Focus on Me, by Megan Erickson
Publisher: InterMix/Penguin Random House (July 21, 2015)
Page Count: 204 pages
Genre: Gay (M/M) Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5
Warning: Mental illness; suicidal thoughts.
Curious to find out more about Colin and Riley? You can check out an excerpt from this novel here!
* I was given an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review. *
Summary: Colin Hartman can now add college to his list of failures. On the coast-to-coast trek home from California, Colin stops at a gas station in the Nevada desert, and can’t help noticing the guy in tight jeans looking like he just stepped off a catwalk. When he realizes Catwalk is stranded, Colin offers a ride.
Riley only intended to take a short ride in Colin’s Jeep to the Grand Canyon. But one detour leads to another until they finally find themselves tumbling into bed together. However there are shadows in Riley’s eyes that hide a troubled past. And when those shadows threaten to bury the man whom Colin has fallen in love with, he vows to get Riley the help he needs. For once in his life, quitting isn’t an option…
My Thoughts: Focus on Me was a brilliant novel about two opposite characters who manage to perfectly complement one another. Erickson deftly handled two very complex characters– Riley, a former model suffering from depression and anorexia, and Colin, a man who can’t seem to succeed at anything he attempts– and creates a complex and beautiful romance.
The topic of mental illness is one that weaves through the entire book, and Erickson introduces it so subtly that not even Colin is fully aware of what Riley is going through. It’s clear that she did a lot of research, and her portrayal of Riley’s mood swings and jealousy are spot-on. Colin, on the other hand, suffers from the “caretaker gene”. He badly needs to be needed, and in a way uses Riley’s mental illness to help feed that desire… until everything comes crashing down.
While it may sound like a dark novel, it really isn’t! Focus on Me is about hope and healing, and about two men finding completion in one another in the darkest periods of their lives. The love story here comes on slowly; physical attraction organically turns to love, and the negative emotions hit even harder as Colin and Riley become more attached.
I do think there are some obvious clichés here, which was a bit frustrating in an otherwise-unique plot. Apparently, picking up a hitchhiker at a middle-of-nowhere gas station is acceptable as long as he’s gorgeous? At least, that’s what Erickson seems to think. It’s an overdone trope in m/m romance; instant physical attraction, and a convenient way to put the two characters in a situation where the physical attraction can turn emotional.
But on the whole, a truly excellent novel! Erickson writes this romance beautifully, and the mental illness and healing are heartbreaking and perfect.
Like this post? Follow me for more great reviews: