Review: Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Title: Beautiful Disaster
Author: Jamie McGuire
Genre: New Adult, Romance
Pages: Paperback, 432
Publication: May 26, 2011

The new 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 needs—and wants—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.

I know I’m late to the party on this book. It’s been out and very popular for several years, but somehow I’d managed to avoid it. A couple years ago, Jamie McGuire, Colleen Hoover, and Tamara Webber all came to a local bookstore near me, and, without knowing anything about them or their books, I went. While I was at this meet and greet, the people who had obviously read their books were extremely enthusiastic about them, especially Travis’ character in Beautiful Disaster. So, I got Beautiful Disaster in hopes of falling in love with the book like everybody else in that room.

I loved Abby in the first part of Beautiful Disaster. She’s independent, powerful, and doesn’t takes shit from anyone, especially Travis. However, in the second part of this book, it seems that she changes. Her independent nature turns into being dependent on Travis and most of her actions tend to be influenced by what he’s feeling, even when they’re broken up. It’s not consistent characterization. At the same time, maybe Abby’s change is just a realistic portrayal of passionate romantic love that affects all of us at one time in our lives.

I feel pretty similarly about Travis as I do about Abby throughout this book. Travis is the biggest smart ass of all time. He’s funny, sarcastic, and passionate about what he does. Basically the guy I would be lusting after throughout the entirety of high school. I really loved his character, but after he and Abby break up for the first time, he’s consumed by grief and even obsession. While I loved that Jamie McGuire was able to show the sensitive side of a guy, especially one who is the epitome of what masculinity is to many people, I didn’t like that he became super obsessive about Abby. He’s actions toward her in the second half of the book are extremely creepy. His character is pretty wishy-washy.

Shepley and America are, hands down, my favorite characters in this book. They’re funny, protective over both Abby and Travis, insanely loyal, and a kickass couple. I wouldn’t mind reading a book about their relationship if I’m being completely honest.

I split this book into two parts: before Travis and after Travis, the split being the first time they actually started dating. I really enjoyed the first part. I loved the build up to Travis and Abby’s relationship. Their relationship was a slow burn, which is my favorite kind of build up to any romantic relationship in books. You could tell from the instant that Travis and Abby interacted with each other that there was an undeniable passion that can’t be ignored by either party. Abby, the POV character, went from kind of hating Travis to tolerating him to being best friends with him to falling in love with him. I loved their build up; it was intense and passionate in a way that you sometimes don’t get from YA novels.

However, the second part of the novel, I wasn’t a big fan of. I felt a disconnect from both Abby and Travis when they were in their on-again-off-again relationship. Maybe it was because I couldn’t identify with their type of relationship. 

I thought that Abby being freaking amazing at poker would play a bigger part in this story, but it wasn’t. I really enjoyed their side trip to Vegas, but I felt like the duration of that plot point was wayyyyy too short. After they left Vegas, you hardly heard anything else about it.

The plotline that I loved the most was Travis’ fighting. The fights were awesome and action filled, and it made Travis 10 times more badass. The only problem I had with that portion of the book was the very last fight and the fire. This seemed completely random and unnecessary. I understand that it was used as something to endanger the characters that we are supposed to care about and basically be the catalyst for Travis and Abby to get married, but the author could’ve done this in a million different ways.

To me, Beautiful Disaster seemedvto be made up with a bunch of random events that were haphazardly sown together in order to create a somewhat convincing love story. Sometimes, it worked, other times, like with the fire, it didn’t.

Another issue I had with the second part of the novel was the nature of Abby and Travis’ relationship. To me, and it may be only me who had this problem, it seemed that their relationship was extremely problematic. Many times throughout the latter part of the novel, after Abby breaks up with Travis, he basically stalks Abby, claiming that he loves her. Travis ignores all of Abby’s requests for him to leave her alone, and wears her down into giving in to being in a relationship with him. This kind of stalking, called obsessive relational intrusion, is romanticized by the characters as a type of love. Abby and others around her accept it as Travis “just being Travis,” which is extremely problematic.

In short:
For my first New Adult book, Beautiful Disaster was a great entry into this genre that I haven’t explored before. It had some problems, but it was generally an entertaining read.


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