Aaron by @JPBarnaby #Audiobook #Review #LGBT

Marc and Dana review Aaron (Survivor Stories Book 1) by J.P. Barnaby (Published by Dreamspinner Press, October 8, 2012, 238 pages, available on audio March 7, 2014)

Aaron audio


A Survivor Story

I can’t describe what it’s like to want to scream every minute of every day.

Two years after a terrifying night of pain destroyed his normal teenage existence, Aaron Downing still clings to the hope that one day, he will be a fully functional human being. But his life remains a constant string of nightmares, flashbacks, and fear. When, in his very first semester of college, he’s assigned Spencer Thomas as a partner for his programming project, Aaron decides that maybe “normal” is overrated. If he could just learn to control his fear, that could be enough for him to find his footing again.

With his parents’ talk of institutionalizing him—of sacrificing him for the sake of his brothers’ stability—Aaron becomes desperate to find a way to cope with his psychological damage or even fake normalcy. Can his new shrink control his own demons long enough to treat Aaron, or will he only deepen the damage?

Buy Links: 

Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | B&N | ARe | Audible

The Cover: 

Marc – 

First I will mention that the model for this cover is a well-know gay porn star. Even with that in mind, the cover manages to highlight the characters vulnerabilities and readers will not think of the scenes in his adult movies, but see a character, who has to struggle with dramatic events.

Dana –

I like the gritty quality of the cover image. It reflects the grittiness of the story. Though the model on the cover has an expression and scar that inspire sympathy right away, I have trouble associating his well known image with the character, Aaron.

The Title:

Marc – 

While I’m not a big fan of titles that have only the names of the two, romantically involved main protagonists in the title, for this particular story having just Aaron’s name works. The story seems hugely personal and this title adds to that effect.

Dana – 

I think the name of the book suits it just fine, though the story is equally told from Aaron’s and Spencer’s perspective throughout the book.

The Narration: 

Marc –

The narration is pretty amazing, even with more difficult things like authentically representing a deaf character and the way he talks as well as private messages that play a big part in the story. There is an almost musical quality to the narration and I quite enjoyed it. The narrator is very good at carrying the complex emotions of the main characters in his voice, sometimes reaching an emotional intensity that elevates the narration tremendously and won’t leave any ‘reader’ untouched.

Dana – 

I thought the narrator’s voice sounded appropriate for the character’s age (late teens to early 20’s). He doesn’t have a wide variety in his speaking tone when differentiating different characters, however in this book I was extremely impressed when he spoke in Spencer’s voice. It seems to me, it would be easy to mess up the accent of a deaf character, and make it seem mocking, but it felt very authentic and it sucked me into the story even more.

The Story:

Marc –

For a long time Aaron was on my to-read list. Many of my friends recommended it to me, but they also said that the story was heart-wrenching and at times hard-to-read. There is a modified YA version of the called ‘A Broken Kind of Life by Jamie Mayfield’, if you think the story in it’s most explicit form would not be suitable for you, but you don’t want to miss out on a wonderful story of hope and love. I knew I had to be in the right kind of mood, but when I found the audiobook, it was much easier to make time for it and I finally needed to brace for the story and start it.

The book is authentic, well-written, full of emotions and real. Not just the dark parts, but the budding romantic relationship that changes Aaron’s life as well. The struggles and tribulations Aaron and Spencer had to endure are hard to fathom and very much outside of my own experiences. Yet the characters felt extremely relatable and likable. Even more so, because they feel human. Aaron might have gone through horrors I can’t imagine, but that does not automatically make him a saint. He has faults, makes mistakes and so do the other protagonists. Spencer, Spencer’s father, Aaron’s parents and brother. They feel real, say words that cut deep and hurt, don’t always know how to act and react, show their feelings or how to best protect the persons they love.

What happened to Aaron was traumatizing, but it influenced more than his own life and it is incredible how carefully and tastefully J.P. Barnaby handled this topic to show the long-reaching results of sexual abuse and violence are, not only for the victim, but also their close environment. It also shows that there is hope and through love, patience and work these struggles with a dark past can be overcome or at least people can find a way to go on living. The author does not make light of how difficult a process it is and is honest in showing that every person is different in the way they react to and deal with trauma.

Actually, in my humble opinion, the book was not as ‘scary’ a read as I anticipated. Sure, the backstory that traumatizes Aaron is terrible and heart-breaking, but this is a story about a young man taking back control of his life, one step at a time. A story of hope! Readers will root for both protagonists and hope that they will be able to make their relationship work and are able to leave the shadows of the past behind.

I admit at times my eyes were misty and I had to be strong to stomach the details of Aaron’s abuse or my heart broke for him when his life and love spiraled out of control, but I mostly smiled and laughed and was happy that Aaron was able to life again and love for the first time.

This is one of those books that you just HAVE to read.

10 out of 10 pots of gold


Dana –

My review is very similar to Marc’s. I had purchased the ebook of Aaron in the beginning of Summer, but was nervous about reading it. I like angst in a book. I like a book that will run me through several emotions before the end, but I had heard the subject matter was intense and I hesitated and there was a matter of finding the time as well. When I received the audio version in exchange for an honest review, the time opened up, with the joy of being able to listen while still taking care of household chores, or running errands out of the house.

The subject matter was intense, what Aaron went through was very traumatic, but the author doled out the details in small doses, which made it easier to handle. Though I felt for the character for what he went through, my eyes stayed dry. It was the after effects of the incident that affected me the most. Not only the lingering effects inside himself, but how he felt about the way his experience affected his family. His mom and dad arguing about his ability to have a normal life, how his brothers felt about having their formerly fun-loving brother replaced with the aching, needing, screaming, scared version of himself. Not to mention the attention placed on him and diverted from them. His pain at how he felt about these changes made me ache the most for him and for his family.

Spencer’s life was less angsty, but by no means perfect. His mother had passed away leaving a shell of his father, who battled with alcoholism. Then there was the fact that he was deaf. Personal communication was difficult with the way he spoke, and romantic relationships were a no go. Men either pitied him or left as soon as they could. Between his difficulties communicating, and Aaron’s fears making it hard for him to talk to his peers, the two make a perfect study pair when they end up in the same college course. Through messaging each other over the computer, the two boys find a way to let down some of their guards and build a solid friendship that can lead to more. It is clear that things will not be easy for them, though. I was impressed with Aaron developing and becoming stronger throughout the book and Spencer’s strength throughout.

I honestly can’t find anything negative to say about this book. It was edited well, the story while angsty was realistic. Bad things happen to people but deep down there is strength when it seems there is none. The ending was not necessarily a HEA but it was happy for now. While Aaron has come a long way and has the desire to overcome more, there is a lot for him to work through. It ended on a very sweet moment that had me craving the next book.

10/10 pots of gold



2 thoughts on “Aaron by @JPBarnaby #Audiobook #Review #LGBT

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