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Autofocus Hardcover – June 14, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—A look at the transition to adulthood through the eyes of a young woman searching for answers about her biological family. Tasked with taking photos that represent the concept of family for her photography course, high school senior Maude travels to Tallahassee to see where her birth mother grew up. She stays with best friend Treena, who went off to college a year earlier. Though they once shared everything, Maude and Treena are surprised to discover how much each of them has changed. Treena's new desire to party and hang out with boys leaves Maude on her own as she searches for her birth mother. Along the way, the protagonist meets Bennett, a boy who lives in Treena's dorm and is eager to help. Maude is relentless in her quest for answers, but the author doesn't fully explain why. Treena's East Asian heritage is emphasized but feels like an afterthought. Bennett is the perfect love interest but isn't developed enough to keep readers invested in the romance. Still, detailing the progression from high school to college, Gibaldi gives voice to the fears and expectations of many teenagers. VERDICT Perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Sarah Dessen who are looking for a new author to love.—Alexandra Patterson, Mercersburg Academy Library, PA
“Gibaldi gives voice to the fears and expectations of many teenagers. Perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Sarah Dessen who are looking for a new author to love.” (School Library Journal)
“Has depth and pathos.” (Kirkus)
“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))
Top customer reviews
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.
Maude can't wait to see her best friend again, but when she arrives it soon becomes clear that the Treena she used to know isn't available any longer. College Treena has other things on her mind and is too preoccupied to spend time with Maude. Bennett, a boy from her dorm, comes to the rescue. He doesn't mind helping Maude with her search and he's there for her when she needs someone to talk to. When Maude discovers more about her mother she also finds out more about herself. Does she take after her mother in any way or not at all?
Autofocus is a fascinating story. Maude is trying to find clues about her birth mother, because she wants to get to know the person who's brought her into the world. Maude learns a lot on her trip, maybe not all good things, but certainly valuable lessons. She has the chance to find out what college is like and she discovers more about her family. Even though the trip isn't what she expected it to be at all, Maude manages to grow as a person. She knows who she is and has a clear idea of who she wants to be when she grows up. I admired that attitude. She's resilient and makes the best of what she's been given. Fortunately she has Bennett by her side most of the time. He makes up for the lost hours with Treena and they are really sweet together. I liked their wonderful friendship and overall closeness very much.
Lauren Gibaldi writes about difficult topics in a way that is easy to read. The reader can completely focus on the story. What I loved about Autofocus the most is that she raises many important questions. She gives her readers a chance to come up with their own answers first and it's extra interesting to see what Maude thinks after that. It's a clever way to handle sensitive topics while also writing an enjoyable story. I really liked this book and think it's a great, mostly serious, YA novel.
Most recent customer reviews
Autofocus is a contemporary that has a lot going on, including emotions.Read more
Autofocus is a standalone YA contemporary novel. The narrator is 17 year old Maude.
Maude is in her last year of high school.Read more