Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
Title: Beautiful Disaster
Author: Jamie McGuire
Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.
Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby wants—and needs—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.
Beautiful Disaster on Goodreads
For the record: I received this book for free on netgalley.
I will admit that I found this book very engaging and I couldn't put it down once I started. It flowed beautifully and the characters, while heavily flawed, were compelling. I have never read a romantic novel set in the college years - everything these days seems to either be high school or late 20's+. I like the setting, as I feel it opens up a lot more options to address issues that an author may not be able to dig in to in a YA novel.
That said, while this book had some sex and a lot of drinking (definitely brings me back to my college years!) it also features a hugely abusive relationship that is never really redeemed. Travis is an extremely violent and unstable person, and while I see the appeal of the "bad boy" at first, he never changes for the better. Instead, our "good girl" Abby is the one who changes, which made me so sad because she was such a great character.
This book starts off at an underground fight club where Travis is a fighter and Abby is the virginal nice girl. Eventually Travis and Abby become friends and, due to some really unrealistic circumstances, end up living together for awhile and eventually becoming lovers. After the first time they have sex, Abby decides she doesn't want to turn it into a relationship and leaves. When Travis wakes up and finds her gone, he trashes the apartment, breaks windows, blows up her phone, and otherwise acts like an insane violent stalker.
Abby and Travis eventually get back together, break up, get back together, break up, and every time there are violent episodes where Travis loses control and Abby even has to stay at an unknown location, because she is afraid of Travis finding her. During their breakups Travis has sex with other girls, but when Abby goes on a date with another guy he forcibly drags her out of the car and ruins her date. In fact, any time a guy even looks at Abby, or speaks to her, or speaks about her, he goes into a violent rage and beats the crap out of them.
In the end, they supposedly live happier ever after with a Vegas wedding at age 19 and matching tattoos, but that's so unrealistic considering he never got better. Like I said, Abby is the one who decided to change and just accept that her boyfriend is an overprotective violent psychopath.
Abby herself is a very interesting character. I really enjoyed the secret hidden background and I liked how for the first half of the book she didn't put up with any of Travis' shit. She dumped him after the Vegas thing and I thought that was the best thing she could do. But then she took him back. I would have preferred to see Travis grow up some, get some anger management therapy, and work on fixing his issues. Alas, it was not meant to be.
There were a few plot devices that I found a little unrealistic, but the absolute worst was the impromptu "I can't get no satisfaction" sing along in the cafeteria with the football players as backup singers. It was so cheesy and so High School Musical and doesn't belong in a novel. Maybe that kind of thing can work in a movie, but it does not work in a book and I think I eyerolled about 20 times trying to get through it.
Overall, while I did enjoy the book, I hate the romantification of abusive behavior that it promotes and that's why I can't give it more than 2 stars. I would read something else by this author though, because I think she has talent for telling a story and I'd be curious to see what else she can do.
2 of 5 stars.
Link to Kala's review on Goodreads: