June 27, 2012

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

I was warned about reading this book. And I did go back and forth for awhile before deciding it wasn't for me. Or I wasn't for it. That I wasn't that intrigued. Or that I didn't want to hate myself in the morning. Take your pick. You're familiar with the hype/trainwreck induced cycle of warring self-doubt and insatiable curiosity, yes? Then you understand. And I honestly didn't give it a second thought after making that decision. Then I read and loved Easy. And I immediately started running across comparisons, mentions of similarities. Plus, several of these new-ish, self-published new adult authors have been all over the place lately, and, well, all that curiosity washed over me full force once more. So I decided I wanted to decide for myself. I think I went in expecting one big hot mess from start to finish, albeit a hot mess I couldn't look away from and would be compelled to see through to its inevitable overwrought ending. You see? I had been warned. But Beautiful Disaster still managed to surprise me. In both good and bad ways.

Abby is cardigans and pearls. She's straitlaced and together and interested in finding a dependable, going places boyfriend. Except she's totally not. Abby is dedicated to getting good grades and keeping all her ducks in a row. She's not at all interested in attending one her university's underground fight clubs just to see what it's like. Except she totally is. And that's how she meets the infamous Travis Maddox. His name alone inspires men to sit up straighter and glance over their shoulders. His rakish reputation precedes him, and it seems women fall at his feet as a matter of course. But when these two seeming opposites meet at one of Travis' fights, sparks fly as it were. And a friendship is born in lieu of a romance, as Abby is determined not to become another one of the hapless females Travis leaves in his wake, and for his part, Travis seems unable to look away from a girl who seems to like him well enough but clearly doesn't want him. While their respective friends are somewhat skeptical, somewhat intrigued by their burgeoning friendship, it's what they're hiding from each other--the combustibility of it all--that might cause this fragile new thing to go up in flames before they can figure out just what it is they're dealing with.

I loved the first half. Loved it, I say. Right from this first encounter:
When I finally reached the front, Marek grabbed Travis with his thick arms and attempted to throw him to the ground. When Marek leaned down with the motion, Travis rammed his knee into Marek's face. Before Marek could shake off the blow, Travis lit into him; his fists making contact with Marek's bloodied face over and over.

Five fingers sank into my arm and I jerked back.

"What the hell are you doing, Abby?" Shepley said.

"I can't see from back there!" I called to him.

I turned just in time to see Marek land a solid punch. Travis turned, and for a moment I thought he had dodged another blow, but he made a complete circle, crashing his elbow straight into the center of Marek's nose. Blood sprayed my face, and splattered down the front of my cardigan. Marek fell to the concrete floor with a thud, and for a brief moment the room was completely silent.

Adam threw a scarlet square of fabric on Marek's limp body, and the mob detonated. Cash changed hands once again, and the expressions divided into the smug and the frustrated.

I was pushed around with the movement of those coming and going. America called my name from somewhere in the back, but I was mesmerized by the trail of red from my chest to my waist.

A pair of heavy black boots stepped in front of me, diverting my attention to the floor. My eyes traveled upward; jeans spattered 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.
They were just too much fun. In fact, my favorite thing about Abby and Travis was their friendship. The motorcycle rides, the dancing, the doing homework together, the laughing. I mean, it was always headed for a conflagration relationship-wise, but the friendship was honestly just so much fun while it lasted. So for the first half of the book, this book and I were BFFs. The problem came at right about the halfway mark, at which point things got monumentally sketchy. The romantic tension was pretty high throughout. The good kind of high. So I was strangely underwhelmed (when the romance actually started going places) at how uninvolved Abby seemed to be when it came right down to it. The character depiction led me to believe Travis was utterly invested, but Abby never seemed to be on the same page. She said she was. But I never felt it. Which resulted in the whole thing feeling very one-sided just at the moment when it should be expanding and growing. It through me right out of the narrative, this empty gap in the arc of their relationship. I bought that he loved her, in as unhealthy a fashion as he did. But Abby's lack of response confused and disappointed me. And it really did feel like a flaw in characterization. Then right on the heels of this blip, the whole book goes right out to lunch. And it never recovers. The plot, the characters, the writing spin away into the void. All that fun, careful development (much more restrained than I was expecting) of the beginning disappeared in what felt like the space of a page.

