Frat Boy and Toppy
What’s it like living until you’re twenty-one and in college feeling like something is wrong with your life, but not being able to put a finger on what it is? For some gay men, evidently, this is a state of being that occurs when they just go along with the flow, never questioning the disquiet they feel until it suddenly dawns on them that they are gay.
Tenino makes this real as her football player protagonist verbalizes his epiphany after going through a series of girlfriends and casual hookups through high school and college. Hunky Brad, while taking a shower in the gym with the other players, suddenly realizes that not only is he staring at his friend Collin’s ass but he’s been staring at the other players too and having vivid sexual dreams about these guys.
As Brad goes through some long-needed soul-searching, he also realizes that while Collin and the others are what he wants, what he really wants is Sebastian, the graduate teaching assistant in his history class. Although Brad has finally realized who he really is, he’s not ready to tell his fraternity brothers. He just wants to see where his attraction will take him.
To get Sebastian’s attention, Brad plagiarizes a paper, taking it right off the Internet. Sebastian, being attracted to Brad, says he will let him rewrite the paper if he promises never to cheat again. And so begins a match made in college.
Both Brad and Sebastian are fully recognizable people. Sebastian has been out for most of his life and has had many partners, so he’s comfortable with the gay lifestyle. Meeting a newbie like Brad who really wants to know what it’s all about is something different in his life.
Brad, on the other hand, has gone from a brash, assured ladies’ man to someone who has no idea what he’s doing sexually. Although he does a lot of “research” on gay porn sites, it’s not until he and Sebastian are in bed together that he realizes what he’s been missing. Now his old life becomes meaningless and he regrets all the women and girls in the past whom he’s led on.
While the relationship between Brad and Sebastian has its rocky moments, some parts of this book seem a little too anticlimactic. Take his coming out to his parents, for example. Both of them assure him that they’ve known he was gay for quite a while and just sat back and watched as he had sexual relations with myriad girls in high school. Why would they do that? Why not sit him down and talk about what he’s doing and what he might want instead if they know he’s gay?
Even stranger is the scene where Brad comes out to his fraternity brothers, an announcement which is broken up by Sebastian. It’s as if an entire chapter about the fraternity brothers’ reactions is missing. This is strange because the build-up to the announcement shows Brad and his roommates so intensely fretting about how it should be handled.
Still, everything considered, the book flows and is an insight into what a thick-headed young man thinks about as he discovers after his teen years that he’s gay. This is a well-written, enjoyable romance of the fairytale variety.