I am one of the only people I know who didn't just love this book. (Don't get me started on the creepy kid on the cover. His mouth... ***shiver***)
I had a lot of major problems with this book and only the writing (which was very good) and the sweetness kept me reading until the end.Things I really liked:
The writing is really good for the most part: the imagery and word choices are excellent.
The book takes place in the Pacific Northwest. It's a fake town called Seafare, closely resembling Seaside, OR, which is a wonderful town.
When the kid is upset, he climbs into the bathtub because he read that it was a safe place to go during an earthquake. (It's not. That's where you go for a fire. For an earthquake you worry about things falling, so you go under
something.) But the whole metaphor around it with earthquakes being scary/intense times, is really well done.
There were some funny parts like:
"I thought the whole point of having a gay brother was that they were supposed to be all cool and shit. I've got a defective gay."
The kid goes on an overnight for the first time and he's all ready for it but Bear isn't. Bear almost doesn't let him go, and then way over packs, and over prepares, including putting in four changes of clothes, Band-aids, tweezers, Children's Tylenol, etc. When it's gotten to the point of ridiculousness:
[The Kid] takes me to the couch and has another talk with me. I sit with my hands in my lap and nod.
It was a very cute scene.
Another funny part is when someone sees some porn picture of a guy in a jockstrap holding a soccer ball and says, "Jockstraps look gross, and do you really think he would have been playing soccer without any pants on?" That's really funny, plus I think jockstraps look gross, too. I don't understand why they are featured so frequently in porn/erotica. Not that I'm looking or anything... ;)
One character is vegan and the banter about it is cute, although the characters are ignorant. Perhaps that's why it's cute. The author doesn't distinguish between vegan and vegetarian, so when the characters are trying to make "vegetarian" lasagna I was really confused at first. It's not hard to make a cheese lasagna. For the record, there are far worse things to eat than tofu ice cream. It's not great, but it's not like liver or prunes. Rice ice cream is better and coconut based ice cream is the best. It doesn't taste the same but it's really good. You just have to get it out of your head that you're eating milk based ice cream and then you're okay.
The Kid loves Anderson Cooper and this was before the man came out. I think it's funny how many M/M books that came out years ago mention him. We all knew he was cool and not homophobic well before he came out.
Someone describes nonsexual intimate activity as cheating. To me, the worst thing about cheating is the other person being emotionally intimate in a romantic way with someone else. That's where the betrayal is. Going to a prostitute would be gross but wouldn't bother me like, say, love letters would.
Lots of breaking of the fourth wall.
The kid's need for knowing exactly where Bear is at all times, to the inch, in fact, makes sense and is really well done. I think he would be far more messed up than he is, but the way the author handles the kid's issues, like the bathtub thing, too, is excellent.
Bear tells Otter that accepting his love for a man is "the fucking scariest thing I've ever done," which is a great way to put it, if probably inaccurate in his case. (I would think being left with a five-year-old when you're 17 would be a tad more frightening.)Things that I really didn't like:
The guys are stupid. Seriously, two adult MCs thought that Benjamin Franklin was a president. Seriously.
Yet another book where the gay guy and everyone else assumes that because the guy is gay he won't be able to have kids. ARGH! Plenty of heterosexual couples have physical problems where they can't give birth yet they end up with children. Come on, people! Can we stop with the homophobic stereotypes?
They don't know if an eight-year-old is old enough to know if someone is gay and what that means. DOUBLE-ARGH!!! Seriously? Why? We're talking about love, not sex. Do you wait to tell the kids that Mommy and Daddy are in love because love is something only for grown ups? I've read several M/M books where the characters have this issue and it's just internalized homophobia; it pisses me off big time. What do you think gay parents tell their kids? "Oh, this is daddy, and that's daddy, but they're just friends." Really?
I don't like the nicknames. The author could have come up with something different than "Bear"? I didn't read this for the longest time because of the connotation the word "bear" has in gay life, although in retrospect, I should have listened to myself.
This was a true GFY/OFY. I just don't believe in the OFY part. This really pissed me off because the "straight" gay guy actually looks at gay porn and has no reaction. They don't contrast it with how he feels when he sees straight porn to see if maybe he just doesn't like porn or isn't attracted to anyone but Otter. I don't see the point; I think it's homophobic, and it bothers the crap out of me. Come on, a guy in love with another guy, who is hot for sex with that guy, doesn't get the slightest bit aroused when watching sex scenes when no one's face is showing? There's no transference?
The book is much too long. Some of the same stuff, the same angst, is told over and over again.
The age difference is the biggest thing for me. There is no reason for Otter to be eight years older. Four years older would have served the same purpose and be far less gross. Otter was like a brother to Bear. In fact, Bear refers to his best friend Creed, who happens to be Otter's brother, as his own brother. Otter continually refers to people Bear's age as "kids." Why is he dating someone he thinks of as a kid? Otter admits that he first thought of Bear as more than a kid brother when Bear was sixteen and Otter was 24. Ewwwww. When my sixteen-year-old was dating 24-year-olds, I wanted to lock her up until she was 30. What 24-year-old has the hots for a 16-year-old, someone 2/3rds their age? What could they possibly have in common? One's in high school, the other has graduated from college. I get why Bear would find an older guy attractive, it's the reverse that's upsetting. I find it really revolting and disturbing. I had to pretend that Otter was only three years older for me to even finish the book.
