Written by: Lena Yang
A perpetuating theme that is gripping the Young Adult and newly-coined New Adult genre is the glorification of violence, abuse, and erratic behaviour. It seems every other book I pick up is riddled with sadism, and people—girls and women, especially—are eating it up. The blatant disregard for responsible storytelling and the lack of nuance in these novels places excruciating strain on readers, like myself, who have sworn to never intentionally damage a book. But my God, when I finished Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster, I wanted nothing more than to throw the novel out the window.
Beautiful Disaster is yet another exploration into a story of the attractive male who is irrevocably drawn to the Plain Jane; this trope is becoming increasingly more commonplace in literature due largely in part to Stephanie Meyer’s romanticizing of aggressive and disturbing behaviour, and has since become accepted as rational behaviour exhibited by men in pursuit of females, as is proven by the increasing demand for literature of the sort. The formula is simple:
A doormat heroine, and a bad boy in need of redemption. Just add water.
Beautiful Disaster opens with an introduction to Abby Abernathy, an innocent, doe-eyed college freshman looking to escape her troubled past. Pressured into attending an underground fight by her best friend, America, Abby is jostled into the centre of the ring by the unruly crowd and happens upon tattooed bad boy extraordinaire, Travis Maddox, thus prompting the commencement of their capricious relationship. Travis nicknames Abby “pigeon” very early on in the novel, and the nickname sticks, as nicknames do, so the audience is forced to trudge through a novel in which the protagonist is referred to as an insufferable bird. While Abby struggles with Travis’s promiscuous habits, readers are left groveling at the utter disrespect shown to females by the novel’s egocentric male protagonist who treats women as mere stepping stones in his pursuit for self pleasure. Although Abby outwardly expresses her distaste for Travis’s behaviour, she nevertheless sleeps with him in order to “satisfy his curiosity”—what?
The remainder of the novel is a tremulous train ride interspersed with Travis’s unabashed display of aggression towards men who dares encroach into Abby’s vicinity, and sporadic demonstrations of Abby’s pseudo-proactive dignifying attitude which, really, is merely a guise for her alter misogynistic-self to flourish amidst the presence of other females.
If this book were to be placed on a scale that weighs the level of atrocity of the written content, it would surely tip the balance and cause it to crash into a ginormous hole in the ground.
Here is the novel condensed into several notable points of utterly useless and preposterous plot and characterization elements:
- An impromptu cafeteria sing-along complete with football player back-up dancers
- An entire population of college students investing themselves in the relationship of Abby and Travis as if their lives are the very pinnacle of importance in a scandalous five-star soap opera
- The tattooing of certain people’s names and nicknames in unabashed displays of affection
- The pressuring of Abby to feel ashamed, and thus, apologizing for triggering Travis’s violent behaviour
- A convoluted subplot of gambling and a random weekend trip to Las Vegas filled with gambling galore
Poor characterization and a lack of a substantial plot aside, McGuire’s writing is truly subpar. The sentence structure is choppy and does not read smoothly. There are a handful of spelling and grammar errors, which is wont to happen with any self-published book, and the mistakes deter readers from thoroughly engaging with the book. However, it is a fairly short read so those undertaking the task of immersing themselves in this novel will not have to do so for a prolonged period of time.
All criticism aside, the intent of this review is not to chastise romance novels, especially those exploring dysfunctional relationships. I am aware that the world is inevitably lacking in wholesome, exemplary relationships, and I do believe literature should be utilized as a means to explore those situated in less than fortunate circumstance—encourage it, even—as literature should be representative of the unadorned, unapologetic facets of society. However, one should approach such subjects critically and responsibly. In the case of Beautiful Disaster, readers are left with a glorification of abusive relationships and a trail of young girls fantasizing of one day having their very own Travis “chiseled abs” Maddox to ogle (I fail to understand why anybody would willingly seek a partner who is aggressive, manipulative, and overly possessive). The characters in the novel are aware of their shortcomings, but there is no substantial development arc to remedy their obvious faults; thus, McGuire has simply penned a novel of two trainwreck lovers who yield to each others’ negative influences with no noticeable improvement, complete with an utterly insipid conclusion to wrap up the novel.
I suppose the title Beautiful Disaster is merely half befitting, as only the latter accurately describes this vapid read. I have praise for one person, and one person only. The true victor in this ordeal is not McGuire, who has, to my dismay, undoubtedly raked in mounds of cash. It is me, the exasperated reader, for having the patience and stamina to sludge through this disastrous novel. I have given myself a well-earned celebratory pat on the back and will now tuck the memory of this book in the same dark, forgotten corner of my mind where twelfth grade calculus equations have been discarded to collect dust.