“Love is what brings you together. But it’s the blood, sweat, and tears of hard work that keeps you together.” ― Nicole Williams
Author: TJ Klune
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 350 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: Three years ago, Bear McKenna’s mother took off for parts unknown with her new boyfriend, leaving Bear to raise his six-year-old brother Tyson, aka the Kid. Somehow they’ve muddled through, but since he’s totally devoted to the Kid, Bear isn’t actually doing much living—with a few exceptions, he’s retreated from the world, and he’s mostly okay with that. Until Otter comes home.
Otter is Bear’s best friend’s older brother, and as they’ve done for their whole lives, Bear and Otter crash and collide in ways neither expect. This time, though, there’s nowhere to run from the depth of emotion between them. Bear still believes his place is as the Kid’s guardian, but he can’t help thinking there could be something more for him in the world… something or someone.
Review: I like to skim back through the archives and pick up on all the tasty stuff I’ve missed through the years of largely ignoring the latest hit publications…And thank God I do, because I found this book and it changed everything! I don’t pay much attention to covers or blurbs; I just scroll back through my tablet and see what’s hanging around, unread. If I had read beforehand what this book is about, I may not have been so utterly shocked by what I found. Admittedly, the title had me thinking this was about a large hirsute man, a smaller hirsute man and a twink in some crazy Goldilocks ménage situation. How wrong can one man be? Well, for me, wrongness led to what can only be described as so impossibly right that it pretty much destroyed me.
Bear, Otter & the Kid was not the erotic short story I misguidedly dove into. Instead, it was a masterpiece penned by an author who, with a flourish of his artful hand, slid his way into my heart, making himself proudly known as one of my new favourite genre authors. To start with, Derrick (Bear) was an infuriatingly well written, confused, gay-for-you protagonist that had me weeping at his situation. He was pretty much lost, perpetually lost, but never alone. After being charged with the care of his younger brother, Tyson (The Kid), Bear turned out to be all heart and hormones as this young man fought to find himself amidst the trials and tribulations of young parenthood and the daunting realization that he was head over heels in love with his best friend’s brother, Oliver (Otter).
Prose like this doesn’t happen every day. In fact, it has become a rare occasion that I find a work of art like this at all. But young, vibrant author, TJ Klune, has restored my faith in the genre, showing me that there are still people out there striving to make the M/M genre all that it can be, with a deft combination of charming stories, conscientious characters, gut wrenching plot twists and an acerbic narrative voice to make you laugh and cry respectively. I have never been gladder that this was not a short story. You may have heard me vacillate about how I don’t like shorts when I want a long soak in the bathtub of an author’s creativity. This story was not short, but instead, incredibly long. That’s not to say it was too long, it was just wonderfully planned; no chapters rushed or plotlines glossed over. It was perfect! That being said, it made me cry a lot (which I love) and thus, I had to read it in two sittings because I dehydrated after a while and needed water and respite from the emotional rollercoaster Klune brilliantly handcrafted.
Then there was the Kid. The Kid was nine. He was smarter than all the other characters combined. He was the voice of reason in a story of young adults screwing things up between each other any way they could. The Kid was the hero. But Bear made the story. See, the Kid was perfect. But Bear? Bear was flawed, and that, my friends, made him one of us. I defy anyone to read this book and not be swept away by the characters’ lives, to not shed a tear at the turmoil or nod your head in agreement with their experiences and how you’ve been there too (well maybe not right there…not sure how many of our mothers left a seventeen-year-old us in charge of our younger siblings, and robbed us blind, then threatened to take the kid away if we didn’t ditch our gay lover and straighten up! But you get what I mean. Right?).
With a skill that borders on genius, TJ Klune puts me in mind of another of my favourite authors, Jay Bell, and writes with the same care and precision as he does too. I’m a pretty good judge of people, and something tells me Klune is meant for amazing things, an author who will one day inspire a change so great we will all be humbled.
It is with great pleasure that I recommend Bear, Otter & the Kid, if you, like me, missed this story when it was released more than two years ago. Time has not weathered this tale, nor do I anticipate it ever doing so. And it is with humbling thanks that I express my love for this book, and respect for this author who has inspired me and I know will inspire a new generation of aspiring m/m authors.