Title: Beautiful Disaster
Author: Jamie McGuire
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Contemporary fiction/ Coming of Age
The characters in Beautiful Disaster are older teens, but I’m glad the publisher has marked this as adult (at least at Netgally where I got it from), because of the unnecessary emphasis on smoking, drinking, sex and violence. I’m cool with all that when it’s not over done, but not when the most action that happens is the characters getting drunk and throwing up. Unfortunately, however, teens are reading this book and it glorifies violence as a way of solving problems.
This is contemporary fiction, not fantasy, so the violence is real. The hero is a guy who pummels people as his way of coping with his emotions. I’m not into censorship, but I am into responsible publication, and this story is a socially irresponsible publication for teen readers. It would have been nice to see the girlfriend at least not like Travis’s violence! But, no, she just accepted it as a valid way to deal with things. It would also have been nice to see him develop some other coping skills, but, no, he curbed his sex, but not his drinking, smoking or fighting. Had the characters grown, this could have been a good book, as it was, it didn’t go any further than getting the guy and girl together. That isn’t coming of age; growing up is.
I was in a group on Goodreads where teens were raving about the book mainly because Travis’s love for Pidge is so solid and he tries so hard that he is endearing, but teens tend not to look at the deeper issues, and that’s the problem here because the issues are there, but they are not examined. The binge drinking, violence and gambling are not questioned in any way. At least the line is drawn at working for the Mob.
The prose is excellent. The characters are well fleshed out and easy to relate to, but Travis—even though I liked him—is too obvious a ‘bad-boy’ stereotype with too predictable reactions. The author has laid the ‘bad’ on too thick—gambling, drinking, promiscuity, smoking, fighting; he even has a motor-bike. There isn’t much of a story, just a relationship between a ‘bad’ boy and a girl I found stupid for the early part of the book (she, at least, showed some sense later in the book). There was too much repetition of the relationship issues, no deep themes I could see, and too little action to keep me interested.
I almost didn’t finish this book because I got bored around 30% of the way through, annoyed at around 40% and at the halfway point, when Travis turned into a real jerk, I just couldn’t see how it was going to get any better. His violent jealousy was made to appear endearing! I wonder if the publisher was so enamoured with the quality of the prose that they didn’t stop to consider the actual story. They certainly don’t care about the negative role models they’re presenting here. I picked it up again after a recommendation by a bunch of teens and I’m glad I did because it proved me right. The second half was more interesting, and the ending was good, but the book failed to redeem itself.
If you’re not bored by stereotypes, excessive self-destructive behaviour and the details of a highly frustrating relationship, then you may well get to the end, and there is plenty in the character interactions to enjoy. Personally, though, I expect more thought put into a book from Simon & Schuster. They got the title right though; Beautiful refers to the prose; disaster refers to the story.
I give it 2 stars due a repetitive plot, and a lack of character development and conceptual editing. I wouldn’t want my daughter to have read it before she left school and now that she is, luckily she is intelligent enough that she would find the kids stupid behaviour as boring as I.
Click on the cover image to go to the Amazon page.