REVIEW: Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
Dear Ms. McGuire:
Angela James loaned this book to me and I went on to purchase my own copy ($1.99 using the Kobodollaroff coupon). This book is often recommended on the goodreads forums and it is highly rated. I totally understand the appeal because it is a very readable book plus I think that there are hookable elements such as a fantastical ideal of the bad boy who transforms for one person only. The voice of the author is compelling and her command of the characters make the book seem all the more real. The reason that it is disturbing is the fairly positive light in which this dangerous and dysfunctional relationship is portrayed. In real life or as an exemplar of a healthy relationship, this is a terrible book. It’s a book that you want to talk about with your daughter if she reads it. There may be triggers ahoy for those sensitive to physical abuse.
Abigail Abernathy attends an illegal fight in the bowels of her university early on in her freshman year. There she catches the attention of fighter Travis Maddox (whom I believe is a junior). They come into more frequent contact as a result of her best friend, America, dating Shephley (Shep), Travis’ cousin. Travis and Shep live in an apartment off campus and when the dorm showers break down, America and Abby move into the apartment.
Travis immediately attaches himself to Abby but he’s a man whore, bringing home any number of women after drunken binges. Abby recognizes that Travis is bad news right away, particularly given her past, and she agrees to be friends only with Travis.
Travis leaned so close that I could feel his breath on my cheek. “I’m sorry…did I offend you in some way?”
I sighed and shook my head.
“Then what is your problem?”
I kept my voice low. “I’m not sleeping with you. You should give up, now.”
A slow smile crept across his face before he spoke. “I haven’t asked you sleep with me,” his eyes drifted to the ceiling in thought, “have I?”
“I’m not a Barbie twin or one of your little groupies up there,” I said, glancing at the girls behind us. “I’m not impressed with your tattoos, or your boyish charm, or your forced indifference, so you can stop the antics, okay?
Travis is determined that they should be friends and Abby is helpless against Travis’ charisma. The flirty exchanges between Travis and Abby are very cute. Their relationship, however, to any one looking on the outside is more of a girlfriend / boyfriend. Abby sleeps with Travis in his bed, platonically. They spend almost every minute together when they aren’t in classes. Travis worships Abby and demands every one treat her respectfully, even though he has little respect for other women.
While Travis is taking home a different girl every night, Abby starts seeing Parker, a wealthy pre med kid, who happens to be Travis’ fraternity brother. Abby’s on again/off again relationship with Parker might drive readers crazy but I saw it as a defense mechanism. How else could she prevent herself for falling for Travis?
I loved the setting of this book at Eastern University and Abby, Mare, Shep, and Travis felt authentically college aged to me, full of self confidence and invincibility but without the responsibilities and worries that post college brings. Eastern U must be a tiny college, though, given that it seems everyone eats lunch at the cafeteria at the same time. In some respects, this setting resembled a high school more than a large university. The dialogue was engaging and fresh. Shep warns Abby off, saying that her having a one night with Travis will lead to Shep and Mare breaking up:
“This isn’t my first rodeo, Mare. Do you know how many times he’s screwed things up for me because he one-nights the best friend? All of a sudden it’s a conflict of interest to date me because it’s fraternizing with the enemy! I’m tellin’ ya, Abby,” he looked at me, “don’t tell Mare she can’t come over or date me because you fall for Trav’s line of BS. Consider yourself warned.”
The interaction between the four was really well done and displayed the volatility of youthful romance.
I didn’t feel that Abby’s past was fleshed out enough to provide a basis for her refusal to date Travis. It would have been easy to understand her refusal to date him based on his seeming inability to treat woman as anything other than objects but instead her refusal to date him was based on the idea that she was bad for him. Yet, this is a guy who went insane after Abby left him:
“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!”
There were a number of unbelievable elements such as Travis being not only the bad boy, but a card carrying member of a popular fraternity. He smokes, is an incredible instinctive fighter, never trains, drinks constantly, drives a motorcycle, and is so brilliant he doesn’t need to study. He doesn’t even run or lift weights or engage in any kind of physical activity other than fight occasionally (and even that is not on a regular basis). At one point, he even sings in the cafeteria getting everyone to sing along with him. His charisma is just that amazing. Abby is an even more shallow character. We know only that she wants to remake herself in college but into what, I don’t believe if even Abby knows which would be fine except that eventually Travis becomes her whole world.
Travis’ default reaction to everything is violence, no matter the danger in which might place Abby.
Travis barreled his way onto the dance floor, and plunged his fist straight into the pirate’s face, the force sending both of us to the ground. With my palms flat on the wooden floor, I blinked my eyes in stunned disbelief. Feeling something warm and wet on my hand, I turned it over and recoiled. It was covered in blood from the man’s nose. His hand was cupped over his face, but the bright red liquid poured down his forearm as he writhed on the floor.
Travis scrambled to pick me up, seeming as shocked as I was. “Oh shit! Are you all right, Pidge?”
When I got to my feet, I yanked my arm from his grip. “Are you insane?”
America grabbed my wrist and pulled me through the crowd to the parking lot. Shepley unlocked his doors and after I slid into my seat, Travis turned to me.
“I’m sorry, Pigeon, I didn’t know he had a hold of you.”
“Your fist was two inches from my face!” I said, catching the oil-stained towel Shepley had thrown at me. I wiped the blood from my hand, revolted.
The seriousness of the situation darkened his face and he winced. “I wouldn’t have swung if I thought I could have hit you. You know that right?”
He is a scary guy who views everyone as a threat and every situation as a potential fight. Abby encourages this for all her protestations otherwise. Later in the book she tells Travis to teach another guy a lesson in manners and Travis goes over and beats the hell out of said guy.
