s wary of wearing out his welcome.
Nevertheless, Sebastian and Aiden almost instantly (re)connect as friends. Aiden slowly remembers how to navigate the outside world and Sebastian starts learning to let go of his unearned guilt. Day in and day out, Aiden and Sebastian share the same space and a surprising number of meaningful conversations. It doesn’t take long for Sebastian to realize his attraction to Aiden, but he immediately tries to shut it down because he knows Aiden is straight. Aidan, on the other hand, is having protective and even tender feelings towards Sebastian, something unexpected, but maybe not unwelcome. Even if these two begin to explore something more than friendship but less than a relationship, they also have to contend with the facts of their histories. And sometimes, it feels like history might win.
One Decent Thing is a contemporary get-together story by author Elliot Grayson. Both Sebastian and Aiden serve as our main characters, and they share narration duties as well. I liked that the narration was not broken down strictly by chapter; sometimes they would flip-flop within the same chapter to offer a different perspective while still in a given scene. This was very clearly indicated by the narrator stating the characters name, which made it easy to follow along. Having each character’s perspective heightened the drama in many scenes and helped me appreciate how Aiden and Sebastian grow and change over the course of the book.
This audiobook clocked in at 9 hours and 3 minutes; it was narrated by Chris Chambers and I thought he did a bang-up job. Chambers modulates his voice for each main character; Sebastian is softer spoken with a higher tenor, and Aiden’s voice is gravelly, yet somehow also sort of bubbly. These qualities matched very well with the characters and their dialogue. Also, the intimate scenes were pretty spectacular. Full disclosure, I did re-listen to a couple of them because Chambers’ performance made Sebastian and Aiden sound incredibly, satisfyingly connected.
The opening chapters of the story do a great job establishing Sebastian and Aidan’s personalities. Sebastian is clearly still working through the trauma he experienced during his childhood, having parents who prioritized ambition over being parents, to the point of using Sebastian to fabricate good PR for themselves. We learn that Sebastian has panic attacks and will sometimes use medication to manage them. We also learn that Aiden didn’t realize how hurtful his behavior towards Sebastian in high school was, and can almost immediately see he’s not just a bully. The drive from the prison to Sebastian‘s college town wonderfully foreshadows these two coming together and supporting each other. For example, Sebastian trusts Aiden with helping him through a panic attack that leaves him unable to drive; Aiden set aside his qualms about driving without a license with his criminal record to get them home safely.
Throughout the book, these two develop an ever deepening friendship. It was fun to watch Sebastian try to convince himself that he can’t/shouldn’t lust after Aiden. Meanwhile, Aiden has never understood himself to be anything but straight, and chalked up a same-sex sexual encounter in prison to a “needs must“ situation. But it’s pretty clear Aiden holds Sebastian in special regard, it just starts with admiring the younger man’s grit. That said, fans of the gay romance genre will immediately understand that Aiden is developing real feelings and an attraction to Sebastian.
One character quirk in the book that facilitates tipping these two strange bedfellows from awkward acquaintances to shy lovers is Sebastian’s compulsory apologies. Sebastian feels compelled to apologize at every and any opportunity because of his guilt over his past inability to materially help Aiden. Aiden not only says it’s unnecessary, but from his perspective, we understand it truly is unnecessary. Initially, the idea was to create a sort of swear jar for apologizing. Every time Sebastian would apologize, he would have to put a dollar in the jar. It works until it doesn’t—until Sebastian tries apologizing just to rile up Aiden enough for a reaction as a way to cope with his growing unrequited attraction to Aiden. As these two come to grips with their banked attraction and the idea that it’s not entirely unrequited, Sebastian goes out on a limb to suggest a different form of “punishment”, one that opens a deeply reflective period for Aiden. Sebastian suggests using a sex act as a deterrent and that makes Aiden question whether or not Sebastian sees sex as actual punishment. Aiden doesn’t want to use an act of intimacy as a tool for behavioral change, especially when he learns about some sexual assault in Sebastian’s recent past.
I loved watching Sebastian and Aiden realize they had something real and work through their pasts to build a relationship for now and in the future. Throughout the book, Aiden comes to realize he’s not entirely straight, and perhaps not necessarily just interested in men when it’s Sebastian. Even as their connection deepens, there are still struggles they must address if they hope to make things work long term.
Overall, One Decent Thing was a super fun story to listen to. I loved the well-defined characters and that they have such different lived experiences, but that it is also an event that brings them together. If you like stories where two characters fall in love with each other, not because they’re hot or fall into instalove, but because they truly mesh as people, I think you’ll really enjoy how the story unfolds.