Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama Publication.Date August 14th 2012 Pages: 432 Published By: Atria Books | Website Jamie McGuire |
Beautiful Disaster - Goodreads My review copy: An ARC of the book received from Simon and Schuster via netGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Where to get:
The new 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 needs—and wants—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.(Goodreads)
"You can't find something else to do for a living? Less - I don't know - sadistic?"
He was the worst kind of confident. Not only was he shamelessly aware of his appeal, he was so used to woman throwing themselves at him that he regarded my cool demeanor as refreshing instead of an insult. I would have to change my strategy.
"So what's your story, Pidge? Are you a manhater in general, or do you just hate me?"
"I think it's just you." I grumbled.
He laughed once, amused at my mood. "I can't figure you out. You're the first girl that's ever been disgusted with me before sex."
"You don't look like the criminal justice type."
His eyebrows pulled together, suddenly focused on our conversation. "Why?"
I scanned the tattoos covering his arm. "I'll just say that you seem more criminal and less justice."
Marketted as a YA-friendly Fifty Shades of Grey, Beautiful Disaster is a book that people seem to either absolutely love or hate with burning passion. Its addictive, fast-paced and emotionally engaging writing style is bound to keep you captivated and entertained all the way through. However, whether you'll actually enjoy reading it or not is a whole different story. I myself came out of reading it emotionally drained, shaky, and very, very disturbed. In the end, despite its intriguing premise and great potential, this book proved to be more "disaster" and less "beautiful".
Make no mistake, this book is no Young Adult fiction and under no circumstances should it be categorized as such. If you're looking for a fluffy romance, or even a more profound, uplifting and meaningful love story, you should probably stir clear of it. Beautiful Disaster is a book full of adult themes and heavy social/emotional/psychological issues. It contains sexually suggestive scenes, plenty of violence and coarse language. The relationship featured within its pages is not by any means positive, and most definitely not one that people should admire, envy, or approve of. Everything about it - from the dynamics of Travis and Abby's interactions, to the way they treat other people - is downright unhealthy and dysfunctional.
In terms of redability this book is a winner. It's more than 400 pages long, but you could probably devour it in one sitting. The plot moves along very swiftly, the tension and excitement never lets up, and I just couldn't wait to find out how the story ends. It's a real emotional roller coaster. That's not to say that I was happy with the ending. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed. I kept on waiting for Abby and Travis to realize just how wrong their relationship was. I wanted Abby to understand that this really wasn't good for her (she seemed to know that, but that didn't deter her from dating Travis). Most of all, I really wanted to see some positive changes in Travis. Up until the very last page I hoped he would learn something about himself, change his ways, mature, morph into someone remotely safe and trust-worthy.. someone you could actually be with. But that never happened. As I was getting close to the end, I knew that the conclusion of the story will play a vital role in my overall rating of it. I don't mind reading about difficult, dysfunctional relationships, violence, emotional abuse, and sex - as long as it all accounts to some sort of meaningful message in the end. The only redeemable quality for this story would have been its ending, given that the characters would grow and change, or go their separate ways. Again, that didn't happen, and the ending itself left me with a bitter taste in my mouth and a sick feeling in my stomach. The only thing missing from the disastrous picture painted by the author was a knock-up and a trailer park.
Usually, stories such as this one have a moral, or at least they aspire to teach you a lesson. More often than not, when an author paints a very disquieting picture, it is with a purpose to educate and raise awareness. And in most of the cases there is a clear message: the events described within the pages are not meant to be perceived as positive ones. Heavy-subject-matter books are meant to inspire you to think about certain issues, analyze both the plot and the characters, reflect and learn something valuable about life. Well, that is not the case with Beautiful Disaster. As much as I would love to see a dramatic turn of events that would prove to me otherwise, this book came closer to condoning abusive behaviour that it did to educating or showing that it was wrong. Yes, I understand that the lead characters were both disturbed individuals, with difficult pasts that obviously influenced their personalities and decision-making capabilities in a bad way, but I find it all-too disturbing that their unacceptable behaviour (towards each other and other people in the story) was presented as perfectly normal, at times even cool.
Travis is not hot or sexy. Sure, he's good looking, strong, muscular and self-confident, but he's also jealous (borderline paranoid), controlling, possessive, irresponsible, hot-tempered, violent and emotionally abusive. On top of that, he is very needy and requires constant reassurance that he is loved and wanted. He is most definitely not swoon-worthy. Quite to the contrary, he's the type of person that you often see featured on shows like 20/20 - him being the one who lost his temper and murdered someone for a totally ridiculous reason. His idea of a relationship is just.. beyond wrong. He's not interested in partnership, he wants to own the other person. He needs to feel that Abby is his and his only, and he'll do just about anything it takes to make it happen. He tells Abby how to dress and what to do. He's so insecure that every time Abby is approached by another guy, or even looked at or spoken to, he's all rage and fists. Overprotective? Yes, but also insanely territorial and obsessive. If something doesn't go according to his plans, he's enraged and ready to destroy everything in his path. When Abby leaves his apartment without telling him, he literally goes nuts and starts breaking everything within his reach to pieces.
