Author: Jeff Erno
Cover Artist: n/a
Genre: YA/Contemporary Romance
Length: Novella (142 pages)
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
One Sentence Review: A good second installment to the series that focuses on relationships between jock and geek teens
In Dumb Jock, Jeff and Brett fall in love, but their relationship is not without challenges. Brett’s a football star, and Jeff is the classic nerd. Their coming of age and coming out story is set in the 1980s, and they face many obstacles. Yet their love for each other is strong, and they finally get their happy ending. Now, almost three decades later, their children are teenagers. Adam, their fifteen year old son, is the star pitcher of his high school baseball team. He has grown up with two dads, in a loving, non-judgmental environment. Yet Adam has challenges of his own. He’s failing two of his classes at school, and he’s been suspended for fighting. He resents being labeled and insists that just because he has two dads, it doesn’t mean that he is himself gay. When he is forced to accept help from another student in his algebra class, Adam starts to have feelings that cause him to question his very identity. He’s got to decide whether to follow his heart or to maintain the image he’s worked so hard to portray. Will he have the courage to take a stand for what he knows is right, or will he end up being just another dumb jock?
Another Dumb Jock is book two of this author’s Dumb Jock series (book one reviewed by me here). While this story could be read as a standalone (the books will have interconnected characters, but their own plots), I would suggest starting with Dumb Jock as you will get the background of Jeff and Brett (the parents here who have a large-ish role) and the overall feel of the tales.
I have a real fondness for young adult stories and Jeff Erno has a real talent for writing teens. He’s a good writer, period, and in some ways, I liked this installment better than the first. It’s shorter by roughly 25k words — not that it matters much — but it’s tighter, it felt more organic, if that makes sense, and lighter. It’s not as emotional (last book made me blubber!). It’s also not nearly as angsty or conflict-ridden, though it is a YA book, so of course there is at least angst. I think part of it is the changing attitudes of young people today; not that there isn’t prejudice, but it seems (and I can say from experience as well) that the ways of thinking around gays are changing in some of the younger generation. It just isn’t as big of a deal to them as three decades ago when book one was set, and that is, if one compares and contrasts the main points, one of the things this book highlights.
In DJ, we had the point of view of Jeff, the nerdy one (and whom Adam calls “Father” here), and in ADJ we get the jock’s perspective, the one who needs the tutor, the one who feels the need to fit in more. Adam has more of an issue around appearances and assumptions than orientation, and a theme of the book is dealing with those two things. Other themes the author successfully tackles are parental embarrassment (as in the embarrassment of one’s parent(s)), role models, labels, bullying, what makes a family, self-discovery and personal growth.
I like that Erno had Trevor, Adam’s “Jeff,” be assertive and his own person. I thought he was a hoot, actually, and liked how he stood up to Adam when he needed to. I would have had an issue if Trevor had been a carbon copy of Jeff.
Another thing I like is how Erno writes — or doesn’t — smexxin between the teens. Note that the two boys do engage in some smexual activity (some touching and BJs), and if that bothers you on principle, stay away; but if you are okay with the general idea, just have a problem with on-screen smexxin, it’s fade to black in the sweetest way.
I found, while I liked the contemporary feel and the updated attitudes, and certainly our heroes had their own personalities separate from Jeff and Brett, in my opinion they exhibited too many common characteristics of our pair from the previous book (hero worship on the nerd’s part, the jock feeling more manly because he was bigger and stronger, the nerd being highly emotional) for me. I was hoping for a little more variation.
I found two continuity issues from book one to two, something that drives me batty. In the DJ epilogue, Jeff says that the kids were adopted; here they were biological with donated sperm. In this book, Adam talks about how he’s lived in the house they were in all of his life (bought before he was born), yet in the epilogue in DJ, they are considering buying a new house when Adam was seven.
Lastly, I felt the ending wrapped too nicely and was a bit too saccharin.
A good second installment to the series that focuses on relationships between jock and geek teens. I will be reviewing the third book, Appearances Matter, in the next few weeks.