Beautiful Disaster- by Jamie McGuire

Title: Beautiful Disaster

Author: Jamie McGuire

Rating: 3/10 & 10/10*(What this means)

Publication: 2011

Recommendation: CONFLICTED! 50/50- Read/Don’t read. Very dependent on individual readers. Written for mature young adults and older. Sexual content/ Language/ Alcohol Use/ Disturbing Situations. (If your name is Rindi Salensky you will love it.)

My Reading Method: Kindle Book (currently it is only $2.99 through Amazon.)

From Goodreads:

“The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate percentage of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance between her and the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend America, 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 charming college co-ed. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his charms, 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’ apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.”

***WARNING- MY REVIEWS OFTEN CONTAIN MILD SPOILERS! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!!***

Prepare yourselves… this is going to be messy.

This review is very difficult to write because I had such a STONG love/hate relationship with Beautiful Disaster. About 70% of what happens is absolutely horrifying. The depicted relationship is- quite frankly- extremely unhealthy at times. BUT, that being said, it was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I couldn’t look away. I was engrossed. It pulled emotions from me that I have not felt while reading in a long, long, long time- both negative and positive, but the fact that it made me feel anything is quite an accomplishment.

First, I’m going to talk about the negative aspects of BD- and there are several. If I was rating this on how much I APPROVE of the behavior depicted, I would only give it 3/10. The relationship between Travis and Abby is TOXIC. Travis is a broken, completely screwed up human being and Abby is a complete idiot for putting up with (and occasionally encouraging) him.

*AGAIN, WARNING YOU ABOUT SPOILERS, YOU MIGHT NOT CONSIDER THESE TO BE MILD!*

Travis is the ‘unattainable’ guy every girl wants- though I do not fully understand the ‘projected’ (what the author is telling me is attractive/ while all the girls are enraptured) appeal. His most notable characteristics are that (other than being incredibly attractive/ muscular/ charming, of course) he is very tattooed and scary (he competes in a Fight Club type arena called The Circle. He doesn’t lose). Girls are literally throwing themselves at him in every chapter. He ‘bags’ them on his couch (not in his bed, he makes a very clear distinction that they aren’t allowed in his bed) then never calls them back. (Ummm…. Degrading much??) His character does tend to grow on you over time and in the end it’s the girls he ‘bags’ that look bad.

Abby, on the other hand, is fairly normal-ish with a non-traditional past. She first meets Travis at The Circle, but he just happens to be cousins and roommates with the boy Abby’s best friend is dating. Convenient, right? He quickly renames her Pigeon/Pidge (which I found to be incredibly annoying and horrible/terrible sounding). Even though this story focuses on Travis as the ‘bad boy’ I found that Abby irritated me more. She never seemed to make up her mind about what she wanted and in the end managed to jerk around with the guys’ feelings.

I would also like to note, part of the reason I’m going to be so hard on Abby through this review is because it is from her POV. We know Trav is a jerk, but we can’t see inside his head so I can neither fully understand him or condemn/justify his actions.

However, while the relationship is sometimes boarding on abusive and Travis has control issues, (at one point she dresses a little too ‘scandalous’ for his taste and tells her to change- and she DOES IT! All because he won’t be able to concentrate if he is wondering who is looking at her (etc.) in a low cut tank top and heels!!!) he does tend to change over time and I found myself forgiving him. At least, he starts to realize his behaviors are not acceptable and stops specific demands. Abby, on the other hand, kept jumping back and forth between whether or not she was OK with Trav’s actions. So I can’t exactly say it is 100% his fault. During one point Abby tells Travis she doesn’t want him to change for her (stop fighting/drinking/etc- wasn’t particularly clear) and actually tells him to ‘teach a guy some manners’ (remember, he’s this big bad fighter) but then gets frustrated with him later on for a similar thing!!

So while Travis is a dick, he at least stuck to what he believed in. Abby had no idea how to be in a relationship and at times I wanted to strangle her for being completely clueless. She was all over the place and the reasons she gave for not wanting to be with Trav weren’t- what I considered- to be the right ones. (If she didn’t want to be with him, fine- I see lots of reasons why being with a guy like Trav is a horrible idea. He has a temper, sleeps around, has a scary job, drinks too much, lashes out, and is demanding. BUT THOSE AREN’T HER REASONS!!! She has a ‘past’ which pushes him away for a huge part of the book. And I found it so so so infuriating.) In all, both characters struggled with accepting one another (including faults) and had no idea how to compromise.

Additionally, Travis’s temper was terrifying. I think I need to say that again. Seriously, he could use some counseling and/or medication with a support group on the side. This is the one area where I got a little turned off with the book. Sure, a person has a right to be mad but to be completely out of control (which results in the destruction of your apartment or phone) IS ABSOLUTELY NOT OK.