Otter's parents are high tech millionaires from Seattle and they are very uncomfortable with their son's being gay. Really? That is so incredibly improbable I can't even explain. Maybe you have to be in high tech in Seattle or know people who were 80's software millionaires to really get just how weird that is. (No, I am not one. I came well after that. But I know a few.) I swear, it's the most gay-accepting industry outside of fashion. I was once in a meeting at Adobe where there were seven of us and only one person was straight. I'm not saying it's impossible; it just doesn't mesh with my experiences. I also am not saying that the initial reaction would be discomfort because a lot of people have internalized homophobia. But I believe they would come to deal with it fast.
Both characters say that they loved the other always and the way they say it, isn't differentiating between platonic and romantic love. They met when Bear was eight! That's the age Ty is for most of the book.
In general, I don't like books with kids in them, and this is a prime example why. The kid is way too smart, even for a smart kid. He doesn't have the world experience to be as aware as he is about relationship dynamics. He doesn't read relationship books, he reads stuff on disasters. He certainly isn't consistent about what he can figure out, either. It's just ridiculous the wise things he says and then the other stuff he's clueless about. It's totally not believable to me. I was freaky smart back when I was a kid (I'm not so much now—I was just smart early, that's all) as was my best friend (she has a PhD in particle physics and did her research at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland). Like most smart nerdy kids, we didn't have the social skills most kids do. I know this guy is supposed to be even smarter than freaky smart, but really, this is ridiculous. I will grant you, though, that some of the stuff he does is very cute and funny.
Bear rehashes the same things over and over and not just to himself, but to others. It really gets tedious. The book was too long and this is an area that could have used some serious editing.
Bear makes the Kid his confidant by getting relationship advice from him and talking about some emotional issues in his relationship with Otter. This is so incredibly inappropriate I wanted to scream. The weird thing is that Bear isn't sure Ty is old enough to know that someone is gay but is old enough to discuss Ty's father figure's (Bear's) romantic relationships?
The author changes tense frequently. Sometimes when talking about current day, past tense is used, and sometimes present tense. There are a couple of times where it makes sense--using the past tense to talk about what happened to lead up to this moment which is in the present tense. But most of the time it was just inconsistent and annoying. Here's an example where it happened in the middle of the sentence: "I stopped, letting her fill in the blanks to whatever mad-lib [sic] is going through her head."
Like many other books, a character says that because someone is angry after a break up, that character is the one who made the ex into an angry person. That drives me crazy. Who thinks that? You might think you were responsible for making him angry and depressed but making him into an angry person in general and forever? Come on.
Frequently, two people press their foreheads together so they can look in each other's eyes. Have you ever tried that? Can you imagine that you would press your head against someone else's so that you can get a clear look
at their eyes? Come on, try it. You'll understand why this is a problem for me. It makes me dizzy just thinking about it.
Another common problem in M/M books is the ridiculous stamina of the characters. However, this is worse than usual: six orgasms in four hours. Six. These are MEN. And only one of them is done, the other is ready to keep going!
A lot of the legal stuff, like the power of attorney being illegally obtained (you learn this in the prologue) doesn't fit with family court here in Washington State. It could be different in Oregon, but some of it doesn't even make sense to me and feels contrived. Also, the attorney uses "shit load" in an initial meeting with her new clients.
Big spoiler, although actually very predictable: When the mom arrives again, Ty doesn't want to see her and wants her to go away. He's nine and she's only been gone three years. This is an extremely unrealistic reaction, even for a genius. I've been a foster parent for almost 13 years and I can tell you this just doesn't happen.
There is a plot hole when they realize their mom had an ulterior motive in coming back and they never figure out what it is.
When someone says, "Hey," Bear always responds, "Hey, yourself," even when it makes no sense, like if he's really upset and the first "Hey' is said tenderly. It's incredibly annoying.
The final conflict is so contrived I wanted to scream. Big spoiler: Bear is told he needs to break it off with Otter and make Otter move back home or he'll lose Ty. So he is really mean to Otter and doesn't tell him what is happening. DUMB DUMB DUMB. But okay, I can suspend my disbelief there, but then, everyone else
finds out and convinces him that he can fight this and get Otter back and he STILL DOESN'T TELL OTTER HE WAS LYING when he said those hateful things. He lets the love of his life go weeks thinking it's over and living with the hurt. COME ON ALREADY!
Medium spoiler: The best friend is totally cool with Bear and Otter dating because he has his own secret. Once that secret is out, though, he is no longer as cool with it. If he can fake it enough to play pranks on them, he should stay cool with it.
If it weren't for the age difference, this would be a three star book for me. I want to reiterate that it's not really the age difference at the time the bulk of the story takes place, the "present day"; it's the fact that everything started much earlier and I think that's just disgusting.