His prolific output of novels, essays, short stories and poems have shown Jeff Mann as a proud, self-proclaimed gay bear, large and hairy, and gay bears begin as cubs. This novel takes place in Hinton (WV) where Mann grew up, so one might assume that Cub has autobiographical elements. Travis Ferrell, is a large teenager, hairy and good with books and school but not very athletic. After being bullied in high school, Ferrell visits a new gym in downtown Hinton (if it is large enough to have a downtown) and encounters one of his high school idols, Mike Woodson, son of a barely making-it owner of an auto garage, where Mike works after school. Athletic and muscled, Mike agrees to teach Travis the ropes of working out.
Travis is in the academic track at school, and Mike is in the vo-tech track. Travis lives with his grandmother on the family farm while his parents are in Europe. His family is much more affluential than Mike and his widowed father, who chases women and drinks too much. Mike’s brief gay experience did not turn out well, and he is essentially bisexual. Travis is all the way gay. Surprise surprise, they fall in love after Travis falls for Mike hard.
The novel is full of teenage angst and earnest talk about sex and their relationship and how they can keep it going when Travis heads off to West Virginia University, just like our author. Mike joins the army for four years after his nosy Baptist aunt finds gay books (The Joy of Gay Sex, etc.) and magazines (Drummer, etc.) in his bedroom and he is kicked out of his home. The novel ends with their sad separation, full of hope for a sequel.
This charming novel of teenagers coming to terms with being gay (or bisexual) and enjoying their first successful relationship is highly recommended for high school and public libraries.
James Doig Anderson
Professor Emeritus of Library and Information Science, Rutgers University