“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
Ultimately, Antisocial by Heidi Cullinan is a story about finding your place in the world, finding a family and friends who love and accept you for who you are, and discovering a love that knows no bounds.
A self-proclaimed fan of happy endings, author Heidi Cullinan doesn’t shy away from putting her characters through the ringer. Neither man has a good relationship with their parents; Skyler does everything he possibly can just for the chance of hearing his father say he’s proud of his son and Xander ignores his mother’s care packages even while he wishes for her to put him before her new husband and sons.
Xander Fairchild fits the “grumpy, hermit like artist” bill perfectly, but an unexpected meeting with frat boy Skyler Stone changes the course of his life forever.
When hooligans from his fraternity deface a beloved mural, Skyler Stone makes a point of apologizing in person to the artist and asking how the fraternity can make amends. He is surprised to hear that the artist, one grumpy Xander, isn’t willing to go along with his plans to restore the piece. A copy will never be as good as the original, he claims.
In an effort to make things right, regardless of if the artist cares or not, Skyler proposes that his senior project be to work with the art department, using his business and networking skills to showcase their talents.
Tasked with creating a successful promotion for Xander’s exhibit, Skyler discovers that the best way to complete his assignment is to befriend the standoffish artist. Through sheer force of will, he slowly works his way past the walls that Xander has put up and finds, to his surprise, that the other man has wormed his way into Skyler’s heart as well!
Their attraction is a difficult road to walk, as Xander has accepted that he is gay… but Skyler is still trying to convince himself that he can ignore who he is and continue pretending to be what other people want him to be.
I’d like to note that this is the first book I’ve ever read with a grey-sexual character in it and I feel like I came away with a new understanding of people who might identify as grey or ace. Grey-sexuality being when a person doesn’t normally experience sexual attraction but can, under certain circumstances, feel sexual attraction.
I enjoyed seeing how Xander and Skyler negotiated their wildly different needs (both sexual and otherwise) into their relationship. Their secret kisses and understanding of each other’s quirks was unbearably sweet.
The inclusion of Japanese culture, both old (Shinto shrines and the Shichifukujin) and new (anime and manga), was integral to Xander and Skyler finding common ground. Skyler dreams of finding a person who will love him with cherry blossoms and bento boxes and Xander wishes for the chance to become a great mangaka.
It was heartening to see that, in the end, Skyler and Xander were able to find love and happiness and to make their dreams of moving to Japan a reality.
They found family they deserve, both in each other and in friends. Sometimes, a found family can love you better than blood family ever will.