Books You Should Be Reading: Junk by Josephine Myles
I have autobuy authors, and one of them is Josephine Myles. As soon as her books come up for preorder on Amazon, I click the green button, and often I’m so excited a book is coming that I do it several different times, which makes Amazon point out I can’t buy the book because I already did. So you can imagine my squee when she asked if I would mind giving her a quote for her upcoming release, Junk. Of course I didn’t mind—but now I got to read it EARLY! I WIN GOODREADS.
Having finished a few days ago, this is what I have to say about Junk: If you love romantic tension, that squishy, delicious yearning that comes from knowing two people should be together but can’t be quite yet, if your favorite thing in the world is watching the sweet, delicious dance of souls showing their vulnerable sides in hopes of connecting (and of course they do eventually connect)—then this book is for you. Stop what you’re doing and go buy yourself some Junk.
The premise of Junk is that Jasper is a book hoarder who hires and then falls in love with Lewis, a clutter specialist. If you’re looking for a vulnerable hero, look no farther than Jasper. He’s smart, he’s geek-sexy, and he has some terrible shadows in his past, ones he has tried to wall off with books, magazines and newspapers. I admit when I saw the book was about hoarding, I got nervous. My husband and daughter love watching the reality show Hoarders, and my associations with the disease are not good. They like it because they both suffer from clinical anxiety, and they do a delicate dance while the watch of going, “Thank God I’m not that bad” and recognizing their mental scripts in the hands of someone who feels compelled to save their own feces. There are no feces in Junk. There’s no animal hoarding, no rotten food, none of the things that hoarders are known for that send most of us into the hurl-zone. What you do get, though, is to feel the shame and pain and helplessness of someone who has allowed his possessions to take over his life and doesn’t know how to wrest that power back.
Enter Lewis, whose secret to helping hoarders is that there but for some pretty steely willpower goes he. Of course this same habitual restraint—between bouts of almost mad leaping into what he shouldn’t do—is what keeps him from returning Jasper’s affections. He obsesses with the idea that Jasper doesn’t truly want him, that this is transference. He fixates on the not at all incorrect notion that it’s not wise for therapists and patients to engage romantically. There’s even the wrench that when they’d been in high school together, Lewis had a crush on Jasper and hasn’t seen him since—is his attraction leftover from then? Is this because he can’t make a relationship work and has terrible taste in men?
What makes this book beautiful is the way that the two men help each other. As much as Jasper needs Lewis, Lewis needs Jasper. I loved Jasper most when he went too far too fast. When he would stand in his book-and-paper-filled hallway and blurt out that he wanted Lewis, wanted to be his boyfriend. I loved it because it was so raw and vulnerable, so real—and yet the result of his naked confession in real life, to a therapist, would likely never result in what happens for the two of them.
In the same way I loved Damon Suede’s Hot Head for its embrace of trope, I loved Junk for its shameless embrace of the fantasy of therapist and client. Yes, in real life, this is almost never a good idea. This is not real life. This is a novel, a fantasy, a tale of romance and tension and connection told through the vehicles of hoarder and client. The reason it works is because underneath the masks are two broken men and because they are put in the frame of a romance.
This is the thing that romance does: it takes material from the usually lonely, messy, disappointing real world and fixes it. No, normally Jasper and Lewis can’t get an HEA. Even if they were meant to be together, Lewis would say no on principle, or be broken the wrong way, or Jasper truly would be only clinging to Lewis as a savior and not seeing the true man beneath. Not here. In Junk Myles gives Jasper almost more sight than Lewis. Jasper is innocent and honest, and he lulls Lewis to him with determination, with the kind of openness and pure, naked self we all wish we could be brave enough to show. Lewis is hesitant, but only because deep down what he wants most of all is the kind of connection Jasper seems to be offering, and he’s afraid to risk finding out that once again it isn’t real. The reader sees all this almost immediately, and this is a romance—we know it will work out, and watching that happen is delicious.
This book made me feel squishy and happy and snuggly and wonderful. It’s one of those I will reread several times, particularly when I need a happy place. You should go read it too, as soon as you can.