Author: Lauren Gibaldi
Synopsis: Family. It’s always been a loaded word for Maude. And when she is given a senior photography assignment—to create a portfolio that shows the meaning of family—she doesn’t quite know where to begin. But she knows one thing: without the story of her birth mother, who died when Maude was born, her project will be incomplete.
So Maude decides to visit her best friend, Treena, at college in Tallahassee, Florida, where Maude’s birth mother once lived. But when Maude arrives, she quickly discovers that Treena has changed. With a new boyfriend and a packed social calendar, Treena doesn’t seem to have time for Maude—or helping Maude in her search.
Enter Bennett, a cute guy who lives in Treena’s dorm. He understands Maude’s need to find her mother. And as Bennett helps Maude in her search, she starts to find that her mother’s past doesn’t have to define her own future.
Huge thank you to the publisher for this ARC!
Last year I read Lauren Gibaldi’s debut, THE NIGHT WE SAID YES and fell in love with her work. TNWSY was one of my favorite books last year and it was such a special book for me because it had a lot of things that paralleled with my own teen life.
And the same can be said of Autofocus. Personally this book hit close to home because my own mom is adopted. And as an adult she went through some of the same things that Maude did with finding out (for my mom it was straight up finding because her birth mother is still alive) about her birth mother. It wasn’t very pretty, much as it was for Maude. And I was able to really connect with that part of the book.
The other part that I connected with was how Treena was acting while at college. I went away for my 2nd year of college to a big school (first year I was at home at a smaller school and then transferred) and wow, a lot of what Treena did and how she acted was how I did. To be honest Maude reminded me of my Before College self and Treena reminded me much of my First Year of College self. I didn’t drink, never really thought of it, didn’t really spend much time (or have much experience) with guys, then I was brushing off friends for guys that I was interested in. I was trying to find myself and pushing people away and at the same time trying to figure out if what I was doing was even what I wanted to be doing. It was a mess and it took a few years for me to figure things out but I did and I’m sure that these characters will too. But it was just so true to life, and that is something that I ADORE about Gibaldi’s writing!
I also really love the female friendships that she writes. They’re true and complex and messy and full of love. I really enjoyed the relationship between Treena and Maude and how they were willing to be themselves, to hash things out, to share and love and forgive.
Another thing that Gibaldi does well is write male characters. Okay, she basically writes about guys that I grew up with and was friends with. SHE BASICALLY JUST WRITES MY TEEN LIFE OKAY.
In this book we have a nice mix of characters too. Treena is Indian and her parent’s moved to America after they got married. Treena has spent time in India and grew up in a very Indian community. I loved that this was in the book because Gibaldi has the experience to write this. I know from social media that her husband and extended family is Indian and I loved that she used that resource and experience to write about Indian characters. I loved that Maude was adopted and grew up in a loving family but still had questions about her birth mother and her origins. I loved that Bennett was such a good guy and that Trey was such a jerk but that they were both rich characters that were representative of the types of people that you encounter in life.
I am so sad that I have to wait for MORE writing from Lauren Gibaldi because is a fav author now and I will read anything she writes.