Discussed this with Santino over at the Prism Book Alliance.
Tldr: we loved it and talked lots.
Here's how we start:
AJH: Welcome Santino. How’d you find Focus On Me?
SH: I really enjoyed it. There’s something really refreshing about Megan Erickson’s writing and the way she portrays young people. Also, I love the ongoing theme of the road trip for several reasons. First, because it symbolizes this ongoing effort for them to seek something (whether it’s closure like in Trust the Focus or just an impactful experience like we see Catwalk/Riley searching for here) but also because I think two people being on the road together for days really brings them together in a way other experiences don’t.
AJH: Yes, as a random English dude, there’s something quintessentially American to me about Megan. And that probably sounds a bit weird because the bulk of popular culture is American-by-default. I mean, maybe it’s just because On The Road exists, but to me this kind of journey narrative, this quest for selfhood and self-definition against and within what’s a pretty big and frankly geographically bewildering landscape (I mean, Jesus, The Grand Canyon, what’s WITH that? You do know that’s weird, right?) is something you don’t really get and can’t really have in England. I mean, an English road trip would be like … let’s go … oh we’re there.
SH: I agree with that and maybe that’s why I love road trip books and movies. The idea of exploring this massive country. But I think there’s also something really American about the idea of scrapping your past and re-inventing yourself by starting over across the country somewhere. Clearly Riley has much deeper reasons than just wanting a new job, but we do see him transform after he makes this journey with Colin. By the end, he’s settled happily into what, for him, is this totally new and healthier existence.
AJH: Yes, and Colin’s arc is not so much a reinvention arc as returning to the place you belong. Again, this is really English of me but I tend to look at texts that ‘feel’ American through this whacked out idea you guys have about the American Dream. I mean, no offence but I just don’t get that. Like the entirety of Madmen appears to be some dude in massive crisis because it turns out The American Dream is constructed rather than inherent to the nature of humanity. And, the English response to this is … well duh. Sorry, is that really insulting?
Find the rest of the discussion here