By: Jamie McGuire
Genre: Seriously effed-up dysfunctional YA romance
Rating: R (for sex and language)
Coffee Beans: 3.5/5
Spoilers: Nothing major
Favorite Line: “It looks like Vegas threw up on a flock of vultures,” America sneered.
Warning: This is going to be long, but I promise you, it will be interesting and entertaining to make the ride smooth. Also, I will not be commenting on the technical side of the book (writing, etc), I will only be commenting on the story itself. Point 3, this is, 100% a guilty pleasure review, because that’s the only way I could review this book.
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 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.
I’m learning my lesson this time around and writing my review as I go. Mainly because with this book, there’s a lot I want to say and I don’t want to forget any of it.
I started this book at 7pm last night, read to 11 (past my bedtime) and then sat in my car before work and read as much as I could there, too. Repeat the process for lunch, add in reading under my desk and then in the car on the ride home. This book is addicting, and pulls you through with such force, you’re bound to get whiplash.
But that in no way means that this is a “good” book.
It just means I couldn’t put it down. And based on a lot of the reviews out there, that’s how the majority of the readers felt, too; no matter how slight.
Guilty Pleasure Review
I’m probably going to offend a lot of people out there with this next statement, but here we go!
Any woman who says, that deep down, they don’t have some sort of fantasy of or desire for (on any level), a man to be an Alpha Male around her is lying to herself. Girl Power is all over the place (yay, I support that! I’m all for strong women and doing things for ourselves, etc), but deep down, I think it’s a primal instinct of our sex that we want to have the big, strong, burly, somewhat aggressive/protective/dominant male to single us out, find us attractive, and then defend us against any other encroaching male. It’s also a strange (and somewhat stupid, IMO) desire to find the broken man and be able to “fix” or change him because we’re that special or he loves us that much.
That being said, I want to make it clear that I don’t think that that’s what this book does. AT ALL. I think this book supports more of an abusive, co-dependent, dysfunctional relationship. But that’s obvious, so I’m not going to talk about it anymore than that.
As I was saying, it’s not that this book is particularly well written or has a very strong plot. The female MC is a worse flip-flopper than Kerry during the 2008 presidential election and weak, but for some blasted reason, I couldn’t put the book down, and when I wasn’t reading it, all I thought about was picking it up to read it some more. I think the reason is this: That’s a pretty dangerous/exciting/thrilling life to be living vicariously through Abby. Admit it. Going back to your early college years. The partying, the hooking up, the careless fun with no consequences or responsibility….Psychopathic boyfriend with anger and obsession issues…..Oh, wait….
On a safe, light level, this is probably a life that some women secretly long for or wish they could go back to. And this entire book was one fustercluck of a dysfunctional, twisted train wreck that you couldn’t pass by without slowing down to gape at.
You all know how I feel about books being written glorifying this type of relationship, so I’m not going to get up on my soapbox…much. Instead, let’s break down what’s going on here, in a somewhat light-hearted manner.
Okay, really, what college has a cafeteria and an hour lunch period devoted strictly to eating? Any hands? Bueller? That’s right…none. That I know of. I got the distinct impression that this was supposed to be/originally written in a high school setting. Here’s how I pictured the author’s original scenario playing out:
- Two girls in high school, maybe a private away-from-home school. America falls for an older guy from the nearby college. Abby follows suit with the guy’s cousin. (It would explain why the girls are living in the dorms and the guys are living in an apartment instead of in dorms or in the frat house, like they should be. Which is also why they have lunch hours – to develop the Travis-Abby relationship dynamic and the Travis-gets-to-pummel-the-football-team opportunities.)
- But wait! If I have it set in high school, then I can’t really have the content in the book that I want to (because, let’s face it, even though “anything goes” in YA, there are some decency limits). And, it’d be weird to be publicly talking about and okaying the fact that they’re sneaking off to their college boyfriend’s apartments and doing the unmentionable (Mare, at least).
- So I’ll make it college. Voila! Everything is fixed and now it’s okay that they’re dating older guys and there are underground fight circles and I can push the limits EVEN MORE!
I’m sure it didn’t go exactly like that, but probably pretty close.
The Best Friend Factor
America sucks as a best friend. I’m putting that out there now. She encourages Abby to like Travis. Then tries to protect her from Travis because he’s “scary” and “dangerous”. Then she doesn’t really give any merit to what’s happening in her best friend’s relationship. BUT, when her boyfriend, Shepley, makes some stupid wrong decision, the world is ending and she breaks up with him. Multiple times.
And what’s up with Shep? Always warning Abby to be patient with Travis and to overlook the “mistakes” he’s going to make. Uh, okay…is that what they’re calling psychotic-anger-violent tantrums now a days?
Then there’s the scene where Abby ends up leaving in the middle of the night. Travis wakes up and freaks out. Tearing down drapes, throwing stereos, punching mirrors, ripping doors from hinges, etc. America actually has the nerve to call Abby and tell her what’s going on, confess that she’s really scared of Travis right now, and then tell Abby that she has to come back.
(Let’s face it, reality is seriously skewed in this book, which is why I can’t give it a serious review.)
Yes, there is more than one. For instance, with me. I felt like I was in an abusive relationship with this book. At first, it’s fine. I like the storyline, I like the characters. The book is nice to me. The extreme fantasy of this situation playing out the way it was was okay.
Then, little things started happening. The wrong reaction from Travis, the wrong decision from Abby. The flippant attitude of everyone involved when disturbing things start happening. But then, everything goes back to how it was in the beginning, normal. Gifts were exchanged, smiles flashed, compliments given. It’s all good, right?
I didn’t want to read. What I was reading was wrong. But I was promised everything would get better. And I had to know what was going on. So I read on. Which is the whole point.
Even though there wasn’t any physical abuse going on between Abby and Travis, there was certainly some mental and psychological abuse present. From the outside, this was definitely a relationship that shouldn’t have been explored. But I can also understand how it may not have been so obvious for Abby. But, there’s no excuse for Mare and Shep not to have stepped in with the red flags.
Oh, crazy, emotional, dysfunctional, blind, inconsistent, Abby. Okay, so I understand why she took the bet and held to it. I mean, she just out of high school and not all that mature. I’m sure that if a lot of girls were in her position, and Travis was a guy they were interested in (because, let’s face it, she was lying when she said she wasn’t interested), they’d totally lose that bet on purpose and claim integrity and honor by fulfilling it. So, for a few people out there, it’s a realistic set up. Sometimes I think Abby’s smart, seeing that Travis is not a wise choice for a boyfriend, and then she surprises me and turns dumb again, ignoring her previous decision.
That’s right, I’ve called you out, “mysterious reason as to why Abby doesn’t want to get close to Travis”. L-A-M-E. I mean, it could’ve been good, if it were executed better, given more weight, and showed up more throughout the story except for where it was convenient to move the plot forward or explain some back-assward reasoning for Abby’s actions.
Everyone and their dog has a nickname! For the love of Pete, can’t we just call ‘em by their names?? Pigeon/Pidge/Abs = Abby; Mare = America; Shep = Shepley; Trav = Travis. Pigeon kind of annoyed me at first, but then it grew on me.
I’ll admit, I thought this was a completely different book when I started reading it and was a bit confused when I saw it on an end cap in B&N next to 50 Shades and Ann Rice’s old books. (I thought I was starting the YA book Love & Other Perishable Items, the covers are so freaking similar. It’s not my fault). But the more I read, the more addictive it became. And I couldn’t put it down. I stayed up past my bedtime the first night. Sat in the parking lot before work to read. Read on my lunch. Read under my desk. And went to read after work at Sbux, BUT MY NOOK BATTERY DIED!! So yes, this plot is strong enough and fast enough to pull you through the unbelievable crap that’s between the covers (and not the bed sheets kind).
I loved this guy’s review and in particular, this snippet:
“Anyhoo, with all this rambling it may seem like I hated this book. Not at all! Much like a junkie getting kicked out of rehab for shooting up the smack he smuggled in his anus, I continually keep coming back to these type of stories! It’s a love/hate relationship! I just want to see how the story is going to end…even though I sort of already do.”
For me, that’s the perfect description.
It sucked. I’m not saying anything else, except: It was a little too cookie cutter of an HEA. I think there should have been a bit more dysfunction in the end. Like maybe a murder (Travis has it in him) or a mob contract, or something equally as interesting (Joking, but only slightly).
There’s Another One
And you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m gonna read it. It’s gonna be told from Trav’s POV so we’ll understand why he acted like he did and all fall in love with him. Awwww! (Every time Travis is in a scene, the song Smooth Operater comes to mind…)
My friend, Tiff, described it as a “train wreck of a romance” and I couldn’t agree more. There are two times when the characters describe the truth of the relationship. Abby says, “We are dysfunctional, Travis.”(amen) and then Shep tells Abby that when her and Travis are happy everything’s rainbows and butterflies but when they’re not, it’s like a tornado is destroying the world.
I think Beautiful Disaster is the perfect mash-up of Fight Club and some outrageous Lifetime Original Movie. In fact, I totally envisioned this as a movie and the success it would have if ever put into one, from the first scene at the Circle. Come to find out, it’s going to be made into one sometime in the future.
In the end, I think this book—as much as some people don’t want to admit it—is believable and a reality to a lot of girls out there. So deal, even if you don’t like it or agree. Overall, I liked it for the mindless, emotional abuse of a ride that it was.