Book Review: Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire (New Adult Book #4)
This is going to be the longest review ever, assuming you continue reading through the spoilers. You have been warned.
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.
Question: What do you do when you’re writing a romance novel and the main characters are together and happy less than halfway through the book?
Answer: Come up with the most ridiculous plot twists ever to keep them apart, plot twists that are just as ridiculous as those used to get them together.
This book had a lot of potential. The writing is clear. The characters have the potential to be really interesting. The good girl/bad guy storyline has been done repeatedly, of course, but if done well it’s a cliché that I like. I like reading about guys who find “the one” and eventually grow/mature and end up in a relationship with the girl. I like flawed main characters who don’t always do the right thing but are sympathetic anyway.
That wasn’t true with this book. Travis could have been that sympathetic MMC – he’s a fighter who’s covered in tattoos, he’s never been in a relationship, and he’s troubled by the fact that his mother died when he was a small child – but he’s just not. He’s creepy. I get what the author was trying to do, but I think she failed, at least in my opinion. Travis is extremely violent, especially when drunk. He’s a stalker. He’s controlling. We’re supposed to think he’s sweet, but really he’s terrifying.
And then there’s Abby, the FMC. She’s completely ridiculous. Her back story comes into play halfway through the novel, and it would have been nice to see some of it before she does something stupid. Maybe she would have been more sympathetic in the beginning had we known more about her. Of course, even after I learn about her background, I still don’t like her. She makes ridiculous choices on a regular basis. She’s selfish and stupid.
America and Shepley, the best friends/couple, aren’t much better. Actually, Shepley seems like a decent character, though we hardly ever get to see him. America’s just as ridiculous as Abby. Also, there’s this idea that the girls who sleep with Travis are all whores and sluts, but we’re supposed to like Travis. Obviously he’s supposed to “see the error of his ways,” but I still don’t like the double standard. Really, there are no female characters in this book that we’re supposed to like other than Abby and America. The rest of the girls were just “sluts and whores,” which I didn’t appreciate.
And then, of course, we have the entire storyline, which is just as ridiculous as the characters. In order to fully explain how ridiculous this book is, though, I’m going to have to mention some spoilers. If you don’t want to know what happens, stop reading now. If you don’t care about spoilers, please continue.
1) The Bet.
Travis makes money by fighting, and he says that guys only ever hit him when he lets them. Abby doesn’t believe him, so they make a bet. If the other guy hits Travis, he has to go a month without sex. If, however, Travis can fight without letting the other guy touch him, Abby has to stay in his apartment for a month. Of course Abby loses and has to stay with Travis. But that’s not all. She doesn’t just stay in the apartment. She stays in his room. In his bed. With him. You know, like all girls would do if put in that situation. And let’s not forget the fact that she starts dating another guy WHILE SHE IS SPENDING EVERY NIGHT IN TRAVIS’S BED. Um, really?
2) The Violence.
As I already mentioned, Travis is really violent and controlling. He doesn’t let Abby date other people before they’re dating, at least not really. He doesn’t let her dance with other guys after they’ve broken up. When Abby leaves him, he trashes his apartment, throwing a stereo across the room, punching a mirror, and knocking a door off its hinges. He gets drunk all the time, and gets extremely mad whenever another guy talks to Abby. He smashes his phone into pieces so that he won’t call Abby. He beats the crap out of guys for saying they want to have sex with Abby. He storms into her dorm room and pounds on her door in the middle of the night. He says he’d go to prison if he ever found out that she had sex with another guy (and they weren’t even dating at the time). I could have dealt with all of these things if this had been a story about abusive relationships. I might even have been able to deal with it if it had been acknowledged at all. BUT IT NEVER WAS. This was all considered perfectly normal behavior. Which it’s not.
3) The Confessions.
As soon as they have sex, Travis starts talking about how much he loves Abby and wants to be with her forever and how he wants to put a ring on her finger some day. I’m sorry, but what guy speaks like that? Let me clarify – what reformed womanizer would speak like that after having known a girl for a few months at the most? I could maybe see this happening at the end of the novel, after they’ve slowly fallen in love or something, but not so soon into the book. It’s just so unrealistic.
