Beautiful Disaster (Beautiful, #1)

Beautiful Disaster (Beautiful, #1) - Jamie McGuire Now that I have officially joined the Kindle army, I felt that it was an appropriate time to start checking out the burgeoning e-book and self-published market. Only a fool would underestimate the growing power and influence of the e-book market in relation to mainstream publishing and I’ve noticed several particular books coming up time and time again amongst both my GoodReads friends and the book blogging scene in general. This book is one of them. I’d be lying if I said that I ever thought this was my sort of book since I’ve made my disdain for the ‘bad boy’ romantic interest known clear many times. However, I do honestly try to go into every book with an open mind. This is the job of a reviewer and it’s what every book deserves, be it traditionally published or otherwise. I loathed this book.Before I even touch upon the abusive relationship in this book (yes, I consider it an abusive one and will detail why later on), I shall discuss other elements of why I so seriously disliked “Beautiful Disaster”. First, there were several spelling and grammar errors which wouldn’t be considered acceptable in traditional publishing so I shall not consider them acceptable here. Why shouldn’t I hold self-published novels to the same standard as traditionally published ones? The writing style itself was fine, although I did wonder if the book started out as fan-fiction or if McGuire got her start in fan-fiction writing. This book reads like it was written chapter-by-chapter in the manner of fan-fiction, with the expected pacing issues that usually accompany this. This also applies to the plotting, which felt predictable, plodding and offered nothing new to the bad boy trope, nor the college romance trope. Character-wise, before I even discuss the breeding pair, I had serious issues. Travis has no respect for women, and almost every other woman in this book, no matter how fleeting their appearance, is described by the narrator Abby in the most derisive terms. Almost every woman Travis encounters wants to have sex with him and acts as seductively as possible when around him, which leads to many of them being called a “slut”, an “STD ridden imbecile”, a “whore”, and so on. They’re also frequently referred to as “bimbos” by Abby, which sets up a sort of virgin/whore complex with Abby and Travis’s former sexual partners. Travis’s promiscuity is mentioned many times but never as derisively as it is when in relation to the women he consensually has sex with. The women in this book seem to exist solely to inflate Travis’s ego and reassert the insulting double standard of “he’s a stud, she’s a slut” (Travis declares that he is a man of standards in that he never sleeps with ugly women. Tell me that’s an attractive trait). The one female character given a modicum of personality and common sense is Kara, Abby’s roommate. She’s the token ‘bitch’ which means she is supposed to be deserving of our scorn or ridicule but she’s the only character to stand up to Abby and tell her Travis is co-dependent and could be dangerous. Abby’s so-called best friends America and Shepley don’t seem particularly concerned with how at risk Abby often is. Granted, there are some scenes where America stands up for her friend, but more often than not she is more likely found to be pushing Abby towards getting together with a noted violent jerk. In fact, America often seems to hold Abby responsible for Travis’s actions. She’s an erratically written character – first telling Abby to stay away from Travis, then pushing her towards him. She ends up serving more as a conflict creating mouthpiece than a real character.Then we come to Travis.If you were ever to create a bad boy checklist, Travis would tick off every box on that list; Troubled upbringing, parent issues, tattoos, extremely sexy, smarmy attitude that others somehow see as charming, motorbike, heavy drinking, no respect for authority, promiscuity, etc. We are supposed to believe that Travis is something of an irresistible enigma. Men secretly admire him, women want to sleep with him, he’s even so charming that he can lead a cafeteria sing-along like a bad boy Zac Efron. He gets straight A’s without having to work for them. He keeps a top class athlete physique and unbeatable fighting skills without having to work out or train in any way. He’s an unoriginal character who only differs from every other bad boy in literature right now by going the full distance in his extreme behaviour. Travis is a disturbed individual in every way. He can’t control his temper, he gets jealous at the slightest of actions, he is prone to smashing up whatever is in sight, and he emotionally manipulates Abby into doing his will, including telling her what to wear, where to go and accompany him to events where she’ll have to act romantically with him. The list goes on. He gives her the nickname “Pigeon” for some ridiculous, badly explained reason, and refers to her as this for the majority of the book instead of by her name. Sometimes these actions are rightfully criticised and Abby shows a remarkable amount of backbone at times in her criticism of Travis, but time and time again she forgives him and time and time again he commits further controlling, manipulative and violent acts. At one point, he punches a man for touching her arm, coming precariously close to punching Abby. Below is a passage from the book, after Abby has had sex with Travis and left without saying goodbye:“Travis is a fucking wreck! He won’t talk to us, he’s trashed the apartment, threw the stereo across the room… Shep can’t talk any sense into him! He took a swing at Shep when he found out we helped you leave. Abby! It’s scaring me! 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!” This is not okay. This is not normal. It’s certainly not ‘passionate’ or ‘sexy’. I understand that this is supposed to be somewhat messed up. However, there is a complete lack of authorial control over the contents of this book. The choice of a 1st person narrative is part of the problem. Abby, nor any other character in the book, fully explains their motives and she can barely explain why she feels so strongly about Travis, let alone describe why she continues to come back to Travis again and again. Even when she condemns his abhorrent actions, it’s never fully convincing. She stands by and watches him pummel people to the ground on more than one occasion and seemingly accepts it. In fact, the entire book seems to accept his actions as just being part of wacky crazy Travis’s wild life. He’s the stud (never a slut) with a temper and it’s your own fault for pissing him off. I don’t care what people are saying about you, you don’t bash a man’s head in with a lunch tray! Despite doing this – in public! – over and over again, nobody in the college intervenes, the police are never called on him and the possibility of mental health problems, which would be perfectly justified, are never brought up. The author has mentioned how realistic this book is but this particular element is definitely not. No college in America would accept this behaviour, no matter how many A’s that student gets. This book is supposed to be in the vein of the old favourite ‘bad boy and the one girl who changes him’ trope. But that’s the biggest issue here. He doesn’t change. They marry, she gets a “Mrs Maddox” tattoo and this is all seen as okay, but it’s not. Throughout the book he talks about how Abby has changed him or how he needs her with him at all times to help him become a better person, but he remains a violent, rude and ultimately dangerous individual throughout. On top of having absolutely no respect for the many women he has slept with, he never really has any respect for Abby. He makes major decisions that would affect them both without listening to Abby, he stalks her several times and never seems to truly trust her. If he truly trusted her, why would he become so violent when she’s in the presence of other men? Listening to Travis and Abby justify his actions sounded far too much like the justifications of spousal abuse, the broken down words of a beaten wife trying to prove that he’s really a wonderful man who loves her deeply but sometimes he just can’t help himself. By the end of the book, Travis and Abby declare that they are each-others for life but Travis is clearly the one with the power here. Does anyone think he’ll ever really change? Someone I love very dearly is in a situation like this, albeit an emotional one rather than violent one. The difference? He’s a regular looking man, not a tattooed motor-biking bad boy. Not so sexy now, is it? This book may be right up your alley. You may be a fan of the bad boy trope and here it is taken to the most extreme conclusion without resorting to wife battering, although in my opinion a lot of Travis’s behaviour is that of an abusive spouse. If this book is your thing then more power to you. I may not understand why but for some people, the idea of a damaged man being consumed by his obsession for a woman is an ideal fantasy, and I have no right to criticise that fantasy, no matter how unhealthy it may be. This book’s got a lot of fans. I’m not one of them. I despised this book. “Beautiful Disaster” now topples “Hush Hush” and becomes the most disgusting book I have ever read. 0/5 (that one star is too good for this).