Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Beautiful Disaster
Jamie McGuire

Emily and her Little Pink Notes recently called this book “LIKE CRACK”. Needing some sort of book crack, I checked out the Goodreads reviews and discovered a staggering number (over 1270 as of today) 5 stars. Pretty great for a self-published effort. Looking more closely I also saw a lot of criticisms for the story – cheesy characters, a man-whorish love interest, a lot of ridiculous drama. Despite this, people admitted feeling addicted to turning the pages – and hating themselves afterward.

Well. I had to see for myself.

The Premise: Abby Abernathy is a freshman at Eastern University, where her plan is to stay off the radar and be a upstanding college student. Only her best friend America, another transplant from Abby’s hometown, knows who Abby is, and that’s how Abby wants it. Everything is going according to plan until Abby is noticed by the legendary Travis Maddox: genius, tattooed bad boy, fight champion, and the biggest player on campus. Abby takes one look at Travis and is not impressed. She’s not going to be another one of his conquests. Unfortunately, her lack of interest only makes Travis more intrigued. Somehow the two become friends, but things get complicated when Travis and Abby make a bet. If Abby loses she has to live with Travis for a month, and if he loses, he will be abstinent for that amount of time. After this wager, the drama truly begins.

You can use Amazon’s Look Inside feature to read the first few pages here

My Thoughts: OK, I understand those reviews in Goodreads now. The book begins with Abby and Travis meeting in a dramatic way that sets the scene for the rest of the story. Abby is a spectator at an underground fight with America and America’s boyfriend, Shep. In the chaos, she’s pushed forward toward the fighters and her pink cashmere sweater is sprayed with blood as Travis’ opponent is KO’ed. As the crowd continues to surge around her, Abby comes face to face with Travis:

“A pair of heavy black boots stepped in front of me, diverting my attention to the floor. My eyes traveled upward; jeans splattered with blood, a set of finely-chiseled abs, a bare, tattooed chest drenched in sweat, and finally a pair of warm, brown eyes.  I was shoved from behind, and Travis caught me by the arm before I fell forward.
“Hey! Back up off her!” Travis frowned, shoving anyone who came near me. His stern expression melted into a smile at the sight of my shirt, and then he dabbed my face with a towel. “Sorry about that, Pigeon.”
Adam patted the back of Travis’ head. “C’mon, Mad Dog! You have some dough waitin’ on ya!”
His eyes didn’t stray from mine. “It’s a damn shame about the sweater. It looks good on you.” In the next moment he was engulfed by fans, disappearing the way he came.

The next time Abby sees Travis, it’s at the cafeteria where he’s:

“[…] followed by two voluptuous bottle-blondes wearing Sigma Kappa tees. One of them sat on Travis’ lap, the other sat beside him, pawing at his shirt”.
“I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth,” America muttered.
The blonde on Travis’ lap turned to America. “I heard that, skank.”
America grabbed her roll and threw it down the table, narrowly missing the girl’s face. Before the girl could say another word, Travis let his knees give way, sending her tumbling to the floor.
“Ouch!” she squealed, looking up at Travis.
“America’s a friend of mine. You need to find another lap, Lex.”
“Travis!” she whined, scrambling to her feet.
Travis turned his attention to his plate, ignoring her. She looked at her sister and huffed, and then they left, hand in hand.
Travis winked at America, and as if nothing had happened, shovelled another bite into his mouth.

I think those snippets give a pretty good idea of what the writing is like. On one hand I’m scoffing at the dialog and the actions of the characters (and the nickname ‘Pigeon’), on the other, the drama of what’s going on is riveting. Reading this feels like the literary version of watching a Jerry Springer show. I’m fascinated in a sick way. It’s like I’m doing anthropological research on a culture where strange double standards and inconsistencies abound. Travis comes off as some sort of stud who disrespects most woman (because it’s easy to get into their pants), and respects a select few (basically America and Abby).  Abby is affronted by Travis, but he explains that it’s not like he’s tricking anyone before they “spread eagle on my couch”, so this makes it somehow excusable. America sneers quite a bit at the girls who throw themselves at Travis, but not really at Travis. On one page she warns Abby to keep away, but on the next says they should be together.

Abby insists that she and Travis will never get together, but to the reader, it’s inevitable. It doesn’t happen quickly of course, and there’s plenty of drama along the way. The story finds some ways to conveniently push the two characters together, then in similarly, pulls them apart again. Abby continues to insist that she and Travis are just friends even after the bet where has to sleep in Travis’ bed (necessary because there’s no where else to sleep, of course). Abby begins to date a clean cut guy who doesn’t like her arrangement with Travis, but a bet is a bet! In the meantime Travis stops sleeping around and gets very moody, but Abby has no idea why.  Rumors fly and so does Travis’ temper. He beats up a guy for teasing Abby and there are no consequences.

If the story so far sounds on the crazy side, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Abby and Travis’ relationship is a trainwreck. Travis proves to be manipulative, stalkerish, and codependent. Abby goes back and forth between actually liking this and running away, which makes Travis flip out.  Then there is the out of right field subplot of Abby’s past that involves Luck, Las Vegas, and The Mob. Dude. I could not look away.

Overall: Serious OMGWTFBBQ territory. I feel the same sense of shame in reading this in it’s entirety as I feel in watching episodes of Rock of Love or eating a quart of ice cream by myself¹. It’s bad and I know I should stop, but I can’t. I think it only took me three hours to read. When I think about how much is wrong with this story, from the dysfunctional relationship and cheesy dialog to the poor portrayal of women, I feel regret that I paid money to read it. On the other hand, the drama was so compelling.  Don’t blame me if you read this and can’t look yourself in the mirror afterward.

Buy: Amazon (kindle) | B&N (nook)

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¹Just as an example. I haven’t actually eaten a pint of ice cream by myself. Nor do I watch Rock of Love, really. But same principle.