"The fight for you was all I've ever known."
While searching for M/M books on Goodreads, I came across three titles that received a lot of high ratings and rave reviews from readers. All three were written by the same author, TJ Klune, and belonged to one series. I read all three books within three days. They were that good. ^.^ This review focuses on Bear, Otter, & the Kid, the first book in the series of the same title.
Derrick McKenna, better known as Bear, is 21 years old and is what you may call a survivor. He had his world knocked on its axis by two particular events three years ago--the sudden abandonment of his mother, leaving him to take care of his then six-year-old brother, and a kiss he shared with an unexpected partner, which later leads to what he felt was the abandonment of said kissing partner.
Oliver Thompson, better known as Otter, is 29 years old and is Bear's best friend's older brother and has been a brother figure to Bear as well. He comes from a good family and is a guy who protects those he cares for, including Bear and Bear's younger brother, Ty. After Bear's mother abandons him and Ty, Otter is there to support them but is forced to make a painful decision when he crosses a line with Bear.
Tyson McKenna, better known as the Kid, is nine years old but oftentimes has the wisdom of someone with a greater deal of life experience. He loves Bear and is happy with the family they've created along with Bear's closest friends and their neighbor who babysits him from time to time. However, he still carries the emotional scars left by the mother who upped and left them three years ago.
Three years have passed since Bear and the Kid's mother abandoned them and it's also been three years since Otter suddenly left them to go to California. When Otter returns unannounced, Bear is shocked and is still hurt and angry by Otter's disappearance. There's a part of him that wants to push him away and yet another that's afraid that he'll leave again. Bear and Otter reconnect and just when everything seems to be on the right track, the unwanted return of Bear and the Kid's mother threatens the peace and sanity that the brothers have precariously created for themselves.
There's a great deal of introspection that goes on, as well as flashbacks when necessary, and you end up feeling as if you're on the same journey of understanding and discovery that Bear is going through. There's a lot (and I mean A LOT) of angst on Bear's end but then the guy has abandonment issues, was forced to be a parent AND sibling to his younger brother, and was confused as heck about what was going on with Otter. This is balanced nicely with the wit and humor in the book, so it doesn't necessarily feel 100% heavy from start to finish.
The cast of characters are likable and certainly very memorable. Bear has a lot going on around him and his inner dialogue is often painful to read. He's obviously got his own share of issues but he's a great brother and guardian. Otter is just a really nice guy who often puts his family and loved ones first. When he loves, he goes all in and is committed. The stuff that comes out of the Kid's mouth often make you wonder if he's been possessed by some wise, old man but you feel for him with his bouts of anxiety and worry. And Creed Thompson (Bear's best friend and Otter's younger brother), Anna Grant (Bear's on-again, off-again girlfriend), and Mrs. Paquinn (Bear and the Kid's elderly neighbor) were the perfect group of supporting characters, each one with their own unique set of personality traits to make them standout but not overshadow the three main characters.
I have read a couple of negative reviews comparing this book to Shelter, a movie released in 2007. I have yet to watch the movie but I have read the statement released by the publisher of this book, Dreamspinner Press, and will say that they've obviously done their own investigation into the matter and were satisfied that the book did not copy the movie and even went as far as contacting the director and writer of the Shelter. Will I watch the movie? Probably, but mostly because it's supposed to be a really good film and that should be reason enough to watch it, just like this is a good book and that should be reason enough to read it. ^.^
I loved Bear, Otter, & the Kid and would happily recommend it to my fellow bookaholics out there who have an appreciation for a character-driven story about love, self-discovery, and, most importantly, family. This definitely goes onto my Favorite Reads of All-Time list and I gladly give it a much deserved five-star rating. ♥
Date read: 08 September 2014
Learn more about the truly talented TJ Klune here.