My Boyfriend is a Bear is a graphic novel about a woman whose boyfriend is a bear. Not a shifter, but rather an actual, non-metaphorical bear.
They meet when the narrator, Nora, goes on a camping trip with a soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend who berates her for bringing fashion magazines with her (he thinks she should read “London or Kerouac”). Nora marches off to the woods and buries her magazines. She goes home to LA, dumps the boyfriend, and has a fun night drinking with friends. When she gets home from the night of drinking, she finds Bear, who saw her burying the magazines and who thoughtfully dug them back up and followed her home to return them. Being drunk means Nora is pretty chill about finding a 500 pound American Black Bear on her porch and from that moment on they are an item.
The comic does not address how or if Nora and Bear have sex, but it does quickly establish that Bear is an excellent cuddler. Bear and Nora’s cat, Nutso, have some adjustment issues, but they become friends and Bear constructs a really cool series of shelves that give Nutso a way to move all around the house without getting stepped on. Before long, Nora and Bear make their relationship public, winning over one of Nora’s two best friends and discovering that the outdoor mall is a good hang out spot since “everyone is looking at their phones anyway.”
However, even as Bear gets a job and charms Nora’s dad with his handy repair skills, the spectre of hibernation hangs over Bear and Nora. Most of their relationship is about compromise, but Bear has to hibernate. This becomes a challenge of trust, acceptance, and living a balanced life. If the earlier part of the book is the honeymoon stage of a relationship when even the other person’s flaws are adorable, the issue of hibernation is where shit gets real, and in order to deal with it, Nora has to examine her own life.
I can’t help but give this a Squee grade. Since I spent all of the book driving my family crazy by forcing them to look at pictures (“OMG look Bear and Nutso are friends! OMG look Bear hates couscous!”) any other grade would seem disingenuous. However, this book won’t be for everyone. There are a lot of unanswered questions about Bear. You have to be able to roll with the metaphor. It could have used more diversity among the characters and one of the main characters is so awful I wanted to scream every time she showed up.
I recommend this book for fans of contemporary romance and for people who like shifter books but ask themselves, “What about hibernation, though?” I feel I should warn people that Nutso is much pampered and loved but also an old kitty and many tissues were sacrificed to this reading experience. I’d also recommend it to people who thought Shape of Water was a potentially sweet movie but didn’t like the actual plot and just wanted to watch a woman and a fish man eat hard boiled eggs all day. This is a sweet, funny comic that has a whimsical story to tell about a bear who likes coffee but that also has an underlying story to tell about universal relationship problems.
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