ISSUES that ticked me off:

One random stereotypes that annoyed me- all sorority girls are skanky bitches. So why then is there no stereotype for the fraternity brothers (in which Trav is a member)? This book is rather full of double standards. (Additionally, it’s OK for Travis to take girls home but he gets weirdly possessive when Abby flirts with a guy.) Also, the majority of girls are depicted negatively. Girls fall into one of three categories:

1) The majority- they want to/have already slept with Travis and are portrayed as ‘slutty’. This is said to be at least half the female population at the University… (I’m sorry, but that makes girls look sooooo stupid! I get so frustrated with authors who make all the other characters look awful to make the heroine look good. Why can’t I decide for myself? And really, I went to college- there was NEVER any guy that slept with the majority of girls. You know why? Because girls aren’t dumb! These are college girls! Sure, some girls have active sex lives and that’s fine- whatever- but for the most part females go to college for an education= they are in possession of a brain. Ugh!)

2) ONE GIRL, Kara, the roommate, disapproves of the relationship and is sort-of a bitch because of her condemnation. I actually liked Kara. She had a brain. At one point she talks about co-dependency issues and Abby basically brushes her off and belittles what she said to Travis. I also felt a little sorry for Kara because she had such a horrible roommate. I would have been friends with Kara.

3) One girl, the bestfriend- America (Mere), immune to Trav’s charms because she is dating his cousin and alternates between wanting Abby to date him and wanting her to date Parker. While I liked Mere for the most part, she annoyed me because she first wanted Abby to date Travis, then changed her mind and encouraged her with Parker, and proceeded to get a little mad at Abby when she wasn’t going to date Trav and wanted Parker. Grrr. Did that sound confusing? Because it was.

One thing I will caution- only read this book if you have a REAL understanding of a healthy relationship. I worry about young girls reading this and thinking Trav’s behavior is attractive. Additionally, I also hope guys aren’t reading this and thinking this is what girls like.

Things I feel the need to say:

It is ONLY acceptable for a man to tell you what to wear if he is your father and you are under the age of eighteen.

Physical violence is ONLY ok if you are defending yourself or others.

IT IS NOT rational to sleep with someone with the hope that they lose interest in you.

Do NOT drive your car or motorcycle drunk. (Occasionally they have DDs, but I wanted to throw this out there.)

Unprotected sex is a bad idea.

Losing your temper and hitting someone/throwing something/destroying property are not attractive qualities. At all.

Smoking is NOT attractive.

If you are uncomfortable in a situation- GET OUT. It does not matter if you made a promise, a bet, or think people will look down on you. Use your brain and follow your instincts. If something in your gut is screaming LEAVE, then please GO. No one is going to look after you better than you can look out for yourself.

Drinking fifteen shots of anything is a bad idea. You will not have a good time and end up completely wasted. Alcohol poisoning is a real thing.

Ok, so I hope I made my point. This was not a super healthy relationship. Only read this book if you agree with and understand all the points I made above.

Phew.

Now, on to why I liked this book…

Basically this book was like crack. I HAD to know what was happening. I couldn’t look away. I literally stayed up until 3am trying to finish BD because I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep if I didn’t know how it ended. I was obsessed.

While the characters are completely screwed up, I couldn’t help but feel for them. Jamie McGuire does such a good job at describing this world that I couldn’t help but feel like I was living in it. Seriously, for the majority of the book, my stomach was in knots. I was angry, sad, happy, nervous, and 100% rooting for Trav and Abby to get their act together while simultaneously wishing I could punch each of them in the face.

It has been a long, long, very long time since I have felt such strong emotions centered on a novel.

If I were to rate the book purely on the story being told (and not whether I approve) I would give it 10/10. It is that believable.

Now, let me clarify, I didn’t easily digest the entire storyline as plausible – especially the part about Vegas and the mob- but, hey, it’s fiction. (I didn’t BELIEVE Harry Potter was real, but I still BELIEVED in Harry Potter- if that makes any sense.) So, while I didn’t think everything was 100% physically possible, I still fell for it.

Part of the reason I liked the story so much is because the characters are flawed. For one thing, no relationship is perfect. In fact, this relationship was perhaps a little more destructive than what I can easily stomach while picturing a nineteen year old. However, it did seem real. Genuine.

There was no doubt in my mind that Travis was head over heels in love with Abby. Did he show it ‘properly’? Oh, hell no. But I believed it.

Overall, I LOVED reading this book. I was completely horrified by much of the content, but I LOVED the ride. I even loved Travis. I would never, ever, ever be with a guy like him, but that’s just a personal preference. I don’t think I could actually forgive him completely for his past. But as a character? He’s dynamic and non-traditional- and that makes a great story. I loved Abby a little less because I thought she jerked guys around a lot, but I still fully thought she was representative of someone who COULD be real. I wanted her to speak up. I wanted her to make decisions. I wanted her to get past her own history and do what was best for HER. So while I found her to be somewhat weak, I was still gripped to the pages wondering what would happen next.