Here's a quote that perfectly illustrates Travis' violent tendencies.
“He took a swing at Shep when he found out we helped you leave. Abby! Please tell me!” she pleaded, her eyes glossing over. “It’s scaring me!”
The fear in her eyes forced only the partial truth. “I just couldn’t say goodbye. You know it’s hard for me.”
“It’s something else, Abby. He’s gone fucking nuts! I heard him call your name, and then he stomped all over the apartment looking for you. He barged into Shep’s room, demanding to know where you were. Then he tried to call you. Over, and over and over,” she sighed. “His face was…Jesus, Abby. I’ve never seen him like that.
“He ripped his sheets off the bed, and threw them away, threw his pillows away, shattered his mirror with his fist, kicked his door…broke it from the hinges! It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life!”
Like that wasn't enough, Travis is just an overblown version of a stereotypical bad-boy, complete with tattoos, smoking and drinking habit, motorbike and a military-cut hairstyle. Oh, and did I mention he's also promiscuous? His entire existence is made up of drinking, fighting and one-night-stands. Every night he goes drinking, comes home with a random girl, has sex with her, and then kicks her out, making it clear that she was nothing more than a way to satisfy his primitive sexual needs. Am I really supposed to believe that he will change for Abby? I guess it's not impossible, people do change, but - having read the entire book - I can honestly say that Travis is as likely to change as I am to go to Justin Bieber's concert. Because to change, one first needs to see the flaws in oneself and recognize the need for improvement. And Travis, while he often realizes his mistakes and wrongdoings, is blaming his bad behaviour on being madly in love with Abby.
Like I said before, it really doesn't bother me to read a book featuring violent, disturbing themes. I don't mind reading about violent/abusive characters either. I am well aware that life is not all flowers and sunshine all the time, and real-life stories, with mature-subject matter, are more than welcome on my reading list. However, when a lead character is described in a way that suggests serious psychological problems and deeply-rooted abusive tendencies, I at least expect to see his actions well-motivated, or entirely condemned in the story (whether it's by the narrator - which in this case is no one else but Abby - or by other characters in the story). More over, I also expect to see consequences of his negative behaviour. That, of course, doesn't happen. Travis is not only not criticised for the things he does (over and over again), he is in fact treated as some sort of hero, who is acting the way he is just because he's in love with Abby (and that makes it all perfectly fine). He is all-too quick to beat the living soul out of random people in the school's cafeteria for reason no other than them making a mean joke directed at his girl. What is even more disturbing, Abby herself encourages him to do so. Now, I know I'm old and it's been a long time since I went to college, but last time I checked it was not the right way to solve meaningless conflicts.
Despite what the blurb claims, Abby is not exactly a good girl, either. Just like Travis she's been through some difficult times in her life. Her mom is an alcoholic who can't tell winter from summer, and who doesn't care about the well-being of her offspring at all. Her dad is a famous poker player. He's addicted to gambling and would bet his own daughter without as much as a blink. Abby's life was never easy, and from the moment Travis comes into it, she knows that he's nothing but trouble. The knowledge, however, is one thing, and what we do with it is a whole different story. Abby can't seem to stay away from Travis, and after she loses a bet, she even moves in with him for an entire month. She then lets him dictate her every move and push her around however he feels like. If Travis doesn't like her clothes, Abby quickly changes. If Travis doesn't like her date, Abby ditches the poor guy without thinking twice. When Travis comes home drunk and accompanied by two random girls, and then proceeds to have sex with both of them on the couch in the living room, Abby puts a pillow over her head and patiently waits for him to be done. As much as I would like to say that Abby is just an innocent victim, though, I can't, because that would be a lie. She is manipulative, undecided, and often mean (and not only to Travis, but also to innocent bystanders), and I liked her even less than her controlling boyfriend.
In the end, this book had an enormous potential and could have been so much better, if only Mrs. McGuire approached it with a little bit more thought and caution. I do believe that this author has a talent for writing captivating, emotionally engaging books, though, and I am definitely looking forward to her upcoming ones. Fans of this book (and I know there are many) will be pleased to know that Beautiful Disaster will be adapted into a movie by Warner Bross, with Donald De Line (the producer of Micheal Bay's Pain and Gain) involved in the project. Additionally, rumor has it that Jamie McGuire is considering writing a sequel (or a companion-novel) from Travis' point of view. While I do not agree with the message that this book sends out to young adult and adult readers alike, I did have a good time reading it, and am certainly looking forward to its movie adaptation.
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About the AuthorEvie is the Blogger behind Bookish. She enjoys reading many different genres, especially YA, Paranormal, Contemporary Fiction and Fantasy.She loves talking to authors and is always happy to welcome them for interviews, and guest posts. She also likes spreading the love for awesome books and chatting with fellow book-worms.