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Social Skills

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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?

Re-edited edition

357 pages, Paperback

First published January 22, 2013

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About the author

Sara Alva

8 books269 followers
Sara Alva is the author of best-selling New Adult novel Social Skills and Rainbow Award Winner Silent. Always a daydreamer, Sara finally decided to sculpt the thoughts banging around in her head into stories of self-discovery, heartache, personal growth, friendship and love. Read them as an escape, or as a window into understanding your own world.

When she isn’t writing, Sara is pursuing her other passions in teaching, music, and dancing.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 374 reviews
851 reviews231 followers
December 4, 2013

3.5+ stars…really enjoyable…

Oh Connor…dear sweet Connor. I have invited you into my “House of the Huggables” to live with Ryan from the ICoS series and Parker from "American Love Songs". I will love and spoil and take care of the three of you and lavish many hugs…not in the dirty, perverted, older woman way…but more in the I-heart-you-like-a-teddy-bear-way (ummm…maybe no less creepy)

I heart Connor. Painfully shy and lonely…uncertain, with barely a sliver of self-esteem…except when he gets lost in the music of his violin. His fears caused such an ache in my heart. But, his growth throughout his 1st year in college had me jumping up and down and cheering!

Jared (How many M/M MC’s are named Jared? Guesses? I can think of 4 right now…)…closeted, popular football player. I crushed on him. And then I was angry as all get-out at him. And then I felt super sorry for him. And now…well, I got my eye on you kid. DON’T mess it up…

Social Skills is a sweet YA book with a more than familiar storyline but with some really lovely characters. I think it was a bit too long and I found the entire Ronnie storyline the last 20% of the book totally unnecessary.

But other than that highly recommended if you’re 1)a YA M/M fan, 2)in the mood for sweet, sprinkled with angst, 3)were a band geek growing up and want to see the violinist come out on top!

Thanks Dani for tweeting about this book and reco’ing and to the BBE for a great March book-of-the-month!
Profile Image for Dani Alexander.
Author 4 books1,288 followers
January 23, 2013
Let me preface this review by saying this is a friend of mine. Let me also add that I became friends with this author because of this story. My love for it sparked an email exchange and that grew into friendship.

That said, I love this story. This is a slow moving story. A quiet one with subtle bits of brilliance in every paragraph. It is a true romance and a coming of age story about Connor, a shy violinist who has low self esteem and falls in love with someone who has self-esteem issues of his own but who appears to be everything Connor wants to be.

Social Skills is not a story that lets a love interest teach self-worth. It's a story about Connor learning his own self-worth as he meets and grows and changes in the first year out of high school. There is sad and sweet and funny and poignant moments and it feels completely real. I love it. Period. And I could wax poetic about it 7 ways to Sunday, but it's free, so go read it and see for yourself.

This is now available on Amazon after being edited and revamped =D. Still one of my all time favorites.
Profile Image for Mark.
357 reviews157 followers
August 20, 2013
This is a wonderful story of coming out, first-time love , first-love heartbreak and basically many “firsts” all happening at once.

Connor is in his first year at UVA, but the only thing he really feels safe with is his music and his violin. Painfully shy and socially awkward he finds solace in his music where he can run from the demands put on him by having to socialise at college. He is effectively a bit of a loner, a very sweet one admittedly, however playing in an orchestra is a social thing so he soon makes a friend, Rebecca, and with her finds himself a group of friends where at least he feels a little comfortable with.

I loved Connor sweet, innocent (yes, when he arrived at college he was still a virgin), a gentle soul, but I found his low self-esteem and panic around crowds excruciating. I could really feel his anxiety and embarrassment which has tendencies going on to panic attacks. He constantly berates himself in his thoughts, second guesses himself and gets angry with himself at his lack of social skills! The author let me really get into Connor’s thoughts and feelings with marvellous coherent writing. All this shyness must come from somewhere, maybe some things are inherent and genetic, but then.......

Then you meet Connor’s mother – it all becomes totally clear why Connor is the way he is. His mother is totally over-bearing, dominant, demanding, manipulative, dictatorial and, and..........words fail me. No wonder the boy is so shy. Connor's father isn’t much help either as he is just as much under the thumb as Connor. The only one who really knows how to cope with his Mum is his thirteen year old younger sister. At first she comes across as your normal irksome little sister, but later I learned to like her A LOT! Connor’s parent’s has his complete life planned out for him and he doesn’t even get a say in what he wants. I know for a lot of people this character of Connor’s domineering mother maybe a little stereotypical, but this is necessary to understand Connor, the way he is and where he’s coming from, and I guess such mother’s also really exist.

OK, back to college ~ Connor his a high achiever! Connor's anthropology teacher suggests he gives remedial lessons. I also thought that the lecturer here was also thinking about trying to bring Connor out of his shell a little. He gets glittlesto football jocks, Michael and Jared to tutor. Although Michael drops out, Jared still keeps coming to his class with Connor and it’s obvious there is something more there than just remedial teaching sessions.

The attraction grows and the rest is history so to speak. It is now a journey full of discovery, high emotion and changes. First Jared tries to keep their relationship secret, can’t have a gay football star, can we? Connor wants more than a closeted football player can give and this leads to a break-up. At this point I could have cried buckets for Connor, there is nothing worse than breaking up with the first big-love in your life. Oh the hurt! Connor now pulls himself together with the help of Rebecca and starts a new life at college, still a little shy, but you can definitely start to see the change. This time it’s Jared’s turn, he realises how much he misses Connor and tries to win him back, but then Jared is outed! MAJOR DISASTER for the football player. Now not used to dealing with “not being the popular guy” Connor needs to treat him gently and help nurture Jared’s hurt ego and dealing with snide remarks from his friends.

