Recommended Read, Review

Review: Next of Kin by Hannah Bonam-Young (2022)

Heat Factor: It’s CLOSE to a slow burn but it didn’t feel too slow.

Character Chemistry: Their first meeting had a lot of sparks but not in a good way. Luckily they turned that around pretty fast.

Plot: Chloe’s life takes a massive turn when she takes custody of her newborn sister, who is in pretty rough shape. In order to gain custody, she has to team up with another young foster parent, Warren, who has fought to gain custody of his teen brother. Living together means they have to figure out how to make things work with the added pressure of parenting. Oof.

Overall: Totally smitten with this book in so many ways.

This book was high maintenance in that it demanded all of my attention for the entire time I read it, including all of my thoughts and feelings. That’s how good this book was. 

The first pages involve Chloe getting the news of her sister’s birth in a grocery store, and it was so gripping and emotional that I had a hard time imagining Chloe in a romantic situation at all. (We’re just going to cry and have layers of feelings this whole book, right?) When the author decides it’s time to immerse you in what it feels like to get a call in a grocery store informing you that your life is completely upended, that’s what you’re doing right then, because the writing is so immersive and meticulously done that you really don’t have a choice in the matter. It was just so carefully done.

Then, when Chloe has made the decision and her heart is there (while her head is maybe catching up), she finds out that due to her career doing freelance graphic design, her income isn’t considered stable enough to gain custody–so she’s paired up with Warren, whose income IS stable enough but who is struggling to find an adequate apartment for him and his 15 year old brother. Their first meeting is not great–he’s late, parks where he isn’t allowed to, is a bit abrasive, and honestly I expected a lot more butting heads. But ultimately after a little push and pull, Chloe and Warren find that they actually do incredibly well as a team.

This is what is magnificent about this book–the writing is crisp and intentional. The scenes are easy to fall into and by the time you close the book, it feels like someplace you KNOW now. The characters are very real–Warren is a mechanic’s apprentice and Chloe has student loans–neither feel like they have a very clear security net, because they’re both children who spent time in the foster system. Warren’s brother is deaf, and since Chloe’s adoptive father is deaf, there’s a lot of normalized life as a person who is either deaf or hard of hearing. Chloe’s infant sister is premature AND has fetal alchohol syndrome, so Chloe’s life during the book involves a lot of appointments and daily care, but it doesn’t catastrophize or reduce baby Willow to a medical diagnosis. Every character is rich and multi-dimensional, and it made it so much easier to relax and enjoy the book because quite honestly, it’s just easier feeling comfortable with people and characters who are open and genuine. Right?

The romance felt like it was going to be a slow burn–after all, Chloe and Warren responsibly decide it’s best to be sure Chloe will be granted full custody of Willow before they start snookering around. But the timing of their relationship progression is such that it definitely doesn’t end up feeling like a slow burn, and the scenes are very steamy and nicely done. I personally thought it was adorable that on their first date, Warren takes Chloe to a really fancy restaurant and he’s visibly uncomfortable–and when Chloe says something about it, Warren just basically admits he’s nervous and points out that that’s pretty normal. (Ugh, how is that cuter?) I also love that Chloe and Warren are both carrying wounds and emotional burdens from the trauma of their childhoods, but they’re very open about it and supportive–they have clear expectations on how healthy and functional their home needs to be for their kids’ sakes and somehow that brings a level of depth that I really wasn’t expecting. They don’t have sob stories, they’ve just lived through some things that changed them, and they’re figuring it out. It’s so…normal. And lovely. 

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

Buy Now: Amazon

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