Jeff Irwin is short, timid, and studious. A bit of a social outcast, he lives quietly in the shadows of the popular kids at his school, his life ruled by his ever-present fear of rejection or failure. Enter high school football hero Brett Willson and the chance for Jeff to embark upon the challenge of educating the world's dumbest jock. But what develops between Brett and Jeff proves far more challenging than any tutoring session. In 1983, rural Michigan isn't ready to embrace love between two men, never mind two teenage boys. If they're going to make a go of it, Jeff will have to come out of his shell - and Brett will have to prove he's more than just a dumb jock.
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It's been awhile since I've stumbled across a book that gave me as strong of a gut reaction as this story. Every fiber of my being just said NO while I was listening to this one (more on the audio aspect of the book later). However, looking at my friends' reviews, I seem to be in the vast minority. What am I missing here, folks???
What is odd is that on the surface, this book has many of the things that I like in my books. I'm into age gaps, I'm into power-plays, and I'm into light D/s themes. However, I should specify that I'm into these things in my ADULT books. ADULT. These elements take on a whole different light in the YA setting of this story.
This book is about a 14 year old high school freshman and a 17 year old high school junior. The 14 year old, Jeff, is described pretty well. He is a skinny, thin, geeky pre-pubescent boy who is unsure of himself and his sexuality. He has a very messed up home life, and he is fragile in many, many ways. Brett is a 17 year old post-pubescent young man, one with a pretty stable home life, popularity, and looks on his side.
While a three year age difference may not be a lot, when you have a person described as basically a boy being intimate with someone described as basically a man... well, it squicked me out. A lot.
Combine that physical difference (Jeff's voice hasn't even changed yet in the story!) with the D/s themes and things get veeerrrrry weird. Brett called Jeff "pup" and "sport" all the time, which felt nasty to me. Puppy play with kids barely in their teens?? No thank you. Jeff also described himself as "puny" and "inferior", but not in a play-way like I would expect in an adult D/s book. Jeff had real self-esteem issues, and I didn't like seeing that mixed in with D/s themes. The whole kink vibe felt soooo verrrryyyy wroooonnnng.
It wasn't just the kinkiness or the power differences that bothered me, but also the characters themselves. Jeff was a whiny, annoying doormat who gave Brett second chances followed by third and forth chances. He was extremely vulnerable and irritating, and I didn't enjoy being in his head one bit. Brett was just an ass. We didn't get his POV, but I honestly didn't understand him at all. Like, AT ALL. He was hot and cold, totally unreadable, and made no sense as a character.
The side character were also so clichéd. The absentee father, the beleaguered mother, the gay teacher, the bullies... it was like a hit list of everything to include in your YA book. So done before, you know?
To top it off, the plot was a rambling, disordered series of events that loosely could be considered a story arc. For me, it dragged on and on, and it lacked proper structure and editing.
But the kicker was the audiobook narration. Tommy O'Brien really phoned this one in with a stilted, wooden narration with no differentiation between the characters' voices. It made for a really difficult listening experience.
After over 7.5 hours of listening to the audiobook and forcing myself to finish, I just don't have it in me to be charitable. I didn't like this story, and I'll hesitate to try another Jeff Erno book again.
**Copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review**
This is a YA book – so you can expect that this has a fairly predictable message – but it’s a sweet and good one. Nerd loves jock. Jock surprises nerd and loves him back. Everyone has to grow up and be brave.
I think there was a lot of “fantasy” type stuff in here – meaning, that people didn’t necessarily act like I think they would IRL. But… that being said – they could act that way… especially since this is only one perspective- Jeff’s.
I appreciated the lengths the author went to really get inside Jeff’s head and let this story out as one of hope for all those bullied along in high school.
There are some interesting components to this – as a YA book. 1) Off page sex – both are underage and it fits, but it’s there. 2) a bit of a Dom/sub thing – not overworked or “inappropriate” per se – interesting setting for it, though.
Tommy O’Brien is not my favorite narrator but he did a nice job with the narration, neither really adding nor detracting from the overall experience.
I think my overall impression was one of “good”. It was good. It didn’t “wow” me or make me think “how awful”. It was good. Certainly enough to make me consider more from the series when I’m in a YA mood.