Coming out is a very different experience for everyone. Here the author takes two examples, Connor choosing to out himself and Jared being outed involuntarily. I found this a nice contrast and plot device. Making Jared now the one needing help from Connor, whereas before it was the other way round. Coming out can be a traumatic affair and in this book we get to read both sides of the coin and its effects. Some people being more accepting than others, Jared has to learn that if he loses friends now that they were never really true friends to begin with, the question is will Jared be able to cope with his outing. I also liked the way the author handled the different reactions of the parents. Jared's mum being understanding, although upset, accepts her son's sexuality, but Connor's parents are indifferent and cold. Here Connor's sister comes up trumps. This is a very true to life situation and the most harrowing part about coming out is the reaction of parents for many young people.

I loved this book as the characters felt real. Yes, they were young, all around 18 to 20, but oh the emotional turmoil of being a young adult. The author conveys these feelings wonderfully and delivers a believable and heart warming story.

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Profile Image for Sheziss.
1,104 reviews430 followers
January 29, 2015
I was bored to tears with this.

Sorry but not sorry, I couldn't enjoy this. Boredom, pure boredom. Dull and empty. Tedious and uninteresting. I'm not even mad! I need to feel the MCs' lives are exciting in all their mediocrity. But I couldn't connect with them in any form. I couldn't understand why they fall in love with each other. They are totally forgettable because they didn't start any emotion. The story is just blah. I have to think really hard to find something I liked, but I just don't want to do so. All in all, Sara Alva is not my kind of author.

Profile Image for ☆ Todd.
1,334 reviews1,471 followers
May 8, 2015
I really loved how the characters interacted. Connor learning through Jared that he can overcome his fears. and self-imposed exile. Jared learning through Connor that his love for Connor is more important than what anyone else might think.

It was nice to see how each character ended up unselfishly giving just as much as they took from the other, leaving both of them much more confident and happier than they ever were without one another.

A crazy (ex?) girlfriend and complete asshole parents provide the requisite drama.

5 highly-recommended stars and I wouldn't have changed a thing about the book.
Profile Image for Elsa Bravante.
1,101 reviews172 followers
September 13, 2016
Connor comienza el College enfrentándose a una nueva vida en la que sus problemas para relacionarse socialmente le supone muchas trabas para hacer amigos y encontrar un lugar en el mundo en el que sentirse bien, a esto hay que sumarle que es gay y nadie lo sabe, parece que lo único que tiene es su violín y su música. Pero, pronto conoce a Jared, deportista, sociable, con una confianza en sí mismo que Connor no tiene y es cuando lo conoce cuando empieza esta historia...

La unión entre el chico tímido y estudioso y el deportista ha sido ya muchas veces un lugar visitado, pero en esta ocasión, los problemas reales que tiene Connor para relacionarse hacen que fundamentalmente la primera parte del libro sea dolorosa de leer, agobiante y angustiosa. Para mi ha sido difícil leer cómo puede sentirse alguien al que le es tan difícil mantener una conversación mínima o incluso ir por un pasillo, no quiero ni imaginar cómo debe ser experimentarlo. Durante todo el libro el POV es único, el de Connor, y es fácil sentir simpatía por él y gritarle en tus pensamientos: vamos, Connor!! Puedes hacerlo!!. Leer cómo sufre Connor, su falta de autoestima, cómo se pliega a Jared, es doloroso, pero cuando comienza a superar sus miedos es realmente bonito.

He leído varias críticas negativas sobre Jared, es cierto que sus decisiones no parecen las más acertadas, ni lo son tampoco en ocasiones sus palabras, pero le dan al personaje un tono de realidad, no va a ser ese chico perfecto que salva al "pobre" Connor de sus miserable vida, realmente se salvan el uno al otro, y aunque Jared no es perfecto sus acciones son las que probablemente tomaríamos muchos de nosotros, o al menos aquellos que no somos tan perfectos. Jared tiene miedo de no cumplir unas expectativas que el mismo se ha marcado, es lógico que a veces se pierda en lo que él quiere; por otro lado, su carácter es totalmente distinto al de Connor, es alguien tremendamente sociable y también es lógico que a veces no sea capaz de entender totalmente que a Connor cosas que para el resultan tan fáciles para él sean un paso tan difícil. Y ahí está la grandeza de sus historia de amor, que se enamoren y aprendan a estar juntos a pesar de sus diferencias y de las dificultades que pueden acarrear que todo el mundo conozca que son pareja.

Es el 20 % último de la historia, el arco argumental de Ronnie, lo que menos me ha gustado, creo que es totalmente innecesario, la autora ya tenía mucho material con el que trabajar y que podría haber desarrollado más, realmente no aporta nada a la historia de los dos protagonistas.

Un libro dulce y entretenido. Recomendable.
Profile Image for Jewel.
1,778 reviews242 followers
September 9, 2019
I knew I was in trouble with this book about the time I started feeling really protective of Connor like he was my little brother. Connor suffers from social anxiety and he's really introverted. The only time he really feels in control is when he is playing his violin. And he is good. Really good.