“Did you mean it when you said you didn’t want me to change?” he asked, squeezing my hand.
I looked down at Chris laughing to his teammates, and then turned to Travis. “Absolutely. Teach that asshole some manners.”
Travis lifted Finch’s tray off the table and swung it into Chris’ face, knocking him off his chair. Chris tried to scramble under the table, but Travis pulled him out by his legs, and then began to wail on him.
Chris curled into a ball, and then Travis kicked him in the back. Chris arched and turned, holding his hands out, allowing Travis to land several punches to his face. The blood began to flow, and Travis stood up, winded.
“If you even look at her you piece of shit, I’ll break your fuckin’ jaw!” Travis yelled. I winced when he kicked Chris in the leg one last time.
In some ways, Abby is more of a possession than a person to Travis. Abby chastises him for acting like he is marking her, peeing on her leg (figuratively), yet despite all the warnings, this is where Abby wants to be.
This book, for its flaws, is compulsively readable. While reading the book, it is easy to get caught up in the fantasy of it and the romanticism of Travis’ strength of feeling for Abby but at the end, you are left with this uneasiness because Travis doesn’t change. He’s still the uber violent rage monster that he was in the start of the book who is routinely destroying things and then asking for forgiveness and Abby is the very young woman who keeps forgiving him. C
Due to all the great reviews on goodreads, I also read this one. The story freaked me out in that I closed the book feeling that disaster was both inevitable and just around the corner for both characters.
Sounds a lot like TWILIGHT without the blood sucking.
Sounds like Fight Club for the romantics with Tyler as Abby’s love interest.
The scene you quoted after this one scared the bejeesus outta me. I seriously would start considering Abby a sadist at that point and a bit of a sociopath. She knows what a temper/violent guy this guy has/is, yet she sends him after this other guy? Was there some terrible/awful/horrible thing this “Chris” did? I mean rape and murder are the only things I could MAYBE condone a good beating, but not enough to send the man I love/like in there to get arrested for doing it.
Wow, I think it sounds absolutely horrible, compulsively readable for not. Not something I’m going to read. Abby sounds like a girl who likes to be in the middle of fights and encourages them and I hate that nickname – pidge. Travis sounds like an ass.
Speaking as someone with a violent temper who’d been in more than her fair share of scraps (I should tell you the hammer story on Twitter sometime) I can say that we can settle down into an HEA worthy of a romance novel, but it necessitates taming that temper. I could buy into a romance with a violent character, but not if that violence is treated as unproblematic. You can’t have a healthy relationship with someone so unrepentantly unhinged. If you don’t have a healthy relationship, you don’t have an HEA.
I may have read it at some point to see if it’s as problematic as the reviews make it seem to me, but the author attacking critical reviewers and inciting a fangirl mob nixes that idea. I’ll have to take everyone’s word for it.
I could never read this book. I would be too busy nit-picking how the author conceived her University setting. Having worked my entire adult life in various institutions of Higher Education, there are certain truths regardless of where the school is. A University (not a College) that can sustain a Greek Panhellenic system would not have just one dining hall and any broken showers would be fixed within hours. I’d be too busy wondering if they had to do a lot of paperwork to move out of the dorm mid-semester? Is it a residential University that doesn’t even allow students to live off campus without prior approval? Was there a judicial hearing when he beat up the guy? Sanctions? See? I’m already obsessing and I didn’t even read the book.
I saw this book being raved about on Goodreads too – but looking into the reviews, the hero didn’t appeal to me and the author attacking that reviewer totally put me off too – so no go for me.
Women like Abby tend to end up in prison or dead. Sooner or later, Travis will hit her, if he hasn’t yet. (The first couple that came to mind when I read this review was Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend.)
I deplore censorship and believe authors should write what they feel driven to write (something that the author of this book apparently doesn’t believe unless it applies to her own work.)
I like how you refer to this as a “fantasy.” Sociopathic boy takes emotional possession of manipulative, self-centered girl? That’s what I get from your review. This book comes across as another author pushing the edge of the envelope on the Twilight success story, hoping to make big bucks on the emotional extremes and vulnerability of teenagers.
If this book glorifies an abusive relationship in a story directed at teens, I think the author’s committed less an act of literature and more an act of sheer irresponsibility. I normally don’t comment on reviews this way, but this trend in YA feels so destructive, not to mention depressing.
Wow. Normally, I’d have to catch an episode of Springer to see characters of this caliber. I think I’ll pass.
Having followed on Twitter the Goodreads melodrama over this author rallying people to “defend” her against a “bad” review, I had no intention of supporting her conduct by buying her book. I am a bit dismayed that you’re giving her such wonderful free publicity with this review, which I view as a reward for her bad behavior. She’s laughing all the way to the bank.
@Elizabeth Raines: I wrote this review a couple of weeks ago and actually recommended the book with provisos on Monday. I also indicated that I was going to write a review.
After I heard of the incident, read the blog post and disagreed with her seriously over at goodreads and on Twitter wherein I told her that my review contained elements that she professed to hate (and then she responded to her Twitter followers that I was going to “fry her”), I really reconsidered publishing the review for the very reasons that you mention.
But I weighed that things I had said on the blog earlier this week, along with the fact that this book was being talked about quite a bit, and felt I would go ahead and publish the review.
I understand where you are coming from and I did debate this with myself all week.
Ah…that explains it some. You’re clarifying things that were said earlier. That I can appreciate. I’m just very sad and somewhat frustrated to see authors who behave badly getting the attention they’re begging for when there are so many decent (as in being genuine and accepting both praise and criticism) authors out there who deserve your time. :)
I think you’ve shown your utter professionalism in this case, Jane. I followed the GR discussion too and I saw your comments. Throughout the whole incident you’ve remained the consummate professional. Perhaps the author might learn a lesson from your behavior, but I see she prefers to engage her fans in the cause of bullying rather than maintaining a professional attitude.
Not only would I not buy her book, but I would encourage my nieces and nephew – all three young adults themselves – NOT to purchase her book.
@Dani Alexander: Unfortunately I don’t think she, the author, gets it. She later said something akin to the concept that she was a person and she deserved to say what she wanted to, just like someone who has a blog. So…yeah.
One thing I forgot to mention in the review was that I wondered if she had ever watched boxing or ultimate fighting because there was never really any mention to physical results of being pummeled like fat lips, shiners, cuts, swelling, or those oh so sexy cauliflower ears.
Was there ever any mention to this guy getting arrested for battery, or expulsion for misconduct? I’m scratching my head, wondering how this guy managed to stay out of the pokey for beating the bejeezus out of people in a public place with lots of witnesses.
@Lori: No. There was one fight in which the police came and they had to run off but there was no University misconduct which is inaccurate as well but a lot of this book is unrealistic.
My husband wants me to ask you that if I ever finish my book (Ha ha)
will you give me a bad review so I can throw a temper tantrum and sell a lot of copies.
Having seen the author’s rant, I think what I find the most annoying is her assertion that the relationship is realistic in that damaged people do date each other, but what I’m seeing from your review and in the comments is that the setting is completely unrealistic. The author cannot have it both ways!
@Beth: One year for April Fool’s, Sarah Wendell and I put up a webpage selling reviews and we priced the F review the highest. Which is my long way of saying, of course!
@Tasha: More ironically, in the comments, the author says that her book is just fiction! Not real! So I don’t know which it is. Real or unreal?
Oh, I WOULD pay for an F review from you 2. Talk about money in the bank!!!!!
I might have been interested in reading this (if only for the “readability” of it) but I’m giving that a big “hell no” after reading her comments regarding reviews… Put your work out there, it will be criticized. Read it, and move on. The whole thing makes me draw some interesting parallels between the author and what I have read of Abby…
@Beth: Me, too!! Can you trash one of my books, Jane? I’d be forever in your debt. ;)
Never good publicity to come off as a petty bully.
What I truly appreciate is that the author and her behavior has nothing to do with her writing and Jane was able to post a fair review that doesn’t denigrate the product because the creator acted badly. Which seems to sum up the entire point of professionalism.
Thank you for making the choice to post this and not call out the author. This is why I love this blog.
I’m so tired of authors behaving badly. If they choose to write books like this they should expect to get the occasional bad review. By no means did she get a lot of bad reviews but it doesn’t matter, does it? A bad review is an excuse for her to rally her peeps and put on a pity party and, yep, she’ll be laughing all the way to the bank. However, I won’t buy the book. I just have to figure that eventually, karma will have the last laugh.
Jane, you are always the most awesome.
I’d like to place an order for one positive review please? I’m too poor to pay for the F.
Plus, I like to be contrary.
I do worry about YA literature. The most important things I learned from the books I read as a teenager were all about how to live as an adult. These books all seem to be about wallowing in teenage angst. What’s going to help these kids grow up?
For my part, even if I was tempted to overlook the author’s rant and get this book, Jane’s summation (“but at the end, you are left with this uneasiness because Travis doesn’t change.”) would’ve put paid to this inclination. The payoff for me in reading a book about two such flawed characters would be the prospect of some sort of redemptive change at the end; if there’s none of that, why should I waste my time?
@Ros: Their parents? I wouldn’t think to put the onus on YA literature to teach kids anything.
I found this book terrible. The plotting was awful, Travis was ridiculous (plus he’s SO YOUNG to be such a tough badass!). Abby was not a likeable character. She didn’t have nice thing to say about anyone, Travis included. She was a Mary Sue if I ever saw one – no wonder Twilight fans liked it. “Pigeon” as a nickname drove me insane.
The typos nearly killed me (but then maybe they’ve been fixed for this new release with new cover – and THANK GOD they changed that!).
@Moriah Jovan: Yes, I suppose so. I just know how important books were – and still are – for me in learning how to think about myself and the world, and I worry about what effect a reading diet of this sort of book could have.
Yeah, Jane’s plot description plus the author’s Twitter rallying of the troops is definitely setting off my Twilight fanfic alert. Does anyone know if it’s a find & replace job, like 50 Shades of Grey & The Unidentified Redhead?
@Lori & @Sue T: : I can’t say I wasn’t tempted to revise this review so I am definitely not perfect but thank you.
@Danielle: Someone else mentioned that she thought it was Twilight fan fic too (Angie James I think).
@SHZ: I did noticed only a few typos in it so it must be a revised version.
@Jane: Had she simply said the part of about damaged people and toxic relationships and some people just don’t get that, fine. But then to say the book is realistic (which apparently it isn’t), and to show that kind of toxic relationship apparently without showing the fallout, the consequences, the damage it can cause, AND have it be for young adults, that makes me a little leery.
I’ve not read the book and I’m not planning to–even without the whole review kerfuffle, this just isn’t a story I want to read. Just like I don’t want to read the Dumpsterorica book. Both of them provoke a “not for me” reaction.
@Danielle: For some reason, I do think it’s fanfic and I think it might even have this same title in its fanfic incarnation. I’m not sure it’s Twilight, though – I don’t read in that fandom and yet this sounds familiar to me.
After reading only a few paragraphs of the sample chapters for this book, the spelling and grammar mistakes were too numerous to take this “author” seriously. Skimming through the ensuing pages, it occurred to this reviewer, that the author must have barely made it out of high school, or is the proud holder of a GED. In either case, a command of basic punctuation seems continually to elude her. McGuire’s habitual use of malapropisms only serves to further this reviewers theory. I am astounded that very few reviewers are turned off by her inability to convey a story using anything more than back woods high school grammar. Her throngs of adoring “five star” reviews, and the content found therein, on GR and Amazon, seem to indicate that McGuire’s fan base is (dare I say it?) semi-literate at best.
Jamie McGuire is simply expediting the end of a once great language, under the guise of her attempt at playing author on the internet.
Jamie’s GR profile is replete with overt condescension, and pretense. This girl is trying to live a dream for which she is grossly under qualified. To make things worse, this “professional” (her words), seems to have a fetish for trashing Amazon reviewers on her on FB account; only to have her ego stroked by her hoards of barely-literate fans. This seemed to work for some time, until she made the mistake of lashing out at a negative reviewer on her GR (public) blog. Ms. McGuire is now finding out what it means to ACT as a professional.
Bottom line: BD is a fanfic ripoff of an ill advised Twilight/Fight Club one night stand.
In my past, I used to critique for an author friend and I recall her working on an urban fantasy series that is pretty comparable to a lot of the YA books featuring dysfunctional relationships. The primary couple is a mortal man involved in an abusive romance with a female vampiress. The vampiress is obviously socipathic and is both physically and emotionally abusive to her human lover. Although the man is highly intelligent and competent in his professional field, he’s blindly obsessed with and devoted to the vampiress even when she neglects him and mistreats him. The man has never known “real true love” with anyone except the vampire. Meanwhile, the vampire is always saner and less prone to psychotic, destructive behaviors as long as her man is there to hold her together.
The whole mess that I read — about 3 super-plus novels worth — annoyed me to death and disgusted me. I frequently commented that I found the work utterly unconvincing if she wished to market it as a romance.
These days, I can’t help thinking if she’d decided to make her primary characters teenagers or very young adults instead of middle-aged people, she’d probably be sitting on a gold mine.
I bought this book one day when I was bored. If I’d known about the author behaving badly I probably wouldn’t have. I agree with you Jane – it is very readable but has some serious flaws. I found Travis strangely compelling despite his very obvious problems. Maybe because I too have a temper (not that I have ever behaved like that) I related to his character. As Ridley said, if the Author had taken the anger problem and worked with it, it could have been a great book. I would actually like to see an author address this. I did have some major problems with Abby though. Namely that a) she didn’t seem to have a lot of respect for herself and b) some of her actions seem absolutely incomprehensible in the context of her relationship with Travis. I also found the Vegas thing a big left turn that for me didn’t gel with the rest of the book. I probably would have given this author another try but probably won’t now.
I can’t help wondering if this book is a bit of a ripoff of Rachael Caine’s “Bite Club” from her Morganville Vampire series.
@ Grammar Cop, your entire post was very pretentious and unkind. I hope you were having a bad day and this does not reflect you as a person.
@cbackson: There are so many fandom pairings that aren’t healthy. If it’s not Twilight fic, I was thinking Durarara!! (Shizuo = Travis, Shinra = Parker, Celty = Abby?), although that would mean the messed up relationships actually got toned down.
I’ll probably read this. I actually like books with really out of control, “bad” characters.
I think people naturally like to stare at train wrecks, which is why books like this will always sell a bajillion copies, whether they’re “quality” or not.
I think people stimulated by stories about dysfunctional characters are usually very innocent and inexperienced. If they’re older they’ve lived something of a charmed life and have never experienced dysfunctional interpersonal relationships OR witnessed the same in other people (friends, family members, that kind of thing.)
Anyone who’s ever experienced real life with a mentally or emotionally disturbed person is not going to consider psychotic love interests in romance a “big, sexy idea.”
I have suffered personal tragedy in my life and have a bipolar relative who has really put my family through the wringer at times. Although the person can be very glib, charismatic, and intriguing, the flip side of the coin is pure horror I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Romance fiction is escapism and I guess if one has lived a basically quiet, comfortable, and stable life, mentally/emotionally disturbed characters and relationships can be quite exciting and readable. It’s “something different,” something outside their realm of experience, and if the writer’s good and the characters compelling, readers feel they got their money’s worth.
I’ve noted a trend where authors include child abuse and/or sexual abuse in their characters. I think these authors are trying to make their characters seem more interesting, stronger, good survivors, etc., but since the subject is usually treated so gratuitously — the character suffers no issues typically faced by abuse survivors — it falls flat.
I’m in a relationship with a “damaged” guy, I guess. He’s spent two long, hard years working on resolving his problems and not being the kind of twat Travis sounds like. So yeah, of course “damaged people” can fall in love. But I seriously doubt they can make their relationships work by staying damaged. I’ve heard nothing about this book that would convince me to pick it up.
@Bronte If it makes you feel any better, I did buy Providence which is the first book in her next series in hopes that I would get the same compelling story without the dysfunctional relationship but alas, whatever alchemy worked in BD was not in evidence in Providence. It features, again, a stalker hero and I do mean stalker. The “hero” is some sort of guardian angel to the heroine (only not) and he actually has listened via wiretap to virtually ever conversation she has ever had. He and his sister even wire her dorm room. And because he is her semi guardian angel, he follows her everywhere and watches her.
The heroine also half dates, half leads on another guy who actually gets hospitalized in order to protect her. But even worse that the elements of the story is that the writing isn’t as compelling. I suspect that the sales of this series is flagging (if you can measure interest based on the number of reviews and ratings as the Providence series is much lower rated and reviewed than BD). I think I read that McGuire is writing BD from Travis’ point of view, to which I thought, “how Midnight Sun of you, McGuire.”
@Author on Vacation
I do believe many people (like myself) can separate trashy, sensationalist characters in novels from real life examples of what we find healthy or comfortable (says the grown daughter of a rage-aholic dad.)
But I agree with the idea that innocent and inexperienced teens might read this and not understand it’s just sensationalist fodder, and that is unfortunate.
@Naomi: There’s a huge difference between “damaged” and “broken.” Damaged can be fixed with the right amount of support and love–if they want to change. Broken can’t be mended. From everything Jane had to say, this hero sounds like he’s broken. I also have very little tolerance for people who allow themselves to be used as it seems this heroine does.
This is definitely NOT the book for me.
Certainly there are many wonderful books that have introduced dysfunctional characters to the world. Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is a great example of this. Another poster mentionned “Wuthering Heights.” There have also been more recent examples featuring dysfunctional characters and their challenges. Stephen King’s “The Shining” offers a very deep character study of an emotionally fragile man struggling to overcome his alcoholism and his family history of alcoholism and domestic violence.
In the romance genre, though, these types of characters fall flat (IMHO.) It isn’t that dysfunctional people aren’t human and don’t experience love (although some of them don’t; they simply understand how to successfully imitate love and other emotions for the purpose of “fitting in” and manipulating others.) It isn’t that they can’t be “good” people or likeable and interesting.
I think what bothers me about the recent YA dysfunctional relationship craze is that the relationships are portrayed in a glamorous manner. Even the more negative aspects of relationships with people like this are glamorized and romanticized. I just don’t “buy” it because I’ve seen first-hand the kinds of damage these relationships do and the suffering they can provoke.
@Author on Vacation: I’ve read some romances with damaged characters who find redemption that work quite well. A Knight in Shining Armor. Highland Bride. Flowers from the Storm. The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie. All the Right Reasons. Once a Warrior. Yada, yada, yada… But as I said before, there’s an enormous difference between “damaged” and “broken.”
I pretty much agree with all you said Jane, only I would give it an A . Because the book was compelling, and I couldn’t put it down. Also, the genre is great : it’s YA, only with college-aged characters, which means plenty of sex scenes.
Yes!!! I’m not the only one who absolutely hated this book’s message despite is readability! Thank you, Jane! I’ve reviewed it few days ago and thought that it’s exactly the type of boyfriend who is every mother’s worst nightmare. They are not only both horrible and don’t really want t change, they get married! All I could see in their future is abuse, early pregnancy, and jail for one or both of them. It would have been very different if the author was willing to let them go separate ways and reunite in 10 years after growing up and learning from their mistakes, but at this point of their life? The HEA is improbable, and this is the worst part, because it’s so close to reality, you can not for the life of you suspend your disbelief…
@Elizabeth Raines: Oh, I totally agree on the damaged/broken thing! And I have to admit, before I read McGuire’s rant, I might have agreed with her that issues like this are worth exploring in fiction. But it’s all a matter of how it’s handled, and it sounds like this is handled badly. Personally I don’t feel comfortable with the free pass it sounds like Travis gets in this book, and Abby sounds like an enabler for seriously unhealthy behaviour. None of it sits right with me.
Also, this review allows me to point out what sometimes bothers me here at DA :
– Review says book is decent or not, but makes bad portrayal of women/gay people/foreign people etc.
– Tons of comments saying “bashing women/gay people/ foreign people is bad” without having read the book and thus providing their opinion not on the book itself, but on the issue. Which I think is not really the main objective of comments to a book review.
I disagree wholly.
I’ve been keeping a close eye out on the comments because I’m interested in what people have to say about the story. Having somewhat of an anger management problem in my youth, I found the entire topic fascinating.
What the commenters have been saying almost exclusively is not that they mind the broken/damaged story line, nor do they dislike the characters because they are essentially bad people. The commenters and the reviewer have stated is that they find the ending implausible and that the characters do not grow or change, which ultimately should have been the result in order to earn their HEA. That is a discussion of the book is it not? If a book, “itself” is written about a subject which romance readers would find objectionable – such as a violent character who has no redemption in the end and an enabling girlfriend/protagonist – I think that serves to discuss the book in relation to the issues. Which is exactly what has been commented on.
You can create homophobic characters or violent characters or weak heroines, but what some of the commenters are saying is that they will not purchase a book in which one, or more, of those characters do not become enlightened or learn to control their anger, or gain strength through their adversity. Therefore, they’re not interested in reading the book, and they can say, without reading the book, that they dislike that entire premise.
I’ll put it in simpler terms which relate to me, a reader. I want to know about things like violent characters and heroines who enable, I want to know about stalker characters and I most certainly want to know about homophobic characters in a book.. I might still read a book that has those characters, but not if I find out that they accept those behaviors and are the heroines/heroes of the book. It’s reviews like this which keep my Kindle from being thrown across the room in disgust and costing me the $199. That’s why I read DA reviews.
Sorry for the longwindedness. I’ve been up all night and at this point I have no idea if I make sense whatsoever. I just use big words and hope for the best.
@Elizabeth Raines: Actually I would take the view that the hero was damaged, not broken. Thats actually the disappointing thing about this book. If a few different decisions had been made you might have seen the hero grow past some of these behaviours. And the heroine is no better, actually toward the end of the book it seems as though she is dragging him down to an even lower level. I think the set up in the first half of the book is great. I just wish the second half had taken an entirely different approach
@Jane: whoa. Thats quite a lot of crazy. Glad to have not spent my money.
