Reviewed by Kat
TITLE: My Bare Naked Heart
AUTHOR: David Avery
PUBLISHER: Walt Whitman Press
LENGTH: 316 pages
RELEASE DATE: October 14, 2016
John Branson is a college freshman with a big secret: he likes girls, but he also likes guys – and he is surrounded by them at the preppy, all-male college he attends in Vermont. It is the 1950s, a time when gay sex was illegal throughout the US and grounds for expulsion from colleges like his.
Against that backdrop, John struggles with the desires that drum inside his head with a deafening roar. Those desires are manifest in his complicated feelings of affection towards his roommate and best friend, Daniel. John also has his eyes on Dusty, a golden boy from California who is a senior and the dorm’s resident advisor. It is a tumultuous year for John and his buddies as they learn about friendship, sexual awakening, and falling in love during a time of hate.
MY BARE NAKED HEART is a fun, sexy read that is both literary and erotic. It will make you laugh, cry, and remember what it was like to fall in love for the very first time.
This was an interesting recounting of forbidden love in 1950’s America.
John Branson is off to his first year of college in Vermont at Inverness College, an all-male college. He has just spent his last summer at home trying his best, unsuccessfully, to get in the the pants of his high school girlfriend. But he’s conflicted too. He had hidden thoughts of males too, something that isn’t just forbidden but illegal in 1957. The first person he meets is his sun-kissed and very naked RA California golden boy Dusty McCaffrey in the community shower room. Next steps in his attractive roommate, Daniel Wright, and he knows he’s in trouble. Add in five more good friends and you have the “Magnificent Seven” and a great boyfriend in Dusty. “My Bare Naked Heart” is the journey of these eight young men at a time of exploration in their lives and their personal growth.
I have mixed feelings on this book. Although I was a small girl when this book was depicted, I had never experienced the scares and restrictions of this era. My dad’s boyhood best friend was openly gay. I never knew that it was considered wrong by society at that time. Maybe it was because I grew up in Portland, Oregon and it is a more accepting area. And I was raised in an family accepted all people. The fear that resonates was eye opening and disheartening. That you could be arrested as being a deviant and pronounced mentally ill was deeply disturbing. That you would be immediately terminated and prosecuted if it was discovered that you were gay was terrifying. I admit that I was on pins and needles for the safety of both Dusty and John.
The part that got tiresome was the constant comparison and description of each of the “Magnificent Seven” genitalia. I know the author was trying to give each of the men their own distinctness and that young men are always in competition with each other. But, if I had to read one more time about the size, comparisons and awesomeness of their penises, especially Anthony’s “Italian sausage” I was going to close the book. For me, it became a bit redundant and I tended to speed read through it because it was distracting from the main story.
Dusty and John’s relationship, although forbidden by society, was tender, sweet and felt completely real. These men truly loved each other. John was young and Dusty was wise to remind him that he was just discovering what he wanted. I loved how John finally became aware how his actions affected both their relationship and their feelings. It was an extremely well written story of first true love.
Speaking of well written. This was written as if it was penned in the era. John was extremely smart and a published writer before he even entered college. That came through completely. It is written from John’s point of view, like an memoir. You get flash-forwards to current times. Although they worked, they sometimes annoyed me because the author would give a tidbit and then jerk back with that there is more later.
After a bit of research, I discovered that this will be the first book in a three-part series for this brand new author. This was good news because it felt a bit “what the heck” at the end. I look forward to what happens next. Great start from a debuting author.