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.
Lauren Gibaldi has crafted a beautiful and timely coming-of-age story that poses the question: Is who we are determined at birth, or can we change as we grow?
Autofocus is a contemporary that has a lot going on, including emotions. This isn’t a negative thing at all–in fact, I found it to be quite the engaging read because there wasn’t a dull moment in the entire book.
“The pictures tell the story – my story.”
Maude not only loves photography–she is committed to it. She even longs to be a professional photographer after high school. While she is taking a photography course in high school, her teacher gives the class a project to do–taking photos of what family means to them. This task has gotten Maude to thinking–sure, she loves her mom and dad, and even though she was adopted when she was a baby, they are still her parents. But she’s curious about her birth mother.
Although her birth mother, Claire, died when Maude was born, she had already set the adoption plans in motion, so she would still be living with the parents she has now, but Maude realizes that she knows almost nothing about the woman who gave birth to her, other than the fact that she went to college in Tallahassee, which is currently where her best friend Treena is enrolled. So during her school’s fall break, she convinces her parents to let her go visit with Treena and try and find out what she can about her Claire.
When she arrives at the university, things are different than Maude had expected – Treena is always busy with Trey, a guy that she’s head over heels for, often leaving Maude to fend for herself. Maude doesn’t like Trey–she thinks that he seems like the cheating type who won’t treat Treena with the respect she deserves. She’s also getting hit on by college guys that she doesn’t want to be bothered with–until she meets Bennett. Bennett seems different–legitimately caring about Maude, her interested, and even about finding information about her mother.
Even though Maude is hurt because Treena seems distant and different (interested in guys, drinking, partying, as opposed to spending one-on-one time with Maude), she knows that she still has to begin the search that might lead to answers about this woman who gave her up. With Bennett’s help, she uncovers some parts of her birth mother’s past–some good and some not quite what she expected, and she has to learn to piece together that information to discover the person that Claire was.
I really enjoyed Autofocus. The story was interesting, and while there was a romance, it stayed nicely in the background instead of taking center stage. While I love a great story about friendship, unfortunately the friendship between Maude and Treena was kind of strained, which made me sad. It seemed like Treena was more focused on Trey than on the friend that she invited to visit her, often telling her to find other places to sleep (like Bennett’s room).
That was kind of annoying, and it made me dislike Treena’s character a lot throughout most of the book. Trey was…a jerk. I can’t really sum it up any more appropriately than that. Bennett was that rare nice guy, and I really liked him. Maude was going through a lot while looking for information about her mother, and while she did have a few moments that made her personality seem a little less than stellar, it made her real. No complaints on character personalities here–the author did a spectacular job in writing them.
I’m glad that the main focus of the book was on Maude finding information about her mother. It was really original and emotional–some of the responses that Maude got when searching for information were nothing like she expected…some of them were quite heartbreaking. It was definitely a heartfelt journey for her, and as the reader, you get to go along for the ride and experience it with her.
Although I wish that the book would have had more of a detailed ending (like what happened with Maude and Bennett after Maude went home), it was still really good, and it definitely was one of those books that you will remember a long time after reading it!
You can find Autofocus here.
Guest review contributed by Here’s to Happy Endings. Kelly focuses on young adult book reviews, with author interviews, giveaways, and memes such as Waiting on Wednesdays, as well as participating in blog tours. She enjoys working with authors to promote books!