Audiobook 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.

Listening Length: 13 hours and 52 minutes
Narrator: Iggy Toma

Reviewer: R *A Reader Obsessed*

I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, having no knowledge of manga or anime, but overall, I enjoyed this quasi enemies to lovers story that was rich with self exploration and confirmation.

This starts off with Xander. He’s basically a curmudgeon and totally owns it, eschewing things like hanging out and socializing with his peers, despite him sorta wishing things were different. Mostly, Xander simply wants to be left alone to draw, paint, and create. However, he’s not so lucky, as his senior project demands that he sell himself and his upcoming art show - the marketing and public turn out being half his final grade. Just the thought makes him queasy and angry, and he wishes that such wasn’t required for graduation.

One day, Xander’s confronted by gorgeous frat boy Skylar, who tries to make amends for some of his wayward “brothers” defacing Xander’s school mural. It’s all Xander can do to barely hide his contempt, but Skylar is not one to easily give up, for he’s quite taken with the intriguing artist’s works. When Skylar discovers he can help Xander for his own senior project - to promote and advertise a brand in a unique and fantastic way - he’s sees this as a repayment of sorts that will benefit both of them.

Perhaps surprisingly, things don't go as planned or as smoothly as they think it will. Xander is still reluctant, not really ready to compromise any part of himself, and distressingly, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep his attraction to the charming Skylar under wraps as they spend more and more time together. In turn, instead of imparting change in Xander, it’s Skylar who is more affected. He’s mesmerized by Xander’s artistic prowess and his uncompromising personality and values, all of which open Skylar to new feelings that he’s never had for anyone before.

This was a slow sedate burn as Xander and Skylar bond over their mutual love for manga and anime. The day ins and outs of these two guys slowly becoming friends and then discovering their attraction and navigating all sorts of landmines - sexuality, labels, self and not so self imposed expectations - unfold scarily and fiercely but also, exhilaratingly as well.

Though this is only the second time I’ve listened to Iggy Toma, he continues to be a wonderful narrator, and there’s absolutely not one complaint. Again, I didn’t have huge expectations going into this, and I admit that 400+ pages was a very daunting thing to me. However, the audio and Cullinan make this story interesting, as Cullinan typically imparts the reader with some sort of lesson, pointing out that love comes in many shapes and sizes, lending plenty of insight regarding the ace/gray spectrum. Hence, her diversity regarding her lovely NA stories always show personal growth, mainly dealing with finding self acceptance. Though this was quite low on the steam, it was high enough in the feels to counteract such, which of course, focuses very very nicely on one finding grand love!

Thank you to the author/publisher for the audio in exchange for an honest review.

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