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I'm a hopeful cynic.


Junk - Josephine Myles

I like Josephine Myles's writing. Her wry, bright characters are easy to love, so I keep coming back to her books even though they're usually average reads for me, overall.

There were a few extra things that didn't sit well with me in Junk though. The premise made me squirm. I don't find a hoarder—even one of books—sexually attractive. I kept picturing all the dust and the mould and the dirt accumulating in Jasper's home; how he had to keep his clothes on his bed because he couldn't reach his closet; how he didn't have a second clean towel to offer Lewis; how he had to wear weird-smelling clothes at work (after they had been left in the closet for years, collecting dust and mites and who knows what else); all the fire and all the health hazards. Despite the author's efforts to the contrary, I kept picturing him as a malnourished, bad-smelling ragamuffin who was about to have an asthma attack or break out in hives.

I understand compulsive hoarding is a mental disorder, and that Jasper was trying to address it, but I just couldn't see the attractive, sexy man behind the hoarder. I guess the author anticipated this, so she had Lewis fancy Jasper since high school (and vice versa) and she also added Mas, Jasper's friend with benefits who was half in love with Jasper already. Sadly, it didn't work and it all just felt contrived to me. I should also add that Jasper's issues with his mother (who had died of leukaemia a few years back) and how they kept surfacing throughout the book made it obvious he had yet another personality disorder. Serious romantic involvement should have been far down his list of priorities.

Then you had Lewis who ostensibly fought his attraction to Jasper for ethical reasons—Jasper was his client/patient and he shouldn't get involved with him. Well, he was right. To me, his decision to listen to Jasper and become friends with benefits didn't make sense and made him come across as unprofessional, feeble-minded and that he also took advantage of Jasper's feelings. Lewis himself mentioned several times how Jasper was experiencing transference, redirecting his issues and his emotions about his mother to Lewis, his therapist. That was another deal-breaker and took the romantic element out of the equation for me.

Lewis had his own issues, of course. Jasper's 'imperfections' had to be counterbalanced somehow and I appreciated the effort the author put into that, even though I felt she touched upon them rather superficially. Still, Lewis's proclivity to fall in love with the wrong person, or think he'd change them, make them fit his idea of who they should be, should have served as a way bigger warning sign than it did, and it should have made him keep his distance from Jasper—on an emotional level, at least. Also, Lewis had his own mummy issues—in some ways they were bigger than Jasper's—which only added to my feeling that the two major characters shouldn't have got romantically involved.

The secondary characters were often more hindrance than help. The character of Yusuf and his role in the story kept shifting—was he Jasper's friend, his father figure, a closeted bisexual, the widower who still pined after Jasper's mother, all of these, or something else entirely? The role of Mas was clear from the start; he was included in the story in an attempt to make Jasper appear a bit more desirable and create a semblance of conflict. (Apparently, Junk is the first book in a series and Mal is getting his own story in the next instalment; I hope he has better luck there.) Lewis's twin, Carroll (yes, they are called Lewis and Carroll and they also have a van called Alice,) and his parents could have been in a book all on their own—they only added clutter to this story.

And as if the issues both heroes had weren’t enough, the author decided it would be okay to add another layer of WTF by having Jasper

admit to having assisted the death of his mother.

(show spoiler)

And, as if the situation wasn't fucked up enough, Jasper decided the most opportune time to drop that bomb was right after he had penetrative sex with Lewis. Talk about pillow talk. What purpose did that serve exactly?

The story just took a most predictable turn after that and it ended rather abruptly—as most of Ms Myles's books do—without really addressing the issues it raised.

In closing, Josephine Myles is an above average m/m writer, and I will continue reading her books, but in Junk, she bites off more than she can chew and it shows.