Title: Aaron (A Survivor Story #1)
Author: J.P. Barnaby
Cover Artist: Pride Media
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Buy Link: Buy Link Aaron
Genre: Contemporary M/M
Length: 238 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Andrea
Review Summary: From a dark and depressing start emerged an exquisite romances that I’ll never forget.
I can’t describe what it’s like to want to scream every minute of every day.
Two years after a terrifying night of pain destroyed his normal teenage existence, Aaron Downing still clings to the hope that one day, he will be a fully functional human being. But his life remains a constant string of nightmares, flashbacks, and fear. When, in his very first semester of college, he’s assigned Spencer Thomas as a partner for his programming project, Aaron decides that maybe “normal” is overrated. If he could just learn to control his fear, that could be enough for him to find his footing again.
With his parents’ talk of institutionalizing him—of sacrificing him for the sake of his brothers’ stability—Aaron becomes desperate to find a way to cope with his psychological damage or even fake normalcy. Can his new shrink control his own demons long enough to treat Aaron, or will he only deepen the damage?
Desperate to understand his attraction for Spencer, Aaron holds on to his sanity with both hands as it threatens to spin out of control.
A Survivor Story
I’ve been wanting to read a J.P. Barnaby book for quite a while. I’ve slowly started collecting the Little Boy Lost series but have yet to actually start reading them. I love books in a series but I have a compulsion to read the entire series at once. As Aaron is a stand alone, it provided me a chance to get a feel for the author without having to commit to a large series.
It took about two pages for me to realize that this was going to be dark… really dark. I like dark but this hit the level of bleak hopelessness I only expect in a horror books. Aaron and his best friend were kidnapped, tortured, and left for dead two years ago. Aaron lives in a constant state of terror as he relives those events every minute of every day. He has lost hope for ever regaining a normal life. He simply exists from one minute to the next trying to mask his agony from his family in order to spare them from his reality. The author did an amazing job of convincing me that Aaron might be broken beyond repair. It was so depressing that if Aaron’s point of view was the only one I got, I wouldn’t have kept reading. The reason I kept going was because Aaron’s point of view kept being interrupted by Spencer’s point of view. I knew that the two men would eventually meet and that gave me some hope for a brighter future for both of them.
The lives of Spencer and Aaron run parallel through the first half of the book. I got to know them separately. In most books, Spencer would be the damaged hero. He’s deaf, depressed and lonely. He goes about finding human interaction in ways which only make him feel more alone. In this book, Spencer is well adjusted in comparison to Aaron. 🙁
Once they finally meet, they slowly form a precarious friendship. As their friendship deepens and evolves, Aaron begins to heal and emerge from his dark shell. He’ll never be normal but he begins to enjoy life again. Over time they begin to trust one another and their relationship becomes a source of strength and hope for both of them.
I wish I could give this book a rating of 5, but I just can’t do it. The stifling darkness at the beginning was too much for me. I didn’t enjoy reading the early scenes of Aaron’s life. I’m a big fan of thriller, suspense and horror books so not enjoying that was a surprise to me. I connected with Aaron but I was uncomfortable reading about him early on in the book. It was once Aaron and Spencer met that the book took off for me. I did love it from that point on. Their relationship was unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Aaron and Spencer aren’t capable of having the standard romance book version of a HEA ending. The beauty of their story is that they got a unique version of a HEA which was perfect for them. I loved that!
This isn’t a book for everyone. If you’ve read the blurb as well as my review and still think you might enjoy it, I highly recommend it.