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.
This is a re-read/re-listen for me, as I originally read and listened to it in 2014. When I first read it, I was absolutely blown away by the humor, the angst, the feels and the quality of the representation Sean Crisden brought to the characters. In a world where not all narrators are the same, and some really don’t do much to ADD to a reading experience, I still hold Sean as one of the ones that shoot for excellence and shape the characters for the readers/listeners.
I’ve read/listened to this a few times, though never all the way from start to finish as I did this time – it’s too long for that! It’s 350 pages and that can take some serious commitment when you’re listening as that’s over 12 hours.
There are people who will always be “new” to the genre and stumbling across this title in their forays, but I’d say most of us who’ve been reading this genre have read (and loved) this or at least know of the series/author, etcetera – so, I’m not going to go into any sort of plot summaries – there are lots of reviews out there that cover that.
As I was listening to this again, I wanted to remember how it FELT to experience this story. I think TJ does an amazing job of getting into Bear’s head. One of the first things that I thought about this is how I FELT Bear’s tension/anxiety/stress. This book was published in 2011 (so probably written way before that) and it’s amazing how much has changed in those five/six years as far as gay acceptance in our world. Sure, there are still lots of hurdles to overcome, but we’ve made some big strides. In reading Bear’s anxiety about being “like Otter” – aka gay – I think TJ captures beautifully that original questioning of one’s sexuality and in Bear’s case, probably not even really having a proper label for his specific situation. (Maybe he’d be Demiromantic? I don’t know that it matters…)
In any case, Bear’s sexual identity is really just one piece of this story. He’s also dealing with his ex-girlfriend, his best friend and his brother – most importantly – his brother and how his role in their lives is how he defines himself. (In book two I think we see this even more – but that’s for later. J ) Back to how it made me feel – well I kept wanting to feel calm! Bear is so tightly wound that I kept wanting him to find some solace with Otter, with Creed, with Anna. Something so his monkey-brain would settle down and just BE.
I also really appreciated Anna and her role in this with this re-listen. She definitely got the short end of the stick in that her boyfriend who loves her really didn’t trust her enough to confide in her and that really had to hurt.
There are some other things I noticed this time around that made me eager to complete the series again – how Ty says “I’m going to still like girls” and how together Ty was in comparison to Bear and when does that change? I know he still has anxiety but – at least here- he seemed more together than Bear at times.
The love between Bear and Otter felt really poetic and if I have a complaint is that, even with 350 pages, I still don’t know that we got a lot of their relationship building.
For me, this is where TJ’s writing style really shines. He mixes in the angsty with the humor so well here. The smexy times aren’t so much hot as they are heart-felt and that’s well-suited to the book itself.
4.25 of 5 stars
As I said at the beginning, Sean does an amazing job with this. I LOVE his Otter and his Creed and think he does a great Anna, Ty and Bear as well. But mmmm Otter’s voice is Delish!
There is no doubt that listening to this is the way to enjoy this. Sean is wonderful and he makes the 12 hours fly by!
5 of 5 stars
Overall 4.5 of 5 stars
Copy Purchased for Review