Saturday, October 27, 2012

Book: Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

When I first started reading Beautiful Disaster, I loved it. Big Man on Campus finds the one girl who seems immune to his charm and since he can't shag her, befriends her. Abby and Travis develop a lovely camaraderie, with hints of attraction and unresolved sexual tension, a friendship that serves them both well. The descriptions of campus life were fun and made me a little nostalgic for something I never actually experienced. The author dropped hints that Abby's life before was quite different from the life she is leading on campus, said prior life being pretty much her sole reason for resisting Travis' advances in the first place. Travis is in a fraternity, but is most assuredly not your typical frat boy, by far.

That love for this book lasted until Abby and Travis finally give in after a fraternity party and sleep with each other. You know it's just a matter of time, that it is going to happen, because this is a romance, right? Big Man on Campus Travis, the guy that all the girls are hot for, the guy that girls line up to go home with, doesn't even last five minutes, and makes no effort to satisfy Abby, sexually speaking. I can blame this on the author, because the entire episode lasted about a paragraph, but I still lost a little bit of the hero-love and respect I'd been lavishing on Travis. After that, I just couldn't see him the same way. By the way, the descriptions of the sex, while extremely mild and unsatisfying, were nevertheless graphic enough that I probably wouldn't suggest this for someone under fifteen to eighteen, depending on your personal line in the sand.

Even once they were sleeping together, things went pretty well for the couple, and they were happy for a little while. The big obstacle happens when Abby, her friend America, America's boyfriend Shep and Abby's Travis go to Las Vegas. It all goes downhill from there. Travis' reaction to the obstacle is just exactly wrong, and his inability or unwillingness to read Abby's body language about how important this is to her takes him even further down in my eyes. I also don't think much of Abby's unwillingness to tell Travis why this is so critical to her.

The resolution of this issue takes up pretty much the rest of the book, with Abby standing firm the vast majority of the time, and Travis spiraling down into what amounts to stalker territory. I was deeply disappointed by the change in Travis from the beginning of the book to the end, and felt like he was not even the same character. The book ends on a high note, but it was an unrealistic ending for me, too happy too soon with not enough effort on either of the characters' parts.

I did love the characterization, particularly of Travis' family when we meet them. Their immediate acceptance of Abby as one of them is really sweet, and the brotherly love and protectiveness is something she needs, I think, from men who aren't her boyfriend. America and Shep stand up on their own, and even the tertiary characters aren't cookie-cutter background characters for the most part.

I'm trying so hard here to review this book without saying what happens, because it's a big deal to the characters. I hope I've managed that. The first half to two-thirds of the book is really good, so I still recommend reading it. Your mileage may vary with the big deal and the group's reaction to it, so don't let me keep you from reading the book.

Though I did love more than half the book, my lack of connection to Travis as the book went forward colored my like enough to take it down a notch. I'd give it a 3.5, but it definitely lost more than a point in my view. There were mistakes which could have been either typos or formatting errors, and there were many places where capital letters should have been and weren't.