Title: The Family We Make
Author: Kaje Harper
Pages/Word Count: 461 Pages
At A Glance: I recommend this book for all of us who’ve ever struggled to feel accepted.
Reviewed By: Chris
Blurb: At seventeen, Rick Albright left his home, his parents and even his old name, rather than pretend to be straight. But being on his own was hard. When his big brother Sam found him, and insisted on giving him a place to stay, he didn’t resist too long. Living with Sam is better than fighting just to survive, but it’s not easy to find his balance in a simple, small-town life, after his time on the streets.
Travis Brinkerhoff finally managed to come out in college, his second year anyway. It was the one bright side to losing his baseball scholarship and jock status. But without money for tuition, second year came to an abrupt end. He’s back in his small Minnesota hometown, and back in the closet. Travis feels like he’s trying to fit into a life he’s outgrown. If he’s going to survive, he has to figure out a way to be his own man, maybe even have his own man, without losing the family he loves.
When he left the Marines, Sam Albright wanted nothing more than to find his missing younger brother. Mission accomplished. Now he’s got an independent, possibly traumatized, openly gay young man on his hands, a girlfriend in a war zone overseas, and parents he has to lie to in order to keep the peace. Keeping it all together won’t be easy, but Sam has never backed away from a challenge.
Review: The Family We Make is the follow up to Kaje Harper’s novella The Family We’re Born With. While it’s not necessary it to understand the story in The Family We Make, The Family We’re Born With does give background on Sam’s family and where they’re staying at the moment.
The Family We Make is mostly about Sam’s youngest brother Rick, who ran away from home before Sam left the Marines. While Sam is visiting his biological mother for the first time, he finally gets a call from Rick. Sam ends up tearing off after him and brings him back to Minnesota, where he’s staying for the time being.
Rick is scared and angry but wants the comfort of his big brother after being on his own for so many months. This doesn’t mean he’s going to make things easy on Sam, though, mostly because he’s scared that he’ll end up acting like their parents and turning on him because he’s gay. Eventually Sam cracks through the walls Rick has built, and they start to regrow their bond, along with the mechanic, Jeff, who Sam starts to work with. Eventually, then, we meet Travis. Travis and Rick form a bond while working on the road crews shoveling snow, and doing tasks for the elderly in the area.
The new bond between Rick and Travis is sweet and adorably sexy at the same time, as they’re finding their way with each other and growing into themselves. Unfortunately their road isn’t as smooth and easy as it should be, but it shows them what is important in their lives and what it means to be a family.
While the basis of this story is Rick and Travis’s, it’s not strictly a NA love story. There are a lot of characters and storylines intermingled to create this really deep and thoughtful story about what family truly means to us. It’s not always the family you’re born into that is there for you. It’s the family you create through friendships, relationships, and love that gives us the strength we need to grow into who we’re meant to be.
I really fell in love with Rick and Travis as they were finding their way, and when the last thing hit them, well, it even got me sniffling. It was like, “just how much more can these boys handle at their age?” but handle it they did, and with the grace and strength of someone twice their ages might. Sam and all the secondary characters really filled out the storyline, giving that extra depth and support to Rick and Travis. It also showed how building their new family affected all of them individually, as well as together as a whole.
I recommend this book for all of us who’ve ever struggled to feel accepted, and those who’ve had to forge their own bonds of family. Kaje Harper really got everything in this book perfectly right, at least for this reader.
You can buy The Family We Make here: