Ridley's Reviews > Beautiful Disaster

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
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Mar 25, 12

bookshelves: ebook, 2-star, read-2012, ya-romance, naughty-stick
Read from March 18 to 20, 2012

I can't really be bothered to write my usual style of review. I'm the last person on the planet to read it, so summarizing the plot just seems a waste of time. Instead, I'm going to skip straight to my criticism.

First off, if you don't like first person narration, this is not the book that will change your mind. It uses the device particularly poorly. Our narrator, the heroine, at times has too much insight into the minds of others and at other times has too little knowledge of her own mind. None of her personality comes through in the narration. She just describes what she and the people around her did, using a flat, emotionless sort of voice. It was like the story was written in third person then run through a find/replace to switch the pronouns. Abby thinks bizarre things like:
I looked down to my plate, letting the long strands of my caramel hair create a curtain between us.
and mangles grammar like:
Kara was reading ahead in her brand-new books, grimacing at America and I when we walked in.

Secondly, I think this early bit of characterization says it all about Travis:
He had tattoos on opposite sides of his chest, and black tribal art covering each of his bulging shoulders.
Since tribal tattoo = douchebag, the fact that he's a misogynist asshole didn't surprise me too much:
“I don’t promise anyone anything, Pidge. She didn’t stipulate a relationship before she spread eagle on my couch.”

I stared at the couch with revulsion. “She’s someone’s daughter, Travis. What if, down the line, someone treats your daughter like that?”

“My daughter better not drop her panties for some jackass she just met, let’s put it that way.”
Nice sex negative message there, don't you think? Abby the virgin is a good girl. All of Travis' past one night stands are referred to as "sluts," "bimbos," "whores" and "Barbie dolls." Abby joins right in with Travis on the slut shaming, making it plain that the sexual double standard isn't just a character flaw of Travis', it's an assumption that drives the narrative. Women who enjoy sex are dirty sluts who don't deserve respect in this story's world, and that's some sad internalized misogyny.

Next up is how Travis is a textbook abuser archetype. He never hits Abby or any other woman in the book, but he exhibits every quality present in your average domestic abuser. He has a violent temper when he doesn't get his way:
“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!”
He's possessive, even after Abby's broken up with him:
“I love you. I can’t let other guys dance with you.”
He's quick to violence when he feels he's been insulted:
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.
And, most importantly, he sees nothing wrong with his behavior. I'm not a sheltered delicate flower. I'm a hockey fan who has been in her fair share of scraps over the years. I don't think a violent temper necessarily makes someone a predator. What makes Travis a predator, to my mind, is how his violent attacks on people outside the fight ring aren't treated as a personality flaw. These actions are not only not condemned by the characters or narrative, they're actually held up as examples of his love for and devotion to Abby. Viciously bloodying an innocent bystander's nose is treated as a heroic act.

All that said, had this book ended at its halfway point, I think I would have begrudgingly given it 4* for being a cracktastic trip back to college to stroll down Bad Life Decisions Lane. It encapsulated the self-centered, impulsive, emotional and dramatic whirlwind that is young adulthood in a way adult contemporary romance does not. I know, as someone who graduated from college more than a decade ago, that Travis is bad news and that Abby's a head case, but college is the time for bad behavior. I would've liked an indication from the narrative that they were all screwed up and/or getting away with something, but it was seductive to go back to a time where you didn't know any better and you felt free to take crazy risks.

Unfortunately, the author seems to have been unable to part with her characters and spent the second half writing her own fan fiction where Abby and Travis have Adventures! and break up and make up along the way. There's a beyond bizarre trip to Vegas that comes out of fucking nowhere. Abby's father is pointlessly introduced and forgotten about in an abrupt fashion. There's a throwaway sub-plot involving a mobster and a brush with death just to seal the deal. Where the first half of the book follows a nice dramatic arc, the second half is a half-witted sine wave shamelessly stalling the HEA. Bleh.