Getting to college is supposed to offer young adults freedom, but for Connor, it was just a larger form of high school. Until, that is, he is befriended by his stand mate from orchestra and he gets tasked with tutoring a couple football players for his anthropology class. ​Out of his element? Oh, yes. But Connor finds a way through his anxiety and shyness. Eventually.

Jared is one of the football players Connor is tutoring. Jared seems to want to understand the material, but he has such a hard time staying awake in class, much less making it through all the reading. His football schedule and social activities with his jock friends take up an enormous amount of time. But he certainly does not have trouble paying attention to Connor.

The problem is, Jared is very much in the closet and isn't really interested in coming out. He initiates a relationship with super shy Connor knowing that Connor was shy with people and really didn't trust easily. Let me tell ya, I wanted to shake Jared for not treating Connor like he deserved to be treated. The thing is, though, Jared wasn't using Connor for sex. Not at all. He was a scared, closeted boy and the thought of being out more than terrified him. But he was also kind to people and especially to Connor.

​When the inevitable breakup happened because Jared was terrified of people finding out he was gay​, I wanted to give him what for. I was angry that he was hurting my little brother. He was also hurting himself. But then, it was exactly what Connor needed to start to come out of his shell and realize his self worth. There is nothing like a first love, and there is nothing like the pain when it goes wrong.

What I really loved was how their dynamic really developed when they reconnected. Connor was so much more sure of himself where Jared was in uncharted waters. It was so beautiful.

So, yeah, Social Skills started strong and finished so much stronger. Just like Connor and Jared. Very highly recommended.
Profile Image for T.A. Webb.
Author 33 books625 followers
February 6, 2013
More to follow...

...but this was me in my freshman year in college. I had a little more people skills than Connor, but as I read this charming, insightful book, my heart ached for the boy I was.

Watching him grow throughout the book was so familiar.

Sometimes, a book just hits that note that rings through your whole body, and this was one of those books for me. It won't be everyone's favorite, but it is mine.

Profile Image for Macky.
1,753 reviews233 followers
April 25, 2013
A lovely addition to the Jock/Geek stories that Ive been reading and thoroughly enjoying recently. I think this is definitely my favourite up to now. A lot of these J/G stories can be carbon copies of each other so its what an author does with the bits in between that either makes it run of the mill or a cut above the rest and Sara Alva makes this special by plumping it out with believable characters, great background plots and two MC's who grabbed this readers heart from the word go.

To be honest this follows exactly the same trope as most. Young, introverted gay guy goes to college and ends up tutoring and falling in love with gorgeous, popular ' straight' jock, with popular girlfriend. Over time the jock starts to show interest in more than friendship so they start a secret relationship but because Jock is closeted there are heartbreaks and misunderstandings and lots of emotional ups and downs .That's taking it down to its bare basics but as I said this lovely college romance is so much more than that and Its all down to the endearing characters of Connor and Jared, who I fell in love with the moment both of them appeared.

Connor I just wanted to jump into the book for, so I could give him loads of loves and hugs because he's so introverted and shy. His music is his lifeline and is the catalyst for him making his first friend, a lovely caring character, Rebecca, who I liked very much. She helps him to come out of his shell and make some tentative friendships that strengthen over the course of the book and she's always there for him as a shoulder to cry on.He doesn't have a great relationship with his parents or sibling and he too is hiding the fact that he's gay from them, fearing their reactions. I immediately fell in love with Jared even though he had me smiling and sighing contentedly one minute then gnashing and chomping my teeth in another. I could see why Connor fell so fast for him, but of course Jared's story is not all it seems and his refusal to come out of the closet (that he's even more deeply locked in than Connor) has repercussions on their relationship, so they have a very bumpy roller coaster ride. Its a hard earned HEA but it left me smiling and contented and I adored every bump they had to endure!

The love scenes are quite explicit but not in your face, they're written very tastefully, so as its set around late teens I'd still class it as YA but the mature end. The protags are around the ages of 18/19 so obviously they're not clueless about sex, these are young consenting adults! I loved this and will definitely read it again. Big heartfelt thumbs up!
Profile Image for Ami.
5,751 reviews501 followers
January 28, 2013
Two days after I finished, I realized I haven't written my full thoughts on it *lol*. Okay, Never read the free version -- so I don't know how different this is or whether it has been significantly reedited and revamped. This rating is for the published edition.

This is quite a long one ... and at times, I feel that the book is dragging. While most of the times, I feel for Connor and his struggle over his shyness, to be better at his social skills, but other times I get frustrated with his relationship with Jared.

The thing is, I am not convinced on these two boys. No matter how much growth he experiences, I still feel Connor will always be a bit insecure regarding Jared. And Jared?? Well, doesn't anyone realize that he never really TELLS someone that he's gay? That his friends and his mother find out about his sexuality through other resources: Veronica's "gossip", Veronica's mother, seeing it themselves... So how can I be sure that Jared is indeed accepting that he's gay now? In addition, I still wish to see Jared doing some groveling for hurting Connor.

I do appreciate the twist that the author gives readers with Veronica. But unfortunately, everything feels rushed nearing the end, which ends up inconclusive...
Profile Image for Kaje Harper.
Author 72 books2,484 followers
April 18, 2013
This is a slow-building, sometimes-emotional story of a shy, socially-inhibited gay young man in his first year of college. I really enjoyed it, sometimes despite an ache of fellow-feeling in my chest. Because I was Connor at that age, only worse (albeit neither male nor gay). I could sympathize with the moments of pain and frustration in trying to figure out how the hell other human beings ever knew how to have normal social interactions.

Connor's problems are compounded by falling in love with Jared, a closeted jock with bigoted friends and an intense need to be "the man of the family" since his father's death. Jared has tried to be bi, but is becoming certain he's not interested enough in girls, and is starting to identify as gay. He likes Connor, and takes obvious satisfaction at filling the void that exists in Connor's lonely life, but doesn't want to be publicly together at all. This puts Jared's fears and wishes in conflict with the things Connor needs to do, to be true to who he is and come out into the light as his own person.

Connor is helped a lot by his friendship with Rebecca, who accepts his shyness, and later his gayness, and pushes him just enough to move him forward. (I didn't envy him a love interest, but I'd have killed for a friend like that. Maybe she was out there and by never eating in the cafeteria, I missed her...)

Some readers may be annoyed with Jared, but I thought with his age and situation and fears, his blowing hot and cold, seeking attachment and then pushing Connor away, rang true. It was hurtful, but felt real and seemed like the best coping Jared was able to do at any given moment. Even his inability to deal with an old girlfriend who clings to him seemed true to life. The path of least resistance is always appealing, and guys tend to hate scenes and drama. Plus he felt responsibility for her. I was actually pleased (for the sake of the story) that he had feet of clay appropriate to a young college guy.

This book could be considered YA, given the characters' ages and the coming-out/coming-of-age themes. The sex content skirts my limit for YA, being on page and clear, but it is fairly short and not erotic. In the way it happens, as part of a developing relationship, I think it is appropriate. I would definitely recommend this to older YA readers, with just the caution that it has that content.
Profile Image for Deeze.
1,576 reviews263 followers
April 28, 2013
A wonderful story full of real people and real situations.

Connor really captured my heart. Maybe because I can fully understand his shyness and always being on the edge of the crowd. One of the earlier scenes where Connor tried to mix and quickly found himself alone again sealed my love for him.

Jared I had less love for. I understand he was scared, and totally out of his element but I still found his reactions selfish and hurtful. Right from the beginning he treated Connor as someone he was ashamed of. Luckily he did redeem himself, but not as quickly as I would of liked, but in a more realistic way, no quick turn around which actually adds to the story.

I could list a bunch of likes and dislikes for the rest of the cast, Connor’s mum being at the top of the dislikes with his dad being a total wimp, to Connors best friend Rebecca, who was the perfect female in a M/M book I’ve read in a long time. It just goes to show you can have a strong female role without her being a bossy know it all evil bitch. Everyone played a part and while I didn’t always love them, they were all pretty real. Even the jerks were decent jerks and not OTT homophobic bashers.

Ray deserves a mention of his own. While not a large character, he did capture my interest. Reading the few scenes with him gave me a real “Good Guys finish last” feel, so I’m really hopeful he will get a HEA of his own one day.

The pacing of this story worked well, although for me I would have been happy if the sex took place off page. Not that it was bad, just I was more focussed on the emotional side to this story than the physical, but that is a purely personal feeling.

Overall recommended to all looking for a sweet but deeper than usual story, with characters that feel like real people.
Profile Image for Mandy*reads obsessively* .
2,203 reviews327 followers
July 29, 2013
I bought the published version and at $2.99 for about 95000 words it is definitely a great buy.
But I am also a little torn on how I feel about this story. I think it's because I feel so protective and care so much about Connor, that I want the absolute best for him, and I'm just not sure if this is it...

Connor is painfully shy and has quite a bit of social anxiety, and it felt painful to me just reading about it, I can't even imagine what he was going through.
Now, his parents continue to harp on him to be more social etc...they lived with this boy for 18 years and they think what? Ok whatever, the mother is portrait as a harpy and overbearing and the dad is cold and distanced.
At least the little sister is far better than we are lead to believe at the beginning.

So poor Connor, who only really thrives and relaxes when he plays his violin ( and the parts where he thinks of his music, is playing his music, where I feel his love for it, was some of the most enjoyable for me .)
He meets Rebecca who 'adopts' him as a friend whether he wants it or not and he gets a little group of fun, quirky people who like him just as he is, even if it takes him a long time to realize that.
Rebecca was a favorite of mine in this book, I'm sure it's because she gives Connor the hugs and love I wanted him to have.

He also meets Jared. I'm a bit of two minds on Jared, on the one hand he really helps Connor work on leaving his shell, both intentionally and unintentionally. He is pretty honest with Connor as to what he can expect from him and is pretty clear as to where Connor fits into his life. It's because this story is told from Connor's POV and he is such a sweet and hurting young man, that I get angry on his behalf on the way Jared 'fits' Connor into his life.
I want more for Connor, he deserves it, but I also realize Jared is a young man too and maybe I shouldn't expect so much of him, just because Connor sees him as close to perfect and strong, does not mean he is.
I was so glad when it all came to a head, and as much as Connor suffered, I do believe it was what he needed to take that final step into being himself and feeling more confident.

Jared again, I would have felt better of he had 'owned' his situation a little more.
He never 'came out' he never actually says it to anyone..he either gives 'pointed looks' or 'I'm with Connor' everything else was forced on him, I know he was working up to it, but...how or what would have happened if Veronica hadn't done what she did?
I also really missed seeing him really, really grovel ...again, I realize he's just as young as Connor, but boy, he suffered yes, but not because of Connor, and I really think he needed to grovel and apologize to Connor more and I for one, would have liked a 'big gesture' on his part. He's lucky Connor is such a sweetheart.

