My Boyfriend is a Bear, written and illustrated by Pamela Ribon and illustrated by Cat Farris, 168 pp, RL: YOUNG ADULT
My Boyfriend is a Bear
Purchased at The Strand Book Store
Story: After a disastrous camping trip with Nora's latest insufferable hipster boyfriend (he brings his acoustic guitar, decants their wine in the wild and berates her for bringing a fashion magazine and not Jack Kerouac) she gives up on men, but not love. Her new boyfriend finds her while leaving the wilds in search of water and food amidst a drought. He checks a lot of boxes, including wrapping Nora in a bear hug each night as they fall asleep. Nora reads up on bears and even dresses him in her ex-boyfriend's Arcade Fire concert shirt. She even takes him to brunch to meet her two best friends, Debra and Carly. Yes, there are definitely challenges (his appetite, his size, his impending hibernation) but there are also bright spots. The bear builds a series of shelves for Nora's cat to perch on - and stay out from under his massive foot - and entertains her friends with juggling and roughhousing and distracts her from her hideous job, telemarketing that involves tricking people into subscribing to something they don't want. A seamstress who makes her own clothes, Nora sews a suit for the bear to wear on their last date before he returns to the wilds to hibernate as she copes with the idea that their relationship is coming to an end. As she quits her job and finds new purpose while the bear hibernates (and, worried he might be cheating on her with another bear, she even treks out to his cave) Nora draws on inner resources of her own, finding purpose and peace in herself (in a hilarious but sweet way). And, she even finds happiness again when Spring arrives!
Illustrations: Farris's illustrations are fantastic. Her humans, especially the hipster boyfriend, are evocative of a time and place, and that place is clearly Los Angeles, which Farris also does a great job bringing to the page. Her bright palette captures the sunny land that is So Cal with changes for mood and emotions. But, Farris's true genius is in bringing the bear to the page. Somehow, she manages to keep him a wild animal AND human-like at the same time. I found myself flipping back and forth between pages, noting the bear's expressions and behaviors and it amazing.
Why Read? Why Buy?: Farris's illustrations pair perfectly with Ribon's straightforward story about a girl dating a bear. Which is just SO WEIRD. But utterly, fantastically believable. As long as you keep the physical intimacy to cozy bear hugs, which Farris and Ribon do. My Boyfriend is a Bear is worth reading AND buying because it's just so incredibly out of the ordinary and completely ordinary at the same time. I especially liked the way Nora found herself during her time alone which, while it may be a common theme, felt really authentic (and not a plot device) and showed growth in the character that was uplifting.