Trust the Focus
by Megan Erickson
Expected Publication Date: March 17, 2015
Length: 222 pages
Obtained Via: I was given an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my final opinion of the work.
#1 in In Focus
View at the Traffic light:
With his college graduation gown expertly pitched into the trash, Justin Akron is ready for the road trip he planned with his best friend Landry— and ready for one last summer of escape from his mother’s controlling grip. Climbing into the Winnebago his father left him, they set out across America in search of the sites his father had captured through the lens of his Nikon.
As an aspiring photographer, Justin can think of no better way to honor his father’s memory than to scatter his ashes at the sites he held sacred. And there’s no one Justin would rather share the experience with more than Landry.
But Justin knows he can’t escape forever. Eventually he’ll have to return home and join his mother’s Senate campaign. Nor can he escape the truth of who he is, and the fact that he’s in love with his out-and-proud travel companion.
Admitting what he wants could hurt his mother’s conservative political career. But with every click of his shutter and every sprinkle of ash, Justin can’t resist Landry’s pull. And when the truth comes into focus, neither is prepared for the secrets the other is hiding.
Reading Trust the Focus was like a ping-pong match(in this simile, my reading experience is the ping-pong ball). It varied from something I loved to something I hated, then back to something I love, in just a few pages, and at the end I was left utterly conflicted as to how I really felt about this book, which is always a frustrating position to be in. I even took notes after reading the book, which I hardly ever do, just to sort my thoughts. I mostly picked Trust the Focus up because from what I’ve seen so far NA is pretty heteronormative and I wanted to see what someone did with something different. I’ve found that when I feel conflicted about a book, it’s easiest for me to review by listing out both the positive and negative opinions I had. Let’s start with the good first.
1. The writing
I loved Megan Erickson’s writing. It totally pulled on my heartstrings and made me FEEL. She did an excellent job in putting me in the emotional mind frame of Justin, the main character. His grief felt so real and palpable, as did his confusion as to what he wanted from life. I loved how Erickson described the right after graduating college feeling, all the confusion and the mixed emotions and the “what am I doing next?” part, even when you think you have it figured out. It’s also fast-paced and extremely readable. I read it in one sitting.
2. Landry & Justin have a strong foundation
The reason I’m a huge fan of the friends to something more romance is that the friendship provides a strong relationship foundation, and I definitely bought the history of Landry and Justin’s relationship. Even when they’re angry, you can tell they care. They’ve been doing it for years. And even at the beginning of the book, while they may not technically be together their relationship does NOT read as platonic in the slightest. I would read parts and be like “oh sure, I do that with all my friends too. . . except I definitely do not.” It was pretty easy to see the romantic pull early on.
3. It was super funny at times
I laughed out loud more than once, which is pretty rare for me when reading a book. At one part I had to leave the room where I was reading(because I wasn’t alone) because I was laughing so hard. Those breaks were necessary because a large part of this book was focused on Justin’s grief(totally understandable) and some angst(also understandable).
4. The characters stole my heart
I’m a little iffy on some of the plot of the story, but the characters? Yeah, Justin in particular was great. I was rooting for him so hard. I really felt for him.
5. Characters who are passionate about things
I always love when characters actually care about something, when they have things they’re really passionate about. Justin loves baseball and photography(and he’s good at both of them). Loved that!
. . . AND THE NOT SO GOOD.
1. Past sexual assault as a plot device
Why is this so common in books? Sexual assault happens and I’m ALL for exploring that in fiction, but there’s a huge difference between a thoughtful inclusion of sexual assault and using it as a plot device to up the conflict and give the main pairing something to “get over”. And since this past sexual assault as a plot device tends to most often happen to the female characters, you would think a book with a male lead and a male love interest would manage to dodge this one. Alas, if we could be that lucky. And it IS important to show that sexual assault can happen to anyone, yes, but using it as a plot device isn’t any better when it’s a male character. This kind of just makes me want to punch a wall.
2. I really hated the nickname Jus
Okay, this is a tiny complaint! And if it was the only thing I disliked I wouldn’t even bother listing it, but since I’m listing everything I liked & everything I didn’t, I really hated that Justin’s name got turned into the nickname Jus. Justin doesn’t need a nickname. Lan I understood better because it still kind of rolls off the tongue. Jus sounds like it’s missing letters.
3. Things got a little too sappy at times for me
I leave the sap to the trees. I can like romances that are passionate or sweet or fun, but I have trouble with sappy romances. And the romance wasn’t entirely sappy(there was banter at times that made me laugh, some sweet moments, etc.) but there were at least three scenes that delved way too much into sap territory for me. The words “soul mate” was mentioned. This is one of those personal squick things, but nope. No mention of soul mates please, never ever.
Of course, this is a contemporary NA romance. It’s supposed to be predictable in some ways, but I found Trust the Focus completely predictable. I would often have trouble focusing on the story because in my head I would be thinking “Ah, happy moment of bliss. We’re due for an emotional beat of anger in about two pages, then an apology, etc.” And I was right every time. When you read a book marketed as a romance you know people are going to end up together, but the journey can(and I think should) take you to some unexpected places. Trust the Focus never did.
IN THE END. . .
Did I like it? Well, I didn’t dislike it. I gave this book three stars on Goodreads not because “I liked it” because it was the average between love and hate. And that’s pretty much what I give this book.
I’m glad I gave Trust the Focus a chance, if only to see if NA could do something different. There were lots of good parts in this book. . . but there were lots of problems too. 3/5 cupcakes.