The Veronica situation...I'm not even sure where to go with that. I want Ray to get a really good guy. ( Ben? LOL)
And was it just me or because it's from Connor's POV, but with the exception of Jared's Mom all the adults were horrible, petty and mean.
I thought some of the day-to -day stuff could have been cut out and the ending been maybe a bit more 'settled', I'm not sure if these two are really going to make it and I want them too.
Connor didn't get to really be happy and feel good about himself until close to the very end and after suffering with him for so long I wanted a bit more of that.
I felt a little let down at the end because of that I think, don't get me wrong, I liked the story a lot, but I just didn't feel that the pain and growth Connor ( and even Jared) went through gave them enough contentment and happiness by the end...maybe I am just asking too much.
Profile Image for Daniel.
658 reviews41 followers
May 15, 2019
How the hell is this not on my shelves? I might believe you if you told me I didn't review it, cuz reasons, but I refuse to believe I didn't at least shelve it as read. WTF.
Profile Image for M.
268 reviews1 follower
September 3, 2014

After reading this book, I really don't understand why it hasn't received higher ratings, because I simply LOVED it!!

And this is how my experience went...

The beginning...

The middle...

My feels to certain characters...

The end...


So, there you have it mates...I loved this and yes I would recommend it xx

An awesome pressie from my amazing and beautiful friend, Ingela
Profile Image for Barbara➰.
1,546 reviews363 followers
December 18, 2022
I really wished I'd enjoyed this more than I did. It started out great and hooked me from the beginning. I loved both Conner and Jared. It was sweet how they discovered things together. Then it went downhill, and I started to hate Jared. I despised how he treated Conner. Did I understand his hesitancy? Yes, but this just proved why I don't enjoy reading in-the-closet stories. One of the mc's always gets hurt by the other's actions. Jared treated Conner like shit at times.

I loved how Conner grew as a person throughout, but honestly, I wished he'd dumped Jared and moved on to someone else who treated him the way he deserved. Maybe if we had gotten Jared's POV, and I knew how he actually felt about Conner, I would feel differently about him, but sadly, we don't, and all I kept seeing was how awful he was.

I also wasn't thrilled about how Veronica was talked about. I didn't think college freshmen would know she had some type of mental illness, but everyone talked so ugly about her. It made me cringe.

My final thoughts, I wish we could get some type of follow-up. I need closure with Conner's parents, as well. I'm sorry, but his mom was a bitch. This had the potential to be such a sweet romance between the two. It just fell short in my opinion.
Profile Image for Sheri.
1,337 reviews135 followers
March 17, 2013
Self-discovery. Shedding insecurities. Everyman's expectations.

Revealing yourself, finding your voice, and discovering your path is not always easy. It is near impossible when you are not only afraid of what you’ll find, but terrified to begin the search.


Freshman college student Connor, an introverted musician who's petrified of rejection is locked in a prison of his own skin. Walking a straight line in life, he succumbs to the pressure of his overbearing parents and has never been allowed to make any decisions for himself. His pushy parents have strategically planned his future for him, and he is meekly doing as he is told. The only time he allows himself to take charge and have an ounce of confidence is when his violin is in his hands. Brilliantly gifted, he seeks refuge in his music. Entranced by a popular football player with sparkling chocolate eyes he suddenly finds himself faced with a decision. Will he live his life for himself or stick to the shadows while his parents live it for him?


A handsome athlete with an easy smile, a beautiful girlfriend and no shortage of friends, he is supposedly living the life. Grade requirements for his scholarship have given him an excuse to pursue the shy and quiet tutor. Turns out the self-assured football star is hiding his own fair share of secrets in the midst of his picture perfect life. Finding the strength to be himself means pushing aside everyone else’s expectations, and it may be more than he can stand.

This is a coming out story in more way than one, and kudos to Mrs. Alva for engaging me, the reader.
Though I couldn’t personally relate to Connor, I was genuinely impressed with the emotions involved.
I was embarrassed with him.
I was excited with him.
I was heartbroken with him.
I found the situation with Jared’s ex a bit over the top, and I was infuriated with his parents, but again I suppose those are both very tangible additions to many real life stories.
The truth is sometimes hard to bear, but as these two lost boys demonstrate, strength and power outweigh any disappoints that honesty may bring.

*4 pursuit-of-happiness stars*
Profile Image for Jen.
229 reviews
March 22, 2013
3.5 stars

Things I Liked:

-Both Connor and Jared had great emotional arcs, and I was especially proud of Connor's growth by the end. I was really rooting for him, and he did not disappoint!
-I loved Connor's group of friends that he meets through Rebecca.
-Ben was a pleasant surprise, as was Jared's mother and Melissa.
-I always stronly identify with books that have self-esteeem issues as a predominant theme, and this one was no exception.

Things I Didn't Like:

-Veronica - I didn't really understand the point of this whole subplot, and just found it ridiculous and weird.
-I kind of wanted to punch Jared in the face for, like, 75% of the book (he mostly redeems himself in the end, though). I was actually rooting for Ray, to be honest with you, even though I of course knew that wasn't going to actually happen. The one positive about Jared was that he was undoubtedly instrumental in pulling Connor out of his shell, so I didn't totally hate him or anything. I just didn't love him.
-While the writing was decent, I found parts of the book painfully and embarrassingly awkward - have you ever seen the movie About A Boy ? I had the same reaction to that movie.
-Connor's parents sucked, and I wanted to push them off a cliff; it's no wonder the poor kid was such a hermit.

