Review: Antisocial by Heidi Cullinan

A single stroke can change your world.

Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.

Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.

Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

I don’t even know where to begin with this beauty.

This book starts angsty in a way that doesn’t feel like a burden. It’s not an emotional drain. I didn’t have a knot in my stomach trying to figure out when the pain would end. I think it’s because the friendship between the two men developed in a really clean and honest way. There was no subterfuge, nor underhandedness. It was truly about life, about two people connecting in unexpected ways.

Heidi Cullinan is definitely gifted in storytelling. Xander and Skyler are beautiful characters. They share a common thread, with their love of manga, even while their lives have been been completely different up to that point. That commonality allows them to get to know each other more, and as their connection strengthens, it allows the other things that link them to be revealed.

The supporting characters were a joy. Pamela, Zelda, Unc, and then later, the rest of the Lucky 7 crew. They were all high value support for these two men as they struggled with the challenges that would be their last year in college, and how to navigate their relationship.

The grey-spectrum sexuality in this story, for me, was superb. I loved the way it was handled. I loved that Xander supported Skyler through his revelations. The slow build of their relationship was amazing. I just happy sigh when I think of both these men. I heart them so much.

The art in this story was beautifully vivid in descriptives. I saw everything I felt I was being shown. I also felt every emotion Skyler did when he was looking at what Xander created, and I understood how Xander was unsatisfied when he’d finished a piece. I can imagine all artists feeling that way. That nothing is ever perfect, but the muse demands an outlet and it must be fed.

I haven’t read Heidi Cullinan’s entire back catalogue, but the many books I have read, I’m pretty sure there is erotica in all of them. Not so with this. There is no traditional sex, but there is sensuality and sexual contact in an entirely different way, that was unique to these two men. I think those who appreciate romance and relationship building will appreciate the lack of erotica in this story. I found it really refreshing. Sex was not the end goal, or the trial they had to overcome with Skyler’s grey sexuality paired with Xander’s sexuality. The focus was on building a strong relationship in a way that didn’t appear like Xander was giving up something or Skyler was giving into something, and the mastery of this is what really made me fall in love with these two men as a couple, and the story as a whole.

This book isn’t just fluffy or easy, it has depth, heart, and emotion. There were moments where I teared up and felt sad, but now that I have finished the story, I feel like I have another story that I will turn to when I need the comfort of a re-read.

Recommended for everyone who enjoys MM romance.

A review copy was provided by the author.

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