Title: Bear, Otter and the Kid
Author: TJ Klune
Cover Artist: Paul Richmond
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Amazon Buy Link:Bear, Otter, and the Kid
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Length: 350 pages
Rating: 4.75 out of 5 rating stars
A Guest Review by Raine
Summary Review: Outrageous self conscious fun- an over emotional and exhausting read probably provoking love or hate reactions to its individual and intense main character but written with an addictive and innocent conviction.
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.
I loved the energy and exuberance of this book which reminded me of a half grown puppy…..sorry to drag in even more live stock albeit a metaphorical addition…with large muddy paws and no sense of personal space. The characters bounced off the page with their heartfelt loves and losses. They overcame a certain amount of my occasional jaw dropping disbelief just by sheer animal vitality. I adored the whole tortuous, tortured and over the top, passionately romantic denial between Bear and Otter, even while muttering to myself about Bear’s hang ups with sexual labels.
Being part of Bear’s enthusiastic first person stream of consciousness had positive and negative qualities. One draw back was that I often felt like a water battered rock in the aforementioned stream. Bear’s habit of sharing his multi faceted thoughts and fears, of explaining what he really felt would be a bad idea and then going ahead and doing it anyway was exhausting, irritating and eventually oddly endearing. This profligate and intense style created bucket loads of intimacy, even though occasionally Bear was less than honest with himself and consequently the reader. Frankly, if you don’t take kindly to Bear this book would be a bit of a self indulgent nightmare. You do have to cope with Bear’s individual, but penetrating voice – over narration of events past, present with possible futures imagined in. This in addition to his over analytical chaotic inner self. I regarded the white water slalom of his swirling thoughts to be more than generally entertaining especially in relation to his brother, when they frequently became moving. The shared scenes spent sheltering from emotional earthquakes in the bath tub became more than convincing. I found Papa Bear very appealing.
The precocious and brilliant Tyson had some wonderfully poignant and also smart ass funny lines. He is justifiably at the the absolute heart of the book, both emotionally and as a focus for the plot. I did feel that the characterisation went a little off age appropriate comments towards the end of the book. Even allowing for the Kid’s mix of shrewd intelligence and naivety the back chat about gay and BDSM sex seemed unlikely for a nine year old.
That’s not to say there isn’t already a healthy dose of the unlikely in here. I was completely grabbed emotionally by the letter written with some world shaking selfishness by the guys’ mother. However later actions by her were I felt much less believable almost because of this almost pathological self centredness.
From the very first pages I was always emotionally invested in the characters the writer has created. Otter’s self denial and protective strength and unconditional love was splendidly romantic. Bear’s support system of caring friends helped ground the story with the practical details of an everyday difficult life. His quirky relationships with girlfriend Anna and best friend Creed were believable and enjoyable. I also really appreciated the sense of how important the location was as part of the story, adding to Bear’s feeling of being left behind as everyone goes away and leaves him physically and emotionally stranded. When it comes to the increasingly melodramatic ramifications of the plot my personal alarm system started sounding early on and eventually finished with lights flashing urgently. However the cosmic energy and self belief of the personalities struggling here muted everything but my determination to find out how on earth Bear, Otter and the Kid finally achieve happiness.
( I know there has been some upset about the provenance of this book in relation to the film Shelter; which I selected as my film of choice for family over Christmas 2011, I even confess that I cheated over the draw so we saw it first – it really is one of my favourite films. However if any one is still interested- in terms of my opinion for the review, I have always felt that the heart and spirit of this book is very different to the film and as such has been uniquely created.)
I am following this review with one of the sequel, I found it impossible to combine a critique of the two which was what I had intended!