A worthwhile read, especially if you identify with characters who have deep-rooted self-esteem issues. If you don't, you may find Connor a difficult character to read.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Melyna.
837 reviews16 followers
November 20, 2016
Read February 11 -14 2013 Five stars
Listened to audio book November 7, 2016 - November 15, 2016 Five Stars. The narration is excellent!
This is a lovely story. It is a familiar theme, shy non athletic young man and the more outgoing jock. The similarity ends there. It becomes more and unfolds beautifully.

Connor is an intelligent, gifted violinist, shy to the extreme. He does not make friends easily. He meets Jared while tutoring for the athletics department. Jared is not exactly the stereotype jock and we see a person wanting to be true to who he really is and struggling with his and others expectations of who he should be. As the story progresses we get to see Connor grow, take chances and make friends. The cast of characters surrounding Connor are a fun quirky group and I love Rebecca.

There were scenes which frustrated me and I chalk it up to my investment in the characters and my hope for the outcome I wanted for them. The author gives us details that help with understanding why Connor and Jared behave the way they do. In the end this worked for me and I closed my kindle with a smile on my face.
Profile Image for Jeff Erno.
Author 62 books629 followers
April 6, 2013
Social Skills is the story of Connor, a college freshman who wages a constant battle against social anxiety. His shyness and introversion, added to his diminutive stature and average looks, contribute to an extremely low self-esteem. Connor is also gay. When he begins tutoring Jared, a member of the school's football team, his same-sex attractions surface and a romance blossoms. Jared becomes Connor's security blanket, initially helping him overcome some of his anxiety but ultimately leading to an unbalanced, one-sided relationship in which Connor depends upon Jared to offer assurance, guidance, and a feeling of self-worth. It's when Jared, still in the closet, decides to end the relationship, that Connor finally has to develop the skills to conquer his own social challenges.

This beautifully crafted story was artfully presented, conveying a hopeful message of self-acceptance, forgiveness, and determination. The story was told in the third person narrative, entirely from Connor's point of view, and was in no way preachy or didactic. It was just a story, a slice of life. And by learning about this amazing young man, I felt I learned so much about myself and about others who struggle with self-esteem issues.

Yes, it pulled on my heartstrings, and in this sense I knew the author was manipulating my emotions. But I didn't feel it was in any way heavy handed. I felt Connor's pain because I got to know him. I got to see inside of his head and heart.

There were times I was frustrated. I wanted Connor to stand up to his overbearing mother. I wanted him to kick Jared to the curb on more than one occasion. I wanted him to speak up for himself and quit being a doormat. But who effin cares what I wanted?? The point is that this is a real story about a realistic character--one with limitations and flaws and challenges. As much as I wanted Connor to be stronger, I understood why he was the way he was.

One thing I especially appreciated about the story was that it did not seem to be making the case that introversion, in and of itself, was a bad thing. Connor was absolutely beautiful. He possessed amazing talent, above average intelligence, and a tremendous level of empathy. He was compassionate, loyal, generous, and humble. In a nutshell, he was a person I'd cherish with all my heart as a dear friend, and I'd be honored to have him in my life. None of these things--and especially not his sensitivity--were traits that needed to change.

But his social anxiety and low self esteem were his Achilles' heel. These were within the cards of the hand he was dealt, and it was up to him--and him alone--to overcome them. Of course he had support along the way, but ultimately it was his victory.

And one last thing about this story that I feel compelled to comment on is the relationship with Jared. A part of me was disappointed that Connor was so quick to forgive Jared for his transgressions, yet I felt this was spot-on accurate. There is absolutely no way, knowing who Connor is, that he could NOT forgive. And in the end, Connor receives his reward, and it's absolutely beautiful.

This book had me in tears at certain points and doubled over with laughter in other places. The little sister, Melissa, cracked me up. I loved Rebecca, the best friend. Even Jared's roommate Ben was comical. The ending of the story was just perfect, and the epilogue was exactly what I'd hoped it would be.

Although I've categorized Social Skills as a YA read, I think it's a book that would be beneficial and enjoyable to readers of all ages. It's a beautiful story with many important messages, and it's extremely well-written. Five stars is just not nearly enough.

Profile Image for BevS.
2,690 reviews2 followers
January 10, 2019
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Nice 4 star coming out/opposites attract YA story featuring painfully shy, socially awkward and introverted violinist Connor who tutors the ubiquitous 'jock in the closet' Jared. Jared was something of a conundrum; confident and found it easy to make friends but obviously completely confused about his feelings for Connor and what that said about his own sexuality...which sometimes meant that he made bad decisions.

Unfortunately there were also several moments when I wanted to smack Jared hard for selfishly only thinking about his own feelings, and some of Jared's friends too, moronic Michael in particular [🤯]. Loved all of the friends that Connor eventually made, and I really wanted to throttle Connor's mum, a complete and utter bitch who was also a control freak and his little sister Melissa who 'blackmailed' him to keep his secret...which she discovered by listening at his door, sneak!! What a delightful family...not 😡.

