Jeff Erno's Reviews > Social Skills

Social Skills by Sara Alva
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it was amazing
bookshelves: gay-themed-young-adult, gay-coming-out, gay-romance, young-adult, best-of-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.

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Reading Progress

April 2, 2013 – Started Reading
April 2, 2013 – Shelved
April 5, 2013 –
page 249
69.75% "so beautiful!"
April 6, 2013 –
page 356
99.72% "so beautiful!"
April 6, 2013 – Shelved as: gay-themed-young-adult
April 6, 2013 – Shelved as: gay-coming-out
April 6, 2013 – Shelved as: gay-romance
April 6, 2013 – Shelved as: young-adult
April 6, 2013 – Shelved as: best-of-2013
April 6, 2013 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-1 of 1 (1 new)

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Madison Parker Oooh, I really love this book!

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