I love this book!! It’s crazy but I find myself rereading parts of it. I think what works for me is that it is so over the top. Yeah I’d run far far far from Travis in real life and council Abby to remove herself from his orbit. But it’s a romance novel and I feel safe enough to believe that Travis would never turn on Abby and that all will work out well and happy for them.
I can’t wait to read Travis’ brother’s book!!
Both @Junne and @nearhere bring up points that show exactly why such a book like this is so popular. Not because it’s anything special but because of the thrills it offers. It doesn’t seem to matter the bad message of the book – that one said she’d run far from Travis in real life but just the fact it is thrilling and “has plenty of sex scenes.” Yeah, those selling points haven’t made me want to read this book. And if the author is writing the story from Travis’ POV, well, that just sounds scary to me but I suspect it will do just as well too. Someone above said it’s like a wreck – we can’t look away as we are driving past; however, some will stay to watch the whole thing play out. Kinda like I’m doing here. :-D Well, except, for reading the book.
I’ve noticed that at DA too, although I still read here. I especially find the links interesting, but the reviews often aren’t helpful to me since I’m not that concerned about feminism or gender issues or a lot of what is emphasized here in the context of romance novels. I just want a good escapist book and I tend not to analyze anything except “Does this book make me want to keep turning pages?”
But at the same time I understand that issues like that can completely ruin a book for other people. So I guess each book blog serves a purpose for those who read there.
@Ros: I feel the same way about the importance of reading in learning how to deal with the world – I know that the books I read as a teen really influenced me and my world view. But not all of them. I read a lot of great books, but I also read a lot of crap (ok maybe Flowers in the Attic wasn’t meant to be YA, but I read it in junior high or high school and that was an awful, dark book) – and somehow I managed to filter the crap out or at least not take it to heart. I don’t really worry about a teen reading this book, as long as they’re reading other things too – and there are a lot of YA choices out there. I don’t read much YA now, but I know that there are certainly more good YA books about gbltq issues than there were in the 80s. And I have to trust that the good YA stuff will out weigh the dark, abusive stuff.
What you say makes sense, but this is perhaps the easier of two issues to be addressed. If a reviewer or poster says “I didn’t like that novel because its main characters are homophobic” the reader knows why the book is being rejected and can decide for herself whether or not to read it.
On the other hand, sometimes novels are criticized (or praised) for supposedly aesthetic reasons when it is clear that the reviewer’s opinion is based largely on moral or political concerns. I have noticed that novels in which heroines make “traditionalist” choices – deciding to be a SAHM, for example – usually receive negative reviews at this site. (Conversely, books featuring virgin heroes usually receive a warm response). See, for instance, the recent discussion of Pamela Clare’s Breaking Point on this and several other Romance websites. Several critics described the heroine’s decision to leave her job as inexplicable, as though a decision to be a SAHM needs some special justification. It seemed obvious to me that the main objection was to the content of the heroine’s decision rather than to Clare’s plotting. The thread on epilogues featured many comments from posters who objected to the baby-filled postscripts to many novels. It’s one thing to say “I don’t like this trope” but these epilogues were panned as though they represented some sort of artistic flaw. Conversely, the epilogue in Sherry Thomas’s Not Quite A Husband was praised precisely because it revealed that the hero and heroine did not have any children.
A reader’s reaction to a novel is an intensely personal experience, and this is perhaps even more true of romance novels than of those belonging to other genres. While reviewers and readers are free to like or dislike any trope, I find reviews much more rewarding when such views are distinguished from statements of artistic merit. It is often difficult to make a clear distinction between the two, but it’s certainly worth trying to do so.
@ chris booklover
“Several critics described the heroine’s decision to leave her job as inexplicable, as though a decision to be a SAHM needs some special justification. It seemed obvious to me that the main objection was to the content of the heroine’s decision rather than to Clare’s plotting. The thread on epilogues featured many comments from posters who objected to the baby-filled postscripts to many novels. It’s one thing to say “I don’t like this trope” but these epilogues were panned as though they represented some sort of artistic flaw. Conversely, the epilogue in Sherry Thomas’s Not Quite A Husband was praised precisely because it revealed that the hero and heroine did not have any children.”
“While reviewers and readers are free to like or dislike any trope, I find reviews much more rewarding when such views are distinguished from statements of artistic merit. It is often difficult to make a clear distinction between the two, but it’s certainly worth trying to do so.”
I’m not sure it’s possible to disentangle content from artistic merit–because content is an artistic choice. The examples you cite are predominantly about readers dissatisfied with the way a book ends. I work on the side of content creation, and when an ending doesn’t work, the first question we ask is: was it earned? Did the author do the work necessary to make this ending convincing? Earned endings are often related to character arc–if the character didn’t grow or change sufficiently during the story, often the happy or victorious ending doesn’t feel authentic. If readers were only responding to the SAHM ending or the baby ending, then they would pan every book that ended that way–but they don’t–they only pan the ones that feel inauthentic. In the case of the book being reviewed here, a number of readers have cited a lack of growth or character arc for the hero. They aren’t saying they don’t want to read about flawed characters–but they are saying they don’t want to read about flawed characters who don’t change. Stasis is boring. It’s why an action movie can be filled with gun fights and car chases and still fail to engage the audience–if the protagonist doesn’t change/learn/grow, then all that ruckus is only so much noise.
That makes sense. But “inauthentic” can also vary based on who’s reading. What feels authentic to one reader may feel inauthentic to another based on personal ideals and biases.
Which is fine, of course! As long as reviewers are stating the whys and hows of the rating they give (and I find they do that on here very well), I’ve found it pretty easy to judge if it’s a book for me or not.
