Gibaldi Focuses on Love in New Book

Sammy Diehl
Staff Writer

Published June 14 by HarperCollins, “Autofocus” is a young adult contemporary romance novel written by Lauren Gibaldi, who is also the author of “The Night We Said Yes.”

After receiving a photography assignment about defining family, high school senior Maude decides to confront her past and track down people who have information about her deceased birth mother.

The journey starts with a road trip to her mom’s home town of Tallahassee to visit Florida State University, the only link she has to her mother. The school is also where she reunites with her friend, Treena, who is in her first year of college.

While at the school, Maude finds out that neither her friend nor her mother fit her fantasied ideals of who they were, and she has to cope with a new reality.

Meanwhile, Treena is too busy spending time with her love interest, and Maude does not recognize her as the friend she always considered a sister. Maude continues her mission with a new guy she meets named Bennett.

A few best-selling romance authors including Eric Smith, author of “Inked,” provided praise for Gibaldi’s new book on bookriot.com.

“Autofocus is a beautifully written story that takes you on an emotional ride,” Smith said. “It touches on the complexities of adoptees and family, distance and friendship.”

Unfortunately, the high praise fellow authors and reviewers gave the book set the bar too high, and it did not live up to expectations. Overall, this book receives three stars, because the story was a cute romance that was easy to read, but nothing about it really stood out from others in the genre.

The plot was good, but the only highlights seen throughout the story came from the adopted main character.

The protagonist is diverse, which is something the young adult community is pushing for. They open the story to new perspectives, allowing the reader to question what makes a person who they are. Is it nature, nurture or a mix of the two?

The book also touches on the idea of change when in a new environment. When a person enters college, they can remain the same person they were in high school, or they can try something different. This dilemma is one most college students can relate to.

As Treena says in the book, “College! Fitting in! Do you think it’s easy? It’s terrifying. I’m just trying to be me, and I don’t even know who I am.”

Gibaldi wrote in a way that made the reader feel for Maude; however, the story as a whole did not move me. Also, sometimes it felt like the author was trying too hard to make the dialogue cutesy and funny, which made the dialogue sound fake.

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