Book #107: Tell Me It’s Real (2013)

TellMeItsRealauthor: T.J. Klune
language: English
length: 624 minutes
finished listening on: 12 July 2016

The author of this also wrote the (slightly ridiculously named) book Bear, Otter, and the Kid, which I listened to on the audiobook about a year ago (along with its sequels), so I kind of knew what I was in for when I chose this one. This one is billed more explicitly as comedy, although some of the descriptions of the characters on the blurb were cringeworthy.

One nice thing is that the main character is a fat gay guy, but it was clear after starting the book that the character, also the narrator of the book, is neurotic and goes off on stream-of-consciousness rambles before jumping to an unrelated conclusion – just as the character Bear did in Klune’s other works, and jarringly, the third book in Bear’s series narrated by the younger brother. This is fine, I guess, as it’s still funny, and I can see that Klune has hit on a winning formula that he’s going to stick to, but I’d like to see if he’s able to write another kind of character. He’s now released a sequel to this story told from the point of view of another character – I’m just worried it’ll be even more of the same.

This story is a romance between the main character, who believes he’s unlovable, and the hot but stupid guy. There are obvious echoes here of the other story too, but it’s definitely its own thing. The main character’s best friend is a drag queen with a kind of split between the male and female sides of his personality, again mirroring a bigender character in The Art of Breathing. The parents are busybodies, constantly trying to manipulate their son’s life. The boyfriend’s parents are politically powerful homophobes, and this leads the main character to seek them out to try and convince them not to hate their son – leading to an awkward filibuster in the closing act directed at the mom in hospital.

The story is basically perfunctory, and it’s the emotion and characters that work well in Klune’s work in general. I think he toned down on the sudden third-act conflict that would come out of nowhere in the “Bear” stories. I enjoyed listening to this one a lot – it had enough in-jokes and humour to pay off, and while some situations and characters were patently ridiculous, it wasn’t too bad. The characters do suffer from a bad case of not being honest with one another, though.

I think I’d still like to check out Klune’s other works (they’re popular and promoted a lot on Audible when I’m looking for more gay-themed audiobooks) – but maybe I’ll try a more seriously themed one next time to see if the tone can be any different. I’m not completely put off by it, but it’s jarring that his main characters tend to be indistinguishable.

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