- Hardcover: 345 pages
- Publisher: Harperteen (14 June 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 006230223X
- ISBN-13: 978-0062302236
- Product Dimensions: 2.8 x 15 x 20.8 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 408 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
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Autofocus Hardcover – 14 Jun 2016
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"The friendship and tension between Maude and Treena is well drawn and realistic, and Maude's blossoming relationship with Bennett is sweet. The setting is vividly represented. Give this to fans of Sarah Dessen."--Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA)
"Has depth and pathos."--Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Lauren Gibaldi is a librarian in Orlando, Florida, where she lives with her husband and daughter. The Night We Said Yes and Autofocus were her two first books for young adults, and This Tiny Perfect World is her third. Find her online at www.laurengibaldi.com or on Twitter @laurengibaldi.
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Maude yearns to find out about her birth mother. So she visits a local college that’s close to where her mother matriculated. Meeting up with her best friend Treena once again, Maude is dismayed to see that Treena has changed, defiantly indulging in crazy (read: stupid) behavior. Unwillingly, Maude succumbs to peer pressure and does almost every silly act that Treena does.
As a certain South Park: Season 2 character once said, “Children, there’s a time and place for everything and it’s called college!” Treena and Maude indulge in typical collegiate hijinks: partying, making out with boys and drinking. The novel takes us so adeptly into this world that we are right there as the girls cast off their shackles of parental supervision and common sense. We wince at the idiocy they’re indulging in even as we smile at memories of our own youthful follies.
Maude’s efforts to learn about her mother are shown through the eyes of various people. The painful revelations help form Maude’s character as well as question everything she thought she knew about her mother Claire Fullman and her own nature.
The writer has a firm grip on her subject and her individuals’s voices. They become realistic: callous Trey, nerdy but witty Bennett, Maude herself. Maude sees herself as being timid but she learns courage. Even though she gets ample help from Bennett and Treena, Maude makes the decisive moves that bring her the information she seeks.
While the danger of drinking with strange college boys at parties is downplayed (I kept expecting something truly horrific to happen to either Treena or Maude), the rest of the story is a knowing look into a growing girl’s tentative first steps into a wider existence.
This is a book full of valuable lessons. It’s 300 or so pages of teaching the reader several what may seem like simple lessons but are so monumental to one’s growth.
1. It deals with adoption in a unique way. This is the first book I’ve read that deals with adoption in this way, at this level. Instead of just being something that makes the main character, Maude, unique it actually serves as the main plot. The whole book is about Maude, her hunt for her birth mother, and consequently finding herself along the way.
*A side note about me: My cousin was adopted from Russia and how he feels about that has always been something I’ve been curious about. So, reading this book, following Maude’s investigation and hearing how she felt about herself and her life because of her adoption really meant something to me.
So, needless to say, I adored the premise of the story.
2. It tells you its okay to not have all the answers. Not only does this book deal with adoption in a different way than other YA novels I’ve read, it also just a fantastic story about one girl finding herself — or rather, maybe she doesn’t. Gibaldi creates a story that tells the reader that it is okay to not know who you are, what you want, or who you’ll be. Sometimes you won’t always have all the answers, you won’t have some big epiphany suddenly realizing exactly who you are, and that is alright.
3. It reminds you of the importance of family. This book makes it clear that sometimes family isn’t always a blood relative – or that blood isn’t always thicker than water. Maude discovers throughout the novel that sometimes the people who aren’t even related to her can be the biggest support system and the closest to her. I think that’s something that so many people should be reminded.
Now, with that said, I actually was not a fan of all the characters. I do acknowledge that this book is about finding one’s self and growing up, but sometimes the characters weren’t tolerable.
First, Maude, the MC. For the most part, I did enjoy reading from her POV. Some of her feelings and actions make sense considering what she is going through. However, sometimes it would become frustrating how almost possessive she would be with her best friend Treena. There was a bit of naïvety in the fact that she was so jealous over Treena’s friendships, and there were so many times that it just became annoying. Harpy no harping is all I’m saying.
Treena, at first, seemed really promising. She comes from a strict Indian family and is finally at college ready to rebel a bit. I feel like that can be extremely relatable – but then I got sick of her. She’s also incredibly obsessive over a certain guy and has almost no self-respect. Then, she makes fun of other girls for no reason saying she doesn’t like them because “they’re really blonde” – um ok?
Lastly, the boy that helps Maude is just too cookie cutter. He’s the guy who never says the wrong thing, never does the wrong thing, in fact, he not only does everything right, he goes above and beyond. It’s so utterly unrealistic that it became a bit silly. Even the one “wrong” thing he does isn’t even wrong! Yeah, I know, I’m complaining about the love interest being too perfect – but come on.
The pacing and writing were mostly great. It’s a quick read and I enjoy Gibaldi’s writing overall. My only complaint is the inner monologues from Maude. She repeatedly reflects back on the day’s discoveries about her mom, talking about what type of person her mother was and who she is, but she does it so often with really nothing new to add that I would just skim those parts.
Despite the negatives, I did enjoy this book. Yes, the love interest was a little too perfect, but it was cute. Maude and Treena became annoying at times, but it is a book about finding yourself. Overall, the story was what really made me enjoy this book, not so much the characters. There are some relatable topics throughout such as going to college, growing up, meeting new friends, losing old friends, etc. I would recommend this if you’re looking for a book with a good story and can handle slightly irritating characters.
I liked the realizations Maude came to by the end of the novel and the road there was quite emotional for her. It features an adorable ship which is full of cute; I definitely wouldn't mind a small future novella on this! I do think that a lot of people would/could find the friendship aspects tiring and frustrating, because the scenario that unravels between them takes up a bunch of the book and it was frustrating at times, but I enjoyed how Maude and Treena used what happened as a lesson to be learned from and weren't above admitting their mistakes which made their characters multi dimensional in my opinion. The ending may be too open to some, but I found it very suitable for this particular story. Overall, this was a fun summer read and I'm very excited to read more from Gibaldi [while secretly hoping for smallest of cameos from some of the cast from this book to know how they're doing and get canon answers to the open ending parts; one can hope, aye?]. Happy reading, my friends!
Overall rating: 4.0 out of 5.0
Thank you to Edelweiss and HarperTeen for an ARC. My thoughts are my own and in no way did this review copy affect my thoughts.