Monday, February 10, 2014

Isn't It Romantic?

I haven't blog-reviewed a book in quite some time, but I read one yesterday that left me with so much to say, and I have an afternoon off to sit here and say it. I mean, there's only so many Emergency Kittens tweets I can re-Tweet, after all.

I read Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire in one day; it's the kind of book that moves quickly (and also, alas, the kind of book where you can skip whole paragraphs and not get lost). It tells the love story of Abby and Travis, through her eyes. Abby is Sandra Dee, a "good girl" in a pink cardigan with the sassy (and enabling/victim-blaming/slut-shaming) best friend. She meets Travis, the tattooed, brilliant and popular fighter in an underground fighting ring on their college campus. He also happens to be a fan of the one-night stand. 

Let's just pause for a second and take all this in.

So of course, Abby wants nothing to do with Travis, but Travis insists. And Abby...just can't help herself. Swayed by the stalkerish tendencies of this tattooed demigod, she starts to fall for him. "But we're just friends," she insists to everyone, even as she (platonically) sleeps in his bed every night for a solid month while dating a guy who gives her a diamond bracelet for her birthday after knowing her for all of two weeks.

Well, of course her dating another guy (named Parker, natch, 'cause rich white guys who are competing with tattooed bad boys in these books are always named Parker or Harrison or Preston or some such once-was-a-prestigious-surname-so-Mummy-and-Daddy-stuck-me-with-it name) makes Travis massively jealous, so he alternates between sulking/brooding (cue the swooning!) and being a completely sociopathic madman who threatens guys who so much as look at Abby the wrong way. And when the woman who has repeatedly told him, "Yeah, I sleep in your bed but we're just friends" (or something like that) gets caught kissing her rich boyfriend, Travis responds by bringing two women home for a one-night-stand on the couch that Abby has to listen to.

What a gentleman.

I could go on and on, but honestly, the book just gets worse. When these two idiotic heroes finally have sex, Travis sighs and tells Abby, "That was your last first kiss." She (understandably) freaks out and leaves, so Travis, being a rational man, trashes his apartment and lashes out at his roommate and roomie's girlfriend (who happens to be Abby's BFF, are you keeping up?).

Basically, to answer the question in the title of this blog post, No. No, it isn't romantic. It's not a romance novel, it's a recipe for every unhealthy relationship that has ever happened.

Anyway, the reviews on Goodreads are almost overwhelmingly five stars because this kind of crap is what we get sold to us as being romantic. Edward Cullen hanging out in Bella Swan's bedroom all night, staring at her is "romantic." Women going back--again and again--to men who show signs of terrifying jealousy (Travis, at one point, hits a man in the face for flirting with Abby in a bar...while her face is inches away), is "romantic." A nineteen-year-old heroine running off to Vegas to marry this dude (yes, this is how the book ends, and also with her getting "Mrs. Maddox" tattooed on her stomach) before she's even had time to explore the world is "romantic."

Then there's the whole good girl/bad boy thing. What makes Travis a bad bet as a boyfriend is not his tattoos (I know plenty of true gentlemen, very clean-cut, who are tatted like crazy, nothing "bad" about them, they just like body art), but his jealousy and his tendency to manipulate and stalk Abby. Abby dresses like a "good girl" and tries to cultivate a reputation as being so well-behaved and sweet, but she's incredibly rude to her dorm roommate for no apparent reason. Her treatment of Parker is also questionable, stringing him along, only to dump him for Travis. Twice. (It could be argued that Parker is stupid to even waste his time dating someone who shares a bed with another man every night for a month while they're dating but I'm going to give him a pass just this one time.)

Anyway, there you have it. I am not writing about the book to give it more attention (I mean, if you think this sort of story sounds romantic, by all means, read the book and love the hell out of it), but rather to rant about how it's perfectly acceptable to find a book about an abusive, controlling relationship to be oh-so-romantic...just as people think Edward and Bella are romantic, or, to go back even further, Cathy and Heathcliff. Allow me to malign a "classic" novel and say that I loathe Wuthering Heights precisely because it is about two of the most selfish, cruel lovers I've ever read about. 

Isn't it romantic?


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