I leave reading the latest hit publications to my other job, working for the divine Lisa H at the Novel Approach. Over here at Insight Out! I like to skim back through the archives and pick up on all the tasty stuff I’ve missed through the years…And thank God I do, because I found this book and it changed everything! I don’t pay much attention to covers or blurbs, I just scroll back through my tablet and see what’s hanging around, unread. If I had read beforehand what this book is about, I may not have been so utterly shocked by what I found. Admittedly, the title had me thinking this was about a large hirsute man, a smaller hirsute man and a twink in some crazy Goldilocks ménage situation. How wrong can one man be? Well for me, wrongness led to what can only be described as so impossibly right that it pretty much destroyed me.
Bear, Otter & the Kid was not the erotic short story I misguidedly dove into a few days ago. Instead, it was a masterpiece penned by an author who with a flourish of his artful hand, slid his way into my heart, making himself proudly known as one of my new favourite genre authors. To start with, Derrick (Bear) was an infuriatingly well written, confused, gay-for-you protagonist that had me weeping at his situation. He was pretty much lost, perpetually lost, but never alone. After being charged with the care of his younger brother, Tyson (The Kid), Bear turned out to be all heart and hormones as this young man fought to find himself amidst the trials and tribulations of young parenthood and the daunting realization that he was head over heels in love with his best friend’s brother, Oliver (Otter).
Prose like this doesn’t happen every day. In fact, it has become a rare occasion that I find a work of art like this at all. But young, vibrant author Tj Klune has restored my faith in the genre, showing me that there are still people out there striving to make the m/m genre all that it can be with a deft combination of charming stories, conscientious characters, gut wrenching plot twists and an acerbic narrative voice to make you laugh and cry respectively. I have never been more glad that this was not a short story. You may have heard me vacillate about how I don’t like shorts when I want a long soak in the bath tub of an authors creativity (I have a tendency to allude to shorts being dwarf versions of “real books”…remind me of this if I ever publish my own short story). This story was not short, but instead incredibly long. That’s not to say it was too long, it was just wonderfully planned, no chapters rushed or plot lines glossed over. It was perfect! That being said, it made me cry a lot (which I love) and thus I had to read it in two sittings because I dehydrated after a while and needed water and respite from the emotional rollercoaster Klune brilliantly hand-crafted.
Then there was the Kid. The Kid was nine. He was smarter than all the other characters combined. He was the voice of reason in a story of young adults screwing things up between each other any way they could. The Kid was the hero. But Bear made the story. See, the Kid was perfect. But Bear? Bear was flawed, and that my friends made him one of us. I defy anyone to read this book and not be swept away but the characters lives, to not shed a tear at the turmoil or nod your head in agreement for their experiences and how you’ve been there too (well maybe not right there…not sure how many of our mothers left a seventeen year old us in charge of our younger siblings and robbed us blind then threatened to take the kid away if we didn’t ditch our gay lover and straighten up! But you get what I mean. Right?).
With a skill that borders on genius, Tj Klune puts me in mind of another of my favourite authors, Jay Bell, and writes with the same care and precision as he does too. I’m a pretty good judge of people, and something tells me Klune is meant for amazing things, an author who will one day inspire a change so great we will all be humbled. Look out for this author and his works on Dreamspinner Press, where you can find several of his novels available to purchase by following the link below.
It is with great pleasure that I recommend Bear, Otter & the Kid to you, if you, like me, missed this story when it was released two years ago. Time has not weathered this tale, nor do I anticipate it ever doing so. And it is with humbling thanks that I express my love for this book, and respect for this author who has inspired me and I know will inspire a new generation of aspiring m/m authors.
Tj Klune is not on twitter! But he networks, so you can find him places, probably settling into his new life with his fellow author and new fiancé Eric Arvin (congrats guys!).
Bear, Otter & the Kid can be bought by following this link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=2472
You can pick it up in Paperback, EBook format or Audiobook.
Klune’s other stories can also be found on the Dreamspinner Press site by going here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/advanced_search_result.php?keywords=tj+klune&osCsid=333k18ukfbl68jbskf415im8k5&x=24&y=18
You can also visit his blog “A Fistful of Awesome” at here: http://tjklunebooks.blogspot.co.uk
And find him on Goodreads and Facebook and all the usual suspects.
So go and find out what I’m talking about. Tj Klune cannot be missed. I’m very wise and I should be listened to. If this were a kids cartoon, my character would be a kindly wise-cracking owl with a monacle. So trust me, there’s nothing about this book not to love.