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Jealous Haters Book Club: Beautiful Disaster chapter one, “Red Flag” or “No shit, ya think?”

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Well, here we are again. I guess it must be fate, etc. I was going to try to make that into a Peter Cetera joke but I couldn’t ultimately make it land. I’m almost 100% sure that half my readership wouldn’t get it, anyway, because I am a thousand years old. And I am also 100% likely to have made that joke before.

We find ourselves at the beginning of yet another Jealous Haters Book Club selection. Now, before we get started, I would like to remind everyone reading this that I did not pick this book. The people of Trout Nation nominated and voted for it. I am putting this disclaimer here because someone warned me that the author has diehard fans who will come in droves to attack me, but honestly, do any of the big name pioneers of New Adult romance even have diehard fans anymore? Not even the E.L. James devotees are a mobilized army anymore. And aside from James, a lot of the New Adult authors who dominated the lists four years ago aren’t even hitting #1 in their very specific Amazon categories. New Adult isn’t dead (at least, I hope, because that’s what I’m writing next), but it’s not breaking down walls the way it did once upon a time. I can’t imagine these authors wield the same influence they once did.

Anyway, as I said, I really don’t like this author, her clique, or anybody having anything to do with her, but this wasn’t my choice. Especially after reading one of her other books. That said, I went into this trying hard to be objective. Almost contrarily so. Because so many people insisted to me over the years that this book is terrible, I was sure they were all exaggerating.

So far, it’s looking like I’m super wrong.

Let’s get into the first chapter, which yes, really is titled “Red Flag.” So, at least the author appears to be cognizant of what she’s doing.

Does that make it worse?

Everything in the room screamed that I didn’t belong. The stairs were crumbling, the rowdy patrons were shoulder to shoulder, and the air was a medely of sweat, blood, and mold. Voices blurred as they yelled numbers and names back and forth, and arms flailed about, exchanging money and gestures to communicate over the noise.

So, this where we join the story, with our heroine, Abby, following her friends, America and Shepley, though this environment. Someone gets on a bullhorn and says:

“Welcome to the bloodbath! If you are looking for Economics 101…you are in the wrong fucking place, my friend!

Good, because if I paid for Econ 101 and it was held in a moldy basement full of screaming people, I would be very put out.

If you seek the Circle, this is Mecca! My name is Adam. I make the rules and I call the fight. Betting ends once the opponents are on the floor. No touching the fighters, no assistance, no bet switching, and no encroachment of the ring. If you break these rules, you will get the piss beat out of you and you will be thrown out on your ass without your money. That includes you, ladies! So don’t use your hos to scam the system, boys!”

It’s not misogynist to refer to women as hoes if you’ve got an equal opportunity policy on physical assault.

Shepley shook his head. “Jesus, Adam!” he yelled ot the emcee over the noise, clearly disapproving of his friend’s choice of words.

Dude, why are you friends with someone who threatens to beat up women and calls them hoes? Also…why is the heroine of this novel friends with a guy who’s friends with a guy who threatens to beat up women and calls them hoes? Is this the red flag?

Abby notes that she’s wearing a pink cashmere cardigan and pearl earrings, so she looks really out of place at fight club this week.

I promised American that I could handle whatever we happened upon, but at ground zero I felt the urge to grip her toothpick of an arm with both hands. She wouldn’t put me in any danger, but being in a basement with fifty or so drunken college boys intent on bloodshed and capital, I wasn’t exactly confident of our chances to leave unscathed.

What do you mean, she wouldn’t put you in danger? A basement full of drunk college boys is danger. Let’s note the toothpick-arm here. I have this wild feeling that there will be a lot of subtle criticism about the bodies of women who are not the heroine throughout the book.

After America met Shepley at freshman orientation, she frequently accompanied him to the secret fights held in different basements of Eastern University.

To keep the fights so super secret, you guys, the location is only ever announced an hour before the fight starts. But it can’t work too well…

Because I ran in somewhat tamer circles, I was surprised to learn of an underground world at Eastern; but Shepley knew about it before he had ever enrolled.

Like, how secret is this club, really? I’m not trying to be nitpicky on the second page of the book, but come on. It’s super, intensely secret, but people know about it before they even set foot on campus?

While we spent all of Apolonia wondering if the heroine was immortal or not, I’m going to spend this entire book wondering what year of college all these people are in. I tried to do the math, but…

Travis, Shepley’s roommate and cousin, entered his first fight seven months before. As a freshman, he was rumored to be the most lethal competitor Adam had seen in the three years since creating the Circle. Beginning his sophomore year, Travis was unbeatable.

Okay, setting aside for the moment that “lethal” means students have died at these underground fights that are super secret and haven’t been found out yet, I wanna try to put all this stuff together. In the first chapter, the ages of these characters are never made remotely clear.

We know that:

  • America met Shepley at freshman orientation.
  • Travis either started fighting seven months before he came to college or seven months before this scene is taking place.
  • Adam created the circle three years ago.
  • Travis is at least a sophomore.

We don’t know:

  • If America is still a freshman or if Shepley was a freshman when they met at orientation.
  • Whether Travis just started fighting seven months ago and therefore was a freshman seven months ago but is now a sophomore.
  • What year Adam is on.
  • No, seriously, how old is anyone here?

And in case you’re wondering, it doesn’t get cleared up in this chapter.

The first fight is between a “star varsity wrestler” who for some reason is willing to risk injury in a skeezy underground fight, and Travis ‘Mad Dog’ Maddox, who is introduced with an instruction manual:

“[…]Shake in your boots, boys, and drop your panties, ladies!”

Ahem, I believe you mean, “hos”.

The volume exploded when Travis appeared in a doorway across the room. He made his entrance, shirtless, relaxed, and unaffected. He strolled into the center of the circle as if he were showing up to another day at work. Lean muscles stretched under his tattooed skin as he popped his fists against Marek’s knuckles. Travis leaned in and whispered something in Marek’s ear, and the wrestler struggled to keep his stern expression.

And then they just started fucking right there on the moldy basement floor.

No, but wouldn’t that be more interesting?

Marek stood toe-to-toe with Travis, and they looked directly into each other’s eyes.

“DIRECTLY INTO EACH OTHER’S EYES?” I THOUGHT WE LEFT THAT IN HANDBOOK FOR MORTALS!

Pool water filling with blood, the words "IT FOLLOWS" appearing in the blood.

Honestly, though, any book I read now, if it says anything about looking right at or directly into someone’s eyes, I just lose it.

The guys start fighting and the crowd gets wild, but Abby can’t see anything, so she starts pushing right to the front. Or, encroaching upon the ring, as the charming Adam might call it. She finally gets close enough to watch all the action, and Travis, who has until this point been raining blows on the other guy, throws an elbow into the dude’s nose.

Blood sprayed my face, and splattered down the front of my cardigan.

Well, there’s a meet-cute I’ve never seen before.

Marek fell to the concrete floor with a thud, and for a brief moment the room was completely silent. Adam threw a scarlet square of fabric onto Marek’s limp body, and the mob detonated.

Is…is he dead?

My eyes traveled upward; jeans, spattered with blood, a set of finely chiseled abs, a bare, tattooed chest drenched in sweat, and finally a pair of warm, brown eyes. I was shoved from behind, and Travis caught me by the arm before I fell forward.

“Hey! Back up off her!” Travis frowned, shoving anyone who came near me. His stern expression melted into a smile at the sight of my shirt, and then he dabbed my face with a towel. “Sorry about that, Pigeon.”

There it is. The first occurrence of the nickname that got mentioned about twenty-six thousand times in the nominations. Because so many of you absolutely hate it, I can’t wait to find out why he chooses that name for her.

As long as we’re on the subject of “red flags,” can we talk about the fierce protectiveness coupled with instant familiarity here? It would be one thing if Travis had shoved the person who bumped into her. Hell, if a guy threw a punch in a bar fight to protect a woman being harassed, I’m all over that. Good job, guy. But Travis is standing here giving her a pet name and getting physically aggressive with anyone who comes near her in what has been described as an intensely crowded space.

Remind you of any other character I spent four years of my life complaining about?

Travis tells Abby that her sweater looks good on her so it’s too bad it got ruined, and America shows up to call her friend an idiot. Shepley tells Abby that she shouldn’t have been there but like…bro. You brought her there.

America takes Abby straight to the ER for prophylactic vaccinations due to all the blood that splashed in her face. Nah, they just go straight back to Abby’s dorm room.

America followed me to my dorm room and then sneered at my roommate, Kara.

Now, there’s nothing here that establishes why someone would sneer at Kara. All she does is see her blood-spattered roommate and say, “Gross.” And she wears glasses and doesn’t seem overly invested in Abby’s life. But none of that happens until after the sneer, which goes unremarked upon in both dialogue and narrative. Are we supposed to just assume Kara sucks?

The next day, Abby and Shepley and America are at lunch with a bunch of Shepley’s fraternity brothers and some football players.

Some of them had been at the fight, but no one mentioned my ringside experience.

Uh, the first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club, Abby. That’s pretty common knowledge.

So, then Travis comes in:

He was followed by two voluptuous bottle blondes wearing Sigma Kappa Ts. One of them sat on Travis’s lap; the other sat beside him, pawing at his shirt.

Even if I had never read Apolonia, this would be, you guessed it, a red flag. Like, one they would put up on the beach to warn you that the water has been contaminated with medical waste and internalized authorial misogyny.

“I think I just threw up a little bit in my mouth,” America muttered.

I think I actually used the gif of that line from Dodgeball in my Apolonia recaps.

The blonde on Travis’s lap turned to America. “I heard that, skank.”

America grabbed her roll and threw it down the table, narrowly missing the girl’s face. Before the girl could say another word, Travis let his knees give way, sending her tumbling to the floor.

“Ouch!” she squealed, looking up at Travis.

“America’s a friend of mine. You need to find another lap, Lex.”

The line forms here, ladies. No shoving.

I seriously can never understand what authors are trying to prove by showing the male love interest treating women like total crap. This isn’t a Jamie McGuire thing. This is a genre-wide issue in which some romance authors are apparently so threatened and insecure on their heroine’s behalf, they have to make it a point to create fictional women to abuse through the hero. And this is supposed to make the hero more attractive to the heroine and the reader. These blondes don’t even have names until one of them gets dumped on the floor by the hero (to show us his good taste? I guess?). That’s how disposable they are. They’re just a tool for the author and reader to act out their own insecurities about other women.

And it works, because after a few paragraphs:

Travis smiled at me win what I assumed was his most charming expression. He oozed sex and rebeliousness with his buzzed brown hair and tattooed forearms, and I rolled my eyes at his attempt to lure me in.

Even though Abby is seeing through his tough guy act, she’s still considering him sexy and viewing his bad behavior as a mating dance.

America mentions that Abby is her best friend, and Travis is like, since when do you have a best friend, and America says:

“Since junior year,” she answered, pressing her lips together as she smiled in my direction.

So…does she mean junior year in high school? Or are they in their fourth year of college? We still have no idea what age any of these people are. They’re between eighteen and twenty-two, I guess? Honestly, I’m not usually this hung up on the ages of characters in books. Sometimes, it just doesn’t matter. But freshman, sophomore, and junior have now all been used as time markers without any context. It troubles me.

Travis sits down by Abby and calls her “Pigeon” again and she doesn’t like it, so obviously he’ll keep doing it through the rest of the book because men doing things you ask them not to is such adorable behavior. He introduces himself and she reminds him that she knows his name already.

“Don’t flatter yourself. It’s hard not to notice when fifty drunks are chanting your name.”

And when people all over campus seem to fawn over him. I honestly couldn’t tell you the name of one person I went to college with that I didn’t know before I went to college. I think there was a girl who wore really thick eyeliner in one of my classes? And her hair was always pulled back way too tight? That’s it. That’s all I’ve got from college. There was a sign language interpreter named Sue, I remember her. But yeah. If you’re a big enough deal that you’re known all over campus for how amazing you are, I’d say you’re pretty amazing.

Also, I’d say that your fight club isn’t as secret as you think it is.

My biggest issue here is with the fact that Abby is meeting Travis, the cousin, BFF, and roommate of her friend, Shepley, for the first time. You’d think they would have run into each other socially since they travel in the same circle and he’s the big man on campus. How is this the first time they’ve ever spoken? When did Abby become friends with Shepley? Was it through America? They all seem to be in the same general group of acquaintences.

He laughed again when I glared at him. “Those are some amazing eyes, though,” he said, leaning just inches from my face. “What color is that, anyway? Gray?”

Do we have a hard time with our colors, Travis? How are you with shapes?

I didn’t like the way it made me feel when he was so close. I didn’t want to be like the scores of other girls at Eastern that blushed in his presence.

There we go. Not Like Other Girls™.

America tells Travis not to even think about trying anything with Abby, to which Shepley says:

“Baby,” Shepley said, “you just told him no. He’s never gonna stop, now.”

Wow, the title of this chapter was not fucking around, huh?

Travis calls Abby “Pidge,” so that’s three times in the scene that he calls her a name she doesn’t want to be called and of course we’re meant to interpret this as sexual tension. Then, he whispers something in America’s ear before he leaves.

A few more girls followed behind him, giggling and running their fingers through their hair to get his attention. He opened the door for them, and they nearly squealed in delight.

Look, more silly girls for us to judge! I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but it’s important for you to know that this isn’t going to stop like, at all. For the entire book.

After this scene, I’m really not understanding the vibe. Nobody really seems to like Travis. His best friend whom he is also related to basically described him as a sexual predator. Abby thinks he’s sexy but he refuses to use her name. Are we supposed to find him sexy here? Or am I just assuming we are because this is a romance? She honestly doesn’t seem to like him, so at least we’re a step up from Fifty Shades of Grey here?

I also don’t understand how these characters are in college. Everyone seems to have lunch at the same time, they’re all throwing food (America throws her roll, Shepley throws a french fry), and again, it’s weird that the entire campus knows and is obsessed with this one specific guy.

But anyway, America says:

“Oh, no. You’re in trouble, Abby.”

Why is Abby in trouble? Because Travis told her to bring Abby to his apartment. And it’s apparently just a given that she’s going, as she has been summoned. But Shepley warns her not to fall for Travis (also apparently a given) because it could cause problems between him and America.

“This isn’t my first rodeo, Mare. Do you know how many times he’s screwed things up for me because he one-nights the best friend? All of a sudden it’s a conflict of interest to date me because it’s fraternizing with the enemy. I’m tellin’ ya, Abby,” he looked at me, “don’t tell Mare she can’t come over or date me because you fall for Travis’s line of BS. Consider yourself warned.”

So, Travis is violent, treats women like shit, and carelessly sabotages his friend/cousin’s relationships out of pure selfishness. What do they get out of associating with him? Why does anyone admire and want to be around him?

Cecily Strong as the Drunk Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started A Conversation With on Saturday Night Live saying, "And like, why? And like, don't?

Here’s another weird thing where I don’t understand:

I tried to reassure Shepley with a smile, but his pessimism was driven by years of being burned by Travis’s endeavors.

Abby knows Shepley well enough to know that Travis has been a jerk to him for years, but again…she’s never met Travis? Travis is somehow news to her? I don’t get this.

Abby parts ways with Shepley and America and heads to class.

Eastern was exactly what I hoped it would be, from the smaller classrooms to the unfamiliar faces. It was a new start for me; I could finally walk somewhere without the whispers of those who knew–or thought they knew–anything about my past. I was as indistinguishable as any other wide-eyed, overachieving freshman on her way to class; no staring, no rumors, no pity or judgement. Only the illusion of what I wanted them to see: cashmered, no-nonsense Abby Abernathy.

Is her dark secret that she’s rich as hell? Because cashmere is coming up a lot.

When Abby sits down in class, Travis sits next to her.

“Good. You can take notes for me,” he said.

Abby accuses him of not actually being in the class, but he insists that he is. He just usually sits somewhere else.

A small group of girls was staring at me, and I noticed an empty chair in the center.

Considering Travis is known by the entire student body and has some type of all-female entourage with him in this class, how did Abby not notice that he was there all this time? But whatever. Anything for another opportunity to show how desired the hero is and how jealous all the girls will be of the heroine now that he’s got his sights set on her.

Remember, ladies: your personal happiness hinges on whether or not other women are jealous of you. You’re not winning the game unless all those bitches hate you.

Abby tells him she’s not going to take notes for him.

Travis leaned so close that I could feel his breath on my cheek. “I’m sorry…did I offend you in some way?”

Literally, everything this man has done on the page so far has been offensive, from beating a guy unconscious (to death?), surrounding himself with women simply to physically, verbally, and emotionally abuse them, selfishly destroy his friend’s relationships, assume every female character is there to fuck him, refuse to call the heroine by her name while obnoxiously pursuing her despite clear signals and explicit verbal statements indicating she doesn’t want anything to do with him, asking her to do classwork for him, and then getting in her face to ask this question.

Abby tells him to give up, she’s not going to sleep with him. He points out that he hasn’t asked her.

“I’m not a Barbie twin or one of your little groupies up there, I said, glancing at the girls behind us. “I’m not impressed with your tattoos or your boyish charm or your forced indifference, so you can stop the antics, okay?”

If you removed the internalized misogyny and description of Travis as having “boyish charm,” this would actually make me like Abby. Unfortunately, she has to pull the Not Like Other Girls™ card and once again describe this dude as charming. This is like the third time and he’s yet to do anything that’s the bare minimum of human decency, let alone anything that could be remotely construed as “charm”.

The entire time I read this chapter, I couldn’t help but compare it to Fifty Shades of Grey. While this doesn’t strike me as Twilight fanfic, it definitely feels like it’s taken a lot of cues from Fifty Shades. Both the books were published at roughly the same time, but Master of The Universe, the fanfic that, through the miracle of find-and-replace, became Fifty Shades of Grey, had been online since 2009, a year McGuire cites in the dedication of this book as being somehow important in starting her writing career. I want desperately to believe that Abby, Travis, and their “chemistry” so far was “borrowed” from Snowqueens Icedragon; the idea that two people independently thought, “You know what would be hot? An abusive guy who treats women as disposable relentlessly pursuing a misogynistic, judgmental priss who has no interest in him,” is so horrifying that I can’t even think up a funny analogy for the horror.

Travis assures Abby, whose name he still refuses to use (again, like Christian Grey, who wouldn’t call Ana anything but Anastasia, even after she asked him several times), that he just wants to hang out, not have sex with her.

Okay. Why?

So far, all Travis knows about Abby is that she doesn’t like him and has no interest in getting to know him. Why would that be appealing, if not as a challenge to overcome?

But of course, Abby says she’ll think about it because she is a pioneer in the “female main characters who go along with whatever the hero wants,” oeuvre.

A residual smile lingered on his face, making the dimple in his cheek sink in. The more he smiled, the more I wanted to hate him, and yet it was the very thing that made hating him impossible.

…do you want some reasons to hate him? Because I’ve been listing them off for a while now and we’re only on page twelve. I assure you, hating him is not impossible. Like, make a pros and cons table, Abby. Pros so far are like, “nice smile.” Cons are “everything else about him.”

In case the main characters aren’t misogynistic enough, the professors are, too:

“Who can tell me which president had a cross-eyed wife with a bad case of the uglies?” Chaney asked.

Why is this a question in a college-level course?

Travis grinned and relaxed into his chair. As the hour progressed, he alternated between yawning and leaning against my arm to look at my monitor. I made a concentrated effort to ignore him, but his proximity and the muscles bulging from his arm made it difficult. He picked at the black leather band around his wrist until Chaney dismissed us.

So, I guess the pros column is now, “nice smile, bulging muscle, is nearby.”

Abby tries to shake Travis after class, but he catches up with her and asks if she’s thought about coming to his apartment.

A petite brunette stepped in front of us, wide-eyed and hopeful. “Hey, Travis,” she lilted, playing with her hair.

I paused, recoiling from her sugary tone, and then walked around her. I’d seen her before, talking normally in the commons area of the girls’ dorm, Morgan Hall. Her tone sounded much more mature then, and I wondered what it was about a toddler’s voice she thought Travis would find appealing. She babbled in a higher octave for a bit longer until he was next to me once again.

We. Get. It. Every woman except Abby sucks and is a whore. We get it now. We don’t need any more of this. We are on page twelve and this is the fourth time we’ve heard about how much women love Travis and how stupid they act. I would almost prefer the “cum burping gutter slut” insult from Apolonia than pages and pages of this.

Seriously, there’s no way McGuire didn’t read Master of The Universe and go, “I can make both the hero and heroine hate women more.”

Now, the only setting described at this point since they got out of class was the hallway. It’s never indicated that they’ve gone outside at all. Travis put on his sunglasses, but it’s never mentioned that they leave the building, so when this happens:

Pulling a lighter from his pocket, he lit a cigarette and blew out a thick cloud of smoke.

I immediately imagine this whole sequence as happening in the hallway, like a scene from a Grease sequel that’s worse than Grease 2.

Finally, Travis’s relentless pestering wears Abby down. She agrees to go to his apartment that night. Are you kidding me, Abby? If we have to endure pages upon pages of everyone insisting that Abby is some smart, strong woman while she continually acts in ways that are totally contrary, I will…probably set fires.

Rosa Diaz from Brooklyn Nine Nine saying "Burn. Everything."

But anyway, they are outside, because when Travis finally leaves Abby alone, she’s outside her dorm. She sees America and another friend, Finch, standing there. Finally, finally, we get a clue as to their ages. Kind of.

The three of us ended up at the same table at freshman orientation, and I knew he would be the welcome third wheel to our well-oiled machine.

Okay, so, Abby and America were a well-oiled machine already when they got to college. They must have met in their junior year of high school, not college. Which… I guess really doesn’t narrow down their ages at all, does it?

Finch has “disapproving eyes” when he sees that Abby was talking to Travis, and America has some…well, I guess it’s advice?

America pulled the gum from her mouth in a long string. “You’re only making it worse by brushing him off. He’s not used to that.”

“What do you suggest I do? Sleep with him?”

America shrugged. “It’ll save time.”

Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids saying "Are you FUCKING kidding me?"

Rather than be like, “Wow, this guy is a jerk,” America is telling her best friend she basically has to sleep with Travis because she has no choice? Is the lesson here, “If a guy consistently harasses you, just give him exactly what he wants because it’s easier for you to give up your autonomy than to hold men to the incredibly low standard of simply listening and respecting a woman when she’s not interested?”

He wasn’t hard to figure out; he either saw me as a challenge, or safely unattractive enough to be a good friend. I wasn’t sure which bothered me more.

Again, this is fifty shades of Ana here. Woe is me, I’m so plain, this guy is clearly trying to have sex with me but I’m not sure if he’s trying to have sex with me despite everyone saying he’s trying to have sex with me. Cashmere.

Also, spoiler alert, the fact that he might not find her pretty is the thing that’s bothering her. But not in the same way as all those other cheap harlots. Abby is the main character, so it’s okay for her to want to fuck him, just so long as she says she doesn’t want to fuck him more often than she says she does.

After a time break, America comes to pick up Abby to take her to Shepley and Travis’s apartment.

“Yuck, Abby! You look homeless!”

And here’s why:

My hair was piled on top of my head in a messy bun. I had scrubbed the makeup from my face and replaced my contacts with rectangular black-rimmed glasses. Sporting a ratty t-shirt and sweatpants, I shuffled along in a pair of flip-flops.

“Homeless” or #Cozy, #LazyDay on Instagram?

The idea had come to me hours before that either way, unattractive was the best plan. Ideally, Travis would be instantly turned off and stop his ridiculous persistence. If he was looking for a buddy, I was aiming for too homely to be seen with.

Oh, Abby. Don’t you know how this goes? He’s going to like you even more because you don’t know you’re beautiful and that’s what makes you beautiful. Also, you’re not like the other girls because you wear makeup and slutty clothes, which you don’t need.

They arrive at the apartment, which Abby notes is not as bad as she expected it to be because it doesn’t stink. Travis asks her if she’s started the paper that’s due in their shared class and says that he’s already done and he can help her if she’d like.

“I have an A in that class,” he said, a bit miffed at my disbelief.

“He has As in all his classes. He’s a freakin’ genius. I hate him,” Shepley said as he led America into the living room by the hand.

Again, is anyone feeling like this is familiar? Christian Grey used to get in violent physical fights when he was younger, and he dropped out of college because he was a genius. Now we’ve got Travis Maddox, amateur MMA fighter, sitting bored through classes because he’s a genius. Again, these books were published within the same year, but Master of The Universe predates it by at least two.

Abby asks why, if Travis is so smart, does he fight for a living? He says it makes him more money than working in the mall, but Abby doesn’t think it’s a very good alternative.

“I don’t get hit that often. If they swing, I move. It’s not that hard.”

Well, gosh, why hasn’t any other fighter thought of that?

Abby wants to know where Travis learned to fight.

“I had a dad with a drinking problem and a bad temper, and four older brothers that carried the asshole gene.”

So, we’ve got our tragic, abused kid backstory. He notes that his dad quit drinking and his brothers grew out of being assholes, which is super convenient because I’m pretty sure they get spin-off novels.

Ready for some you-don’t-know-you’re-beautiful-that’s-what-makes-you-beautiful? Well, too bad, because you’re getting it, anyway:

“I like the au naturel thing you have going on. Girls don’t come over here like that.”

“I was coerced into coming here. It didn’t occur to me to impress you,” I said, irritated that my plan had failed.

The dynamic of this is so, so familiar. Heroine chooses to do something, then insists she had no choice. She did have a choice. She could have just not shown up. Just because he won’t take no for an answer doesn’t mean you have to say yes. And while I think every young woman has been in a position with a pushy guy and made similar decisions remember that this is a romance novel; this is the sexual tension and chemistry that bring them together. This is being presented as an ideal beginning to an exciting relationship.

I didn’t know how most girls felt around him, but I’d seen how they behaved. I was experiencing more of a disoriented, nauseated feeling than giggly infatuation, and the harder he worked to make me smile, the more unsettled I felt.

See the title of this chapter, Abby.

Travis announces that he’d been just about to leave (after inviting someone over to hang out?) and wants to know if Abby would go to dinner with him. She tries to lie about having already eaten, but America fucks it up for her, leaving an opening for Travis to simply order Abby to go with him. She obviously has to, because Travis says so. Just like she has to ride on his motorcycle (because of course he rides a motorcycle) with no helmet or other protective gear:

“I’m wearing flip-flops!”

Travis stared at me as if I’d spoken a foreign language. “I’m wearing boots. Get on.”

Translation: “I’m fine. It doesn’t matter if you lose your feet.” She does get on and predictably she has to hold onto him tight because although he’s promised not to go fast, he takes off, “like a rocket”. When they arrive at the restaurant, she’s furious. He says:

“I wouldn’t let anything happen to you, Pidgeon.”

No helmet. T-shirt, sweatpants, flip-flops. She is 100% disposable to him, to the point of death.

They go into the restaurant.

Grease and herbs filled the air as I followed him across the red, breadcrum-speckled carpet.

The scent of grease and herbs, I hope. This would have been a spot-on description if it hadn’t been written as though someone dumped a vat of garlic butter over their heads while they were walking.

There are other students in the restaurant who, of course, watch Travis and Abby’s every move. You know, like every time Anabella went somewhere with Chedward. Another similarity:

“Sure, Travis,” the waitress said, writing down our drink orders. She looked a bit high from his presence as she returned to the kitchen.

Writing Tip: Not every god damn book has to have a scene where a waitress’s panties drop tableside.

At least their drink orders included beers, so now we know that they’re twenty-one or over.

With the waitress gone, it’s Misogyny Conversation Time.

“So what’s your story, Pidge? Are you a man-hater in general, or do you just hate me?”

You have badgered her relentlessly all day long despite having met her once before after you beat a man unconscious in front of her. You have assumed she will want to fuck you from the word go and you are overall an objectively repugnant human being who still refuses to use her name. But sure. It’s because she hates all men irrationally.

“I can’t figure you out. You’re the first girl that’s ever been disgusted with me before sex

Kylie Jenner saying, "That is absolutely repulsive"

You don’t get all flustered when you talk to me, and you don’t try to get my attention.”

No, she’s actually discouraged your attention. You just didn’t get the hint that it wasn’t a seduction strategy. She tells him it’s not a ploy but he argues that she wouldn’t be there if she didn’t like him.

“I didn’t say you’re a bad person. I just don’t like being a foregone conclusion for the sole reason of having a vagina.” I focused on the grains of salt on the table until I heard a choking noise from Travis’s direction.

His eyes widened and he quivered with howling laughter. “Oh my God! You’re killing me! That’s it. We have to be friends. I won’t take no for an answer.”

I’m pretty sure that if someone is going to howl with laughter, it should be in response to something that’s genuinely funny. A lot of times, authors (myself included) will include laughs when something is mildly funny or it’s just amusing or what have you. But howling with laughter is pretty extreme, so something has to be…funny. For that to happen. And make sense. If they’re in their twenties, just saying the word “vagina” shouldn’t be a cause for hysterics.

“I don’t mind being friends, but that doesn’t mean you have to try to get into my panties every five minutes.”

“You’re not sleeping with me. I get it.”

She doesn’t even speak again before he says:

“You have my word. I won’t even think about your panties…unless you want me to.”

I rested my elbows on the table and leaned into them. “And that won’t happen, so we can be friends.”

An impish grin sharpened his features as he leaned in a bit closer. “Never say never.”

He won’t try to get into your panties every five minutes. He’ll try to get into your panties five times in one minute. He’s efficient!

Abby asks him a little about himself and we learn that Adam gave him the nickname “Mad Dog,” which he doesn’t appear psyched about.

His short answers were beginning to bug me.

She has literally only asked him one question.

He tells her that he’s a Criminal Justice major, but momentarily gets distracted by the entire Eastern soccer team, all of whom seem to be laughing about something inappropriate. He tells Abby that despite his tattoos and the fighting, he’s never gotten into any trouble. His mom died when he was a kid (where have we heard that before?) and that he has four brothers, Thomas, Taylor and Tyler (who are twins), and Trenton. They’re all tattooed (except Thomas), and they all seem to have grown up in a Lord of The Flies-type situation where it was all violence, all the time.

Finally, Travis is so visibly annoyed at the soccer players that Abby demands to know what it is they’re talking about.

They’re laughing about me having to take you to dinner, first. It’s not usually…my thing.”

Weird, I read a book about another guy like that. But I’m glad we didn’t let too many pages go by without being reminded of how much pussy Travis crushes on a daily basis.

The conversation turns to Abby. She hasn’t declared a major, but she’s probably going to go with Accounting. She’s from Witchita, just like America is, so that solves the junior year mystery. And she came to Eastern to get away from her parents.

“What’s with the third degree?” I said. The questions were drifting from small talk to personal, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable.

He’s asking you the exact same types of questions you asked him. And you were annoyed that he wasn’t more forthcoming. Again…just like another character I know.

Several chairs knocked together as the soccer team left their seats. They traded one last joke before they meandered toward the door. Their pace quickened when Travis stood up. Those in the back of the group pushed those in front to escape before Travis made his way across the room.

Yeah, get out of here, soccer team. Only Travis “Mad Dog” Maddox gets to demean women!

Abby tells Travis that she chose Eastern as a school because it “just felt right,” and he agrees, and the chapter is over.

So, this is what we’re into here. A Fifty Shades of Grey college AU starring Travstian and Anabby.

I’ll just fire up the wood chipper and climb on in.

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213 Comments

  1. Skylar
    Skylar

    Time to see what a disaster this book truly is…

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
  2. Bookjunk
    Bookjunk

    They’re so gross. He’s into her for the sole reason that she’s not into him. Or, at least, so he thinks because she’s sending about a million signals that she’s not interested. And she’s into him but cannot show that she’s into him because then she’d be just like all those other “sluts” eh, I mean, girls. Ugh.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
  3. Drea
    Drea

    This book is just…yuck…

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
    • Drea
      Drea

      I don’t understand the point of making the Hero so unlikeable. It always makes the heroine look weak and like she doesn’t know her own mind.

      December 4, 2018
      |Reply
      • Jane Eyre
        Jane Eyre

        Yeah like…you can make someone flawed but…maybe make it a bad first impression like I know it’s cliched but then again it’s execution that matters. Like, have the hero be boxed as ‘stay way’ by the people on the campus, but maybe have it to do with social bias people have against for example poor people, or people who dress differently. Maybe part of it is also on hero’s side because for example, he is bitter and when people approach him, his defence mechanisms are to make a snide comment. Not because he’s a bad or rude person but because life taught him that when people approach him is to make fun of him or tease him. It would make a good story because the heroine could be a nice person and not an entitled, petty bitch like Ana and Whatshername from Apolonia. Have her help the hero realise that the world is not as hostile as he thinks it is. That yeah, it is unfair but not all people are rotten and not everyone will look down on him, based on superficial stuff.

        December 5, 2018
        |Reply
        • Xebi
          Xebi

          Let’s be honest, this isn’t an author who’s worried about cliches

          December 6, 2018
          |Reply
  4. These books are all the same. The only interesting thing about them is your commentary.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
  5. Anon
    Anon

    Do you sometimes forget and say things you might regret? (I would totally get the joke because I think I’m 1,000 years older than you are. I saw KK2 in the theater … [also KK1 and The Goonies]).

    “I have this wild feeling that there will be a lot of subtle criticism about the bodies of women who are not the heroine throughout the book.”

    It’s almost as though we’ve seen this before from this author!

    I’m actually working on a story about a man who treats women like crap until he becomes enthralled with one specific woman who basically destroys him. But the object isn’t to make him attractive. Because that’s not attractive.

    Also, I’ve been delving into the world of reformed evangelicals and this women competing and putting way too much emphasis on physical beauty is a thing in that culture (evangelicalism, not the reformed ones). I’m almost shocked at how much of this comes from that.

    I’m noticing a men calling women animal names trend. Pigeon and Mare (which I know is short for “America,” but not spelled “Mer.”).

    “At least their drink orders included beers, so now we know that they’re twenty-one or over.”

    Or it’s the place the underage kids know to go to for alcohol.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
    • NavigatorBR
      NavigatorBR

      Having read the entire book already, I can confirm that Abby and America possess fake IDs for buying liquor underage, it’s brought up later in the book.

      December 4, 2018
      |Reply
      • Anon
        Anon

        So, of course, we STILL have no idea how old these people are! Or what year they’re in. Or anything useful.

        December 5, 2018
        |Reply
        • shel
          shel

          I think Abby is a freshman- she says at one point that she is like any other wide eye freshman on her way to class… So I’m assuming she’s a freshman.

          If would guess Travis is a junior? Since I think it’s trying to say that he started in fight club as a freshman 7 months ago- so last year and is now in the next school year? If she’s a freshman and it’s the first semester, maybe that’s why she hasn’t met him yet? But why would a genius Junior be in a freshman level class?

          And then yes, of course they can order alcohol, but it doesn’t mean anything because fake ids are so easy to come by.

          Why are we doing this to Jenny and ourselves! 😛

          December 5, 2018
          |Reply
          • Anon
            Anon

            LOL

            It’s not unusual for juniors and seniors to be in 100 or 200-level classes. It depends on the requirements of their majors and what their interests are. I think all majors require electives and a lower-level class in something that interests you outside of your major can serve as an elective and has nothing to do with intellectual ability.

            Someone who was a freshman seven months before would be a sophomore. Even if it’s the beginning of the spring semester.

            And “like any other freshman” in this context could be that she IS a freshman or just a recent transfer student? It seems McGuire simply doesn’t care about the details or expects her readers to be psychic.

            December 6, 2018
          • shel
            shel

            I meant sophomore 😛 I forget that one sometimes…

            I’m sure it depends on the school… and what part of the year they are in… since they just met, I assumed it would be first semester, but that is based in nothing, since these books don’t make any sense….

            Obviously every school is different but there are a lot of general classes needed in the first year, particularly first semester that having upperclassmen in those classes seems weird to me… but that’s based on actual college experience, but only at a particular set of state universities…. And if she isn’t a freshman in her first semester, being in classes with other level of students makes more sense…

            Or perhaps we’ll come to find that she’s a genius too and excelled at a bunch of AP classes so she didn’t have to do any gen ed stuff like a pleb.

            December 6, 2018
  6. Ren Benton
    Ren Benton

    If I were optimistic, I’d think “Pigeon” and “Finch” had some deeper significance.

    Hahahaha haha hahahaha *deep breath* hahahaha hahaha haaaaaaaaaa

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
  7. Toby Danger
    Toby Danger

    Between this and Apollonia, I get the impression that this author has never been to an actual college.

    Also, there are more books featuring Travis the asshat’s brothers? Jesus wept.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
  8. RaccoonMama
    RaccoonMama

    Very tired of some authors who believe that college is exactly the same as a boarding school in terms of schedule and social dynamics.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
    • Amanda
      Amanda

      Same here. I went to a smaller, largely commuter college and never ran into these weird cliquey kinds of crowds. There were different clubs, athletics, and some Greek groups (who I don’t even think had houses near campus). I don’t remember running into people being fawned over en masse.

