Saturday, August 1, 2009

DUMB JOCK by Jeff Erno

Set in the 1980's, DUMB JOCK illustrates the struggle of two young teens coming to terms with their sexuality and their growing love. Although the book is not autobiographical, author Jeff Erno looked to his own personal struggle of coming out as gay in a small northern Michigan town.

Jeff and Brett are as different as night and day in appearance and interests. Jeff is a slightly built freshman with no athletic talent what so ever. His friends are other social outcasts, and he is often the target for mean remarks and cruel practical jokes. His mother loves and dotes on him while his father finds him odd and annoying.

Brett is a junior and the talented quarterback everyone hopes will take the team to a state championship. He runs with the popular crowd attending parties and getting voted homecoming king. He is the last person people would think of being gay.

When Coach McDonald, gym teacher/football coach, uses the threat of failing freshman gym class as motivation for forcing Jeff to tutor Brett in English, no one would have guessed the final outcome. It doesn't take long for the two teens to become comfortable with each other and begin an emotional and sexual relationship. They aren't afraid to express their feelings to one another, but revealing their relationship in public in the tiny Michigan community would surely ruin their lives.

Jeff Erno tells the story of their young love with honesty and directness. He reveals their heart-stopping passion as well as the agony of fear and jealousy that threaten to break them apart. Times have changed some since the 80's, but small towns still breed the misunderstanding and prejudice evident in Erno's story. DUMB JOCK is a bold example of one author's attempt to create a novel to help teens accept their own sexuality or better understand that of those around them. It is a worthy addition to any high school collection.

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