Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
Publisher: Jamie McGuire, LLC; 1 edition (May 26, 2011)
Format: Kindle Edition
I have so much to say about this book that would never, ever fit into a simple preface paragraph so I’m holding back until the real review. God, it hurts though because there are so many things wrong here that it physically pains me not to vomit them all onto this page. Right. This. Minute.
Plot: Abby Abernathy leaves Wichita, Kansas for Eastern University, the farthest school she can find from her drunk mother and deadbeat convict father. She and longtime best friend, America, hope to forget their pasts in Wichita and have a wonderfully anonymous college experience, enjoying parties and boys along with a modest bit of studying. When America convinces her to attend an underground fight club match, Abby meets fighter Travis Maddox and her world is turned upside down. Travis is a tattooed, motorcycle riding womanizer who just happens to be ridiculously charming and debonair. He convinces Abby to befriend him despite his outward roughness and they develop a fragile friendship. Travis and everyone around them is convinced that the two make the perfect couple but Abby sees too much of her father in Travis. Despite his best advances, she repeatedly tries to keep romance out of their relationship. However after losing a bet, she and Travis are forced to live together for a month and the constant closeness causes their mutual attraction to finally explode into romance. However a calculated visit on the part of Abby’s father, forces Abby to realize that Travis will never be the good guy who puts her first in his life and she breaks it off, cutting him out of her life for good. After a few miserable months they reconnect, realizing that their bond is stronger than everything life throws at them and decide that they would rather spend the rest of their lives together than apart.
Review: Remember how earlier I said that there were so many things wrong here? Well there are! The problems with this book are legion. Let me start with the most obvious: this is a book geared towards teens who are typically impressionable and maybe even vulnerable. And yet, it presents a form of co-dependence and abuse that is beyond shocking. Travis and Abby are a horrible couple. It takes a lot for me to say this but they have no redeeming qualities. Travis is jealous, violent, and a manic depressive whose constant highs and lows just scream volatile, potential domestic abuser. The guy is forever punching someone for looking at his girlfriend, hooking up with bimbos to prove a point to her, or prostrating himself before her if she finally came to her senses and ditches him. Maybe some girls find this brand of behavior macho or sexy or something, but no, it’s not. This is in no way romantic or swoonworthy. Travis could never just believe that Abby was trustworthy and was forever trying to prove his masculinity to her and everyone around her through aggressive PDA sessions. He might as well have just peed in a one mile radius around her to prove his ownership. It smacks of a person who is not at all self confident and has deep rooted commitment issues. And need I mention again, is probably a potential domestic abuser. But people, please! Abby is no better. She is weak willed, obnoxious, and forever getting angry at Travis for absolutely the wrong reasons. Case in point: one night they were at a club and an innocent guy tried to speak with her. When Travis saw their interaction, he went berserk, punching and kicking the would-be Romeo until he was a bloody mess on the dancefloor. Now Abby, for reasons unknown, was not upset about the violent display but about the fact that he started hitting the guy while she was in close proximity to him. WTF?! Shouldn’t she be worrying about her boyfriend’s anger management issues or his constant use of fists to express his emotions? But not once, anywhere in this mess does she ever once question his violence. His feelings for her, yes, but never his abusive behavior. Strike #1. Then there’s the crazy talk about marriage at 19 years old. Mr. Abuser decides on a particularly high day of his, that he loves Abby so much that he must remove all vestiges of his life before her by throwing away his couch, getting her a dog, and having her nickname permanently inked into his skin along with a Hebrew passage about love and belonging to one another. Again, WTF?! This is not normal. If I were dating a guy for a few weeks and he did this, it would be “so long,
crazy stalker!” In fact, I did kick a crazy to the curb once because he was being too needy and then he still showed up at my house with flowers crying and needily apologizing for being needy. Sometimes you gotta go with your gut and cut your losses. Abby however stuck with Travis even though she admits that his manic behavior and crazy tattoos creep her out. That’s strike #2. And Strike #3 comes when Abby finally breaks up with Travis but her reason is not his crazy behavior, his manic depressive ways, his fighting, mood swings, or possessiveness. No, it’s because he let a mob boss talk him into fighting for him in order to earn enough money to pay off Abby’s tuition and buy her a car and Abby feels like he’s placing more importance on money than her. Seriously!? That’s what she gets out of this little situation? This is beyond stupid. Doesn’t she worry about his fighting? No, it’s his focus on her and her misguided notion that she comes in 2nd place. One more time: WTF?! Everything about their relationship reads like a psychologist’s dictionary entry of co-dependence and narcissism. Both place and find their self worth in the other and in the end, we’re left with the most boring and poorly developed story. All of the plot devices felt contrived or as if the author were making them up on the spot. It was as if she couldn’t get certain points to move and that’s when she would have Abby and Travis fight or break up or get tattooed or drunk. It was hard to read not only for the subject matter but also for the lack of good writing and editing.
Based on the following criteria:
How much did I like the heroine: 2. Abby, girlfriend, we are staging an intervention. This Travis kid is a disaster for you. And it’s not beautiful. He’s co-dependent, abusive, rough, abrasive, manic, violent, and moody. What is there here that’s redeeming beyond the fact that he’s eye candy? Seriously I don’t get what you see in him. Maybe he has some bad boy mojo we have yet to experience but all I can say is, he’s bad news and you are an enabler of the worst sort. You need to stick to your guns when he acts crazy and kick him to the curb for real. No more yo-yo dating with him. If it doesn’t work once, it ain’t ever gonna work!
How much did I like the love interest: 0. Travis is psycho. For real. If my hypothetical daughter introduces me to a guy like him in 19 years, I will do everything in my power to keep them apart a la Romeo and Juliet. I will have no shame. This kid is horrible in all ways and even his motherless backstory does not make me feel sorry for him or make me condone his god-awful behavior.
How believable is the plot: 5. Sadly, I know a ton of girls, myself included, who have allowed guys like Travis to weasel their ways into their lives. Domestic violence is rampant and I can see why if stories like this one are propagating this sort of relationship. The whole gambling father/child gambler side story was completely unbelievable however. Abby doesn’t seem intelligent enough to be a good card shark.
How much did I like the writing style/editing/etc: 2. The editing is sub-par, the writing is atrocious with practically no descriptive phrasing, no adjectives, nothing beyond a contrived plot that goes on far too long and has grammatical and spelling mistakes everywhere. Plus the dialogue is ludicrous. There practically isn’t any and what does get said is so banal that it’s unnecessary to the action.
How much did I want to keep reading: 0. I wanted this to end so that I could finally see Travis go to jail for all his crazy behavior but you know that that never happens. Instead they get married and I want to bang my head against a wall.
Glasses of wine I drank while reading: Yes I’m stealing Ellen’s category here because this was so disastrous (fitting right? With the title and all. Get it, Beautiful Disasters, disastrous book. Hardy har har) that I required alcohol to finish it. Sorry, but it’s true.
Final Score: 2/10. I know that this will alienate a few of our readers who truly liked this book but I can’t condone this sort of material. I find it extremely irresponsible of a writer or editor to push this sort of co-dependence on impressionable kids and adults. Travis and Abby’s relationship is not acceptable. In fact, I find it frightening and worry about their fictional children should they ever come into existence. This book is everything wrong with society’s perceptions of a good relationship: violence does not mean a man loves you; manic highs and lows are not normal in a relationship and not a requirement to maintain love; love is not instantaneous or volatile. My list could go on but I’m stopping here because frankly, those few points are enough.
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