Thrown Against the Wall: A Grumpy Review of Beautiful Disaster

This book was provided to me by Atria Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

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. (via Goodreads)

This isn’t normally the type of book I might read, but I’m not afraid to cross genre lines. I’d seen this book around and  read its positive blurbs. Since NetGalley was offering it as a “Read Now” in advance of its August 14th Simon & Schuster release, I figured I’d give it a look.

I read the first two chapters, not quite 50 pages, before I threw in the towel. It felt like so much more than 50 pages without covering any story at all. According to the chapter headings, the bet mentioned in the summary, which would seem to be the crux of the story, isn’t for another 20 pages. While I realize that the summary of a book should be an enticing distillation of the story, this book’s plot and characterization seem very watered down. I get no sense in these first couple chapters that Abby is a particularly “good girl” or that she’s trying very hard to avoid being “bad.” Instead, she seems pretty ordinary with an unhappy family situation.

Our bad boy, Travis, is in awesome shape without working out, very smart but engages in bare knuckle boxing because of his abusive past, and is so good looking that girls will sleep with him because he exists. And apparently because no women can resist the opportunity to try and change a bad boy. Except Abby and her best friend who is dating Travis’ best friend. When Abby sees Travis for the first time at one of his fights, she is attracted and repulsed. Since she’s the impenetrable good girl, he wants her. Thus begins a tiresome, to me, cycle of “I want him, but he’s still a womanizing putz” and “she doesn’t want me, so I’ll just continue to be a womanizing putz.” A story like this relies on Travis being, on some level, appealing even at the beginning of the book before any bad-boy redemption occurs. I don’t find him so and an given no reason to stick with this story.

Maybe I’m just too old, too removed from my college days. Or maybe my college days were thankfully free of bad-decision-men and dormitories with broken boilers.

On a personal experience level, the setting weirdly seems more like high school than college. Everyone meets for lunch, despite dinner being more likely due to variable class schedules. Travis and America’s boyfriend live off-campus, but eat at the cafeteria. Everyone seems to be taking the same low-level courses. Why aren’t Abby and America roommates? Most universities are pretty good about letting friends room together. Unless its winter, a cold shower isn’t the end of the world and any university with a budget would have the boiler fixed quickly. The girls would probably spend 1-2 nights off campus at most, if they couldn’t stand a cold shower. I realize that my experience at a large state university might be different from that of a student at a small college, but I found these things distracting.

Also, I’m really tired of male characters giving female characters diminutive nicknames within the first five minutes of meeting them.  The nickname Pidge, short for the nickname Pigeon, isn’t cute (or even neutral) enough to be amusing and doesn’t have the intimacy behind it to be endearing. It just…grates.

Format: Adobe Digital Edition of the  Simon & Schuster edition.
Procurement: NetGalley

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