      If we had a fight club, I certainly didn’t know about it. They must have done their jobs right.

      December 4, 2018
      |Reply
      • Yeah, my school was not large by US standards — about 4,000 undergrad. And I knew maybe 100 people by name each year? There is NEVER one person on campus that everyone knows, unless it’s the person who featured in an uncomfortable “expulsion due to sex crimes” email from the Dean of Students. So that… seems on brand for Travis.

        December 4, 2018
        |Reply
    • Anon
      Anon

      I started at a community college and I knew quite a few people simply because I went to elementary and high school with them since it was local. And while we had a cafeteria rather than the larger university-type eating establishments, IF you ate on campus, you went between or right after classes and since everyone’s schedule was individual, obviously it was nothing like a high school cafeteria experience.

      And then I went to a relatively large university with a football team that has sent players to the NFL and STILL there wasn’t this kind of atmosphere. I don’t think there was a cafeteria, either. There was the commons, the student union and then some chain restaurants on campus, plus a couple places that I think were only on campus, but were smallish restaurants similar to Subway. The student union and commons were set up like a mall food court. And, again, if you were eating at any of those places, it was based on when you had time before, between or after classes.

      Granted, my college experience was different from most, but I still went and have some idea how it works and it’s not like this!

      December 5, 2018
      |Reply
      • Anon
        Anon

        Oh. And once I was in my major, I did tend to have a lot of classes with the same people who were also in my major, so we got to know each other. But outside of that, it was just a sea of faces.

        December 5, 2018
        |Reply
    • Elyssa
      Elyssa

      This is the only time I will ever defend this fucking book. I went to a residential college with only about 1,000 students (in the middle of fucking nowhere), and it’s kind of like how she describes. Just as clique-y (but with fraternities and sororities added) with jocks, nerds, the whole nine yards. There was literally a house next to fraternity row that you could rent from the school, and four three years it was known as Nerd House. I’m not saying this is a typical experience, but it DOES happen in places that small. Everyone recognized everyone because there was basically two degrees of separation between you and every possible person on campus.

      There. Now I will never defend her again because this book is somehow worse than I remembered.

      December 5, 2018
      |Reply
      • Dove
        Dove

        But does it sound like it’s meant to be a residential college? I accept your life experience as legit but what I’m asking is: does it sound like the author wanted her college to be bigger but she relied too heavily on her own life experience? I mean, if it’s based on a Twilight AU, maybe it’s supposed to be a small town in the middle of nowhere, but I doubt she did research and I expect it was a mistake. I might be wrong… XD

        December 6, 2018
        |Reply
  9. Larissa
    Larissa

    Marek’s disease is a form of chicken herpes. It can present in three forms: lesions in the throat, eye, or brain. Women flock around Travis and the MC pecks at other womens’ appearances and behaviors like an angry duck. Her nickname is Pidgeon.

    I’m sensing a bird theme here.

    From now on, the characters are all birds in my head.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
    • randonimity
      randonimity

      And now I’m going to imagine them all as characters from the dating sim Hatoful Boyfriend.

      December 4, 2018
      |Reply
      • swanna
        swanna

        With what we’ve seen so far of Abby’s ability to heed red flags, Shuu would have her head in a jar in about a week’s time. We can only wish the book was cut that short.

        December 6, 2018
        |Reply
    • Amber Rose
      Amber Rose

      Hey, wait. Hatoful Boyfriend was at least entertaining. Don’t muddy the waters of bird dating stories with this crap. =P

      December 4, 2018
      |Reply
    • Nachtkaffee
      Nachtkaffee

      “From now on, the characters are all birds in my head.” The explanation for why all the characters’ behaviour appears so bizarre to us humans. (The writer forgot to tell everyone that actually, this story is probably set in the Hatoful Boyfriend universe. )

      December 4, 2018
      |Reply
      • Mr. Fell
        Mr. Fell

        So hopefully the Doctor shows up?

        December 6, 2018
        |Reply
    • ViolettaD
      ViolettaD

      If only they all had names like Robin, Peregrine, Jay….

      December 7, 2018
      |Reply
      • Xebi
        Xebi

        …Great Tit, Shag, Blue-footed Booby…

        December 10, 2018
        |Reply
        • ViolettaD
          ViolettaD

          Xebi, you made me get snot all over my keyboard!

          December 10, 2018
          |Reply
  10. EMP
    EMP

    Of all the trash fires you mention here, for some reason what I’m really stuck on is apparently Travis has magic ears or something, since they’re sitting at a cozy table for two but only Travis can hear what the soccer team is saying.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
  11. Amanda
    Amanda

    I need a Silkwood shower after this.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
  12. Another thing this book has in common with Fifty Shades: The heroine is written as though she only came to exist on Page One. How did she not meet Travis before, when the dude is an obvious fixture in the life of her best friend and best friend’s boyfriend, who are fixtures in the heroine’s life? And they’re even in classes together!

    It feels so much like a high school transfer student story. Everyone having lunch at the same time, on campus, tossing food, all wrapped up in gossip about one another’s love lives. That… was not my college experience. We had jobs and we all had different schedules and sometimes we crawled into morning classes in pajamas. And if you didn’t share a major with someone, you were unlikely to see much of them in class as a junior or senior (which I assume they are since they can drink?). And if you DID share a major with someone, you most likely had laid eyes on them before your junior year because you shared multiple classes.

    If she was a transfer student in high school who got to reconnect with her childhood friend America when her family moved, everything would make so much more sense. I wonder if that was the rough draft and then it got bumped to a college setting for sexy sex times.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
    • Corbeau
      Corbeau

      That was my impression as well: that it was a high school story but they aged the characters up, because secret Mortal Combat Live Action and one-night stands didn’t go well with the high school setting.
      I don’t know too much about American colleges though, only what you see on TV or read in books. I have never been to the United States and I’m too poor for that to change.

      December 6, 2018
      |Reply
  13. Amber Rose
    Amber Rose

    Oh, I’d forgotten how little personal space matters to this dude. There are people I love who I might accidentally punch right in the face if they leaned over to breathe in my face every time they talked to me. Particularly if they were smokers.

    Have you ever tried have a chat right in someone’s face? I have. I can’t stand it. If you wanna talk to me, please be at least a couple feet away thanks.

    Also, absolutely none of the descriptions of this guy make him sound particularly good looking. As far as my personal taste goes, all the visuals I’m getting here are giving me the blechs.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
    • Xebi
      Xebi

      Yeah, I’m picturing a big-muscled Ken doll whenever he’s described.

      December 6, 2018
      |Reply
  14. Grease 2 is a delight. A delight, I say!

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
  15. Maggie
    Maggie

    Wow. I was way, WAY too optimistic. This is a complete shite xD

    Also, lol this college. True, I’ve never been to American university but I’m preeeety sure it doesn’t work that way. It’s as if a teenage girl wanted to write a mature story but only knew that in colleges your parents aren’t called when you miss a class.

    And what is up with this bad fanfic vibe I get? This masterpiece doesn’t have any fic past, right?

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
    • Predx
      Predx

      If a person has read/written too much bad fanfic it shows.

      Particularly in lack of world-building, or bad POV or transitions. If the writer isn’t paying enough attention, they may not notice they haven’t written a simple transition (even as simple as, “After work…”), or there’s one paragraph in the wrong POV. Good betas pick up this stuff, and paid editors certainly should.

      And half the world-building in a fanfic either comes from or riffs off canon. This may make a first attempt at profic read vague and loose, as if nobody (let alone the author) is visualising how things look/sound.

      December 11, 2018
      |Reply
  16. Hedni
    Hedni

    Hoooo boy this is bad on so many levels. HOW do people actually like crap like this? Oh I know, nothing say «guy I’d love to fuck» like someone I barely know who doesn’t know what the word NO means, and doesn’t care about my safety.

    Honestly, female characters like Abby terrifies me. Their existance means that there still are plenty of people who finds the inability to say no endearing, and that is a very ugly fact.. Absolutely every woman in the entire world should be trained to kick people like Travis in the nuts, not swoon over them.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
  17. Lily
    Lily

    Yup, high school masquerading as college. I never saw clutches of women behaving like that in college, either. One or two individuals, maybe, but that wouldn’t show how insanely desirable Travis is. Also, an entire soccer team fears him? Um, sure. Because everyone in college apparently knows about secret fight club.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
  18. Stormy
    Stormy

    Shepley shook his head. “Jesus, Adam!” he yelled ot the emcee over the noise, clearly disapproving of his friend’s choice of words.

    I’m gonna go ahead and say that Jamie McGuire is a disgusting opportunist who tries to cash in on the “strong woman” label with the shallowest of adhesion. “Clearly” Shepley disapproves of such STRONG LANGUAGE from this man! Who could ever sign off against using language like that to describe women?

    Two years later, Jamie McGuire published Apollonia, in which she gleefully trotted out the “cum-burping gutterslut” line. I absolutely loathe women who can’t express their self-confidence without denigrating others.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
    • Thais
      Thais

      That description in Apollonia made me physically ill. It’s just such a gross combination of words on top of being a completely misogynistic insult that’s thrown out so cheaply from a protagonist we’re supposed to *like.*

      December 5, 2018
      |Reply
  19. Carrion Bird
    Carrion Bird

    “Because so many of you absolutely hate it, I can’t wait to find out why he chooses that name for her.”

    I have bad news.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      Is it an even stupider reason or the one that I think it is?

      December 6, 2018
      |Reply
      • Carrion Bird
        Carrion Bird

        Oh, no, the bad news is that it’s never explained at all.

        December 7, 2018
        |Reply
  20. Jo
    Jo

    So today I found out about the Paper Princess series and I wish I could have known sooner to nominate it for the JHBC. Oh, well, there’s always next year.

    Also, this is like Fifty Shades, but somehow worse, because we as readers don’t discover Christian is an asshole until at least a chapter into the thing. Travis is despicable from the moment he appears on the page.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
  21. Karen
    Karen

    Have any authors featured in the Jealous Haters collection ever listened to or participated in actual human conversation? The constant pithy comments are exhausting and contrived and make my teeth hurt to read. No one speaks this way. It’s not flirtatious or interesting. None of the characters have a distinct or unique voice. They sound like replicas of each other. And I swear if a stranger ever came at me so aggressively and invaded my space like that I’d fake my own death to get away from him. I think some people need to go outside more.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
  22. Teka
    Teka

    Is the nickname Pidgeon a reference to Lady and the Tramp?

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
    • Emerald
      Emerald

      That’s what I came down here to say!

      December 4, 2018
      |Reply
    • Athena
      Athena

      Yes! From the moment I saw that nickname that was my only thought. Travis is a Mad Dog, Abby is a rich “Lady”, “Pidgeon”, and the grease and herbs seemed like a reference to Italian food to me. Is this a really bad human!Lady and the Tramp AU?

      December 5, 2018
      |Reply
      • Shannon
        Shannon

        Plus Travis just sound like “Tramp.” I am surprised the main character’s name isn’t Lucy or Lottie for Lady.

        December 9, 2018
        |Reply
        • Jane Eyre
          Jane Eyre

          well Lady has Ady in it and Ady and Abby are close enough to sound similar. Lotty/Lady don’t sound close enough for the rip off. and since this author has a thing for Name and Surname sounding similar too maybe she couldn’t find anything for Lotty that would fit into her theme

          December 10, 2018
          |Reply
  23. Vivacia K. Ahwen
    Vivacia K. Ahwen

    Does the author *know* that folks call pigeons “Rats with feathers?” I’m not getting “adorable” from that. Has she ever seen how pigeons walk? Has she ever seen Bert on Sesame Street perform his dance number “Doin’ the Pigeon?” *

    If I ever get bored and need to write a parody of this book, it’ll take place here in Maine, and her nickname will be Seagull. Because New Englanders call SEAGULLS “Rats with feathers,” since we are cold, ruthless, and don’t like getting crapped on/our chip bags stolen. I’ll call Travis Jonathan Livingston, because of his Tragic Backstory and martyrdom.

    As horrible as this looks like it’ll be, I can’t imagine it’s worse than Apple-head: The Semi-Immortal Misogynist.

    ~~vka

    * You really aren’t old, Jen. THIS is what old looks like: remembering Bert and Ernie’s dance routines from the 1970s….

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
    • Xebi
      Xebi

      When I heard about the nickname I thought “that’s weirdly unattractive, would be interesting to see the story/context behind it in any case.” But I was so puzzled when I found out there was apparently none, the character just picks it seemingly out of the blue on their first meeting and she barely objects or questions it.

      I had assumed she was, I dunno, wearing a shirt with a picture of a pigeon on it. That might make some sense, but…*scratches head*

      December 5, 2018
      |Reply
      • Jane Eyre
        Jane Eyre

        I think the author might have used a synonym here. I mean “dove” means the same thing as pigeon, so maybe she was going to that but ‘dove’ wouldn’t fit a Tough Guy like Travis and sounds a bit archaic. Like I can imagine a guy calling heroine this in a historical novel set in like 40/50’s at the latest.

        December 5, 2018
        |Reply
    • swanna
      swanna

      I’ma be real, as someone who adores pigeons and has been given a multitude of bird-themed nicknames by my friends and my s.o., I thought ‘pigeon’ sounded like a pretty cute name, so I didn’t understand why everyone in the comments on the vote post picked on it so much.

      Little did I know just how forced the nickname would be in-story. I’d be ready to defend the name as cute if, y’know, it actually originated from some adorable interaction between the characters. Like, I thought there would be a reason he calls her that, some joke she’s in on from the beginning. And maybe she’d find it silly at first but also endearing.
      But nah. He just calls her a name she doesn’t want, because uh… omfg he had an idea for a nickname for her the very moment they met and before they knew each other oh gosh isn’t this quirky and cute???

      But of course, she’ll just accept it anyway, because the Love Interest came up with it, dammit!

      December 6, 2018
      |Reply
    • ShifterCat
      ShifterCat

      “Pigeon” also means “mark” (as in a target for a con). I was wondering if the intent was to imply that the heroine seemed gullible. Not exactly flattering.

      “Pidge” makes me think of Voltron, but Abby is 1. not described as either tomboyish or a tech geek and 2. nowhere near that awesome.

      December 6, 2018
      |Reply
      • Dove
        Dove

        Pigeon makes me think of Lady and the Tramp. I always wondered why he picked that nickname, but I think you just gave the correct answer. That said, Tramp does come off as relatively endearing and Lady never objects nor seems put off by that nickname, as far as I recall. I mean, she is a little iffy on him at first, some of that is his forwardness, but more so because she’s not sure if he’s lying about the baby taking over her life. And Lady does call Tramp out later on in the book and he does something heroic for her, rescuing that very same baby, even though it almost costs him his life. The Disney movie is much better plus they’re DOGS so it works. XD

        Voltron! Whoo! But Pidge also makes me think of The Hounds of the Morrigan, which is a vastly superior novel, even though it starts out really slow. And that was a male character… (And Voltron Pidge pretends to be her own brother for a while so…)

        December 6, 2018
        |Reply
    • Sansa
      Sansa

      This! I live in Europe. Pigeons are gross, carry diseases and damage monuments by shitting all over them! Not a cute nickname at all!

      December 9, 2018
      |Reply
  24. K R
    K R

    How the hell can you write a female character that is almost likable and then shit all over her just to make her fit the narrative you are trying to convey? I’m not a romance reader, mainly because I dislike most “strong, female characters” and because most romance novels do not talk to me at all, but it’s not like I don’t enjoy a romance here and there. Now, this book could have kept the hate you/love you narrative and not be godawful if some tweaks were made, mainly to the guy, since she at least started off being put-off by him. I actually enjoy the love/hate stories, but it needs to feel natural, not like the guy is forcing the girl to fall for him just because he is. On that note, and this is not a jab at tattoos, but not everyone is going to be into them, I don’t care how “hot” the other party is. So having all the girls fawn over this guy covered in tattoos ups the unbelievable-ness of it all even more.
    Anyway, this book has started off to a “good” (read awful) start.
    And what is up with the name “Abby Abernathy”?

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
    • Camelia
      Camelia

      Speaking of tattoos… this is another detail that is jarring with the supposed aged of the characters. I get that tattoos are a common thing to see in MMA fighters, but this guy can’t be more than 21 years old. Even if he found an unethical artist to start tattooing him before he was 18, it takes quite a bit of time for people to get the amount of ink this guy supposedly has. It doesn’t just take several sessions to get large pieces, but the conception and design of them take a person several years too. If this guy started getting full sleeves, chest, and back pieces when he was very young, it’s likely that they aren’t very nice looking tattoos anyway. There are always exceptions, but when you describe a character as being full of ink I immediately imagine them being at least in their late 20s. A few tattoos would have been perfectly fine and appropriate for this guy’s age.

      I also hate when authors use tattoos as generic descriptions of characters. Like… what kind of tattoos are they? If he has so much ink, then the kind of tattoos he has say a lot about the kind of person he is. Are they religious? are they tribal? are they cultural appropriations? do they represent hellish imagery? are they in color or black and white?? So many options! Describing a character as having many tattoos is okay when the character is minor, but this is the hero!

      December 5, 2018
      |Reply
      • Stormy
        Stormy

        Also: tattoos, especially good ones, are freaking expensive. Apparently Travis is getting all kinds of money from this fight ring (somehow) but enough to live on PLUS elaborate tattoos?

        I like to imagine that all of his tattoos are done by the cheapest person he could find and he definitely got what he paid for.

        December 5, 2018
        |Reply
        • Camelia
          Camelia

          “I like to imagine that all of his tattoos are done by the cheapest person he could find and he definitely got what he paid for.”

          Exactly this. The tattoos have the opposite effect the author intended.

          December 5, 2018
          |Reply
  25. Person?
    Person?

    I’m really trying to figure out why Abby thought dressing in sweatpants and glasses was uncommon. Pretty sure that’s practically the college girl uniform. Also pretty sure a lot of guys find that super casual look pretty hot. I mean, Victoria’s Secret has more lounge clothing than traditional “sexy” lingerie these days for a reason.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
    • Elyssa
      Elyssa

      Like I did not put on jeans for like two weeks in college once. Sweat pants. No make up. Hair in a bun because I just woke up. The college girl uniform for sure. Ain’t nobody got time for an actual outfit when you have to write a 14 page paper on witches.

      December 5, 2018
      |Reply
  26. Blu
    Blu

    The similarities to 59 Shades, the pearls and cashmere, his rough side of the track vibe, the nickname. . . Am I gonna find out that this is secretly Dark Serious Lady and the Tramp fanfic? Because I don’t think I can handle that.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
    • Jo
      Jo

      Your comment made me actually laugh out loud, so thank you for that

      December 5, 2018
      |Reply
    • Athena
      Athena

      I’m glad I’m not the only one. And don’t forget the grease and herbs. Practically screams Italian food to me.

      December 5, 2018
      |Reply
  27. Catherine Gunson
    Catherine Gunson

    Are the spelling mistakes actually in the book you’re reading (“breadcrum”, “pidgeon”)…?! Because of so, that’s really depressing (just to add to the Shit sundae) and unprofessional…

    Also I just want to say I LOVED your bit about water “contaminated with medical waste and internalised misogyny”.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
    • Catherine Gunson
      Catherine Gunson

      And of course there is a typo in my comment criticising spelling LOLOL! (“of” vs “if”).

      December 4, 2018
      |Reply
    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      No, if I don’t point out that it’s a typo in the text, it’s me just butterfingersing.

      December 5, 2018
      |Reply
  28. Crystal M
    Crystal M

    Meh, this book may have been inspired by 50 Shades, may not have been. E.L. James didn’t invent internalized misogyny, after all. It’s been around a long time, in books, in movies, and 90s fanfic.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
    • Alex Silvers
      Alex Silvers

      To me it feels more like it was inspired by Twilight, since that’s what 50 Shades was inspired by too. The whole ‘high school’ vibe to the book, and how the man treats the girl… only without the weird ‘i hate you but i also like you’ thing Edward did.

      Seriously it would not shock me if it turns out this one also had some Twilight fanfic past, just better hidden than 50 Shades of Fucked Up. It’s true that none of these books invented any of this shite, so maybe it all developed organically who knows.

      December 5, 2018
      |Reply
      • Celia
        Celia

        I’m pretty sure McGuire drew from High School Musical for her setting – hence the highschool-ness and the name of the college.

        True story: When I tried to read this book awhile back (couldn’t get through it), I giggled at the extremely generic name “Eastern University.” Then I remembered I have a degree from Western University.

        December 5, 2018
        |Reply
      • MayaB
        MayaB

        I also got a Twilight vibe when I started with the recap. Not only the things you mentioned, but also the fact that he has straight A’s without much trouble sounds like Edward to me.

        December 6, 2018
        |Reply
    • Anon
      Anon

      I think she’s more thinking about the “plot” (because, really, is there even a plot to 50?) and specific actions and characteristics more than just the trope. The trope definitely is not original to 50, but when the story goes almost exactly the same with minor tweaks, it becomes suspicious.

      December 5, 2018
      |Reply
      • JennyTrout
        JennyTrout

        Yeah, it’s not just the tropes. It’s the tropes *plus* the direct parallels between the characters/events.

        December 5, 2018
        |Reply
        • Crystal M
          Crystal M

          Yeah, I was talking more about the tropes like “other girl is a slut” and “I’m not like the other girls” and “guy falls for the one girl who doesn’t fawn over him.”

          December 6, 2018
          |Reply
  29. I wonder if when McGuire started this she meant it to be in HS – hence why the set up is more HS (shared lunch, being a Big Name on Campus). Also I’ll be honest I don’t trust them to be over 21 just bc they ordered drinks, if Travis is reallt such a sex machine I can see him bamboozling the waitress while she basically gets pregnant from him asking her a question.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
  30. Acton
    Acton

    This dude took me out on his bike in college once. I asked him to take it easy because I was nervous, and he made a point of going really fast over ice to scare me, presumably into being so glad to be alive that I’d sleep with him. I was PISSED.

    At least he gave me a fucking helmet.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
  31. Mike
    Mike

    I feel like the main character is the literary heroine version of a sexy lamp. She does have opinions and desires, but they don’t impact what’s happening. Her friends bring her to the fight, Travis protects her, her friends take her home, her friends insist she’s both going to his apartment and going to fall for him, he takes her to dinner against her wishes, he ignores her feelings about the bike… Nothing she does or says matters, she’s just a prop for her friends to cart around and Travis to hit on.

    Even Ana was slightly better in that while she did let other people tell her what to do she did tend to actually AGREE to do it, rather than saying no and then doing it anyway. While there were times when she did do things she said she didn’t want to there were also times she did what she wanted regardless. This is only the first chapter and already it’s firmly establishing that the main character’s opinion does not matter, as she has no say in anything.

    Now that I think about it that kind of makes her the ideal POV character for this kind of story. No matter the readers opinion of the characters, they have no say over what happens in the story. That would be clever if it was intentional. And contained less internalized misogyny.

    Seriously though that guy is a huge prick and while I guess I can understand kind of wanting to sleep with someone you find physically attractive but morally repugnant (theoretically at least) I don’t understand being willing to be friends with him. His cousin and best friend has described him as not just a shitty person in general but very specifically a shitty friend. She already doesn’t like his personality, he won’t call her by her name, he said he wouldn’t flirt with her and then proceeded to do so TWICE *immediately* afterwards, is probably a walking STD, has serious violent tendencies, has disrespected her and threatened her physical safety for his amusement, thinks it’s hilarious that she has boundaries… The red flags could be seen from space.

    December 4, 2018
    |Reply
    • Elyssa
      Elyssa

      If I can throw any crumbs EL James’ way about characterization, Ana does, at the very least, seem to be aware that she’s a doormat. Unlike Abby.

      December 5, 2018
      |Reply
      • Dvärghundspossen
        Dvärghundspossen

        Also, everyone throwing themselves over Christian Grey made a teeny-weeny bit more sense than everyone throwing themselves over Travis. At least Christian was super rich and, if I remember it right, a bit of a celebrity? I mean the idea that EVERY. SINGLE. WOMAN desperately wants to bang him is still weird, but it’s even WEIRDER when it’s just some random college guy.

        December 6, 2018
        |Reply
  32. Thais
    Thais

    Never thought I would be introduced to the love interest in a romance as he is punching a fellow student unconscious in a not-so-secret university fight club, but here we are, I guess.

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
  33. Chip Otle
    Chip Otle

    “Who can tell me which president had a cross-eyed wife with a bad case of the uglies?”

    So Abby is majoring in Drunk History.

