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.
"Trust The Focus" is my first read from Megan Erickson, but will definitely *not* be my last. The writing was both touching and poignant, without coming across as pompous or flowery.
This story is first and foremost about growing up and becoming your own person, but it's also about letting go of someone who meant the world to you, while clinging tightly to the one who still does.
There was a huge potential for the book to drown the reader in a river of angst; however, the grief for one loving and understanding departed parent and anger toward the all-controlling and judgmental remaining parent were handled without an excess of wallowing or whining, which I very much appreciated.
The main character, Justin, is a recent college graduate with a degree in Political Science, which he hated, but studied to placate his mother, with a minor in Photography, which is his true passion thanks to his photographer father.
Justin's father, Charlie, dies in his Sophomore year, before he's able to take Justin to his favorite photography sites. So literally moments after graduation Justin hops into his father's 1972 Winnebago Brave RV camper, named "Sally", to spread his ashes at those places on a 12-stop road trip across the US.
My dad’s atlases were stacked in the cabinets above our heads, all of them dog-eared and coffee-stained. My father insisted on using them, meticulously taking note of landmarks he wanted to photograph, the best routes, where to get the best angle for his shot.Justin's manipulative, Senatorial candidate mother is not pleased about the trip to begin with, but is especially displeased that Justin is taking his tattooed, pierced and very gay best friend, Landry, along for the ride.
Lan had been there when I found them, tears streaming down my face as I read notes like, “Tell Justin I saw a tailless squirrel” and “Bring Justin to see this waterfall.”
He drew doodles in the margins, circled 69 anywhere he could, and wrote a “Ha-ha” next to it.
God, I loved him.
Landry grew up in a boy's home before being adopted by a very loving couple, who still were unable to quiet his inner demons. Nothing ever could. Until he's bullied on the playground in 6th grade and meets his center, Justin.
I thought I liked girls, but something about Landry drew me to him. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. And when his pale skin flushed red, those eyes flashed sparks, and he bobbed on his toes, I knew the skinny guy was going to blow his top and get into something he would regret.That scene alone took my breath away and immediately convinced me of Erickson's ability to create characters with soul-deep, heart-felt connections. I was sold on Justin and Landry's complete and utter inevitability, then and there.
My father was a physically affectionate guy, so I reacted on instinct and grabbed Landry’s hair, pressing our foreheads together while I clamped my other hand where his neck met his shoulder. I stared into his eyes and willed his breath to match mine.
He gripped my wrist and locked onto my stare. I didn’t say anything, but kept myself present in order to bring him back from the brink, anchor him to the ground before he took flight. The taunts from the kids faded into the background until the words were white noise, and the only sounds were our breaths.
The anger ebbed from his eyes. He tugged against my grip and I let go of his hair and pulled back my head.
He held my gaze, a whole story flashing behind the depths of his baby blues.
Landry blogs photos and updates over the course of the road trip and with each stop, the boys get closer, until long-held admissions of feelings erupt and their connection grows even deeper.
“I’ve always wanted it to be you.”But as I mentioned, this story is as much about growing up as it is about falling in love. And closeted, fearful Justin has a lot of growing to do, so after his second major screw up with Landry, Justin has to finish out the journey under his own sails.
Those words melted my bones and my brain. I hugged him to me, wanting to fuse his skin with mine. “I’ve always wanted it to be you, too.”
Although hard to read, I really appreciated the fact that Justin finally came to realize that before he could build a happy future with Landry, he had to get his own house in order first.
So he made a list.
1. Finish tripJustin's commitment to checking items off the list was very inspiring, mainly because he was working on himself. And if (pronounced "when", because he was seriously motivated) he got Landry back, well, that would be the icing on the cake.
2. Keep blogging
3. Come out. Guns blazing. Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
4. Get Landry back.
5. Figure out what the hell to do come September.
I cut a small square of duct tape and stuck the piece of paper on the dashboard. I wanted my goals front and center. Sally would hold me accountable.
So due to that commitment and motivation, we get our happy ending, with an amazing scene at the last stop to scatter the remainder of Justin's father's ashes, with a bit of drama thrown into the mix as the venture home, just to help tie everything up in a nice bow.
The book does have a fully flushed-out ending and I really couldn't have asked for anything else in this book, so it's a full 5 stars from me on this one.
My copy of this book was provided by the publisher through NetGalley for a fair, unbiased review.
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