Positive issues addressed:

1) Abby and Travis actually start out as legitimate friends. Which is awesome. No insta-attraction.

2) Grades/Homework are important.

3) Love conquers all.

Short little list, but that’s what I came up with when looking at overall ‘positive’ messages being sent.

So, what makes a good book? Do you have to agree with it? Does it need to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside? Or does it have to tell a story? Does it need to make you feel something? What about negative emotions?

Seriously- What makes a good book? I honestly want to know.

This is my struggle with this particular review. In the end I really can’t say for sure. I have no idea what makes a good book. I can’t particularly say I liked it, but at the same time I loved it. At times, I hated what was happening while concurrently feeling every emotion and hoping for the best. Beautiful Disaster is a rollercoaster ride.

In the end, I noticed that this book isn’t available at many libraries. I think that’s sad and hope more pick up this title. I hope libraries aren’t choosing to skip BD because of content. I think it tells a captivating story that might be important to someone.

However, while this book is centered on two young adult characters, this is Contemporary Fiction and not Young Adult Fiction. On Amazon, the book description clearly has a note saying, “**For mature readers. Contains sexual situation and strong language.**”

I don’t really want to encourage or discourage anyone from reading this book. Read a few more reviews, do your research and decide for yourself.

This review can also be found on my Goodreads Account.

I am attaching a few reviews that you should check out:

Modest review (3/5) Found on Amazon- “Intriguing and fulfilling” by Paddington6159

Negative Review (1/5) Found on Goodreads here.

Positive Review (5/5) Found on Goodreads here.

Phew!!-  That, dear readers, was the most difficult review I’ve written to date! But I must admit, I would read another book in this series if one existed. 🙂

Additionally, if you DO read the book, Ms. McGuire has added a short section from Travis’s POV. You can view this on her Facebook page.

She has this image in her post. I thought I would add it here, as well. No idea who he is but he sure it nice to look at. 🙂

I will also admit that I have purchased the first two books in her other series which has a paranormal aspect. I haven’t read them yet but I will review them when I get a chance!

Happy Reading!

(Um, if anyone ever wants to send me any ARC by Ms. McGuire I would not be opposed… just sayin.)

***UPDATE***

Wow, I must admit, I did not expect such a response to this review. (And none in the comments… interesting.)

Well, friends, I will be happy to clarify a few things that seem to be bothering you.

1) “Abuse”- I did say the depicted relationship is ‘sometimes bordering on abuse’ and I stand by that comment. While Travis never physically hurts Abby, he does manipulate her to an extent that I would say is extremely unhealthy. For example,(DO I NEED TO WARN YOU ABOUT SPOILERS AGAIN?) at one point in the story they (as a couple) go to a club. While there, another guy buys Abby a drink- even though she was clearly not flirting or asking for one. Travis flips out, yells at her, and throws the drink away. They have to leave the club because ‘Travis is in a pissy mood’. THEN as they’re leaving, another guy touches her arm to get her attention which completely sets Travis off and he punches the unsuspecting guy in the face. Because stranger-guy is holding on to Abby she ends up falling as well and getting hurt.

Yeah.

So you can read that in the context of ‘he loves her so much, he can’t stand any other guy touching her, it was an accident she got hurt.’ But, I think if you are honest with yourself you will see it as waaaaay unhealthy.

Now, let me explain why I harped on the ‘abuse’… Perhaps I glossed over it earlier, but I really don’t think it is a good idea for young girls to associate this with attractive/ desired behavior. Reason being- TRAVIS IS THE EXCEPTION- NOT THE RULE. If you find a guy that has a violent streak, sure, there is a chance he will see the light and love you forever without ever laying a hand on your pretty little head. HOWEVER, MANY GUYS WILL NOT. You can tell a lot about a guy in how he acts with other people. If he will happily hit a stranger, there is a good chance he will hit you, too. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But that is how he responds to negative situations- and at some point in the future the two of you will not agree on something… and what? He’ll hit you? He’ll hit the wall? He’ll go out and get drunk and hit a stranger?

Come on! It’s unhealthy!!

He would need professional help to overcome anger management issues!

BUT all that being said- it doesn’t become an issue in the book. Travis never hits Abby. He never degrades her. He’s almost rather sweet most of the time. HOWEVER, this is fiction. So it’s completely possible for someone like Trav to turn into a great boyfriend.

2) Let me clarify- YES! Read this book if nothing above completely offends you. You will be fine.

Again, I would read another book about Trav and Abby in a heartbeat if this was turned into a series. The story is really quite good.

One thought on “Beautiful Disaster- by Jamie McGuire

  1. I got a recommendation for this book via Twitter and the girl who told me about it said that it was just awesome and that Travis Maddox is her version of my Owen Armstrong (from Just Listen, aka my dream boyfriend). After your review, I think I’m definitely going to read it!

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