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Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

If you’re wary of relationships that border on unhealthy, where the hero at times acts like a destructive stalker, then you should probably stay away from this book. People seem to either love it or hate it. But as a #1 bestseller originally published through a vanity press, the reading writer can’t help but take a look.

Abby Abernathy and her best friend America leave for college with a goal: help Abby escape from her past and make good choices about her future. Enter Travis Maddox, underground fighter with tattoos and a temper, a really, really Bad Choice. And from them moment they meet, he has his sights set on her. She resists for a while, but a girl can only hold out for so long.

And that’s only half the book. What ensues is the passionate, sometimes painful ups and downs of what begins as a dysfunctional relationships and moves toward a more stable one. There’s enough tears and drunken nights and fights and jealousy to fill Abby and Travis’s lives with endless twists and turns.

Ms. McGuire could have easily given into what has become almost standard in this genre and made this a serial. Thankfully, she resists that temptation and gives us a Happily Ever After so we can let out a collective breath.

This book is like a soap opera, full of tension and slow-moving train wrecks and all the passion that 18-year-old love can bring. For a New Adult book, there’s surprisingly little sex, though it’s not that Ms. McGuire shies away from writing about it. Rather, the book is mostly unfulfilled tension, a la Young Adult novels, though the book is much too raw to be anything close to Young Adult. Most of the book is spent with Travis pursuing Abby and her resisting, though her reasons for resisting are unclear for a good chunk of the book. Even after they get through the first hurtles, she breaks up with him (for understandable reasons), and then they start the whole process again, this time even more destructively.

Fiction is entertainment, and just as we like to read about clever murders in stories even though real-life murders hold no appeal, romance with a slightly unstable but passionate man seems to hold the same appeal. This books is a testament to the fact that many readers are willing to separate dysfunctional relationships in fiction from (much less appealing) dysfunctional relationships in real life. There’s something appealing about watching someone go through the kind of relationship that you yourself wouldn’t dare to enter. Some reviewers seem to think that this book sets romanticizes unhealthy relationships, but this reading writer isn’t so sure that what we want in our fiction represents how we see our real-life world.

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