Title: Two Dumb Jocks (Dumb Jock: Book Five)
Author: Jeff Erno
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 210 Pages
Rating: 2.5 Stars
Blurb: Rejected by his family for coming out, Bryan Helverson boards a plane for Tampa, Florida, where he plans to attend college. Brett and Jeff’s family embrace him when he arrives, and his new “brothers,” Adam and Trevor, help him assimilate into the community.
While playing tennis with Trevor at the country club, Bryan meets aspiring pro tennis player Greg Lewis. But after a few minutes it’s easy to see the arrogant jock is not on Bryan’s menu, and he quickly dismisses the man. Forgetting he ever met Greg is not an option, though, when Bryan is hired as a waiter at the country club’s restaurant, and Greg is assigned to train him. Unexpected romance blossoms just as Bryan discovers one of Greg’s ex-boyfriends also works at the restaurant.
Greg is not the person Bryan first took him for, though. His true ambition is to become a doctor. And as their romance grows serious, Bryan discovers Greg’s mom suffers from the same debilitating depression that plagues Bryan. Unfortunately, just as Bryan is making giant strides with managing his depression, Greg’s ex—as manipulative as he is abusive—takes a battered Bryan back to point A and threatens to destroy his relationship with Greg.
Review: Two Dumb Jocks is written from the point of view of Bryan, a freshman at The University of Tampa. He’s been rejected by his biological parents, who couldn’t accept his sexuality, and is ‘adopted’ by two gay men, Brett and Jeff. Bryan is inserted into an immediate family–his friend Trevor, and Trevor’s boyfriend Adam, also living in the house (Adam is Brett and Jeff’s actual son). Suffering from depression, Bryan sees a therapist, Hank, though is resistant to the sessions and to taking medication. When he starts working at the Country Club where Brett and Jeff belong, he meets Greg and is initially put off by what seems to be arrogance in the handsome young tennis pro. Bryan soon learns his initial impression was wrong, however, and starts a relationship with Greg. As their relationship grows, Bryan is plagued by self-doubt and insecurity, which ultimately lands him in a horrifying situation. Although supported by his new family and Greg, Bryan must fight to work past his own demons in order to unlock the ability to see himself as others do.
I’ve read several stories by Jeff Erno and have always enjoyed them for the depth of his character development and the intricacy of the plot line, but his story fell short of my expectations. True to form, there is an innocence to his characters, a coming-of-age feel which is both refreshing and heartwarming. Bryan certainly has growing up to do, and he’s placed in several situations where he’s forced to examine himself. His reactions and emotions, totally understandable based on his experiences, provide a window into what it is like for a young man, new to discovering himself, as he reconciles who he knows himself to be with the experiences life placed before him.
Greg is utterly lovable. He comes off as arrogant at first, but as the story unfolds and we learn more about him, the fact he’s so involved in the LGBT community and so well-adjusted makes him all that much more admirable. The cast of side characters are delightful as well, each possessing their own unique personalities, adding depth to the story and to Bryan’s life.
Where the story fell short for me was in the quantity of issues raised and Bryan’s immature reactions to the things that happen to him. The book tackled multiple heavy issues: depression, rejection, self-doubt, and most disturbingly, violence. At each step along the way, Bryan’s reactions seem extreme, his conclusions about the motivations of others a leap from what the situation calls for, yet this is not positioned within the framework of his depression well enough to compensate for the sense of self-pity we consistently experience through his eyes. Whenever he questioned why someone like Greg would want him, I found myself wondering the same thing.
For me, this story would have been better served by picking one issue and going deeper with it. Had the depression line been followed, we could experience how Bryan almost loses everything, until he finally accepts that he needs help and can live happily by accepting the benefits of counseling and medication. Had the violence issue taken center stage, we could have seen Bryan growing and healing, only to be set back by an act of hatred. There were many different storylines which could have emerged. In the end, I felt this one didn’t really touch on any of them to a degree that satisfied me. The result was I didn’t feel deeply enough for the main character and therefore, Two Dumb Jocks didn’t touch my heart the way other books by this talented author have.
You can buy Two Dumb Jocks (Dumb Jock: Book Five) here: