Trust the Focus
After reading Focus on Me and being blown away, I was so excited to pick up the first book in the series. While Trust the Focus is a good book in its own right, I think it was overshadowed by how much I enjoyed Focus on Me.
Justin’s father passed away while he was in college, leaving him a beat up Winnebago and a love for photography. So, after college graduation, Justin is going to set out on a road trip to some of his father’s favorite places, spreading his ashes along the way, and photographing the urn at each spot. His conservative politician mother disapproves of the journey, but is willing to allow him a summer respite to do as he likes before he returns home to settle in to work with her.
Landry, Justin’s long time best friend, joins him for the road trip as emotional support and to blog their adventures. However, the pair’s friendship has become strained over the last few years. Neither guy knows why the other has withdrawn. As it turns out, Landry, who is openly gay, has always had feelings for Justin. He has been trying to keep that a secret because, as far as he knows, Justin is straight. Justin, though, has been hiding his own sexuality for fear that his mother would disapprove. The emotional strain of dealing with his father’s loss, and the close quarters with Landry spur Justin to finally confess his feelings for his best friend.
I think one of the biggest issues I had with Trust the Focus was that I never truly liked either character. Justin is moody and wavers between irrationally angry with Landry (when he is really angry at himself) and desperately in love with him. I can understand that coming to terms with being gay and the affect that coming out will have on his life would cause some inner turmoil, but I got sick of reading the arguments between Landry and Justin. Landry never totally clicked for me either. His character came off a bit immature and childlike. I wanted to care more about these boys individually so that I could commit myself to their relationship, but it didn’t happen.
The conflict in this book stems mainly for misunderstandings between the boys, between Justin and his mom, etc. If there had been a little more conflict besides that it would have been a stronger book overall. I just needed something besides people arguing to help me stay connected to the story.
However, I really enjoyed the road trip element and how it was to honor Justin’s father. I think it was a great metaphor for the journey that Justin needed to go through within himself. Part of the trip was saying goodbye to his father and accepting that void in his life. Justin also needed to accept that he had to say goodbye to his former “straight” self in order to live his true life. I think that the journey to self-acceptance and letting go of a lie you’ve been living can be as much like grieving as the loss of a loved one. In addition, I thought it was sad but believable that Justin’s mother had to struggle with accepting her son as gay. Although in an ideal world, all parents would welcome their children’s lifestyles with open arms, the reality is that it doesn’t happen that way.
I think if I had read Trust the Focus before the sequel, I would have been able to love it so much more. Sadly, Justin and Landry’s characters just didn’t feel as real or immediate to me as what I had just read in Focus on Me. That said, I do think this is a sweet story.