Social Skills

socialSkillsTitle: Social Skills
Author: Sara Alva
Cover artist: Dani Alexander
Publisher: Self published
Amazon: Buy Link Social Skills
Genre: New adult gay romance
Length: 312 pages
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

A guest review by Sirius

Summary: Delightful execution of “nerd/jock” romance with great characters to boot.

Blurb:

Music is the only form of communication Connor Owens controls. No matter how badly he wishes to fit in, friendly banter and casual conversations have never been his thing. College is yet another social universe he has no clue how to navigate—until he meets Jared, a football player with chestnut eyes and a cocky grin that holds the power to shatter his self-imposed prison.Jared’s attention opens Connor up to a new realm of emotional and physical intimacy. But as Connor’s self-confidence grows, so does his fear that everything will fall apart. Because in this socially stratified world, how long can a relationship between an introverted violinist and a closeted football player really last?

Review:

I almost did not buy this book because I have read so many variations on the “nerd/ jock” romance that I have grown a little tired of this trope, but the recommendations were great and price was great too, so I caved in.

I am certainly glad I did, because while I cannot say that this book covers any new ground (and how much new ground there is in romance anyway?) the writing and the amazing characters more than made up for it IMO.

I loved Connor and Jared. I was really happy to read about the painfully shy guy, who is just that – painfully shy. He does not have any past traumas, he does not suffer from any disorders, it is just hard for him to interact with new people. It could be hard enough, and as some readers I can at least somewhat relate to that.

I also thought Connor and Jared had a great chemistry and kudos for the awkward first sexual encounter. Usually I do not find 18 year old guy not having sex before to be a very believable characterization, but in Connor’s case it worked perfectly for me.

“He was pleased to find he wasn’t panicking to the point of a complete meltdown by this point, as he’d rather expected. Maybe he would have been if he’d been straight- if he’d been faced with some foreign piece of anatomy he could never truly understand. But Jared had a dick and so did he. And he could have laughed from the relief, because at the very least, he had some knowledge of what one did with a dick”

I also wanted to say bravo to the writer for creating great female supporting characters. Yes, Rebecca was awesome, but I was actually more impressed by Connor’s little sister Melissa; it takes a great writing skill to write a character who has such a small part and make her memorable. We actually get to see siblings bickering and Melissa being her bratty 13 year old once or twice, but when it matters I could also see that she really loved her brother.

I was more than impressed how much Connor grows and comes into his own during the course of the story. I liked Jared too and he matures throughout the novel as well. I did want to smack him silly a couple of times, but I cannot get really mad at an eighteen year old who can buckle under pressure especially if most of it was self inflicted anyway.

The ending of the storyline with Jasper’s girlfriend Veronica was weird. I mean it was believable, but it was weird in a sense that I felt like the author needed to have a female character who is annoying, but did not want to make he annoying and went with that solution.  I guess on one hand I appreciate the solution, on the other hand it kind of felt artificial to me. I cannot really explain it.

But overall I thought that it was a  really great, well written book. And no, I do not think that it was too angsty either – in my opinion at least the angst was nowhere near Amy Lane’s level in her high angst stories. And as far as I am concerned it is a good thing.

21 comments

  • I loved this book and your take on it. I know some shy people and I really liked Connor and his growth. Just want to cheer.

    Reply
  • it really is a good very real story. I know it’s a romance and part of the point of a romance is the happily ever after, but I do wish there had been more of a happily for now just because of the age of our hero’s. In some ways this was more of a coming of age, self acceptance, finding your inner strength story. I started to feel like the Veronica story line was over the top, and then I remembered at least 2 women from my own freshman year in college who had what amounts to a break down were hospitalized and then left school. Remembering them that story line made more sense

    Reply
    • Hi Treasure, I hear you about more HFN feel because of the age of protagonists. I often run into this problem when I read YA literature, because it is usually hard to sell me on the idea of high school kids meeting their one true love (some writers managed though).

      It is a little easier for me to imagine that for college kids though. I know a guy who met his wife when they were seventeen for example – they married few years later, but overall they had been together for eighteen years now 🙂

      Sure, I know that college stress can do that to you – heard what happened to people, etc.

      Reply
  • This sounds good. I usually enjoy the books you recommend, Sirius, so I’m giving the sample from Smashwords for this one a go.