In the end, the gratuitous violence, misogyny, poor writing and uneven pacing team up to make this a sub par read for me. I'm not going to wring my hands over the terrible message this sends to YA readers, because I don't think fiction works on people like that, but neither can I enjoy something with such glaring negative themes in it. McGuire has a knack for telling a story, but I can't ignore the flaws in this to enjoy it. 2*
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Reading Progress

03/18/2012
4.0% "If I didn't have an agenda, I'd have dnf'ed this already. This is an object lesson in how not to write in 1st person." 1 comment
03/18/2012
13.0% "The slut-shaming misogyny is strong in this book. I've never read a book so distinctly anti-feminist."
03/19/2012
40.0% "McGuire is high as a kite if she thinks this isn't YA. Travis just jumped up on a table and led the school cafeteria in a rousing sing-along of a Rolling Stones song. That's teen movie fare."
03/19/2012
48.0% "Calendar counting birth control? That's always a recipe for success."
03/19/2012
50.0% "This story is over. Why is my ereader telling me I'm only halfway through? This is going to be like Outlander, isn't it, where the HEA is delayed due to the author writing her own fanfiction because she can't part with the characters yet. Hold me." 2 comments

Comments (showing 1-26 of 26) (26 new)

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The Holy Terror Is there some sort of newsletter circling with these authors this week?


Ridley The Holy Terror wrote: "Is there some sort of newsletter circling with these authors this week?"

I think the crazy is contagious. One kerfluffle went down and Twitter just lit up with links to butthurt authors.


The Holy Terror Dhympna wrote: "I love how the fangrrls are twisting the story. I have been watching this one for a month and they went after the reviewer, not the other way around."

I think that's obvious to anyone who isn't crazy.


message 4: by Carrie (new)

Carrie ♥ Cheshire Catt ♠ wrote: "These must be the new generation of authors that came from the "no failing grades" and "everyone gets a trophy in little league" crew - jeez, some people aren't going to like what you write - put o..."

Exactly. I couldn't believe the author's self-indulgent rant at her critics. If your ego can't stand criticism, don't produce something for mass consumption.


message 5: by Carrie (new)

Carrie ♥ Cheshire Catt ♠ wrote: "It seems to be happening a lot more now too - if you write a bad review there is always the possibility the author is going to go all psycho on you. Teachers better add another class in creative w..."

Honestly! One of the comments after that rant: I think sometimes we forget we are rating an author's child - something very intimate and personal - and so therefore should be respectful.

I'm sorry. Respectful is nice, but any author who can't take criticism on the chin shouldn't put her "babies" out there. They're bound to be savaged by someone.

(Plus if she is, or ever becomes, a parent she'll soon find out that real children come with teeth of their own, and can generally take care of themselves. In fact, real live children are bound to be your worst critics at some point in your life. You have to put your big girl panties on to a a mom to either type of "child," real or created. ;-) )


message 6: by HJ (new) - rated it 3 stars

HJ Yikes. And she starts up again on Ammy. How's that popcorn, Ridley?


message 7: by Audrey (new)

Audrey *wide-eyed stare at the "currently reading" status*


The Holy Terror Ridley's review Mar 18, 12
bookshelves: ebook, currently-reading

ಠ_ಠ


Karla (Mossy Love Grotto) HJ wrote: "Yikes. And she starts up again on Ammy. How's that popcorn, Ridley?"

You're kidding! Really?


message 10: by HJ (new) - rated it 3 stars

HJ Karla (Mossy Love Grotto) wrote: "HJ wrote: "Yikes. And she starts up again on Ammy. How's that popcorn, Ridley?"

You're kidding! Really?"


Yup, another battle, this one pertaining to someone saying that it wasn't ya, and she was determined to say that she NEVER said it was (yes, let's hear another one).


message 11: by Audrey (new)

Audrey I hope I'm not the first one to point out that it says "Genre: Young Adult" on her Goodreads Author profile. Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?


message 12: by HJ (new) - rated it 3 stars

HJ Audrey wrote: "I hope I'm not the first one to point out that it says "Genre: Young Adult" on her Goodreads Author profile. Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?"

lol! Exactly why there were like 10+ pages of arguing comments on the review that pointed this out.


message 13: by Zumbagirl (new) - added it

Zumbagirl Uh-oh - I bought this one for my kindle thinking it would be pretty good. I don't read much YA and never read a story with a college setting so it was going to be an experiment. Too many great books to read and I don't want to waste my time/energy on anything less. Thanks for your honest review!


message 14: by Carrie (last edited Mar 21, 2012 10:02AM) (new)

Carrie Zumbagirl wrote: "Uh-oh - I bought this one for my kindle thinking it would be pretty good. I don't read much YA and never read a story with a college setting so it was going to be an experiment. Too many great bo..."

