Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Book Review: Beautiful Disaster

Beautiful Disaster (Beautiful #1)

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.
(Cover and Description from Goodreads. Source.)
Publisher: Jamie McGuire
Publication Date: May 26, 2011
Kat's Review
I am probably the last person on the planet to read this book, and as such, missed out on the joy that has been the online battle over reviews of this book.  For that, I am thankful.  This review is a difficult one to write, and as I'm  sitting here writing, I'm still not sure what I want to say.  Maybe I should start by clarifying a few things. 
This book is a novel, categorized as a contemporary romance by some, Young Adult or New Adult depending on where you look, and controversial on so many levels.  Since my feelings about the book are conflicted, I'll break the review down into my thoughts about the story from a purely reading point of view, and my thoughts on the controversy that is the storyline and how I feel about the relationship that was portrayed in the novel.
The book title Beautiful Disaster is a pretty good description of how I felt about the book.  There were parts I enjoyed and parts that made me cringe.  Overall, I think the book was a little too long.  It could have wrapped up around Thanksgiving, rather than being dragged out long past.  Four hundred plus pages is long for most books, but is more reasonable when the book includes a large cast of characters or does quite a bit of world-building to ground the story.  Regarding the characters, I liked that Abby had her own story, and fought her own demons.  Her unhealthy relationship with her parents and familiarity with the underground of Vegas helped better explain her attraction to someone like Travis, who is dangerous, aggressive and volatile.  Many have characterized it as a "good girl saves bad boy" type story, but it seemed to me that it was intended to be a story about two deeply flawed and hurting people who help each other.  The whole good-girl image was very clearly explained as being a carefully cultivated front by Abby to redefine herself in college.
That being said, I can't review the book without addressing the moral dilemma that many people seem to have with it.  This is where I'm torn.  Do I think that Abby and Travis have a healthy relationship?  No.  Is it the type of relationship I would like to be in? Absolutely not.  Travis is angry, violent to the point of brutally assaulting people for simply insulting his girlfriend, uses sex with other women as a coping mechanism for his pain, and is completely jealous and over-possessive.  Not the kind of guy I want to hang around with.  Most women have met at least one guy like this in their lives, and they're scary, not sexy.  I also know that there are legions of girls with Travis on their list of book-boyfriends, wishing they had someone so "fiercely in love" with them in their own lives.  Does this bother me?  Yes.
Here's the thing. 
While there is a part of me that completely agrees with the unhealthy nature of this relationship and how inappropriate this behaviour would be in real life, I don't think that this book particularly stands out from so many other books with the "bad-boy" main character.  Women fantasizing about male characters in books that they wouldn't actually want to date in real life is nothing new.  The angry, tortured male who can only be saved by that one special woman is an overdone theme in fiction marketed to women.  Sometimes it's done well, other times not, but it certainly isn't new. 
What I think is missing from this book is any real examination of just how dysfunctional Travis's behaviour is.  It is a stereotypical view of masculinity, with Travis being the quintessential macho, alpha-male.  He doesn't limit his fighting to the ring, lashes out and destroys things when he's angry, and is irrationally jealous.  There is never any real confrontation between Abby and Travis about those issues.  The idea that Travis needs Abby to maintain control and find peace is problematic, because it fails to put any responsibility for his behaviour on his own shoulders. That would be a heavy burden for any woman to carry, and one that is bound to get too heavy at some point.    
These are issues that could, and should be discussed when reading this book, particularly if it is being read by someone with little experience in romantic relationships.  While I didn't particularly enjoy his violent streak, I can appreciate the fact that it's a story, and not meant to be a lesson in morality.  There is an opportunity for learning here too, for discussing the difference between love and addiction, romance and possession, personal responsibility and dependence.  There is room for all types of stories in fiction.  This story was a little outside of my usual taste, and I read it mainly out of curiosity.  While the characters weren't always my favourites, and I didn't always think the scenarios were realistic, it was interesting enough to keep me reading to the end. 
Rating: Somewhere between a Heavy Page Turner and a Good Read. 
The good read part comes from the fact that I read it to the end, curious to see what would happen next.  The heavy page turner part comes from the fact that I felt that the story was too long, the characters too extreme in their behaviours, and some of the scenes unrealistic. 
And to the girls who think that boys who fly into a jealous rage over little things are romantic, they're not.  They're possessive and immature and likely to get more violent over time.  I'm just sayin'.


  1. hahahaha! You were SO much more diplomatic then me! Can I tell you how outraged I was by the damn puppy? Yet I read the whole book in like a day and a half (it's certainly and easy read). Amusingly enough my review of this book is one of my most visited posts ever.

    1. See, you're like me, the puppy issue bugged me the most too, but in the grand scheme of things I figured I could let it go. It's an easy read, but there is an OBSESSION about this book that is crazy. People seem to like their men angry and violent :)


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