Category Archives: file this under ‘What Could Have Been’

Beautiful Disaster

Beautiful Disaster
by Jamie McGuire
Published by Atria Books
432 pages
Genre: Young Adult
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5 cupcakes

What we have here is a perfect example of synecdoche, in which the title tells you everything you need to know about the book itself.

Abby Abernathy wants you to think she is a Good Girl. She adorns herself with preppy cardigans, sticks close to her best friend, and avoids Bad Boys. When she winds up in an underground fight club-type place, she locks eyes with the victorious fighter, Travis Maddox. She is intrigued.

The cousin of her best friend’s boyfriend (I know, I had the same eye roll), Travis is straight out of Central Casting for “Bad Boys,” down to the tattoos and the penchant for one night stands. He never met an emotional attachment that he cared to make, other than with his family. And when he sees Abby, he is intrigued.

Abby’s first move is brilliant: she acts completely unimpressed. And she is, to some degree. Yes, she is attracted to him, but she refuses to be another notch on his scarred belt. She dresses down, she is rude and sarcastic, and she tells him that he has no chance with her. When they spend the night together, they actually SLEEP together. No hanky panky occurs. Travis, for all of his overflowing testosterone, likes Abby; he genuinely enjoys her company and is determined to not mess up this friendship.

We know, however, that he will mess it up, and Abby will as well. It is just a matter of pages until they wind up romantically linked, especially when Abby loses a bet and has to move in with Travis for a month. What is good about their first encounter is that Abby makes the decision to be with him. Travis empowers her in that sense, and it’s nice to read some YA lit that does not have the girl swooning uncontrollably over her hard-to-read love interest.

And that’s where the “disaster” portion of this book comes into play. Travis! What in the world happens to you? What fresh hell does Jamie McGuire do to you?

Here is one answer: she takes a strong, interesting character and turns him into one that is veritably emasculated, dull, and insipid. Travis becomes the girl; he cries and screams and begs. He ditches his boxes of condoms along with his dignity, and we lose interest in him just as quickly. The man who oozed masculinity and dominance now simpers along, weak and uninspired. We are meant to see that Abby changed him from Bad Boy to Boy Worth Loving, but instead he comes across as utterly unappealing.

Don’t even get me started on the ending. Not only does it defy all logic, it appears to defy its characters. We are led to believe certain things about Abby and Travis, yet McGuire ends in it a way that is so unfaithful to them that you wonder if there was a publishing error in which another book’s ending was cut and pasted onto this one.

The first half of this book is ‘beautiful.’ Abby, Travis and their friends are created with care and creativity. We like them. We are interested in them. We care about them. And then comes the ‘disaster,’ and you will want to shout in frustration.

This could have been so good. But it just is not.

One word of warning: while this is Young Adult lit, the emphasis is on “adult.” There are fairly detailed sexual situations, as well as alcohol usage.

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Filed under file this under 'What Could Have Been', sometimes the book just isn't good, YA