“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 wants – and needs – 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.”
Thoughts: Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster explores the relationship minefield, showcasing two very dysfunctional people and how their bond with each other makes them functional. In reality, Travis and Abby should not work. In Ms. McGuire’s world, they work very well, creating a surprisingly poignant relationship that is meant to last in spite of its unorthodox beginnings.
There is much with which a reader can find fault in Beautiful Disaster. Abby’s backstory, her reasons for hiding her past, including her reasons for trying to avoid the inevitable, remain nebulous at best. This creates a huge gap in understanding Abby’s motivations and actions in the present. More details about her sordid past, her unhealthy relationship with her father, and her almost nonexistent relationship with her mother would do much to make those scenes where she fights her future more believable. If running from one’s past is a key plot point, then it should be more thoroughly explained.
Even worse, Travis is the poorest kind of romantic hero. He is not only the worst kind of womanizer, he is insanely jealous, prone to terrifying mood swings, and profoundly dangerous. While the lack of appropriate parenting/nurturing may explain some of it, the fact of the matter remains that Travis knows his faults and tries to justify them with terrible excuses. Even explaining the inexplicable attraction of the proverbial bad boy, why anyone would want to continue to chase after a cad like Travis remains unfathomable and sets a dangerous precedent that bad boys like Travis can indeed be tamed by the right woman.
The writing is trite, the characters are ill-defined, and yet Beautiful Disaster is a gorgeous read. It is as if all of the baggage each brings to their relationship does not matter once they are together so there is no need to explain it to readers. One might be horrified at the completely inappropriate behaviors both Abby and Travis exhibit, but together they shine so brightly that everything else fades. They can only exist together, and their struggles to reach that same conclusion make it easy for a reader to compulsively read all 400 pages in one sitting.
Beautiful Disaster shouldn’t work at all, but it does. Travis, for all of his boorish behavior, jealous fits, temper tantrums, and drunken exploits, is surprisingly tender, sweetly sentimental, and very adult when around Abby. Conversely, Abby is less whiny, stilted, and annoying when with Travis. It is a most unusual, dangerously dysfunctional relationship, but it is perfect for them. Everything else really does pale in comparison, and a reader’s heart simple melts when they are together.