4) The Breakups (Abby and Travis)
They finally have sex, and Travis admits that he loves her. So, of course, Abby breaks up with him. This is where knowing about her father might have come in handy earlier. It’s stupid, as this whole time she’s been wanting to date him, but I could have dealt with it if this was the only thing. But this happens before page 140. There needs to be something else to keep them apart. So why do they break up next? Because he agrees to fight for a mobster in Vegas, and Abby doesn’t want him to. He doesn’t listen, so they break up. He turns down the mobster, fixing the problem, and they stay broken up. Then she spends Thanksgiving with Travis, wants to get back together, but doesn’t because Travis said he would stop pursuing her. She takes that to mean that he doesn’t want to be with her anymore, which is ridiculous because he freaking said that he just wanted her to be happy, that he was going to stop pursuing her because he thought that was what he wanted. I have the most oblivious boyfriend in the world, and even he could understand. I don’t for one second believe that Abby wouldn’t. McGuire just wanted another reason to keep them apart.
5) The Breakup (America and Shepley)
After Abby breaks up with Travis (for the second time), he goes back to sleeping with random women. Abby gets upset (even though it’s her fault). Shepley defends Travis, pointing out the logical fact that “They’re broken up; he’s just trying to move on,” and so America breaks up with him for several months. Maybe there are people this stupid out there, but if so they’re not worth reading about. I mean, really? Have I mentioned that Travis is Shepley’s cousin and Shepley warned Abby not to sleep with Travis because it would mess up his and America’s relationship? No one listened to him. But now he lost his girlfriend for several months. It was just stupid.
6) The Illogicalness (well, the others, at least)
a. She’s sleeping with Travis in his bed but is dating Parker – and Parker is okay with that. Then there’s a “date party” at the frat house, and she can’t go with Parker because she already promised to go with Travis. So she goes with the guy she’s sharing a bed with, not the guy she’s dating.
b. After she and Travis break up, she and her gay friend have to go to the date party together because America “can’t go alone,” even though she’s going with her boyfriend. It’s stupid.
c. She’s about to have sex with Travis, realizes they don’t have condoms, and does the math in her head to determine that it’s “safe” to have unprotected sex. Yes, because every 19 year old knows when she’s ovulating. Maybe other people know this information, but it just seemed ridiculous to me.
d. Her ex runs a Vegas hotel, knows that she’s underage, and lets her stay until midnight only if she agrees to go to dinner with him the next day. Instead of going to a different casino, she agrees. She’s even thankful and understanding because “he did everything he could” by letting her stay until midnight. Um, no. He didn’t have to tell anyone that he knew she was underage. He could have let her stay until she had enough money to pay the mobster back.
e. And speaking of mobsters – she’s 5k short what her dad owes the guy, but she goes to the guy anyway even though a) she still has another day before the deadline and b) she knows this guy doesn’t take partial payments. The only reason that happened was so that the mob guy could see Travis fight and offer him the job that would destroy their relationship (again).
f. Ethan, the sexual predator, talked to her for like 10 minutes several months ago. So of course, when she runs into him again at a crowded fight, he would not only recognize her but remember the way that night ended. Because rapists are really sentimental like that.
g. Abby almost gets raped at the fight, so of course Travis insists that she still go with him to fights. He’s so controlling about everything else that his requiring her to go with him (albeit with male protection) is out of character.
h. Abby says that she has “literally gone through hell and back.” Um, no. Dante went through hell and back. Abby didn’t. Small point, but it was at the end of the already irritating book, and I had to mention it.
7) The Ending.
While they’re broken up, Travis throws her over his shoulder to keep her from dancing with another guy. She’s screaming that she doesn’t want to go with him, but the designated driver still takes her to Travis’s apartment because Travis threatened to hurt him if he didn’t. And, of course, he doesn’t call the cops or anything. He just takes them. And, of course, Abby’s reaction to this scene? Get mad at first and then kiss him and have sex with him and get back together. Oh, and then she asks him to marry her. And he just happens to have a ring. There might have been time in between the sex and the marriage, but still – it’s ridiculous.
Overall: This was a horrible book. I ranked it as high as I did because it eventually got funny how bad it was, and I enjoyed reading it simply because I liked laughing at its ridiculousness. This novel could have been good. Jamie McGuire is good at putting words on the page; I just wish that the story the words formed was better. This novel reads like the outline was written by a 12 year old and an adult wrote the novel based on the outline. If you enjoy reading horrible books and laughing at them, you might enjoy this. If you enjoy books with violent/controlling male love interests, you’ll definitely like this book. If you only like quality books, though, I wouldn’t recommend this one.