I agree that it can be difficult to distinguish between content and artistic merit. That is one of the points made in my last paragraph, although I should perhaps have discussed it in more detail. My issue with respect to the Pamela Clare novel is that, having read threads in three different forums, I was not persuaded that most of the objections to the ending were based on artistic merit rather than on the content of the heroine’s choice. I realize that other people will disagree with me on this. :)
The more general concern is that this is far from an isolated example, because I observed a distinct pattern. Novels in which heroines make “traditionalist” choices – deciding to be a SAHM, for example – usually receive negative reviews, while those described as featuring “role reversals of conventional stereotypes” are much more favorably received. It’s extremely unlikely that the artistic merits of various books would line up quite so neatly with the sex/gender roles depicted in them.
Again, if a reviewer or poster says “this trope does/does not appeal to me” that’s great, because it provides valuable information. The reader may or may not decide to go ahead and read the novel, depending on whether or not she shares the reviewer’s tastes. But if someone says that a book was badly plotted or showed inadequate character development, and it turns out that the reviewer is reacting primarily to the presence of unwelcome tropes, that review is less helpful. YMMV, of course.
My issue with the Pamela Clare books is that all of her heroines get the same HEA. It tells more about the author’s preferences than the characters’, in my opinion. Why do all of them rush straight into having babies? Why do they all have natural homebirths? Why can’t she finish one of her romantic suspense books without an epilogue where everyone’s painting picket fences and playing with babies?
I think that it’s more about frustration with the overall mindset of the series. If one or two heroines had that HEA, fine, even though it’s not for me. But this is a romantic suspense series, not one of Harlequin’s inspirational romance books, and the endings don’t fit with the main stories as far as I’m concerned.
I definitely see what you’re saying, and have felt the same way about discussions here a few times before. But I do think this book had some major issues. It is marketed at young readers, and it makes it seem romantic that a guy would bash the crap out of someone because he “loves” you so much.
However I think plenty of YA these days fails to present healthy relationships – just look at Twilight! I DID read this book before commenting on it, and my biggest issues were with the atrocious plotting – the book was overly long for the story it had to tell, resulting in bogus plot directions (what in the world was all of that gambling about?!). I hated Abby and found her no better than Travis. The writing was mediocre. The ending was stupid – these people are FAR too immature for marriage, and a quickie wedding certainly wasn’t needed for a satisfactory end to the book.
@chris booklover: You’re completely misinterpreting the “babylogue” discussion. Those of us who disliked them have nothing against SAHM epilogues in general. We only object to those where the epilogue seemed dislocated from the rest of the book.
Most of us who comment here loved Mayberry’s “Best-Laid Plans,” which has an epilogue showing the happily pregnant heroine being fussed over by a smitten hero. Why? Because the characters’ desire to start a family was an integral part of the book’s conflict. Having them get pregnant ties up their character arc.
By contrast, the babylogue endings to the Clare books come straight outta nowhere. They’re all about career women dedicated to their high-octane jobs resolving some sort of high-stakes mystery who suddenly end up barefoot and pregnant in the last 1% of the book. Wanting a family or a saner work schedule never came up in the previous 99%, leaving the reader with the impression that having babies reflects the author’s ideas of happiness moreso than it reflects the characters’ ideas.
I am all about the heroine getting to quit her job and raise a platoon of children if the story establishes that this is what she wants. A general assumption that women want children or that babies = HEA gives me whiplash.
I am so heartbroken and astounded by the venom that authors feel it is ok to unleash on reviewers. So far – as others have said – the reviewers in question have been adults. What happens when it’s a minor?
After seeing some of the discussion of the author’s behavior following a few reviews, I trotted off to purchase it. HAD to know what the stink was about.
Honestly? The negative reviews I’ve seen have been ALL TOO KIND. It isn’t even simply about the absolute lack of logic. It’s not about the positively irrational relationships.
This book was structurally jacked UP. There were incredibly sloppy errors with language. Mixed metaphors. Plot jerks–sudden changes and lurching transitions. Even some straight-up errors.
As for the secondary issue of reviewers getting blasted– I really wish authors would accept the cold, hard truth about their job description. Readers DO HAVE MORE OF A RIGHT TO SPEAK ABOUT YOUR BOOK. They purchased your work. They OWN it now, and YOU (as its creator) have the responsibility to stand behind the product. The place to speak was on the page.
Anyway– bad book. BAAAAD. This review as WAY too kind.
So, with all the kerfuffle I caved in and bought this one. Hey I had to see what Twilight was all about too. I am at about 20% of the story and already agree with your review Jane, I think book is compulsively readable, stilted dialogue, typos and all that, and yes Travis scares the crap out of me. I totally see why it is so popular though – the ultimate fantasy to see the “bad boy” changing and all that, although as I said I am only at 20% of the story, so we shall see what I think at the end. One thing for sure, I have no intention to stop, if nothing else, author sucked me in very effectively.
At probably 40 percent of the story this book is shaping up to be a DNF for me :(. I cant deal with Travis any more.
People keep recommending this book to me but after reading your review I don’t think I will.
It sounds pretty unbelievable all around and Abby sonds like she would drive me up the wall. *shakes head*
I thought this was one of the most horrifying YA books I’ve ever read. Smart kids who rather than focus on a real life future drink terrifying amounts–if Abby weighs 135, fifteen shots of tequila in a night could kill her–, are wildly violent, and, get married at nineteen because it’s the only way the guy will feel secure. If a friend of mine was in Abby’s and Travis’s relationship, I would be so frightened for her. I also thought the book was poorly written, glorified easy money, and, in general, promulgated a view of young love that’s downright disgusting (true love is holding back your girlfriend’s hair as she vomits because she drank 15 shots on a bet.) Ugh.
