Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire (Review)

Genre:Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Publication.Date  August 14th 2012
Published By:  Atria Books
WebsiteJamie 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.

"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 Author
Evie 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.
You can find Evie here: Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Shelfari | The Library Thing


Krazzyme(Young Readers) said...

God it's nice to see a review of this one with a 2 star.I've read this book and couldn't believe people were giving it a 4 and 5.Anyways the first 40 % of this book was amazing.Things went downhill in the second half.

Krazyyme @ Young Readers

Kelly said...

I'm so confused! Travis is in love with Abby (and Abby obviously has enough feelings for him to stick around), but they both date other people?

I've seen this one floating around, and have seen people on both sides of the fence. I'm tempted to read it to make up my own mind, but I'm almost positive I would share your feelings.

Great review!

Amy said...

I have seen a lot of negativity surrounding this book. I almost requested it from NetGalley out of curiosity, but I'm glad that I didn't. I think I would be very frustrated by this book. Thank you for the wonderful, honest review!!

We Heart YA said...

Really eloquent and thoughtful review. We haven't read the book but it doesn't seem to be a good fit for us, especially based on some of what you've discussed here.

Btw, ONE MOMENT is soooo worth reading, and we're totally "pining" for STORMDANCER too. :)

Martina said...

Uh..seems like a book that I wouldn't want to read. I have seen many positive reviews about this book but never knew what this book is actually about. But now I think it doesn't suit my taste at all. Thx for your honest review.

Ashley @ Book Labyrinth said...

Oh I TOTALLY agree with your review! I'm not sure how this book is so compulsively readable... like the writing was quite good, but the story and the characters?? Oh man, so many issues. I won't even be specific because you have perfectly described my exact issues with it.

Obsession with Books said...

I grabbed a copy of this through Netgalley but I'm a bit hesitant to start on it now, the reviews have been really mixed.

The relationship sounds emotionally abusive and too intense and dysfunctional for my liking and the characters not endearing whatsoever.

Thank-you for an honest, insightful review Evie - I may pick it up at some time x

Nereyda @Nick and Nereydas Infinite Booklist said...

This is one of those books you either love or hate, doesn't seem to be a lot of in between. I was one of the ones that loved it. I know it wasn't perfect at all, and it was a disaster at times but I love when my characters are flawed and these two are really flawed but it makes me connect with them more. Also very excited to read Walking Disaster and see how the moviw will turn out. Thanks for sharing your review :)

kara-karina@Nocturnal Book Reviews said...

My God, thank you so much for such a great review! I was one of those who hated this book because of its message of abuse as part of the norm in relationship. Miss McGuire has great talent for writing, I don't dispute it, but she doesn't finish the book making her heroine realise how harmful her relations with Travis and that's what infuriated me. Thanks again, Evie!

Andrea @ Cozy Up said...

I have this one from Netgalley as well, it sounded so interesting. Now I'm a little scared to read it after reading this. I don't want to come out of a book emotionally drained. Eeep... well I guess I'll still give it a try. Thanks for such a great review. Wish me luck! ;)

Unknown said...

So glad to see that I am not alone with this one. I really enjoyed your review.

Jenea @ Books Live Forever

Natalia Belikov said...

I couldnt agree more. I read this book on my ebook before it got purchased by S&S. Like you, I did enjoy the book but I totally dont agree with the message that this book delivers to its audience.

2 stars is the perfect rating.

Great review my dear. Nobody could have say it better.

Gigi said...

I have read a lot of mix reviews about this book, i'm hesitating to read it know. Well see. Thank you for your honest review Evie! :D

Unknown said...

Nice to know I'm not the only one who didn't love the book as much! I would've appreciated it more if there's less of everything. Great review!
-Karina @CouchPotatoReader

Lisa said...

I read this book and I agree that reading wise it was a winner. It was fast-paced, intriguing and at times sexy. However, I felt they had a very unhealthy relationship and everything felt quite unbalanced.

Lindy Gomez said...

While I can appreciate your opinion and understand your point of view, I Loved this book and gave it 5 stars. I felt that the book was realistic, the characters were flawed, and in real life things don't always turn out the way we think they should. However, I think Jamie's writing style was amazing, the book help my attention, was fast-paced and captivated me. I don't necessarily have to agree with the characters choices or have a moral to every story. This story was good for entertainment purposes and getting into the minds of two characters who had troubles. Who knows, maybe in Walking Disaster both characters will learn from their mistakes. Good review :)

Veronika said...

I read Beautiful Disaster not that long ago and I had mixed feeling about the book while reading it. I loved it, I couldn't put it down and read it in one sitting. The writing was also amazing! At the other hand some of the things and behaviour of the characters I didn't like that much! Thanks for the review!

princesshoran said...

I read the first part of the book but then I actually lost it somewhere at school haha, but I was upset because I really enjoyed what I had read. But after this I'm not sure if I really want to try finishing it.

Jessy said...

Uh, I downloaded the ebook, but now I'm not sure about reading it when I hear it is comparable to 50 Shades.

Jan Bethel S. Alson said...

Read the ebook a few months ago and I had the same reaction to it as you.

Nicis said...

I totally agree with you. I read BD 'cause some friends were talking a lot about it, and i did not want to stay out of their conversations.They all love it and I started feeling like a bad person or something, because i didn't, and I'm still no able to understand how can they be so in love of a character so... dependen? crazy? violent? Gosh, i'm pretty sure that if i find a Travis on the real life, i'll probably run away in the opossite direction :)

*Sorry for the spelling mistakes, english it's not my first language (:

gracelo said...

*Cringe* That sounds like a book being marketed wrong. It definitely doesn't sound YA-friendly, and with a very unhealthy relationship that somehow blossomed into an obsessive infatuation. Right now, all I can really think is "What?" and "Eew."

Lust For Stories

Carol Ann Michelle Publico said...

haven't read it and although you have a sort of mix reaction to it, it still has some attraction for me. Thanks for the insight your book reviews are great!! :)

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