As far as the audio itself is concerned, the quality was quite poor. I liked the voice of narrator Andrew Eiden, who definitely also narrates as Teddy Hamilton - co-narrator of Him and The Understatement of the Year - but the actual piecing together of the recording was really sloppy and disjointed. One second 'Connor' would be speaking in his very gentle voice and then the next it almost sounded as though it was a different narrator cos the pitch and cadence of the voice was much higher, so that aspect of the audio was unfortunately quite disappointing.
Profile Image for Eli Easton.
Author 63 books2,589 followers
November 5, 2013
Wow, I adored this. I'm so impressed with this book. Good writing and very deep characters who grew and changed during the course of the story. The romance was sweet, but I'm especially impressed at Connor and Jared's coming out stories. So often in these kinds of books the hard stuff about coming out is glossed over or left off the page. Jared's coming out was particularly realistic and painful but never angst for the sake of it, and the ending was lovely.

I've a Sara Alva convert--can't wait to read more of her work!
Profile Image for Camille.
1,587 reviews53 followers
February 8, 2013


American school caste systems are beyond me and (from what I've read of them) I find them, to say the very least, fairly ridiculous; that, plus my aversion to the nerd low self-esteem, jock lordly character trope may not have rendered me the best reader of this book.

Notwithstanding, among the books I have read that make use of this plot, this one does well for itself and has more to offer.
Profile Image for Mare SLiTsReaD Reviews.
1,132 reviews69 followers
November 2, 2013

This is a tale of coming out, coming out of your shell and coming out to the world to be the REAL you.

A slow build on love, on 1st love, on heartbreak, on joy, on pain, on friendship, on self reflection, on family.

Once again Sara Alva spun me in a web of words, of emotions, of FEELINGS.


Feelings of sweetness:


“Finally Jared brushed his lips- more the touch of breath than body. Ticklish waves passed through Conner’s mouth and hummed all the way to his toes. His arms and legs tensed, and then his whole body was trembling, the vibrations rising up like a crescendo and hovering at the climax. And God, that was barely even a kiss.


“In a deafening silence, Conner’s pulse sped up, his mind more captive to Jared’s touch than it had been the first time they’d kissed. He couldn’t look away, even if his fear wanted him to. He couldn’t blink. He couldn’t draw his next breath. Because this … this was all searching eyes and gentle caresses, and somehow, unbelievably, a connection

Feelings of angst:


*when Jared left Conner* Dear Lord I wanted to throat punch him!!!!!

Conner’s depression:


Heart swelling:


Sigh, the love Conner has in his heart slayed me… SLAYED ME…

Coming out….. probably the most realistic coming out that I have read to DATE



Review posted at:
Profile Image for Isabel.
562 reviews103 followers
November 22, 2013
I know that this story is not new, college gay boy meets college football player in the closet... but I still love this book!

Connor is so shy, so lonely and so sweet, that I wanted to enter inside the book and hug him, comfort him and tell him that he was not alone! Fortunately Rebecca did that job pretty good! The music that he plays with his violin is beautiful...

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And then he meets Jared, beautiful football player in the closet! I must say that Jared also hurt me when he hurted Connor, but he was also a young man, with his own problems... So I, actually, wanted to hug him too.

I loved this young couple with all my heart!

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And this poem... so beautiful!!!

“Strange, dear, but true, dear,
When I’m close to you, dear,
The stars fill the sky,
So in love with you am I.
Even without you
My arms fold about you.
You know, darling why,
So in love with you am I.
In love with the night mysterious
The night when you first were there.
In love with my joy delirious
When I knew that you might care.
So taunt me and hurt me,
Deceive me, desert me,
I’m yours ’til I die,
So in love,
So in love,
So in love with you, my love, am I.”
Profile Image for Therese.
413 reviews9 followers
April 8, 2015
This was not for me, since unfortunately I really, really disliked Jared throughout the book. I just kept wishing the story was actually about Connor getting out of his shell and living a promiscuous campus life, instead of getting stuck with Jared the asshole.
I really did not understand what either of them saw in each other, since I could not feel any chemistry at all between them (ok, fine, Jared had some muscles, and was “nice” and Connor was “cute”, and convenient). I would have needed a bit more than that.
I really like closeted jock-characters, but they need to have some kind of likeable qualities, or a more touchable inner development. I did not get that from Jared at all. Maybe it would have been better with some of his POV, since I got nothing from only reading Connor’s.

I did like Connor’s friends, and his sister, and I really liked Ray. Now THAT’s good boyfriend material!
Profile Image for Anyta Sunday.
Author 82 books2,494 followers
June 17, 2019

Social Skills is a wonderful story (I was lucky enough to be a beta reader for this). Conner struggles to identify himself in Social circles, and it's something I think many of us can relate to, even if only in part.

I really like how much Ms. Alva show Connor's insecurities but also his desires--both in terms of Jared, but also with how he slowly gets more confident being around others.

Nice read, and I love the musical element to it.

One thing though, I don't remember it being as long as it says above. I thought it hit around the 80K. Could be wrong, but in terms of reading length it didn't feel that long. :)
Profile Image for Elizabetta.
1,210 reviews34 followers
January 19, 2015

(originally reviewed 5/5/13; updated 1/19/15)

The title is really apt in this sweet, gently-moving, coming-of-age story. Connor is a freshman in college and feeling the strain of being a painfully shy and socially awkward kind of guy. He needs some “social skills,” and fast. He longs for friends yet finds it difficult to connect with his fellow students, he’s tongue-tied and unsure. One thing Connor is sure of...he loves music. He can communicate through his violin and playing it soothes his inner conflicts. It’s not easy for him, overcoming the shyness, and he takes refuge in his music and studying for classes. The author does a good job at capturing this complicated character.

