Thursday, October 3, 2013

Review of Junk by Josephine Myles

Josephine Myles
Samhain Publishing | August 27, 2013 | 351 pages

Author’s website | Goodreads | Buy book here

Letting go is the first step to healing…or bringing it all crashing down.
When an avalanche of books cuts off access to his living room, university librarian Jasper Richardson can no longer ignore the truth. His ever-growing piles of books, magazines and newspapers can no longer be classified as a “collection”. It’s a hoard, and he needs professional help.

Professional clutter clearer and counselor Lewis Miller thinks he’s seen it all, but even he has to admit he’s shocked. Not so much by the state of Jasper’s house, but by the level of attraction he still feels for the sexy bookworm he remembers from school.
What a shame that Lewis’s ethical code forbids relationships with clients. As Jasper makes slow but steady progress, though, the magnetic pull between them is so strong even Lewis is having trouble convincing himself it’s a temporary emotional attachment arising from the therapeutic process.
Jasper longs to prove to Lewis that this is the real deal. But first he’ll have to lay bare the root of his hoarding problem…and reveal the dark secret hidden behind his walls of books.

Product Warnings
Contains a level-headed counselor with a secret addiction, a bespectacled geek with a sweet tooth, a killer “to-be-read” pile, embarrassing parents, a van called Alice, and deliciously British slang.

Genre & Keywords: Contemporary Romance, M/M, Hoarding, Therapist-Client, Librarian, Books, British

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Heat level: 1.5 out of 3 flames
One of the tv shows I used to watch in the past was a British documentary type of show about hoarders. Hubs and I always watched with increasing incredulous faces at the surreal amounts of junk the portrayed people could collect. More often than not, these hoarders needed to be evacuated from their homes due to health hazards; they weren't the most hygienic of people.
When I started reading Junk by Josephine Myles I had to get over the image I had of hoarders thanks to the eccentric people from this tv show. Especially since this novel is set in England too. It took me a while to see Jasper's attraction through the layers of his severe hoarding habits. But fortunately he's one of the less extreme cases, compared to that tv show, and his habits are confined to books, newspapers and magazines: stuff that doesn't smell too much and has a certain appeal to me as a book lover as well.
Because to be honest, a couple of years ago I was becoming quite a hoarder myself - a mild one though - before we moved to a house twice as small and before I discovered ebooks (those two developments saved me from becoming worse). And I definitely think that a large part of this novel's attraction for quite a few readers like me will lie in some sort of recognition of Jasper's condition.

Therefore and despite of my initial feelings due to the image of extreme hoarders from that tv show, I can honestly say that I loved Junk - and especially Jasper. The romance is sweet and endearing. Lewis and Jasper make a great couple, whose relationship develops slowly but gradually. I liked that it wasn't rushed and that they took their time, which definitely made for a lot of sexual tension and delicious anticipation. As a consequence the actual sex scenes are less frequent and less graphic than we’re used from this author. This was not a problem for me, because it agreed with the plot completely.
I also found the fact that theirs starts as a therapist-client relationship was handled with care. Lewis feels very responsible as a therapist to treat Jasper right. Sure, from the romantic perspective it was rather frustrating that he pulled the emergency break on the budding relationship, especially since I as a reader felt that Jasper was healing well, with or without Lewis' personal attention, so he could handle more than Lewis was prepared to give. But from Lewis' perspective it wasn't as clear and therefore I felt that his actions were justified. I thought Myles perfectly found the balance in this delicate situation.

The focus in this novel is slightly more concentrated around Jasper and his personal development than around Lewis or their building relationship. Jasper has the biggest changes to achieve to even be ready for a normal life and relationship at all. It's not that Lewis doesn't have relationship issues to overcome himself, and these are dealt with as well, but naturally nothing compares to Jasper's problems and healing process. His growth and character development are prominent and done skillfully, with attention for detail but without losing sight of the bigger picture of his romance with Lewis.
I loved witnessing, in detail, how Jasper learned to overcome his habits, how he went through all the junk and how he turned his house into a home again. Myles descriptions are not only detailed but very vivid and true to life as well. I had no trouble picturing his house during all the different stages for example, while I enjoyed the Britishness of the setting very much as well.
Another enjoyable aspect for me in this story is the supporting cast. I'm not sure if they're specific British too but Lewis' family is rather colorful and eccentric in a hippy sort of way. His parents for example like to walk around in the nude all day, have very liberal views on society and nothing can be wild and free enough, while they are intellectual and respected professors at the same time. They and other important secondary characters bring a light and humorist element into this novel.

But what really made my heart beat faster was the intertextuality in this novel: the frequent references to literary works, both classic as contemporary fiction, came as a nice and unexpected present for me as a reader with a Master in Literature. It’s not very often that romance authors let their characters read books like Martel’s The Life of Pi or de St.-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. Both are books that are fairly popular and I (and probably other readers too) know them well. Therefore the images they evoke add to Jasper’s isolated position at the beginning and bring new depths to the journey he makes; a journey that is accompanied with insights and wisdom like Pi’s and the little prince’s adventures did bring them.
At the same time the intertextual references brought a lighter note with them to this novel, for example when Alice in Wonderland is mentioned. I found it funny how the earlier mentioned hippy parents named their son and daughter, Lewis and Caroll. They run the clutter clear company together and their company’s van is called Alice. Also their work brings them to the weirdest places where they don’t know what they’ll find behind the different doors, just like Alice's weird world brings something unexpected all the time.

Junk is a rich and thoughtful story disguised as a sweet and moving romance. Its plot is well paced and balanced. Myles voice is addicting and her latest book is definitely well worth reading more than once, thanks to its impressive, multilayered, entertaining and engrossing qualities.

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1 comment:

  1. Awesome review Janna! I'm taking this book with me on holiday!


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