So I didn't hate myself in the morning. On the contrary, I actually mourned the characters in the morning. How's that for unexpected? The Travis and Abby of the first half were hard to let go. They were so full of life and danger and laughter and jagged edges that I loved them. I went through my day wanting to be around them. Unfortunately, they up and left on me. And the characters who took their place left me utterly cold. The what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, frothing at the mouth frantic, we suddenly haven't learned a thing from the past 200 pages shenanigans that littered the second half had me dropping my nook in my lap in bewildered exhaustion. To be led to care so much for half the book and then to wind up caring so little it didn't even register on the scale was quite the feat and an ignominious one at that. I don't regret my time with them. I just regret their premature loss. It was always a bit of  freak show, but it could have pulled it out in the end instead of crashing and burning so spectacularly. Turns out violence and angst and absolute dysfunction for violence and angst and absolute dysfunction's sake just doesn't do it for me. And the thing is, the characters of the first half deserved better. I suppose I can't complain too much. After all, I was warned. So long Travis & Abby. You rocked. And then you really, really didn't.

Buy: Amazon | B&N


Linkage
Adventures in Biblioland review
Dear Author review
Janicu's Book Blog review

18 comments:

  1. Well I hated myself a little bit. :) Glad you had fun with this one at least in the first half. I thought it was good as entertainment even if I was like: "what did I just read?" when I finished. The Vegas bits were where things REALLY jumped the shark for me too.

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    1. Janice, lol. Totally your prerogative. I really did have a ball with the first half. And at least the jumping of the shark was all in, right? What a nutfest.

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  2. I haven't heard anything about this one, but I think I'm not all that tempted to read it.

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    1. Livi, lol. Yeah, I didn't make it sound all that tempting overall, did I? Just as well. It's hard watching characters you like act like idiots.

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  3. Aw! I hate that! I haven't heard of this one or been warned either way. I'll avoid it now, thanks to your warning.

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    1. Jenny, probably for the best.

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  4. Well put me in that category of people who are intrigued but really not sure this is for them...I don't think I can just read the first half, and I don't want to hate myself in the morning either. :P

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    1. Heidi, yeah, I don't think I'd peg you for loving this one. And stopping halfway would just be wholly unsatisfying. The latter half really is a disappointment. Ah, well.

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  5. Hmmmmmm...

    I, too, have been sucked into the self-published NA genre (probably b/c I've just released my own contribution), and I too adored Easy. This particular post caught my eye because I just, this very afternoon, added Beautiful Disaster to my Goodreads "To Read" shelf.

    After reading your review, though, I'm wondering how fitting a title 'Beautiful Disaster' really is. So now I must decide...to read or not to read?

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    1. Andrea, wasn't EASY lovely? Very different from BD.

      And the appropriateness of the title was not lost on me either. Wow.

      Let me know if you do read it.

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  6. a freak-show? that's very funny and appropriate. yes, i agree: travis and abby didn't have the end they deserved. That's a pity because there are LOTS of good, crazy things in this book (IMHO).

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    1. Marion, lol. I agree with you. There were lots of good parts. I really did love the first half. But they just didn't live up to each other, you know? It was supposed to be happy, but it left me just sad.

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  7. I sort of liked this book and that made me feel really, really dirty. I actually liked Travis (I'm just a sucker for those TORTURED boys) for the most part but I would have enjoyed kicking Abby in the face...repeatedly.

    This was an oily, stinky, sticky story and brought to mind the streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans- littered with refuse, alcohol, underwear and smelling faintly of urine. I wanted to whip myself repeatedly with something religious in an effort to drive out the evil in me that made me enjoy the book.

    The naughty bits sucked. With sex that bad, YOU DO NOT REPEAT.

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    1. Laura, it's so complicated! I loved Travis. There was no way I wasn't gonna love that boy.

      And I liked Abby, too. For quite awhile. I liked who they were together. But then Vegas. And the insanity. Her leaving again and again and AGAIN and not seeming to know who he was when she really should have.

      The sex . . . was not good. Mostly because of her lack of reaction. Badly written, IMO. The girl should be enjoying it more for SURE. Plus he's supposed to be God's gift in that sense. What a disappointment...

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  8. Your review wsa so informative! I don't know if I am going to read this one or not but, you have definitely given me so much to think about lol.

    your newest follower,
    Kristin
    youngadultbookhaven.blogspot.com

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    1. Kristin, yeah, it's a tough call with this one. If you do find yourself down the rabbit hole, let me know what you think. If you make it out! ;)

      Thanks for the follow!

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  9. Okay, I literally JUST finished this book, and I totally understand what you mean. Abby and Travis annoyed me for a while, but I HAD a relationship just like that so it resonated with me. Thankfully, I'm not with that person, but I KNOW what an intense physical and romantic relationship is like and it really hit the nail on the head. I loved Trav and Abby (especially his nickname for her!). I'm very interested in the his version.

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    1. Laura, yeah, I can totally see relating to them having had a somewhat similar relationship with someone.

      LOVED his nickname for her. :)

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