Mountain guy Jeff Mann's recent novel "Cub"
Your blogger has just finished reading “Cub” (2014), his fourth novel and my introduction to the work of Jeff Mann. The book was a Christmas gift (thanks, Ron!) that I had put aside, because of my wariness of the genre of gay young-adult fiction, most of which is written by women. Ugh. So much of this stuff is poorly crafted. But I love it when I’m proven wrong; this one is a welcome exception.
The title refers to the young “bear” (and incipient BDSM) type, Travis, a high school senior book worm about to enter West Virginia University, and his bisexual boyfriend, Mike, a small-town local grease monkey. Mann's characters love the mountains and farming and tinkering under the hood of cars. They are not trying to flee Appalachia for a more trendy, sophisticated place. They eat pie (a lot of pie!), even if it means there's extra flesh around their middles. This story is the most real and honest depiction of first gay love I’ve encountered. Although formulaic – a tale of “opposites attract”– the exceptional quality of the writing and realistic plot involving an impending 4-year separation produce a book that packs an emotional wallop that sticks around long after reading the last page. I also suspect that much of this tale is autobiographical, so the story rings especially true. Available in e-reader formats and paperback.
The ending is a set-up for a sequel, which I can only hope is being written as we speak.
A sampling of reviews of “Cub”:
“If this doesn't become a classic, there's no justice.” – Jerry Wheeler for Out in Print
“The vast majority of small-town gay young tales generally involve the city as the goal. In “Cub,” you won’t find the typical gay kid desperate to escape the farm for the bright lights of the city. Instead, you meet Travis: someone not at odds with his rural upbringing, a poet and a passionate young man who isn’t like any youth I’ve read in gay young adult literature before. Travis is gay, yes, but he’s also worried that his unfulfilled penchant for kink might mean he’s on the path to becoming a sociopath. He’s burly and hairy and strong, not smooth and slim and toned...He’s angry, horny, frustrated and confused, and well aware that the world doesn’t want him the way he is...There's such a visceral reality to the thoughts and feelings in Travis. Added to the layer of "otherness" all queer kids face is his yearning for the rough/tender world of BDSM, and his intensity is brilliantly handled. This is Mann at his finest, and the potential relationship that builds in “Cub” is deftly handled. Lyrical and possessing that raw honesty, “Cub” should be the next gay young adult bestseller. Most importantly, with Travis, Mann has given a voice to youth who haven’t found themselves in the gay young adult books that have come before.” – Nathan Burgoine
Men who wear glasses:
Lads in underwear: