Review copy provided by publisher
Simon & Schuster, 14 August 2012
Synopsis- 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.
Review- Okay I should start this review by saying two things; firstly, Beautiful Disaster is a completely absorbing, intense love story that I was completely drawn into. Secondly, Abby and Travis’s relationship was quite disturbing. Saying this has nothing to do with the writing style, in fact I think the author did a fabulous job of characterisation and creating conflict in Travis and Abby. However, my concerns lie in how their relationship will be perceived by young adult readers and that people may think this unhealthy relationship is okay.
Even though the romance reader in me really wanted Abby and Travis to sort things out and have a HEA, there was also the psychologist in me who couldn’t ignore the fact that Abby and Travis’s relationship has all the signs indicating domestic violence. Yes, Travis is muscular, tattooed and wooed on by the entire female college population, but when it comes to Abby he is jealous, controlling, possessive and aggressive. I understand that they had a strong emotional connection and as Abby said, when they are alone things are perfect. But when anyone one else enters this co-dependent duo’s space it quickly becomes alarming. He tries to limit her contact with other boys, he interferes with her relationship with Parker (when Abby and Travis were just ‘friends’) and he engages in the typical abusive behaviour of lashing out/ aggression/ controlling behaviour followed by pleading and begging for forgiveness. Abby, despite being intelligent and strong-willed begins to fall into this unhealthy pattern-focusing on the times they share together that are positive and dismissing the times when he goes absolutely ballistic. Even though Abby wouldn’t admit it, I think there were times when she was scared of him and what he was capable of doing. I’m sorry, but that’s domestic violence.
Don’t get me wrong, I liked Travis as a character. He has all the bad boy elements going for him, but he also has another side that’s caring, thoughtful and loyal to his friends. There were certainly times when I really hoped for Travis to give up his bad boy attitude, but I also thought it was unfair to expect Abby to ‘change’ him when he obviously had a lot of issues to work through on his own.
Abby draws out Travis’s strengths but she’s also his Achilles heel. She accepts his faults and it is this unconditional love that drives Travis to self-improvement, but his love for her and his fear of losing that love also incites his controlling and protective side. He also evidently has a bit of a problem with alcohol. There were times when I was really angry at Abby when she made excuses for him or dismissed his destructive behaviour, especially the time he brought two women home when Abby was in the home. Even though they were just ‘friends’it was completely disrespectful and childish. Then again, Abby was just 19 years old and had come from a dysfunctional family so she too had a vulnerability to engaging in an unhealthy relationship. I didn’t really like the change in Abby’s personality after the halfway mark of the book- the way she treated Parker and how she encouraged Travis to bully and act violently towards other people.
I think I would’ve liked to understand Abby’s relationship with her father a bit more. Her background was quite vague until the second half of the book when her dad pops into her life and I was surprised by how easily Abby succumbed to his demands despite her determination to free herself of him. This could have been explored further, especially since it became the core reason for keeping Abby and Travis from sustaining a relationship. Despite the strong characterisation, it was this conflict that weakened the plot for me.
In essence, Abby and Travis together is truly a beautiful disaster. A compelling, disturbing story about young love and the lengths one will go to sustain that love. I can see why Simon and Schuster picked up this self-published phenomenon. A promising start to a gripping contemporary YA series. I believe the author will release a companion novel titled Walking Disaster which tells the story of Beautiful Disaster from Travis’s perspective- not sure how i feel about going through the chaos of this relationship all over again!
“I loved this book!”
Beautiful Disaster can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers