Fourteen-year-old Butch Harris' rites of passage from the grudging charity of mean Aunt Dora's rat-infested shack to the benevolence of shapely Aunt Ann's sexual favors and her crucial tuition check to Shenandoah Academy are cut from pretty familiar cloth: first ejaculation, first condom, first time driving a car, first hangover from moonshine shared with his Lady-Madonna mother's occasional lover, first deer hunt with his foulmouthed redneck uncles, first fistfight with the town bully who mocks his curly hair . . . then that once-in-a-lifetime sensitive maternal teacher whose recognition of his ""special"" quality is what school marmin' is all about. Ferguson, a protege of Max Steele and Doffs Betts, shows a talent for characterization and captures the North Carolinian color, but the sentimentality is as honeyed as the tunes from those old Elvis films where common politeness overcomes poverty and it's hard to love Butch quite as tender as Ferguson does--even if this is his first novel.