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Customer Review

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Rushed and ill-thought-through, centred around an unbelievable relationship, 28 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: Beautiful Disaster (BEAUTIFUL SERIES) (Paperback)
Inexplicably, this book has a 4.5 star average. That's higher than any of the Fifty Shades of Grey books that it's compared to. This was a 99p special offer, which I downloaded without expectations of literary greatness but because I did enjoy the Fifty Shades trilogy.

Beautiful Disaster wasn't so bad that I had to stop reading it. (I hate leaving books unfinished, but I do from time to time, when I really can't get into one.) It was a bit like terrible, trashy TV that has you cringing but from which you can't make yourself look away... But that doesn't make it good.

The story revolves around Abby (supposedly a good girl just arrived at college) and Travis (supposedly an all-round bad boy) and their `beautiful disaster' of a relationship. The trouble is, nothing really hangs together. The blurb tells us Abby is a good girl, something which I think is meant to be reinforced by her wearing a cardigan when we first meet her, but there's nothing else to suggest this. Her background is referred to loosely and vaguely, and when it's eventually explained it feels unconvincing and weak. Travis is a champion fighter, star student, and girl-magnet: not the most realistic character. Even less realistic is his immediate willingness to change for Abby and their equally immediate pull to one another. In Fifty Shades of Grey, on which Jamie McGuire has fairly obviously based Beautiful Disaster, everything is a bit more nuanced and drawn out. This is more equivalent to the insta-love that Twilight is perhaps guilty of, but without the supernatural to fall back on as an explanation.

Not only are the foundations of their relationship unrealistic, but so is the way it pans out. Abby and Travis spend months in some kind of ridiculous dance of misunderstandings and miscommunications, some of which seem so unlikely they must be willful. I think it's meant to be obsessive and intense, but really it's unbelievable and infuriating. Equally unbelievable is the degree to which other people (especially Abby's friend America and Travis' cousin Shepley) care about this car crash of a relationship.

Where there is more similarity with Fifty Shades of Grey - which is not perfect but does spin a compelling story - is in the weakness of the writing itself. While E.L. James overuses phrases such as `oh my', Jamie McGuire's preferred cliché is people `softening' - it feels like every other paragraph sees Travis' eyes softening, his face softening, his expression softening. What does this even mean? The other thing that really grated on me throughout is the ridiculous nickname Travis gives Abby: Pigeon (or Pidge). This comes from nowhere, means nothing, and sticks without anyone questioning it or pointing out its stupidity.

For all of this, I did keep reading - and it's actually a really long book. I wasn't grabbing every spare minute to read it, as I do with better books, but I didn't give up on it. I'm not entirely sure why, but that comparison with car-crash reality TV is the best one I can come up with. I think I kept hoping that there'd be some revelation to make everything make sense. Sadly, there was not. Although apparently there is a spin-off novella (I won't share the title as it'll give away something about Beautiful Disaster) and Walking Disaster, a money-spinning version of the original book told from Travis' perspective.

Overall, Beautiful Disaster feels rushed and ill thought through. Its biggest failing is a pretty crucial one: there is nothing to the story apart from their relationship, and their relationship is not believable. It takes skill to make you believe two people are destined to be together despite appearances and circumstances, that they can be drawn to each other from the first look. For me, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one of the best examples of this. And, though they may not be great literature, Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey do achieve it. Sadly, Jamie McGuire and Beautiful Disaster don't.
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