Rating: 4.25 stars
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After his mother’s long illness and untimely death, Jasper Richardson has let his life get out of control. Finding comfort in material possessions, he has let books, newspapers, and magazines pile up in every corner of his house. It has gotten so bad that most rooms are unusable, and those few that he can access require navigating a tiny passageway amid the towering stacks. When yet another pile falls, blocking off another room with a book avalanche, Jasper finally accepts that he needs professional help. He calls Lewis Miller and his sister Carroll, professional declutterers who work with hoarders to help them get their lives back on track.
Even with all the terrible messes he has seen, Lewis finds himself shocked by how bad things have become for Jasper. But he is impressed with the man’s determination to get his life back on track, in addition to his kind nature and great personality. But Lewis knows getting involved with Jasper is a bad idea. Jasper is not only a client, but a patient of sorts, and in these situations there is often a transfer of a client’s affection onto a therapist like Lewis. Lewis has gotten himself in and out of too many relationships and he knows he needs to be more careful and not just jump into things any more. But his attraction to Jasper is very strong, and Jasper is clear he wants Lewis as well. But before Jasper is ready for a relationship, he needs to come to terms with what caused his hoarding in the first place. And both men need to figure out their own lives before they are ready to come together as partners.
Junk is a fascinating story and Myles does a fabulous job here showing Jasper’s hoarding and how that affects him and his life. This is by far my favorite part of the book and I think it is done exceptionally well. Through Lewis, we learn a lot about what causes hoarding and, as he treats Jasper, we can see how these issues can be addressed. Her depictions of Jasper’s home and the severity of the situation are both fascinating and horrifying. It is scary to see how easily these things can happen, and how hard they can be do undo. And as Jasper and Lewis slowly unpack the issues that led to the problem in the first place, I really felt for Jasper and was rooting for him to succeed in his efforts to get his life back on track.
Jasper is just a really likable character. He is sweet and kind, but also lonely and in need of support. Those piles of books are his security, and somehow they provide comfort. I loved how we see him grow over the course of the book, from freaked out at the idea of merely not bringing home more old newspapers, to really jumping in and taking charge of his life.
I really enjoyed watching Lewis work, and seeing how he managed to reach Jasper. Lewis is endlessly patient and kind, never losing his temper or getting visibly frustrated even when Jasper is seemingly irrational and obstinate. He is always looking for ways to understand what is underlying Jasper’s fears and to reach him. I found him sweet and kind and enjoyed the relationship between Lewis and his sister Carroll (get it? Their parents are Alice in Wonderland fans).
Where I found myself a little frustrated here though was in the way the conflict builds between the two men. Lewis is concerned about the separation of client and patient, and the idea of getting involved with someone he is treating. He worries Jasper’s attraction is based on the intensity of what they are doing together and that a relationship is unwise while they are still working together. This seems totally reasonable to me, yet I am surprised that no one else in the book seems to agree and instead encourage Lewis to go for it. Then Lewis’ solution to not wanting to date Jasper is to have a friends with benefits arrangement instead, despite knowing Jasper has strong feelings for him. I am not sure why he would possibly think no strings sex with a man who is basically mentally ill and clearly attracted to him is a good idea, but I found myself frustrated at Lewis’ behavior.
Along similar lines, we learn along the way that Lewis has some issues of his own. First, he has a bit of a shopping compulsion that is in many ways similar to Jasper’s problem. He also has a serial monogamy thing going on, and one of the reasons he is afraid of getting involved with Jasper is a fear that once Jasper gets himself together, he will no longer want Lewis. So again I found myself frustrated, because Lewis never deals with his problems, nor to does he share his fears with Jasper. It felt somewhat disingenuous to me that Lewis never communicates these problems, especially given the way he settles the issue of a relationship with Jasper and the demands he places on him. I guess I was just confused by why all this back story is developed for Lewis, but it then doesn’t ever get addressed.
These are sort of small issues, but I think the conflict ultimately slows the book down a bit. While I found the hoarding part fascinating and really enjoyed these guys, I felt like a lot of the book is waiting for them to finally figure out how to be together. I think maybe it just needed some tightening up to keep this from sagging a little in the middle.
Despite these issues, I did really like this story. As I said, Myles does a wonderful job with Jasper and he is just a really amazing and interesting character. Her depiction of the life of a hoarding was just fascinating and his backstory is really touching and intense. I liked him and Lewis together quite a bit and really enjoyed this story.
Cover: I am a little torn on this one. I love the colors and the overall look and I really love the depiction of Jasper. I just wonder about the uncertainty depicted from Lewis. He is so outwardly calm and in control and the thumb biting seems sort of odd. But very pretty overall.