    Reply
      • I’ve read the sample and enjoyed it.

        However, I’m sure I’ve read this story before! Maybe at fanfiction.net? It seems very familiar to me. I’m still going to buy it, so that I can read it all the way through, as I don’t remember the ending.

        Reply
        • Hi Gay, I am pretty sure the story was previously published too but not on fanfiction.net – on one of the original fiction sites. gayauthors.org or something like that? Couple people mentioned it to me, I have not read it when it was on whatever site it was. The author on her blog also mentioned reediting the story after pulling it from on whatever site it was before. I have no clue whether it was based on fanfiction or not, I would be dissappointed if it was.

          Reply
          • I must’ve just read the first part, as I didn’t remember the middle and ending. I’m not familiar with gayauthors.org, but maybe I knew the author at Live Journal, or some such place, under a different name. It’s a mystery. 😀

            I mostly liked the story, but was frustrated that Connor was such a wimp, especially with his parents. I couldn’t believe the way his mother treated him, more as a two year old, than an 18 year old college student. 😡 But he just let her get away with it. 😕

            Reply
            • Hi Gay, I am not familiar with the site either, just heard it mentioned, just wanted to clarify 🙂

              I am glad you liked it overall, to me Connor’s behavior at least made sense I guess. I thought in light of his shyness, him not standing up to his assertive mother was believable. I certainly understand where you are coming from though.

              Reply
  • Great review, Sirius! I’m with you on viewing the whole nerd/jock thing as overdone to the point of burn-out, but I trust your judgement on characterization, so I may look into this. And how refreshing that the main character suffers from shyness alone. That right there can be bad enough for a kid in high school.

    Reply
  • Thanks for your thorough review, Sirius. I, too, read this book and found it quite enjoyable.

    However, the issue with Veronica was a little strange. In the beginning, the way it was written, I wasn’t sure what we were supposed to think. Then later, when it was all explained, it didn’t make sense that no one around her would pick up on the fact that she had a major problem and needed help.

    But I did like the 2 MC’s and this take on the nerd/jock trope.

    Reply
    • Hi Susan, thanks so much for commenting. I am very happy that you enjoyed the book as well. I just wanted to clarify that the reason I found Veronica’s storyline weird was not because the guys did not pick up on her condition (not saying what condition because of the spoilers). No, since I myself only learned by complete accident and when I was much older than eighteen that this could manifest itself suddenly (I do not even remember the reason I learned it, probably after another book fact checking), I did not find it problematic that two eighteen year olds had no clue.

      No, what was weird to me is the whole idea that the character behaved that way because of her condition. Sorry, that sounds wrong. Let me try again – I guess I am too sensitive to the annoying female caricature of the character in mm literature. I guess while I appreciated that Veronica was not annoying but acted that way because of her condition, the resolution felt like chickening out a little bit? In other words, either make her annoying (and since there are several not annoying ones I would have had no problem with it), or make her not annoying from the beginning. Sorry, not explaining it well. The only thing I know that a) something did not sit right with me about her character arc and b) whatever did not sit right with me was not that boys did not figure out what was wrong with her 🙂

      Reply
  • I liked this one too. I read romance for the characters, and I loved Connor and Jared. Eighteen year olds don’t have a whole lot of experience so I didn’t think it was out of line that they didn’t handle the Veronica thing very well.

    Reply
  • I enjoyed this one too. I liked it when Connor won small victories against his shyness. The story was never rushed and that was appealing as well. So agree about the Veronica thing.

    Reply
    • That is such a great description – Connor winning small victories against his shyness. I had seen criticisms that Connor was not consistent and sometimes was more shy, sometimes less. Eh, really sometimes we have more success with it, sometimes less – in my experience anyway. I learned to hide it so well that people at work laughed in my face when I claimed that I am shy in new to me social settings. Till they saw it once LOL.

      Reply
  • I liked this book too 🙂 I’ve read more than a few books with a shy or awkward guy pairing up with a jock, and I wasn’t sure about reading another.

    I didn’t like the Veronica story. It was blatantly obvious very early on that something was wrong. I couldn’t understand how the guys weren’t picking up on it. That whole thing was weird for me.

    Reply
    • Hi Andrea, see my response to Susan for my rambling attempt to explain why I did not like Veronica’s story. I guess I am still not 100% sure why 🙂

      Reply

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