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
    • Dvärghundspossen
      Dvärghundspossen

      LOL

      December 6, 2018
      |Reply
  34. Smacy
    Smacy

    The reason this feels similar to 50 shades is because misogyny, abusive relationships, and Cool Girls are all over in the fanfic community. It’s been popular for almost two decades, but probably longer. I remember my frustration as a tween sifting through hundreds of terrible fics just to find ONE that didn’t hate women entirely.

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
  35. Perlite
    Perlite

    Gosh, I remember this one from way back at The Bad Books Good Times blog, and yikes is this even worse than I recalled.

    This book (and the whole series) is so depressing because you know exactly what going to happen: (Insert T name here) Maddox never takes no for answer, constantly breaks boundaries, and eventually wears the MC down. The main girl isn’t like those other sluuuuts who want to hop on that prick, because she says “no” before caving into every inane demand the love interest has. All women are hos, and Maddox Bro #N hates them equally, if not more so, as much as the MC does.

    This whole thing stinks of early 90s/00s fanfiction where the protagonist can’t walk two steps without insulting the hypothetical teams of women who only eat salad, worry about chipping their nails, and drool over the hunkiest chunk of man-meat in the city.

    Also, what’s with all these movies/books of colleges behaving almost exactly like high schools? No one cares about who is banging who unless you’re in Donkey Juice, AL with a college population of 200 whose only source of entertainment is watching frat dudes fight shirtless and drunk.

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
    • Camelia
      Camelia

      This really does stink of high school drama. What is with the army of women that follows this guy around begging for scraps of his attention? Women in college have a lot more going on in their lives than looking for a little dick. What are the odds that that many women have the exact same taste in men? College is full of options.

      December 5, 2018
      |Reply
      • Perlite
        Perlite

        Right? It’s like the whole “women only like douche-bags” stereotype, except the douche, in this case, is the love interest.
        How long do you think until our oh-so “charming” lead man brings up the “I can have as much sex as I want, but women who like having sex are dirty harlots not worthy of my time” double-standard?

        December 5, 2018
        |Reply
        • Camelia
          Camelia

          augh… It probably will come up at some point.

          Also, if older women (like his own professors) start to salivate after him too, I’m going to nope the fuck out!

          December 5, 2018
          |Reply
        • JennyTrout
          JennyTrout

          Either in chapter two or chapter three, I can’t remember which. But yeah, the first time it comes up is then. He basically says all the women who sleep with him are stupid.

          December 5, 2018
          |Reply
          • ViolettaD
            ViolettaD

            Oh, goody: a man with a double standard AND a virgin-whore complex. What could go wrong?

            December 6, 2018
  36. Alex Silvers
    Alex Silvers

    I feel like the thing that’s weirding me out the most so far is the fact that one girl’s name is America. Like I know there are some weird names out there, but America??? Seriously?

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
  37. Jo
    Jo

    If the main characters in these JHBC books keep being so samey, we’re going to end up with long Lovecraft-style alphabet soup hybrid names XD
    So far we’re up to Travwardstian and Abbellastasia.

    Also, do we have a bingo card for “”romance”” novels? Because I feel like these books would fill up an entire card every time.

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
  38. merry
    merry

    I like how already the first line says: I’m better than everyone else!

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
  39. shel
    shel

    So Travis even has the Edward Cullen cool guy leather bracelet thing going on, huh?

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
  40. RodeoBob
    RodeoBob

    OK, so recycling someone else’s joke, but you know how some people should be given a thesaurus for their birthday? Yeah, some people need theirs taken away.

    >…the air was a medely of sweat, blood, and mold.

    “Hey Siri, what’s another word for ‘mixture’?”

    >…he was rumored to be the most lethal competitor…

    “Hey Siri, what’s another word for ‘unbeatable’?”

    >”The volume exploded when…”

    “Hey Siri, what’s another word for ‘increased suddenly’?”

    >Blood sprayed my face, and splattered down the front of my cardigan

    Did this blood also mist, gush, fountain, and geyser?

    >… and the mob detonated.

    Well of course it did. It’s volume had already been exploded, what else could it do?

    >My eyes traveled upward; jeans, spattered with blood, a set of finely chiseled abs, a bare, tattooed chest drenched in sweat, and finally a pair of warm, brown eyes

    Oddly absent: neck, chin, mouth, and nose.

    >He oozed …rebeliousness with his buzzed brown hair and tattooed forearms,”

    I accept the convention that one can ‘ooze’ sex appeal in the sense of languid mannerisms and overtly sensual behaviors, but how does one “ooze” a general defiance of social conventions?

    Also, when I see tattooed arms and a buzz-cut, I think enlisted member of the military REBEL!

    > I was as indistinguishable as any other wide-eyed, overachieving freshman on her way to class

    Yeah, we’re back to thesaurus-abuse again. “indistinguishable” does not mean ‘unremarkable,’ or ‘anonymous’ or ‘nondescript’.

    Also, how would someone attach “overachieving” as a descriptor to a person they are seeing on their way to class? “Look that girl, Becky! You can just tell by how wide-eyed she is, and that way she walks that she’s an overachieving freshman! Ugh, I hate them so much!”

    >A residual smile lingered on his face…

    “Hey Siri, what’s another word for lingering?”

    >I followed him across the red, breadcrum-speckled carpet.

    “Hey Siri, what’s another word for ‘something spread around”, like breadcrumbs on a carpet?”

    > She looked a bit high from his presence as she returned to the kitchen.

    “Hey Siri, what’s a dumber way of saying “intoxicated”?”

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
    • Camelia
      Camelia

      Thanks for this! The language sounded very stilted to me, now I know why.

      December 5, 2018
      |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      I feel like “speckled with breadcrumbs” is fine, although sprinkled would be better since it’s food-related. IMHO, it’s the grammar of that sentence that really sucks. The carpet is meant to be red, after reading it a few times, but putting that word first made me think of red velvet cake instead, which doesn’t really flow with the bread, spices, and olive oil as much. As others noted, it sounded like she was implying a pizza place or somewhere with pasta and free bread at least; Italian or faux-Italian style restaurant.

      I followed him across a worn red carpet that was sprinkled in breadcrumbs.

      Not amazing but it’s a lot clearer that way and I wouldn’t have to reread the sentence to understand the visuals.

      December 6, 2018
      |Reply
      • Xebi
        Xebi

        Is it still food related if it’s no longer edible? Funnily enough I actually like speckled better for that exact reason. I wouldn’t want something on the floor to sound appetizing. Totally agree with the rest of what you say though

        December 7, 2018
        |Reply
    • Another Amy
      Another Amy

      I was startled, and then amused, by the description of Travis that Abby gives as she appears to be taking in every inch of him in minute detail, that somehow goes from jeans, to abs, to chest, to eyes. I imagined that his eyes are set somewhere around his collarbone and that he had no head. We later learn that he has a buzzed haircut and dimples when he smiles, which hints as his actually having a head, but I’m just assuming that he carries his (eye-less) head around under his arm or something. If we get any descriptions of him “with his head in his hands,” or “with his head on the table,” or “cradling his chin in his hand,” or “with his head in my lap,” or “resting his head on the pillow,” my theory will be proven and I will be vindicated! *winky face*

      December 12, 2018
      |Reply
  41. Lucy
    Lucy

    All I can think of when I read ‘Pidge’ is Lady and the Tramp. I’m not sure if it’s intentional but makes it impossible to take it seriously.

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
  42. unfortunately abby
    unfortunately abby

    the main things im taking away from this is being upset the heroine has my name and a strong whiff of wattpad fanfic. NO-ONE in real life acts like all the stoopid slutz in this book do, how does this nonsense keep cropping up?? also i really dislike the trope of ‘annoying girl hits on love interest so he can reject her and prove hes too good for her and only loves the mc’.

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
    • Perlite
      Perlite

      Usually coinciding with the “evil blonde woman who either currently or has previously had a relationship with the love interest”. She’s a ho, but he’s just a player who “doesn’t take things too seriously.” *rolls eyes*

      December 5, 2018
      |Reply
  43. Sushi
    Sushi

    It’s probably already been mentioned but fuck it, I just got to that line and I’m going to guess he’s calling her Pigeon because she’s dressed in a twinset and pearls at a secret basement fight club so she’s a lady, and this is Lady and the Tramp. Especially seeing as his nickname is apparently Mad Dog

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
    • Xebi
      Xebi

      I’m totally picturing Abby as Professor Umbridge now.

      December 7, 2018
      |Reply
      • Dove
        Dove

        Same now. XD

        December 10, 2018
        |Reply
  44. RodeoBob
    RodeoBob

    OK, synonym-abuse aside, I’ve got a real gripe about how this chapter opens.

    I don’t mind that it opens with a fight. When you get right down to it, that’s actually not a bad opening for a romance novel to have: fights are about two people facing off, there’s a lot of physical action to describe, a lot of emotion and intensity, and there’s an inevitable climax of some sort where one party is either physically spent, or surrenders to the other party. So it’s a good way to gauge how skilled the author is at describing those sorts of things.

    Mostly, I’m annoyed at the missed opportunities. I assume our POV character isn’t a UFC fan or a boxing enthusiast, so they can’t comment much on the technical side of what they see, but the author could still use the fight as a way to develop character. Does Travstian taunt his enemy in the fight, dancing out of reach after a missed strike? Is he a patient but relentless fighter, stalking his opponent, timing his strikes to dismantle his enemy one hit at a time? Is he cautious and reserved, until a blow lands, and then he lashes out with fury? Does he fight with a scrappy, style, mixing in elbows and knees like a street brawlers, or does he shift from one stance to another with fluid grace? I mean, this is our introduction to the character, so why not, you know, develop their character a little?

    It can be foreshadowing for how they act later, or it can set up contrasts down the line. I.E. dude is disciplined and skilled in the ring, but a total disorganized mess in college. Or, dude pursues his enemies without pause, and does the same with the women he dates. Either way, it’s, you know, good storytelling.

    We also have an entire audience that can give cues about what the fight can tell us about the characters.

    >”Marek fell to the concrete floor with a thud, and for a brief moment the room was completely silent.”

    I’ve watched fights, and can I share something here? When there’s a good exchange of strikes, the crowd gets loud! When a fighter gets their bell rung and it looks like they might go down, the crowd gets really loud. Why? Because that’s what they came to see! The crowd only goes silent for one of three things:

    1.) The fight is boring. (fighters circling but not punching, fighters grappling but not doing much, etc.)

    2.) Something completely unexpected happened. (a 98-pound weakling cold-cocking the champ with their first punch, the champ leaping in the air to take down the challenger and land an arm-bar in less than 10 seconds, etc.)

    3.) Something utterly horrible and shocking happened between the fighters. (A fighter breaking someone’s arm or leg after that person tapped out, or continuing to hit someone after they’re unconscious, or something else equally horrible and inappropriate)

    Travstian just elbowed a guy in the nose, so #1 is out. Travstian is the open favorite for the fight, so option #2 (stunned silence) is out as well. That just leaves door number three: horrified silence. And this is from a crowd of people that came wanting to see a violent fight. Red flags indeed.

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
    • ShifterCat
      ShifterCat

      OMG, all this. I can’t help but compare this crap to Kit Rocha’s Beyond series, in which a lot of the characters (including one of the women!) do cage-fighting. There, the fights are definitely used for character and plot development.

      December 6, 2018
      |Reply
    • MamaLich
      MamaLich

      ‘Mostly, I’m annoyed at the missed opportunities. I assume our POV character isn’t a UFC fan or a boxing enthusiast, so they can’t comment much on the technical side of what they see, but the author could still use the fight as a way to develop character.’

      I absolutely agree with this. I’m only a moderate UFC fan (and while I appreciate wrestling, I’ve only watched a total of three episodes during the 30 years of my entire life), and if I ever saw this book in a store—the opening alone would’ve prompted me to put it back on the shelf. The narrative just felt…vague and almost bored (and yeah, I also read the ‘stunned silence’ as: Oh shit, Travis just killed a guy). The book could’ve been about NASCAR racing and the narrative style would still make it dull.

