Published by HarperTeen on June 14th 2016
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I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
From the author of The Night We Said Yes comes a fun and heartfelt YA contemporary tale. When Maude decides to search for information about her birth mother, she finds out more than she expected. Perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Susane Colasanti.
Family. It’s always been a loaded word for Maude, whose birth mother died after giving her up for adoption. With her best friend, Treena, in college in the same town where her birth mother grew up, Maude decides to visit and explore her past. But when Maude arrives, she quickly discovers that Treena doesn’t seem to have time for her—or for helping with 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, she starts to realize that her mother’s past doesn’t have to define her own future.
I didn’t get a chance to read Lauren Gibaldi’s first novel, so this was my first impression of her writing. I think this was a pretty solid book as a whole. I particularly found the adoption part of the plot to be especially refreshing. It’s a topic that we don’t see often enough in YA, and I believe that it’s much needed. It’s also important to mention that Gibaldi has such beautiful writing, I was so impressed by her effortless ability to make every sentence so vivid. With each scene, I felt like we were right there with Maude as she goes on this journey of self-discovering.
Maude is a senior in high school who is supposed to make family her main focus in her final portfolio for photography class. She was adopted and her birth mother died when she was born, but she still feels like she needs to learn more about her life. Her parents allow her to spend fall break visiting her best friend Treena at college, while also trying to learn about her mother’s past. Treena ends up being more than a little distracted, and much different than she was back in high school. Maude is forced to go through with her search alone, until she meets Bennett, a boy who lives in the same building as Treena. He ends up accompanying her along for the ride, and she ends up discovering more about herself than she ever anticipated.
I loved Maude’s passion for photography. She even has her own blog which she initially created for her class, but it slowly became something that she updated for personal reasons as well. I really enjoyed reading about the photography stuff, Gibaldi wrote it in an extremely compelling and gripping way. I also really respected Maude’s desire to find out about her birth mother. Maude was seriously determined, when we reached a point in her search where I would personally give up on it, Maude just kept on finding a way through it. My childhood best friend was adopted from China, she sadly died when she was nine. But I know that she also had some curiosity about where she came from, and that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t love her parents. I feel like Gibaldi really understood this concept, and I loved how she addressed adoption in general.
I loved the fact that Bennett was so willing to help Maude out from the start. He was able to sympathize with her story even more because his mother is a social worker, so he’s seen/heard about some cases that are similar to Maude’s. Anyway, I did like his character. I felt like he was very kind and understanding in all ways when it comes to Maude. When Treena kicks her out of her dorm room so she can spend more time with her new boyfriend, Bennett immediately allows her to stay in his room. I don’t know why I found this interesting, I just think it showed that his feelings towards Maude were more than just for physical reasons, they also built a friendship.
That being said, I still wasn’t overly impressed with the relationship. Obviously, it still moved pretty quickly since they only had one week together. Honestly, I think that Maude was really terrible towards him at times. Well, it was just one scene, but it was still rather off putting to me. I don’t know what it is, I just wasn’t very invested in the romance. It honestly didn’t cause me huge anxiety to think about them no longer being together. Along similar lines, I did like how the author left it open-ended. I will try to spoil it further, but let’s just say that some readers who are huge believers in HEA may not be overly thrilled about it, but I felt like it was realistic given the individual circumstances presented here.
The way that the author wrote friendship here felt painfully real to me at times. Treena is a character who has totally changed during her time at college. Maude slowly but surely learns that some things about their friendship will never fully go back to normal. This is a very real and honest thing that unfortunately happens sometimes. I felt like the communication between the two while Maude felt like Treena was changing for the worst could have been better, but it was still well done for the most part.
All in all, I won’t say that this is my favorite or anything, but it’s still an important read nonetheless. I believe that there definitely should be more YA books out there that focus on adoption. Maude sometimes frustrated me as a character, but I really believed in her passion about photography. The writing as a whole was stunning and quotable. I plan on checking out whatever Lauren writes next!
ABOUT LAUREN GIBALDI:
Public librarian and author of THE NIGHT WE SAID YES, MATT’S STORY (a Night We Said Yes novella), and AUTOFOCUS (out 6/14/16), all with HarperTeen / HarperCollins. Fan of dinosaurs and cheesy jokes. And you.
3 Finished Copies of AUTO FOCUS (US Only)