"For all of our wrongs and for all our rights, this is us.
This is who we are."
Who We Are is the second book in the Bear, Otter, & the Kid series by M/M author TJ Klune. It picks up soon after the events in the first book, not including the epilogue, and we find Derrick "Bear" McKenna, Oliver "Otter" Thompson, and Tyson "the Kid" McKenna residing in the Green Monstrosity (aka home) and living together as a family. Naturally, they're all dealing with the changes as best they can and, if you read book one, you know that Bear is going to over-think and will be over-stressed.
There's a lot that goes on in this second installment. Bear is in the middle of a custody case for legal guardianship of the Kid (which includes court-appointed visits from Child Protective Services and therapy sessions with an unconventional counselor), he tries to deal with his jealousy of Otter's exes, he and Otter need to come clean with the relationship to Otter's parents, Otter experiences his own bout of jealousy, Bear goes back to school, and the Kid enters the fifth grade AND finds himself a best friend in a 15-year-old named Dominic Miller. I'm not even going to include the stuff that happens with the supporting characters because that would just make this review overly long.
Bear is still trying to understand why his mother abandoned him and the Kid and comes to certain realizations in the process. He goes through flashbacks, remembering how life was with her, wondering if she really is this terrible person he believes her to be or if there were ever any moments that she actually cared about him and the Kid. The flashbacks aren't always happy ones but they're therapeutic for Bear in the sense that it gives him some clarity.
Amid everything that's going on with their family, Otter makes a life changing decision regarding Bear (remember the epilogue in book one?) but nothing ever really comes easy with these two and the events that follow are heartrending to read but quite satisfying as well. It seems a lot of epiphanies that Bear experiences come after he goes through the proverbial wringer.
The trio that makes up the team involved in the custody case, Erica Sharp (the lawyer), Georgia Erlichmann (the social worker), and Eddie Egan (the counselor) are great additions to the cast of characters (though Erica was already introduced to readers in the first book). Otter's parents, Jerry and Alice Thompson, also provide some insight with regards to their hesitance in accepting Otter's being gay and his relationship with Bear. And Isaiah Serna was just a hoot. Of course, we still have the usual suspects--Creed Thompson, Anna Grant, and Mrs. Paquinn--who are that great mix of crazy funny and surprisingly insightful.
At its very core, Who We Are is about family, the family we're born into and the one we create for ourselves. I'm a sucker for stories that involve family because I'm a firm believer that a family is not always made up of those whose bloodlines and genetics we share but those who share their love, respect, support, and understanding with us because they choose to, not because they have to. Who We Are is about a family that loves unconditionally, forgives unequivocally, and fights for one another unquestioningly, and that's what makes it one of my favorite books of all-time. I laughed, I cried, I snorted, and I sighed, and now I'm giving it five stars out of five. ♥
Date read: 09 September 2014
Learn more about the truly talented TJ Klune here.