The Art of Breathing (Bear, Otter, and the Kid #3), TJ Klune

The Art of BreathingRating: 5 Very Emotional Stars

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Genre: Gay Romance

Tags: Contemporary, Angst,  Family, Humor, Series

 Length: 350 Pages

Reviewer: Cindi

Purchase At: Dreamspinner


I tried to keep spoilers out for The Art of Breathing, but some minor ones may have slipped by me. This does not apply to the first two books in the Bear, Otter, and the Kid series. Without those, I could not describe what happens in this one. I apologize for the length of this review.


At the end of this book in the author’s note TJ Klune says: “They are not real, I know. Those three (referring to Bear, Otter, and Kid). The others. Creed. Anna and Mrs. Paquinn. Except that they are. I’ve known them for years. I know how they think. I know what they are scared of. What they love. What makes them happy.”

“Ursidae,” he says. “Mustelidae.” Bear. Otter. This is not their story. This is my own.

Yes, Mr. Klune, they are real. They are very real to your readers, your fans. We have watched them grow to be who they are. We watched Bear and Otter as they fought like hell to finally find their way to each other with every obstacle imaginable thrown in their path. We watched the Kid (Tyson) grow up from a scared little genius boy to being the scared adult we met in The Art of Breathing. We’ve been there through it all… through the hard times and the happy times. They’ve made us laugh out loud one minute and cry like babies the next. We’ve anxiously awaited their next story so we could see how far they’ve come. Bear’s (epic) coming out scene, Ty’s earthquakes, their mother, the introduction of Dominic, and Mrs. P. We’ve been there through it all and they will always be with us. The Art of Breathing was released at the perfect time, meaning quite awhile after Who We Are. It’s hard to see the Kid as a grown-up and even starting this, I felt that would be difficult for me to read. We’ve known him since he was a little boy and we’ve watched him grow up before our eyes. How would we handle an adult Tyson? The Kid having sex? In a relationship? No, not Ty. He’s just a child! I needn’t have worried. TJ Klune wrote the story brilliantly.

Bear may be my rock, but Dom is the force that moves me.

Tyson met Dominic when he was nine and Dom was fifteen. Both having had difficult pasts, they bonded immediately and became the best of friends and Dom was accepted into the family without hesitation. We saw this happen in Who We Are and we also saw Ty’s heart get broken later when he planned a special birthday celebration for Dominic only for him to see something that caused another earthquake, an earthquake Bear was there to help him through. Bear has always been there. Ty’s rock, his protector, his brother, his surrogate father. Otter has always been there too but his brother is Papa Bear. Papa Bear would hurt anyone who dared harm his baby brother, the brother he has been caring for since their mother abandoned them when the Kid was a little boy. Bear and Otter are still the protective and loving ‘parents’ they have been since way back when. There’s Bear’s ADHD and (often) overreacting, but he would take a bullet for those he loves in a heartbeat. There’s Otter and his strength and endless amounts of patience. Then there is the Kid, Tyson. Tyson just wants to rule the world. *grin*

Tyson is sixteen and the family is leaving the Green Monstrosity (and Dom) to move to New Hampshire for Tyson to attend Dartmouth University. Leaving is hard but it’s the right thing to do, right? He was accepted into an Ivy League school at a young age. He will be doing what he’s always wanted to do. He should be thrilled.

All I need to do is breathe. Just breathe. In. Hold for three seconds. I don’t want to go in the bathtub today. Out. Hold for three seconds. There are no earthquakes. I do not shake. In. Hold for three seconds. I am not having a panic attack. I am above it. Out. Hold for three seconds. Everything is fine. Everything is fine.

But he’s not.

All he wanted was to be asked not to go. Sure, he knows it’s not realistic but what teen thinks realistically? Not long after starting college – and leaving Dominic behind – something happens that forces Tyson in a downward spiral. It’s so devastating to him that he refuses to see or speak with his best friend for a very long time. No visits home. No calls made or accepted. His refusal to see Dom when he flew out to try to fix things. Nothing.

The Art of Breathing takes us back – almost all the way back – to where it all began. It is a gradual build from Tyson as a young boy (and meeting Dom for the first time) to him coming back home to Seafare, Oregon, years later, when things didn’t go quite the way he expected when he took off for university. At almost twenty, Ty is not the same person he was at sixteen. He’s broken. He’s lost. He’s a recovering addict.  The panic attacks – or earthquakes, as he and Bear call them – are still a very big part of his life. When he comes back home he has his former girlfriend slash boyfriend Corey/Kori with him. Corey/Kori is bigendered and whether he/she is Corey or Kori depends on the character’s emotional place at that particular time. I fell in love with both. You can not meet this character and not fall head over heels in love. Corey/Kori’s story needs to be told and I have no doubt it will be later down the road. I hope so anyway.

Coming home after so long away is difficult for Ty and there is always the fear of running into his former best friend, Dom. Dom had his own issues while Ty was away and his life is completely different from how it was four years before. Both Dom and Tyson broke my heart. Hell, the entire book broke my heart. When Ty sees Dom for the first time in a long time, it doesn’t go well (to put it mildly). Dom has secrets that come out (at the worst possible time) and Ty is once again that lost child he has been running from. That’s what Ty does….. runs. Or at least that’s what he says he does. Personally, I didn’t see it as running. I saw him being hurt by one of the people he thought he could trust above all others and choosing to not to be slapped in the face with that pain. Granted, had he dealt with things earlier he would not have been in the state he was in at twenty, but I’m like Bear, very protective. You can’t not be protective of Ty.