Some people love it. AAR gave it a DIK review if I'm remembering correctly. I can't understand why, though. But then, I couldn't understand the book (Twilight) that was the original inspiration for this piece of re-worked fan-fic.


Ridley This was fanfic? Are you sure you're not confusing it w/ Fifty Shades of Grey?

Although, if this were reworked Twi-fic I wouldn't be surprised. It had some similar themes, especially the hero constantly intervening to save the heroine from herself.


message 16: by Carrie (last edited Mar 21, 2012 12:35PM) (new)

Carrie I was told this was Twilight fanfic by one of the reviewers over at Dear Author a couple of months ago. It was after a talk I attended by Smart Bitch Sarah. (She wasn't part of this discussion, though.) Several of us were discussing Beautiful Disaster and 50 Shades, as well as others. The main subject was the ethics of taking works previously published for free "consumption" on fanfic site that are pulled, tweaked, and published as original works. These two books were some of the better known ones being discussed.


The Holy Terror Audrey wrote: "I hope I'm not the first one to point out that it says "Genre: Young Adult" on her Goodreads Author profile. Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?"

That was brought to her attention - her argument is that she has OTHER books that are YA. Why would you not call yourself out as an author of the genre of your books that are the most popular? Stephenie Meyer doesn't say she's an adult science fiction author, does she? It's simple: saying she's a YA author gets her more readers because it makes people think BD is YA. Tell me, do her and her lackeys attack all of the 5 star reviews on Amazon saying how it's such an awesome YA book? Do they correct THOSE reviewers?

One of the few things this ISN'T is Twi-fic. I can see how people could confuse this with Fifty Shades though, seeing as that's the exact money train she wants to ride.

/soapbox

Sorry, McGuire and this book make me angry.


message 18: by The Holy Terror (last edited Mar 21, 2012 12:52PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

The Holy Terror Carrie wrote: "I was told this was Twilight fanfic by one of the reviewers over at Dear Author a couple of months ago. It was after a talk I attended by Smart Bitch Sarah."

Hmm, are you sure? There are quite a few others that have recently become popular that could be easily confused.

I'm pretty sure, fwiw, that BD is actually an original work. As disturbing as that is. I wouldn't accuse of her of that unless I saw some more facts - I'll accuse her of lots of other stuff though, for sure ...


message 19: by Carrie (new)

Carrie Could be wrong, and won't swear to it in a court of law. I know the book came up during the discussion, but perhaps it was tangential to the main discussion. I take full responsibility for any confusion. The DA reviewer could have been talking about the book for a different reason.

However, what I remember is the discussion involved the character traits of the main characters and other parallels to Twilight.


♡Karlyn P♡ I agree with Holy, this isn't fan fic.

Great summary Ridley. I'm surprised you read it, but I guess many of us read it for the same reason: had to finally see what the hype was. And it was mostly just that, hype. I enjoyed it enough for what it was, but this had to be the least likely HEA I've ever read. It was like a train wreck you couldn't take your eyes away from, but still an f'n disaster all the same. The teenage angst about had me pulling all of my hair out. I'm just too old for this kind of story and lead characters. I do not miss those youthful days of high-drama and a deep emotional dependency on what other people think about you, and I certainly don't want to read about it either.


message 21: by ValerieC (new)

ValerieC Thanks, Ridley! This may remain unread on my K for a whole lot longer.


message 22: by Cole (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cole Since when does tribal tattoos=douchebags? I have no problem with negative reviews but catogerizing people based on what type of tattoos are on thier body sounds sort of discrimitory.


Ridley nicole wrote: "I have no problem with negative reviews but catogerizing people based on what type of tattoos are on thier body sounds sort of discrimitory."

To be fair, I also categorize people based on their spelling skills.


Arabellavidal I couldn't make myself read the whole novel. I'm surprised how many readers actually like Abby and Travis.


Arabellavidal I couldn't make myself read the whole novel. I'm surprised how many readers actually like Abby and Travis.


message 26: by Mc (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mc None of her personality comes through in the narration. She just describes what she and the people around her did, using a flat, emotionless sort of voice

Thank you! I thought I was the only one who thought that!


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