REVIEW: The Family We Make by Dan Wingreen

The Official Description: Spencer Kent gave up on love a long time ago. As a twenty-eight-year-old single father with a fourteen-year-old son, Connor, he knows his appeal to the average gay man is limited, and when you factor in his low self-esteem and tendencies towards rudeness and sarcasm, it might as well be nonexistent. But that’s okay. A man is the last thing Spencer needs or wants.

Tim Ellis’s life is falling apart around him. After four years of hard work at college, he finds himself blacklisted from the career of his dreams by the professor he refused to sleep with and abandoned by the boyfriend he thought he was going to marry. Even though he was lucky enough to land a job at a bakery, he still feels like a failure.

Tim and Spencer’s first meeting is filled with turbulent misunderstanding, but Tim makes a connection with Connor through a Big Brother/Big Sister program, and both men put aside their mutual dislike for his sake. By letting go, they may help each other find their way into a life they never could have imagined.

Just the facts: M/M romance, chosen family, bullying

Wingreen has written a perfect love story because it’s about building a family. There are hard times, hilarious times and loving times… another great authetic voice. – Kinzie Things


My thoughts bit: I am new to Dan Wingreen’s books and this one was a fantastic introduction. This is a well-written, humourous, touching novel about two men, one of whom has a teenaged son and the way they meet… and become more.

Spencer is a single father of a young teen named Connor. Connor is quiet and a bit withdrawn and when he agrees to go to a youth center he is assigned a “big brother” – Tim. Tim is a volunteer. He’s fled school after refusing to have sex with a Professor got him threatened and he’s broken up with his boyfriend. Once the three of these characters are together, a lovely, long and winding tale begins as they all get to know one another.

There are a few really significant themes going on in this book. Spencer is a young father. He became a father when he was fourteen. years old. He’s grown into his role,  but it wasn’t always easy. His son, Connor is his pride and joy. But what I truly enjoyed was the relationship between the two of them. They certainly don’t have a perfect relationship and that made me incredibly happy. Their conversations, battles, and arguments were so realistic that I was instantly invested in both of these characters. Wingreen. has done a wonderful job of presenting some of the trials of being a young parent, living with a teen who struggles with being social, life in general!

One of the other issues that is so well written in this story is about bullying. Connor is bullied at school, probably for being different and shy. But when it turns physical it becomes a huge obstacle for Connor and his Dad to overcome. bullying is a horrendous thing for any young person to deal with… anyone at all for that matter. In this novel, Wingreen does a fantastic job of presenting the ongoing frustration and long term effects of bullying. It can be really insidious and difficult to prove when it comes down to it. Connor struggles as he’s a character on the cusp of adulthood. Spencer must fight his urges to take things into his own hands and try to protect his son at all costs.

What I really enjoyed in this story was the way the characters were so fully developed. Really, there are three main characters in this book. The POV may only shift between the adults, but it’s clear from the beginning that Connor is a great character as well. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the way these three souls got to know each other.

Of note in this book? I absolutely loved the dialogue and texting between Spencer and Tim. It was equal parts hilarious, touching and entertaining. It’s been a while since I have read “getting to know you” conversations with such delight.

There are a lot of heavy issues in this book, but the lightness shows through as well. It’s real and great. Highly recommend this one.

Things You May Want To Know: Please be aware, I’m by no means an expert on what may or may not have the potential to disturb people. I simply list things that I think a reader might want to be aware of. In this book: (SPOILERS) description of attempted sexual coercion by Professor, references to a female high school teacher having sexual relations with unnamed underage male students, bullying in school, a physical altercation in school, descriptions of physical and verbal bullying

Links: Goodreads // The Author // The Publisher

I received an ARC of The Family We Make  by Dan Wingreen from NineStar Press  via Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.


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