      Plus, even if Travis was supposed to be an unschooled brawler who fights dirty—there’s literally nothing distinctive about Travis or his introduction to the story. Sure, he’s clearly shown to be the absolute darling of the dude-bros…but even Abby sounded bored while describing his entrance (and I re-read that intro twice now, for the life of me—I can’t find Abby indicating, “Travis ‘Mad Dog’ didn’t impress me BUT [insert something distinctive that’s designed to make the reader WANT to keep their eyes on him]”). She could’ve switched his name with Marek’s and it wouldn’t have made a difference to the reader (also: are we supposed to be impressed by his ‘warm’ brown eyes, tattoos, bulk and muscles? Does MacGuire not realise that those are REALLY common traits among fighters?). It’s honestly such a waste of the cage-fighter theme because there are plenty of real-life fighters that would stand out in a book (because they have great personalities, or have really distinctive fighting styles/disciplines).
      McGuire could’ve shown Travis’s witty side by having him tackle opponents and then covering their nose/mouth so that they couldn’t breathe. Or he could be a bone-breaking tank in a fight—but have an adorkable sweetheart personality like Forrest Griffin (Christ, I WISH Forrest’s in this book instead. Dude was in TheMostBeautifulMan.com and has been a fan-favorite for both male and female viewers (even though he sounds EXACTLY like Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs). If there was the kind of guy who would fight for college money but would still be the popular student on campus, it’s Forrest Griffin). It really feels like the underground fighting ring is just a theme to ‘tack on’ and make the story slightly different than all the rest.

      December 10, 2018
      |Reply
    • Another Amy
      Another Amy

      I also didn’t understand why Abby, who when entering the fight club basement felt nervous, scared, over-dressed, and out of place, to the point where she’s clutching America’s arm and has to reassure herself that her friends wouldn’t intentionally put her in any danger, is suddenly leaving her friends behind and pushing herself through the loud and drunk crowd of people she previously found potentially dangerous, so that she can get right up close to the fight, close enough to be splattered in blood when one of the fighters has his nose broken.

      Was it some kind of mystical, romantic pull from the (supposedly) magnetically sexy Travis that caused her to suddenly need to be close to him? If so, show that. Was she mesmerized by the barbarism of it all, caught up in the entertainment of a violent spectacle, feeling the mob-like energy that people throughout history have felt when they watched gladiators fighting lions, or heretics being burnt at the stake, or monarchs being beheaded? Or was it the deeply masculine energy of it all that turned her on and made the violence of the fight feel like some kind of sexual foreplay (similar to how Hemingway felt about bull fighting) that made her lose her inhibitions? Because there seemed to be no explanation in the text (other than “I couldn’t see what was happening,”) for her feelings and behavior to change so quickly and go from cowering behind her friends to pushing her way through the rowdy crowd to get ringside.

      December 12, 2018
      |Reply
  45. Preakness Everdeen
    Preakness Everdeen

    The entire time reading this all I could think of is why Pigeon/Pidge. Never heard of it outside of any Lady and the Tramp references so it will be interesting to see if we find out if it’s an “homage” to that. If not then the author just thought some 1950s slang would make the guy more edgy?

    Also, despite the chapter called Red Flag I’m surprised how aggressively literal it is in regards to Travis.

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
  46. Stacer Jane
    Stacer Jane

    Someone please tell me I am not the only one who heard the nickname “Pigeon” and immediately thought of that Carol Burnett sketch where she’s the old bird lady sitting in the park, throwing birdseed and yelling, “Here, pidgey-pidgey!” Yeah, that probably makes me *really* old.

    Also, the “hero” reminds me so vividly of my cousin’s abusive ex that I will be picturing him and actively trying not to vomit through all of these recaps. Oy.

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
  47. PenelopeRidgewood
    PenelopeRidgewood

    What is it with this theme in ‘romance’ novels that, despite being told repeatedly that the object of their interest isn’t actually, you know, interested, the pursuer keeps pursuing? I hate it for several reasons; firstly that it’s fucking rude. Someone tells you to leave them alone and you keep pestering them, that makes you an arsehole, sir and/or madam.

    Secondly, aside from a few obnoxious exceptions, I have never ever in my life known anybody to actually act like this. Most people, once they receive a couple of strong refusals, know to give it up. There are a few more who might take a bit longer to take the hint, but I reckon that the vast majority of real world adults who get turned down flat wouldn’t bother to waste their time or energy on someone who clearly isn’t interested. Do you know what we call people who won’t take no for an answer and keep pestering the object of their unreturned affections? We call them stalkers.

    And thirdly, I find this sort of narrative to be dangerous. It’s feeding the idea that when a young woman (or occasionally man) turns somebody down and actively tells them no, they don’t actually mean it, and all it takes to wear them down is to keep fervently pursuing them until they give in. Is that really a message that we ought to be perpetuating, that no might not mean no and you should keep on grinding until you turn it into a yes? Ick.

    Also:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yhuMLpdnOjY

    This is all that came to my head with all the pigeon discussion.

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
    • ViolettaD
      ViolettaD

      DAMMIT YOU GOT THERE FIRST!

      December 6, 2018
      |Reply
  48. Nat
    Nat

    Even more timeline confusion…if she met America her Junior year of high school then wouldn’t America know all about her haunting past or whatever? Or does this get resolved (ha – I feel like no…)
    Jenny for Sainthood. We’re one chapter in and my brain already hurts.

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
  49. Maenochka
    Maenochka

    It’s like somebody put After by Anna Todd, your faux-50sog Beautiful Darkness, and some curdled 90s-00s Brand Misogyny in a blender and then put a curse on the slop that got poured out.

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
  50. Paheli
    Paheli

    As someone who grew up with an asshole dad with a bad temper and toxic siblings, can I please say fuck you to McGuire? The assholery doesn’t just go away. This makes me sick.

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
  51. Cris
    Cris

    “America grabbed her roll and threw it down the table, narrowly missing the girl’s face. Before the girl could say another word, Travis let his knees give way, sending her tumbling to the floor.”

    This has been bugging me. Does it say in the text where this asshole’s legs are facing? Cause if not, one could well assume he’s properly seated and the poor girl a) has ghost powers which helped her phaze through the table, or b) smashed the shit out of her head on her way down. But hey, dem slutz are disposable, amirite? Jfc the absulote misogyny.

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
  52. Bunny
    Bunny

    . . . Abby Abernathy . . . Rory Riordan . . . the Rural Juror meets alliteration.

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
    • Raven
      Raven

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed that.

      December 6, 2018
      |Reply
      • ViolettaD
        ViolettaD

        Watched a lot of “Girls”?
        Hannah Horvath, Marnie Michaels, Jessa Johansson, Shoshanna Shapiro….

        December 6, 2018
        |Reply
  53. Amanda
    Amanda

    I read this a few years back after seeing THOUSANDS of 5 star reviews on Amazon and literally rage returned it and threatened to burn it but I guess time does heal all wounds because I don’t remember it being THIS bad. Like I knew, in the back of my mind that it was, but time has dulled the pain.

    And now I feel like I have to apologize for recommending/voting for it. I am truly sorry that you are reading this now. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, let alone you.

    The high school/college thing has been mentioned a zillion times at this point so I’ll just skip over it. What I want to know is: how the fuck does the entire soccer team know Travis so well that they know his “seduction” (for lack of a better word) techniques? The dorm that I stayed in was the “athletic” dorm at my college and I can tell you for a fact that a lot of the athletes tend to hang out with other athletes (specifically those on their team). Now I’m not saying they NEVER hang out with other people or have other friends but the very idea that all twenty-some guys on the soccer team is that intimately acquainted with Travis without him being on it? No.
    And also… do they really have nothing better to talk about than some rando’s sex life??

    I’m also very confused as to why he has this, like, following of women. He can’t possibly be everyone’s type! Hot guys are hot, I get it. But I’ve seen a hot guy before and somehow, magically, managed to not shamelessly throw myself at them. I mean, celebrities manage to get on with their everyday lives without fans tailing and ambushing them; yet these women are acting like he’s some sort of god! Maybe he’s supposed to be because the last person who had a following this big was Jesus.

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
    • NavigatorBR
      NavigatorBR

      *Nods at someone else who also has read the book and knows the ending*

      That ending, boy was that something, I still can’t get over it. I can’t wait for us to get to the back half.

      December 8, 2018
      |Reply
  54. irene
    irene

    well, this was infuriating

    December 5, 2018
    |Reply
  55. Dvärghundspossen
    Dvärghundspossen

    Since I’m an old lady of 41 this genre wasn’t invented yet when I was 20. But if it had been, I certainly wouldn’t have read this stuff, because as a 20-year-old I was a complete slut and thus fit to be nothing but canon fodder for the author’s misogyny.

    Like, if 20-year-old me were in Abby’s situation, I’d probably be like “huh, hot guy wants to bang me, ok, come on!” *Bangs hot guy within five minutes* Ooops, turns out he’s a misogynistic piece of shit! Well, shit happens. *Shrugs and moves on with life* And that would be the end of the story of 20-year-old Dvärghundspossen and Travis, all over within two pages.

    December 6, 2018
    |Reply
    • Vix
      Vix

      IKR?!? Speaking as another 41 year old, who very much enjoyed my slutty time in my early 20s, if I liked the guy, I’d have gone with it. My roommate, who was very Christian and saving herself for marriage, would still have expressed an interest and gone on dates to see what happened, while being clear that sex wasn’t on the table.
      If we had disliked the guy as much as Abby seems to dislike Travis, we would have GTFO, instead of hanging around waiting for him to tell us what to do and then doing it.
      The other thing is, we all had experiences with guys who wouldn’t take no for an answer and got a little stalky. None of us EVER found that cute or charming or attractive. It was always somewhere on the annoying – scary spectrum. NO WAY any of us would have gone out with someone who was trying to wear us down…

      December 7, 2018
      |Reply
      • Jenny (but not Jenny Trout)
        Jenny (but not Jenny Trout)

        Another 41 year old here. I’d have kept repeating “I’m not interested” until he gave up. I wouldn’t hang out wth him, I wouldn’t encourage him and if he wasn’t gettting the message, I’d spell it out. “I don’t fuck misogynistic assholes. Bye!”

        I know stuff happens and you don’t always realize how people right away. I did have an acquaintance in my 20s who was a misogynist asshole who wanted to sleep with me. And I told him it wasn’t going to happen several times and he gave up.

        But after one chapter of this, I’d block his number and not say more than a one word answer if the situation demands politeness – like in class. Outside of class – “no thanks” or “fuck off!”

        December 9, 2018
        |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      Yeah, I think this would be a more interesting genre if the heroines went through several relatively casual dates, and maybe even a few boyfriends, without any of them automatically being a horrible, abusive “soul-mate.” That doesn’t mean they have to be perfect but basic human decency would be expected. :p

      December 10, 2018
      |Reply
  56. swanna
    swanna

    Abby’s first meeting with Travis has her splattered with blood? He calls her “pigeon”? I think I’ve got it. She’s Archimedes from Team Fortress 2.

    December 6, 2018
    |Reply
  57. Eclairmaiden
    Eclairmaiden

    Some little things aside, I don’t think this seems all that horrendous. The snippets we get (I haven’t read the book) don’t scream Fifty shades to me at all, nor does Abby seem misogynistic in them. In the previous books it’s been carefully underlined how fake and skanky every other female character is – just fawning over Travis doesn’t make them skanks unless the narration specificly says so, and I’m not seeing it in the snippets.

    The book seems generic and boring, and I’m not sure if this was a good choice for a recap. Abby and Travis are just gonna circle each other until they have sex, get together, break up and get together again, without any other stuff ever going on. At least in City of Bones there would be some kind of fantasy plot and in Modelland some Winx madness, I presume. For a plain romance to be entertaining enough as a recap it should be spectacularly bad, like Fifty shades and Handbook for mortals, whereas Beautiful Disaster is just regular bad. Please correct me if I’m wrong, ‘cos so far I don’t know if I’ll bother to follow this recap.

    December 6, 2018
    |Reply
    • Person
      Person

      Dude, the women are treated H O R R I B L Y by Abby’s narration, the book in general, *and* by the male lead! Abby is constantly insisting she’s ~not like them and they’re portrayed as all mindless babbling fools who are disposable enough that it’s cool and funny to just drop one on the floor, ffs. It isn’t only misogyny if you specifically imply that the other women are bad for having sex a lot. The general hatred of women here is so obvious.

      December 6, 2018
      |Reply
      • Eclairmaiden
        Eclairmaiden

        The general hatred of women was clear to me in Fifty shades and other past recaps, but not here based on what I’ve seen so far.

        December 6, 2018
        |Reply
        • ViolettaD
          ViolettaD

          If I saw a guy let a girl sit on his lap and then drop her on the floor because he didn’t like something she said, I’d steer clear of him.