Connor requires patience from the reader. He is so given to self doubt and anxiety and seems lost in it. You just want him to get a grip, take a leap. We get a lot of his inner dialogue and are witness to every bit of his insecurity. It’s clear that he isn’t close to his parents, they don’t understand him; and his mother, especially, is overbearing. Could this be the root of his insecurities or is he really just a very sensitive soul? (Connor’s thirteen-year-old sister, Melissa, is well captured and a fun secondary character. She’s smart and bratty and ultimately comes through for her brother when he needs it most.)

It isn’t until Jared, hunky footballer and fellow student, enters the picture that Connor starts to break out of his shell. They share a class together and Connor agrees to tutor him. Jared is the polar opposite of Connor: a jock, extroverted and out-going, with lots of friends. But he too, is trying to figure out who he is and what he wants. He also “gets” Connor and is protective of him. What I like is that he’s not perfect -- he gets frustrated with Connor’s insecurities and pushes him to face and articulate what he wants. It’s unfortunate that at times Jared can come across as a bit cavalier in his treatment of Connor. But, we have to remember that these guys are only eighteen years old and Jared is not a knight in white armor, he’s not perfect... he’s real.

I especially like all the classical music references. Connor is a talented violinist and these details add to his character and enrich the story. We see him immerse himself in his music, we see how it helps him cope:

“He took out his violin and set some sheet music on his miserably bent wire stand... Then, with only a deep breath to bolster him, he launched into the first thing he could think of—the solo from Scheherazade. It was a haunting melody, wistful and yearning, yet with a touch of hopefulness to it at the same time. The room and the tension slipped away as he drew the bow across the strings, his fingers vibrating with emotion—a simple task given what kinship he felt with the piece. It was so easy in this space to express himself, to make perfectly clear who he was and what he wanted from life. If only it were possible to speak with these notes in the real world.”

This book is perfect for readers who like a gently paced romance where you get a full arc of character growth in a well-developed world. Connor and Jared make an incredible journey of self-discovery together. I have read one other book by Alva, a novella. “Social Skills” shows more depth, partly due to its length, but mainly in that it displays the author’s talent for portraying young characters in real situations. While I felt the story could have benefitted by some tightening in pacing, I did enjoy it and will definitely be checking out more of Alva’s work.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Serena.. Sery-ously?.
1,083 reviews172 followers
April 4, 2016
Ma no. Proprio no!!
Questo è il tipico romanzo poraccio che il lettore non vorrebbe mai incontrare: è un tipo di poracciaggine diversa da - che so - la trilogia della Van Dyken (oh, ma com'è che mi viene sempre in mente lei quando devo fare esempi di tal portata? :D), dichiaratamente brutta e francamente insalvabile.. No, questo è un libro che promette mari e monti, che acchiappa il lettore con una trama interessante e 'seria' e si risolve in una gigantesca supercazzola.. Se non fosse stato che fortunatamente si legge con la coda dell'occhio mentre entrambi gli emisferi del cervello sono in coma, avrei buttato via il Kindle.
Innanzi tutto, il protagonista, Connor. Tecnicamente un disadattato sociale, incapace di avere la minima interazione sociale e chiuso in sé stesso come il paguro quando gli si va a rompere le scatole.
Dai, che tenerezza! *Serena prende e lo accarezza*
Sì, beh, in teoria tutto ciò è vero nelle prime.. Boh, trenta pagine? Connor si trova un gruppo di amici che manco Maria De Filippi, riesce tranquillamente a fare da tutor a due giocatori di football e vabbé, instaura pure una relazione con uno di questi.
La relazione in questione si sviluppa così, nel tempo che io ho impiegato a prendere il cellulare perché mi era arrivato un messaggio.. Da un momento all'altro - i due si conoscono da dieci minuti - stanno insieme. Così. Bum. Ho seriamente riletto le pagine precedenti temendo che mi fossi distratta.. Macché! Non c'è crescita personale, non c'è la fase 'prima'.. Niente.
Considerando che poi (OVVIAMENTE) il bellissimo Jared non ha fatto outing.. E' una barzelletta, ma di quelle che non fanno nemmeno sorridere.
La storia avrebbe potuto chiamarsi "Social skills aka cliché su cliché", perché lo sviluppo è così BANALE e PREVEDIBILE che il lettore potrebbe benissimo fare altro e non perdersi niente! Mamma mia, che incredibile mancanza di idee originali (no anzi, di idee e basta -_-)!!!
La storia che si instaura tra Connor e Jared è patetica: dopo 350 pagine non ho sinceramente capito cosa i due avessero in comune e cosa li abbia spinti l'uno nelle braccia dell'altro.. Forse potrei capire Connor che si vede davanti un bel fusto ma.. Jared in Connor? SERIAMENTE?
Non sto dicendo che uno deve basare una relazione sulla bellezza, ci mancherebbe.. Ma dammi qualche elemento a cui appigliarmi e capire!
Siccome poi l'autrice chiaramente non sapeva cosa diavolo scrivere, al 5% della storia i due protagonisti si baciano. No, vabbé, mettilo un po' di pathos no???
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