Review - Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

Beautiful Disaster
by Jamie McGuire
Summary: The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate percentage of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance between her and 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 received this book courtesy of NetGalley
This book was a train wreck. And much like a train wreck, I couldn't tear myself away. I read this so quickly, absorbed in each scene. The title is quite perfect if you emphasize Disaster.
Abby and Travis meet and enter into a relationship relatively quickly - much more quickly than I would have expected based on the synopsis. And they are the perfect example of a dysfunctional couple. This book is not good girl meets bad boy, at least not to me. The synopsis was incredibly misleading for me. This book is more immature, slightly intelligent girl meets crazy, messed up, emotionally wrecked guy and disaster ensues.
Had this book ended differently, I would have given it 5 stars. I've never seen such a wonderful portrayal of a train wreck couple except in Eminem songs and videos. The author captured the incredibly emotional highs and lows, the terrible passion of two people in love, and the dysfunction caused by a man who is abusively codependent. It was amazing, but I felt a slight disappointment that there was no moral to the story. I hate to spoil this aspect for other readers, but it largely impacted my review.
I have no idea what the actual purpose of the book was, so I'm just guessing and figuring out what I took from it. To me, I thought the author titled the book wonderfully and captured a disastrous relationship flawlessly. But because there is no moral to the story, I wonder if perhaps more emphasis is placed on the Beautiful rather than the Disaster. I don't know. Is this book supposed to be a romance? I hope not one we aspire to have. Are readers supposed to find Travis an irresistible hero? I hope not. And if the answer to those questions is yes, than I guess I missed something. This is not a book I would ever EVER recommend to young people, unless it is given with a warning: This is not a book about love. This is a book about a train wreck. This captures a dysfunctional couple and highlights the good and bad aspects to an abusive relationship. Without knowing the author's real intention, it's hard for me to really figure this book out and decide if I loved it or hated it.
While the writing isn't amazing, it's one of those books that I just jumped into immediately, instantly captivated by the characters. It's rare that mediocrity goes unnoticed by me, but the characters were so developed and the book was so fast paced, I found myself ignoring the flaws and turning each page! (I'm not saying this book is badly written, it's just not anything to rave about in terms of eloquence.)
The characters were incredibly believable except for one problem: they ALL have one track minds. They are complex about one thing and that is each other. It's a strange thing to encounter. All other aspects of life are relatively minor and ignored, but the relationship between Abby and Travis and even some of the other secondary characters is so incredibly dynamic and complex. And I cannot stress enough how well the author presented such a train wreck relationship and the emotional roller coaster Abby and Travis rode. While their relationship is largely presented in a positive light, the negative things aren't ignored. There are some scary parts of this book. Travis is completely insane and violent when Abby is not around and he's worried about her. He's crazy jealous, beyond a small amount of healthy jealousy. While Abby's best friend bounces back and forth between "you should leave him" or "please just get back together" sides, Abby's roommate in her dorm room doesn't hold back her opinion. This book is from Abby's point of view and I got the sense that she thought her roommate was rude or bitchy, Kara had the best insight into Travis and Abby's relationship with: " Do you know was codependency is, Abby? Your boyfriend is a prime example, which is creepy considering he went from having no respect for women at all to thinking he needs you to breathe."
And this quote is also eye opening:
“I’m sorry, Shepley,” I called after him.
He froze and wheeled around, with the face of a man that had reached his limit. “I wish you and Travis would just get your shit together! You’re a goddamn tornado! When you’re happy, it’s love and peace and butterflies. When you’re pissed, you take the whole fucking world down with you!”
This book was believable to me. I know a few people in relationships like this. It happens. Like I said before, Eminem's been singing about it for years. (The book actually reminds me of the video for 'Love the way you lie' )
There is no doubt that Abby and Travis are madly in love. I felt that throughout the entire book. But what they have is unhealthy and Travis needs much more help than just someone to put up with him. It doesn't bother me that this book features an unhealthy relationship, it bothers me that I can't figure out if it's supposed to be portrayed as unhealthy or not.
What troubles me about this book and how to review it is that I don't know what this book is supposed to stand for. I don't know what the author's intentions were and I don't know what readers who loved this book love it for. And it worries me terribly if this is supposed to be a glimpse of a healthy passionate relationship. Based on the quotes like the ones I used above that are peppered throughout the book, I'd like to think the author was very clever and talented and was able to write this book to display an unhealthy relationship in it's pure form. But based on the TONS of quotes about passion and love and belonged to one another and putting up with each other and marrying each other, part of me wonders if that's the thing I'm supposed to focus on: true love conquers all and this is what real passion is like and this is what people should strive for. Because I really don't know, I was in between 1 star and 5 stars and I went for the middle with 3 stars.