This is Jamie McGuire’s Book. She can write about whatever she wants, however she wants. Fact is, stuff like this happens in real life all the time, not everything is perfect. I loved the story, it was different than anything else I’ve read and not only did I enjoy it, tons of other people did as well. Also,it is NOT a young adult book, it’s listed as 18 and above and I see several people saying otherwise. Everyone has the right to their own opinion, of course, but I think that it’s rediculous that because of this review people have decided not to “waste their time” with it. As if they don’t have a mind of their own and are only following opinions of one review. I didn’t realize that was what reading was all about. I think Jamie is very talented, I love all her books and even if I didn’t I think it’s wrong to trying and give people a bad reputation by trying to analize what they write. To each their own.
I read this book and I absolutly loved it. It was real. It showed that not everything is a fairytale and people that make mistakes can be forgiven. It shows that your relationships wont always be perfect and that somtimes you just have to trust the person you love. Travis Maddox had issues, he had anger problems and he drank to much. He loved Abby with all he had though and somtimes love makes you do crazy things. Abby and Travis both had issues. Their relationship wasnt perfect and they were both damaged. Travis did what he felt was right. He didnt get a free pass. He got forgiven by the woman who loved him. This book did have mistakes and maybe wasnt realistic in some parts, but it changed the was I thought about alot of things. And I not now nothing is perfect and somthings take time but if you love somone you have all the time in the world.
I loved this book. Couldn’t stop reading it the second I started and read it again the same week. Books aren’t always supposed to be realistic or completely true to the way our society sees as normal. Something about this book made me get completely caught up in the whole thing that I almost felt envious of the life the characters loved. I don’t know maybe ita just me but the passion throughout jumped right off the pages. Oh well everyone is entitled to an opinion I guess!
Contrarily to what most of you seem to think, I think that Travis is very misunderstood. He does the wrong things for the right reasons. For instance, in this scene with Chris, in Travis’ mind he is defending a girl he loves. I think many of you simply couldn’t look past his flaws to make a connection with him and I mean no offense by that because everybody has their own opinions and their own reading methods. It’s hard to understand Travis because of his obvious problems, but underneath he really is a good guy. Like I said, wrong things for the right reasons.
But on the other hand, Abby wasn’t developed enough. There was way too little attention paid to her “past” to make any of its resurfacing dramatic or emotionally affective. The author spends so long touching on the fact that she has a bad past, but we never see any of it until the other storylines have taken the driver’s seat. And when it does resurface, it is so brief and insignificant that it’s hard to sympathize because we didn’t get to connect with it. Abby is a simple example of an underdeveloped character. She spends so much time dissecting Travis and everyone else that when her own personality shows and she makes decisions, it’s hard to back her because we can’t see if that’s really something she would do or if it’s just in the heat of the moment.
But I did really love this book. Typos are distracting, yes, but I think if all you can see when you look at a book is the words on the page and not the meaning under them, you’re not going to connect properly anyways.
I completely agree with you. You read a book because it appeals to you not because somebody gave it a good review. There are millions of excellent books that don’t get the attention they deserve because of things like this. Nobody should choose what they’re going to read based on a review; that is absolutely ludicrious. Use your own brains.
No offense but I think that’s part of the point. Abby’s in college. For her, true love isn’t a guy who’s going to try and steer her in the right direction like Parker. She’s her own person. So Travis holding her hair back while she throws up is a big deal to her. She’s a young girl in young love. That’s how it goes.
But I do agree with your previous comment. 15 shots in a night is unrealistic…not to mention the fact that she’s probably a small girl since Travis is carrying her around all the time and is attracted to her in the first place. I love him, but in the beginning he’s a shallow guy. I doubt he would look at Abby twice if she was a heavy girl. So yeah, 15 shots, yeah right.
I read this book twice and loved it both times. It’s fantasy so it’s suppose to be daring, romantic, and maybe unrealistic or unhealthy. Thats the point of reading a book like this. To escape into a life you may not currently have and may be curious about. I hope a sequel is written.
I quit Twilight about 150 pages in – boring teenage angst. I tried to read this book – got so bored by about 1/2 way through I put it down and am not sure I’ll ever finish. Travis is a complete psychopath – he’s not “misunderstood” – he’s a walking time bomb who will one day kill someone and end up in jail, where he belongs. Beating guys bloody is not romantic or sweet or loving – it’s certifiable behavior that should have landed him in jail by now (and how immature and shallow was Abby for encouraging this?). I found, (I know I quit early but I read enough and have read so many reveiws/discussions I feel ok talking about it) the characters, dialogue, plot points (like someone said – a college cafeteria w/a sing along? dorm showers broken for days? ) ridiculous (and hated when he called her “Pidge” – almost ruins Lady and the Tramp for me!).
All that said, to each her own – love it or hate it. What shocks me is that DA gave this book a C grade, but so many other books that I’ve loved – Reluctant Dom, Perfection, to name 2 – got a D or F grade!
Thank you for your review! I am shocked by the number of positive reviews that have overlooked and/or glorified the extremely unhealthy relationship portrayed in this novel. The character of Travis made Edward from Twilight look like a feminist.
I’m giving this book a F. Unfortunately I wasted time and actually finished it. It is the last time that I grab a book and buy it just because the cover is a little different. I wished I had known that it was YA – it shouldn’t be allowed in the grown-up section!!
Why are these needy relationships so liked? First Bella and Edward, and then this crap? I was sure that it was going to have a “Ten years later” Chapter where they had split up, matured, gotten over the angst and anger, and two mature adults would have a story. Instead it ends with a teen marriage and two codepedent characters who I couldn’t stand.