Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review: Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Note: As GR is apparently going to Hell, I decided to take on the not-so-easy task of transferring my reviews to BookLikes and here. If you want to follow me, here's my profile: 

This review was last edited on October 30, 2011.

I have a little dilemma with reviewing indie books. On one hand, I get it why authors might prefer to go down the self-publishing road. With an industry that gives us Halo and Hades, I'd be disheartened too. The thing is, indie writers face a lot of difficulties getting their stuff out there and making a profit, because the general assumption is that self-pubbed books are poorly written, poorly edited things that no agent wanted to take on. 

So I was very conflicted about reviewing this book. EDIT But not anymore. There's a difference between engaging in discussion and blocking your ears to criticism entirely. I will not, in any way, support an author who allows their fans to attack anyone who disagrees, and then blocks the voices of those who object

Now that I have this out of the way, let's look at "Beautiful Disaster". 

Spoilers ahoy.

The plot:

Abby: I'm attracted to a guy who smokes and fights and is basically horrible for me.

Travis: I'm going to wear you down with my wit and charm and sob story.

Abby: Okay, so I like him and he helps me pass my classes, so Ima gonna be FRIENDS with him and totally not take issue with the fact that he had a threesome while I was in the other room.

Travis: I'm not good enough for her, I'm not good enough for her, so I'll let her go on this date with another guy, but then I'll get shitfaced and make a scene. If that doesn't tell her how much I love her, I dunno what will.

Drama. Sex. Drama. Drama. Drama. More sex.

Abby: So I'll give you a chance, but you gotta change. I don't need more booze and hissy fits from the men in my life.

Travis: Fine with me, but you can't leave the house without a coat on because I'll beat the shit out of anyone who looks at you.

Abby: You know, I get the feeling that perhaps, maybe this might not have been such a good idea.

Drama. Drama. Sex. Drama. Abby's daddy comes along.

Daddy: I owe money to a mafioso. Help me out.

Abby: Just change my nickname from Pigeon to Doormat.

Travis: Hey, this bad guy is offering me a lot of money to fight. So instead of working my ass off towards a relationship, I'll just buy Abby's love. Failproof!

Drama. Drama. Drama. Draaaaaaaaaamaaaaaaaaaa. They break up, but now they're at his dad's house and having sex, then she dates this guy again, but then Travis drags her to a fight to stake his claim on her, drama, drama, drama, Abby moves on, Travis beats up someone else, sex, now they're together again, I start skimming pages... Final fight, fire...

Abby: You know, even though you tattoo-ed my name on your wrist and I totally freaked out, I think we should totally get married.

Travis: Hello, American Airlines? I'm calling my girlfriend's bluff, gimme two tickets to Vegas.

Abby: I'm going to get a "Mrs. Maddox" tattoo, because this totally symbolizes my independence and emancipation from my torrid past.

The End 

I think the little tongue-in-cheek take sums it up pretty well, don't you? No? Oh, come on!

Look, I have nothing against indie writers. I didn't dislike this book because it was self-pubbed. Sure, there were typos here and there, but we all get those sometimes. Big deal. 

No, my problem with this book was the plot. Specifically, it was the whole "bad-boy-that-turns-good" character typecasting, the doormat heroine, the absolutely insipid ending...

I just... I'm sorry, Goodreads, but no. Just no. I know nothing original exists in this world, but nothing stops authors from trying to break the mould. Travis is just so painfully archetypal that I feel he was created from a checklist - tattoos, motorbike, dangerous drinking habits, promiscuity, fighting - it's all there, wrapped up in a nice package of douchery. I'm so tired of that same old character that I can't even read the story as a 'guilty pleasure'. Retire him or give him a makeover - times are a'changing.

But wait, you say, surely there are some redeeming qualities about the book. After all, the reason why this archetype exists is because the story connected to it is good. Bad boy narratives are usually about a journey, and redemption through love, right?

Yeah, no, this doesn't happen.

Oh, sure, Abby shows a remarkable spine for about half the book, but really, there are times when Travis' douchery just got to me. And, ultimately, neither of these characters changes - what we're supposed to get from this book was that Abby, no matter how much she wanted to escape her father, really just wanted a younger version of him whom she could bang. Which is very Freudian of her, but not a very pleasant thing to read about. 

Yes, I know this is a fantasy. Yes, I know this isn't real. But countless girls and women out there are stuck in relationships that are abusive. And to me, Travis' behaviour is full of red flags - obsessing over her whereabouts, driving dangerously, dragging her to risky places where he knows she is in danger, but takes her to nevertheless. He goes crazy is she decides to wear a skimpy dress to a dance, forces her to change if he doesn't like how she's dressed, drags her away from a date (with another guy) to take her to a fighting match... need I go on?

I'm not suggesting that "Beautiful Disaster" is trying to teach us something. But I sure as hell don't think a "Mrs. Maddox" tattoo is an appropriate ending to this. Sorry, folks.

Note: Image via GR. Beacause.

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