on January 23rd 2013
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?
Social Skills is the debut novel by Sara Alva. I had actually read her second book Silent prior to reading this one and it was so good that I knew I had to read this too. Social Skills is such an incredibly heart-warming book. I just wanted to wrap the main character up in a great big hug and tell him everything was going to be ok.
This book is told from the perspective of a painfully shy, socially awkward young man called Connor Owens. Connor is just starting college and is really struggling to fit in. He has always been reclusive and uncomfortable in the presence of other people. His only real outlet for expression has been through his gift for music.
Connor is a musical aficionado – he plays the violin beautifully and dreams of making a career out of his talent (against the wishes of parents who want him to become a lawyer). Connor has many reasons for his social phobia – his parents are cold and distant with their affections but pushy with their intentions and goals for him. He has experienced very little love in his life and as a result has found it extremely difficult to connect with his peers. This all changes when he meets Jared.
Jared is a popular football player who is struggling to keep up in some of his classes. Connor ends up being persuaded by one of his professors to help tutor Jared. Connor is attracted to the easy-going and seemingly carefree Jared from the start but his shyness coupled with the fact that Jared has a girlfriend and a string of jock buddies around makes Connor reluctant to share his feelings.
Jared ends up being the one to instigate a relationship but he insists it has to be behind closed doors because of his girlfriend and his desire to stay in the closet – fearful of what the reprisals of his coming-out would be.
At first Connor is happy with the arrangement. He gets to spend a lot of alone time with Jared which suits him just fine considering his insecurities and inability to handle large groups of people. However, as time goes on Connor gets fed up with being in the shadows.
When he confronts Jared about this, Jared breaks things off between them and Connor finds himself alone once more. Can he pick up the pieces of his shattered heart and find a place for himself without Jared? What will happen if Jared decides he wants Connor back? Well you will have to read the book to find out – my lips are well and truly sealed!
It’s safe to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I feel reading Silent first slightly spoiled the experience for me a little (Silent is even more hard-hitting but also has main characters I just want to give squishy cuddles to!) I still really enjoyed this sweet coming-of-age romance.
I adored Connor (he is such a sweetheart) and I liked Jared too even though my feelings about him changed several times throughout the book. I liked him a lot at first, then I really wanted to give him a good talking to, then I just wanted to give him a solid kick in the shins! Finally I felt really sorry for him and wanted to give him a big hug. Poor boy did a lot of growing up throughout the book.
That is perhaps the biggest plus about this book for me. Both MC’s grew so much. Connor finally came into his own and stood up to his parents. He became more socially adjusted and found himself a really great group of supportive friends (I adored Rebecca!).
I loved him when he was all shy and introverted but seeing him blossom into a more confidant, happy young man was delightful. It really made me want to cheer for him at the end. Jared was also a great character. I didn’t quite trust him with my boy Connor at the start despite being pretty charmed by him but I was happy with the resolution to his story too.
This was a really strong debut by Sara Alva. It wasn’t particularly original (I have read many of the same ilk before) but it was just so wonderfully written and the characters were such a dream to spend time with it didn’t matter one iota.