Thursday, July 16, 2015

Review: Focus on Me by Megan Erickson

Focus on Me by Megan Erickson
Series: In Focus #2
Published: July 21st, 2015
Publisher: InterMix
Genre: Contemporary New Adult/LGBTQ
Acquired this book: Via NetGalley in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

{Read my 5-star review of Trust the Focus}

Colin Hartman can now add college to his list of failures. On the coast-to-coast trek home from California, Colin stops at a gas station in the Nevada desert, and can’t help noticing the guy in tight jeans looking like he just stepped off a catwalk. When he realizes Catwalk is stranded, Colin offers a ride.

Riley only intended to take a short ride in Colin’s Jeep to the Grand Canyon. But one detour leads to another until they finally find themselves tumbling into bed together. However there are shadows in Riley’s eyes that hide a troubled past. And when those shadows threaten to bury the man whom Colin has fallen in love with, he vows to get Riley the help he needs. For once in his life, quitting isn’t an option…

Megan Erickson’s Trust the Focus is one of my favourite books of 2015 so far, so I was incredibly eager to get my hands on Focus on Me. From the very beginning of the book, I knew Erickson had done it again and I was going to love Colin and Riley’s story (almost!) as much as I loved Trust the Focus. This is an author who knows how to break your heart and then piece it back together, make you laugh, make you cry, make you swoon...and make you need a cold shower!

Colin and Riley are both complex, flawed young men. They each have their own demons and issues, and they’ve made mistakes that haunt them. Colin had a great voice and I connected with him easily. He was easy going, smart, and just an overall genuinely good guy. I loved his relationship with his younger sister and felt like we learned a lot about who he was through his few interactions with her and the way he talked about her.

One thing I really liked about this book - and all of Erickson’s books - is how different it was. There was nothing cookie cutter or predictable about it. There were situations and issues that you don’t often see in books, and they were dealt with in a way that was brutally honest and realistic.

I appreciated how the story dealt with male body image - something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a book before. We see girls dealing with body image all the time, talking about how they’re too skinny or they need to lose weight or have bigger boobs or smaller thighs or a prettier face or any other myriad things the media tells them. There’s so much pressure from society, and sometimes it’s hard to remember that guys feel that pressure too in their own way. I have two young nephews, one who’s just days away from becoming a teenager, and it put some important things into perspective for me and showed me things to possibly watch for in their behaviours or the things they say.

Body image wasn’t the only demon Riley struggled with. His erratic behaviour and some of the things he said left me guessing what exactly he was dealing with internally, and you could feel that confusion in Colin, too. Colin knew Riley was unhealthy and needed help. He knew they were enabling each other, but he didn’t know what to do. He was used to quitting everything and he didn’t want to continue his track record with Riley, who so clearly needed him. He knew what they were doing was unhealthy and maybe even dangerous, and you could really feel his inner turmoil and the mixture of emotions he experienced. I particularly liked the overall message that love and sex don’t or can’t heal everything. Sometimes you need more; sometimes you need professional help, and there’s absolutely no shame in that. Love can make you want to change or work on your problems, but it can’t always chase away the demons or heal the cracks in your heart or mind. There was no ‘sex cures all problems’ mentality in Focus on Me, and I loved that and respected Erickson so much for this realistic portrayal of mental illness, and how it not only affects the person suffering from it, but also the people who care about them.

Focus on Me was emotional and hard to read at times, but it was ultimately hopeful. Colin and Riley met in strange circumstances and thought they’d only be together for a short time, but quickly ended up needing each other. Their relationship was intense, and it gave them both the opportunity to learn more about themselves as they learned about each other. They had some major ups and downs, and I ran the gamut from heartbreak to anger and everything in between while reading their story. Focus on Me is a beautiful story about love, friendship, survival, and healing. If you haven’t read Trust the Focus yet, I highly recommend starting there and then reading Focus on Me. These stories, and these characters, are phenomenal.

Favourite quote:
"Everything about this felt right, and I wondered what had happened to me--that I was somehow falling for this man who looked like he'd stepped off of a catwalk, who had demons and sad eyes and kissed like an angel." ~ 23% of ARC of Focus on Me
Have you read Focus on Me or Trust the Focus? What did you think? If you haven't read them, do you plan to? What are some of your favourite LGBTQ books? How about road trip books? Let's talk here or on Twitter!
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