I realize that I’m in love with my best friend: Bear’s going to shit himself silly when he finds out about this. It’s impossible. It can’t be like this. It’s not supposed to be like this. But it’s inevitable.

Dom and Tyson’s relationship is a very slow build. Sure, they were best friends for years but it takes a lot for them to get back where they were, or hell, even more than what they were. The same cast of characters we’ve grown to love are back – Anna and Creed, and now we have their little boy, JJ. JJ is a blast and so is Creed. I’ve not made it a huge secret that I’ve never been Creed’s biggest fan, but he wormed his way into my heart a little in this book. Mrs. P is still there in her own way and each time she was mentioned I got teary. She was more Ty and Bear’s mother than their biological one ever was and my heart hurts even now over how she was taken away in Who We Are.

Other characters are introduced to Ty and Bear’s world, though they aren’t new to TJ Klune’s loyal fans. Vince and Paul and Helena Handbasket (from Tell Me It’s Real) and even Daddy from the same story is there. I so can’t wait to see Helena Handbasket (aka Sandy) have her own story. We know who her man will be. Now we wait for the author to write their  HEA. We can’t forget Johnny Depp, the homophobic parrot, and Wheels, the two legged dog of Paul’s. All of these characters (as well as the ones we know and love from Bear and Otter’s world) are very important to The Art of Breathing and each help Ty and Dom in their own way. I can’t wait to see Paul and Bear meet. That will be an experience for the readers. They are so much alike that it’s scary. Can you just picture them trying to talk over each other? I laugh now thinking about it.

“My word,” Sandy says with a purr. “The boys just must be all over you. Honey, you should seriously consider just tattooing ‘twink’ across your forehead and ‘open for business’ across your ass. It’d save you a lot of trouble.”

The title of this book is fitting and all who have followed this story from the beginning will understand it. For those who don’t, it’s all about Ty learning how to just breathe. There’s more meaning behind it but you had to watch Tyson grow up in order to understand the seriousness of him needing to learn how to just breathe. Bear and Otter and Dom are the only people who understand it and who can help him through his episodes, though he must find a way to do it on his own before he can move forward,  not only in his life, but with Dominic.

This is classic TJ Klune. If you’ve ever read even one story by him you know that he can have you giggling out loud in one paragraph and crying ugly tears the next. The closer it came to release date the more GIFS and photos I saw on social media of a box of tissues. You seriously need them with this story. Ty has a lot of problems he must overcome and each one had this particular reader crying like a little girl. Bear and Otter’s story was hard, but this is the Kid – Tyson – the little boy we’ve watched grow up and who we’ve grown to love over the years. You want to reach into the book and just hold him until his earthquakes go away. You want to grab Dom (and a female character who is central to the story) and just shake them. You want to just fix everything for the Kid. Bear tries, as do the others, but in the end Tyson knows that in order to be ‘whole’ he must do it himself. Watching him do it was one of the hardest and most satisfying things I’ve ever read.
Here are the places of my youth. Here are the things I’ve tried to forget. Here they all are, spread out around me, and it’s like I’ve never left. Here is where it all began. And here is where it begins again.

I always worry about sequels, especially in a series I love as I do this one. I loved Who We Are even more than Bear, Otter, and the Kid, but this is Ty! The Kid! What if the author didn’t do right by him? Not only did he do right by our favorite eco-terrorist in training, but he had me cheering for the young man all the way to the end.

Other things of note about The Art of Breathing –

– I may never eat meat again. Carl the cow. Enough said.

– Tyson is still capable of writing epic poetry, even if it now makes me cry instead of giggle.

– The Epilogue. I swear I love Bear more every single time he’s on-page. The ending was absolutely brilliant. Not surprising (come on, you saw that coming a mile away!) but still excellent. I am thrilled to know there will be more to the story.

– I don’t know the last time I cried like I did reading this book. TJ Klune writes emotions well.

– I don’t know the last time I laughed like I did reading this book. Not many can write humor the way TJ Klune does.

– The dedication. It’s dedicated to one of our own, Eric Arvin, and the love of TJ’s life. I had tears running down my face before I ever got to the first chapter.

Dom and Ty, though it takes awhile to get there, do ultimately come together. It is beautiful. There is still a bit of a road ahead for them to truly be where they need to be but no doubt they will someday be where Bear and Otter are. I look forward to being along for the ride.

“You didn’t make me gay, Bear. You’re not some kind of gay fairy princess who can magically turn others into homos by shooting rainbows out your ass. That’s not how it works. You of all people should know that.”

Note that if you haven’t read the first two books in the series, you won’t appreciate everything Ty must overcome in this one. I feel that you should start from the beginning and see everything that leads to The Art of Breathing. Otherwise, I don’t think you will get the emotions portrayed in it.

Another outstanding addition to the Bear, Otter, and the Kid world. I can’t wait to see where our favorite family goes next.

I love the cover.

This book was provided by Dreamspinner Press in exchange for a fair and honest review. I will be purchasing a copy in support of the author.


Leave a Reply

1 Comment threads
1 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
2 Comment authors
Cindikazzak Recent comment authors
newest oldest
Notify of
Kazza K

What an amazingly heartfelt review. I swear I know so much (and I don’t read this series) from your review Cindi without anything being ruined if I choose to pick it up. It makes me want to pick it up.

Glad you’re going to get more. And I agree, that is by far the best cover on any of the books.