Author: Jamie McGuire
Publisher: Atria Books (Simon & Schuster)
Release Date: August 14th, 2012 (paperback)
Interest: Student Recommended
Summary (From Goodreads): The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from 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.
Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire wasn’t on my reading radar until two of my seniors started raving about it. I was at Target last week, saw a copy that was marked 20% off, and decided on a whim to buy it. I was hooked as soon as I started reading.
I do, however, have a lot of mixed reactions about it. Books that fall in the New Adult category are naturally going to be more mature than YA, in my opinion, so that’s why I hesitate sometimes when I read them. As a mature adult, I can look at Travis and Abby’s relationship and make sense of their relationship and all of the drama. In Beautiful Disaster, I’m really not as concerned about the sex in the story as I’m concerned about the dynamics of their relationship. The sex isn’t overly graphic or too prevalent. My issue is that their relationship is dysfunctional and bordering on dangerous. Travis isn’t physically abusive, but he is incredibly dependent on Abby and extremely violent around her on an almost regular basis. My concern is that my students will read this and think that Travis is cute and sweet and the kind of guy they want to date. And to be honest, he does have many of those characteristics and grows throughout the story. Abby isn’t always much better. She toys with Travis and is often wishy-washy which she knows drives him crazy. They have a really messed up relationship, but it has plenty of moments that shine. I’m going to add Beautiful Disaster to my classroom library, but I’m going to take my time book talking this and expressing my concerns. I’ll make sure to discuss it with any of my students that read it because I want to make sure they understand the difference between a stable relationship and a dysfunctional one.
Now I know I harped on Travis and Abby in that last paragraph, but don’t let that make you think I didn’t like them or the book. There were plenty of times I wanted to scream at both of them. But there were also plenty of times that I loved seeing them together and cheered them on. They’re both very flawed characters and their relationship brings their insecurities and flaws to light, but it also helps them grow and mature. I really felt like I knew them. At one point, I was so upset about an event in the book that I called my friend, who had already read it, to vent and express my concerns. I felt attached to Travis and Abby while I was reading. Jamie McGuire has done a fabulous job write these two characters and their supporting characters as well. I could easily see and feel everything that was happening in the story.
I do have to point out that Beautiful Disaster is full of DRAMA. Lots and lots of drama. Abby and Travis bring most of the drama on themselves, but there’s plenty there that’s outside of their control. I can’t complain about it too much because it made the story intense and exciting, but towards the end a few things came up that sort of made me shake my head. I’m not sure some of it was really all that vital to the story at that point.
I’ll definitely be reading Walking Disaster which is told from Travis’s point of view. I’m not going to lie, I really liked him. He’s often an idiot, but he grew on me, and I would love to read something from his point of view to better understand him.
If you’ve read either of these books, I’d love to know your thoughts! I’m curious to know if any other high school teachers have read this and added it to their libraries. I’d also love to know if I’m off base in regards to my concerns.