          December 6, 2018
          |Reply
          • Eclairmaiden
            Eclairmaiden

            Sure, but this isn’t the first book/tv show/movie that’s done it for laughs, and we’re not blaming them for hating all women. Also, here he’s doing it in defence of another woman, and the woman in question isn’t even the female lead. I’d think that counts for something and isn’t reason enough to condemn the entire book. I mean, Gary has a retinue of girls wherever he goes, but should Pokemon be condemned because of it?

            December 7, 2018
          • Person
            Person

            Not being the first to do a particular misogynistic, fucked up thing doesn’t mean you get to claim it isn’t fucked up and misogynistic, and that media does this shit all the time does not make it okay. And it most certainly does not “count for something” that he’s decided to treat this woman like absolute garbage because she’s mildly offended the one who’s attached to his cousin.

            …Did you really just bring up Gary from Pokemon as if that’s somehow comparable? Was Gary openly abusive toward the women in his retinue? Come on.

            December 7, 2018
          • Dove
            Dove

            the woman in question isn’t even the female lead.

            America didn’t need defending. She’s an adult woman (although she doesn’t act like it since she’s wasting food by throwing it at people.)

            He also could’ve been nicer by lightly pushing Lexi until she got up, then barring her from sitting down again, before saying that America is his friend. Dropping her wasn’t much of a joke, even if it was slapstick. The whole point was to pit two women against each other and to make Travis sound noble, even though he isn’t. His friends say he’s a bad friend so it’s basically just Travis putting on a show in front of Abby. As we see later, he gives not a single shit about others since he explicitly doesn’t have a second helmet for her when he asks Abby to ride on the back of his motorcycle. He’s the kind of guy I could see wearing a shirt that has this printed on the back: “If you can read this, the bitch fell off.” And it wouldn’t even be funny because it’s just a simple truth for him.

            I mean, Gary has a retinue of girls wherever he goes, but should Pokemon be condemned because of it?

            Yes, it was terrible then and it’s terrible now. Also, you’re acting as if condemning one aspect is to condemn the whole thing but there needs to be a lot of terrible shit in a product to call it complete garbage. There is a fair amount of misogyny in several other anime, even good or otherwise enjoyable ones. It isn’t hard to find because of how Japanese culture traditionally views women and what they should value. But it should be called out.

            For that matter, it’s good to call out Hollywood for this BS too because there’s plenty of that in American movies as well. In essence, comment on whatever is problematic or we’ll never make progress. We can’t reserve our criticism for only the worst of the worst.

            Now, mind you, I’m not suggesting that you have to keep reading this series of reviews. Please do whatever you want. I’m just addressing your general line of commentary.

            December 7, 2018
      • Eclairmaiden
        Eclairmaiden

        No, I’m sure Gary was deeply involved with and caring of each of his girls and gave a fuck if one of them missed the ride on his car and was left behind. Come one yourself.

        I’m simply trying to understand your point. To compare with something you chose, tell me which fictional work passes your misgynism radar?

        December 7, 2018
        |Reply
        • Dove
          Dove

          No, I’m sure Gary was deeply involved with and caring of each of his girls and gave a fuck if one of them missed the ride on his car and was left behind. Come one yourself.|

          It’s not about how Gary treated them, (although you don’t have proof and are merely speculating his response.) It’s about how the retinue is a generic stereotype of girls being obsessed with someone else and only existing to cow-tow and cheerlead their obsession because the obsession is the only important thing in their lives. Whether he paid them as official cheerleaders or if they followed him purely because they loved him is a bit moot. They’re literally just there as indicators of how Gary grows up as a person; curbing his excessive pride and accepting that he’s not automatically the best. Would this happen if Gary had been a girl? Would he have a retinue of boy cheerleaders following him around? Probably not but in all honesty, it could’ve fed into the feminine trope if it had, so it’s not unbelievable. But they chose to do it this way because the boy lead needed a boy rival.

          Now, admittedly, the retinue is a group of very minor characters, so it’s unrealistic for us to get to know them, but contrast this indistinct group with Misty. While not the most fleshed out and initially only following Ash because she wanted him to pay her back for her wrecked bike, she exists as an individual. This is mostly just to show Ash as friendlier, I guess, and the power of friendship and because Japan values teamwork, but still… If Brock had also been a woman, would Brock and Misty remain so distinct? Quite possibly, but it’s also possible both would be your generic side characters, Brock as a big-boobed kindness girl and Misty as just another lolita tsundere. And for that matter, why couldn’t Gary have a bunch of rowdy friends cheering him on instead? Because cheerleaders are easier to gloss over and ignore, plus they’ll cry for him initially. Random rowdy boys might generically try to start a fight or something else less desirable from a storytelling POV but I’d frankly be more entertained by a bunch of slightly younger boys doing their best not to throw tantrums because big brother didn’t win.

          My point is simply that it’s the easy way out because it’s exactly what you’d expect. The vague sports theme helps, but regardless, those girls weren’t really characters in their own right. They’re almost non-existent and they’re about the same as all these girls swooning over Travis, regardless of how they’re treated or their reasons why. They’re just there to indicate personality traits about the male character and nothing more. It doesn’t really serve your point of “Oh, wow, this isn’t misogynist.”

          And you didn’t even point out how they’re similar so I just did all of the work for you.

          December 7, 2018
          |Reply
        • Person
          Person

          Eclairmaiden, I was saying it was weird to me to compare that instance of misogyny to this one because one at least wasn’t openly cruel. Wasn’t implying one somehow was actually okay. Again, COME. ON.

          December 7, 2018
          |Reply
        • Corbeau
          Corbeau

          I think what makes it standing out here is 1) the character who does it. It’s better to swallow when it’s a side character because they often have one characteristic overdone and used for comic relief. They are not serious personalities and nobody views them as such. But in this book, this is our hero. And he is supposed to be a main character in a romance, most likely with the default monogamous ending with a woman. He can’t treat women badly! 2) The medium. The scene with the girl dropped on the floor and many others would fit better in a cartoon or anime. First of all, because nobody really gets hurt in cartoons: Team Rocket is sent flying to the sky and they are back the next episode with a new plan, Tom has an anvil dropped on him and he only walks on with a flat face, but he’s okay by the next scene plotting to catch Jerry etc. The exaggerated animations only add to this. The audience knows this and watches the events in that frame of mind. But it’s not present when you are reading a book. We don’t expect romance novel characters to stand up after a grand piano falls on them. It makes abuse seem actually abusive and not comical.
          But all put together it’s still not in the same league of creepiness as 50 Shades. Or not yet.

          December 8, 2018
          |Reply
    • swanna
      swanna

      It’s something about the general purpose that all these girls so far have been given in the narrative. Remember how in 50SOG, Ana would constantly tell us about all the encounters with women who visibly lusted after Chedward and gave her the “wow I can’t beliiiiieve she’s dating him, I’m jealous and impressed” treatment? (Usually with some variation of ‘Back off, ladies, he’s taken!’ inside her mind)

      This is something that crops up ridiculously often in books like these. We somehow need to constantly be made aware of how every woman wants the Love Interest and how every woman who isn’t the heroine’s friend will think she’s not in his league, so that 1) the LI can express how much Not Like Other Girls the heroine is and how he loves that about her, and 2) so that when the MC and the LI get together, the Other Girls can all be shocked and jealous, to show that the not-thirsty, not-desperate-for-male-attention heroine is victorious.

      The narrative makes it perfectly clear how Abby feels about all the other girls who are attracted to Travis. They are constantly described in condescending or/and infantilizing terms. They giggle and squeal and babble in his presence, they paw at his shirt, they’re Barbies and Abby recoils from their sugary toddler voices.
      All of this is meant to show us that Abby thinks these girls’ attraction to the Designated Hottest Dude is immature and embarrassing. She even contrasts one of the girls’ behaviors in a scene, where she talks about how mature that girl usually seems, vs. how childish she acts in Travis’ presence.
      She goes on to express that she doesn’t want Travis’ attempts at charming her to cause her to act like /those girls/. Hell, she even tells him that she’s Not Like Them.

      There’s also the scene with the girl who sat on Travis’ lap.
      America expresses she wants to vomit at the sight of the two blondes surrounding Travis, and the girl on the lap calls her a skank.
      America is Abby’s friend, and we’re supposed to like her and think she’s Good. So if she finds those girls’ behavior gross, and the girl insults her, that’s a clue for the reader that we, too, are supposed to be repulsed by blondie.
      This scene also tries to set up Travis as Good, because he immediately punishes the girl for not liking America.

      Now contrast these girls’ behaviors with Abby, who is Not Like Other Girls because she doesn’t throw herself at him or wants to fuck him immediately. And that makes her special to Travis, because he’s sooo not used to being told no. (See also his comment about how he doesn’t usually have to take a girl out for dinner first, another bit that’s meant to show us that All Those Other Girls are so ridiculously thirsty for him that he doesn’t even have to take them on dates.)

      All those girls have no other reason to be in the story other than to show us how Special the heroine is for getting the attention of the Hot Dude without having to embarrass herself like all the others do.
      Literally every female “character” so far who isn’t Abby’s friend has been shown to be embarrassingly horny for Travis, and that’s all they were there for.

      December 7, 2018
      |Reply
      • Eclairmaiden
        Eclairmaiden

        I agree with all of this. To me Fifty Shades seems far worse specificly because of the “‘Back off, ladies, he’s taken!’ inside her mind” thing, ‘cos I haven’t seen that degree of female loath in Abby’s active thinking. She will probably become like that once she and Travis are more or less together (Ana would tell other girls Christian was gay to get them to back off already before that point), but until that happens I’m standing my ground.

        December 7, 2018
        |Reply
        • Dove
          Dove

          Abby does want to fuck Travis but she can’t accept that idea because every other girl just falls into bed with him and thus Abby feels like she must avoid such a thing so she won’t seem like a slut. If this were a more sensible novel, she could actually struggle with those feelings and then accept that women just falling for Travis gives her an easy out to fuck him and move on. America even tells her to just fuck him to save time and in a better novel this could be nuanced and work out as a more interesting plot than True Love TM.

          But in this novel, Travis also treats Abby like shit, and Abby hates that treatment, so simply giving in feels like she’s agreeing to his abuse too. And again, this could be nuanced but all it does is create the sight gag joke of Character saying NO vehemently and then the camera cutting away to Character doing the thing that they refused to do a second ago. And that could also work, except that EVERYONE just drags Abby along like a Real Doll so it doesn’t fucking matter if she has any dialog. Plus it gets old fast.

          To me, this is a lot like H4M except everyone is fawning over the guy instead of the girl. Abby is passive like Zade (no real motivations, although she has actual inner turmoil) but also passive like Mac (limply dragged along by the narrative), giving her the ultimate worst passivity, while Travis is basically Charles Spellman.

          But it doesn’t really matter. If you don’t want to read these reviews, just don’t? You don’t need to justify your decision. People are only arguing over the degree of misogyny shown and if you hold your ground on that, you’ll continue that debate, so only do so if you want to? Just a point of note.

          December 7, 2018
          |Reply
          • Eclairmaiden
            Eclairmaiden

            Thank you for being polite in your comment. Arguments about misogyny tend to get messy these days.

            I’ll probably stop by after holidays to read about some later chapter and find out if this book turns out to be bad in a way that has entertainment value.

            December 7, 2018
        • swanna
          swanna

          Oh yeah I wouldn’t say that Abby is at Ana’s level of bad, so far. I haven’t read this book, so I don’t know if and how much worse she gets, though.
          It’s probably too early to try to judge which character is worse, since we haven’t yet seen any of the relationship dynamic between Abby and Travis as a couple/fuckbuddies.
          Was mainly commenting on the part about Abby not seeming misogynistic, as I do think she does – even if not as bad as Ana. Ana was a lot more possessive of Christian, but they both sure do love to portray other women’s sexuality as immature and gross. (Man, I hope we’re not in for an Abby & America version of the way Ana treated Kate’s relationship…)

          December 8, 2018
          |Reply
    • NavigatorBR
      NavigatorBR

      I’ve read the entire thing, it starts to go places, and the back half is a f*cking ride. It’s one of those moments where the author clearly had a few ideas, and where most authors would pick one and that would be the plot, this one picked all of them and just put them together.

      I was in awe at the way the book moved through events in the closing two or three chapters, and how horrid these characters are to each other at times. Trust me you want to stick around, even if it takes a little bit for the engine to warm up.

      December 8, 2018
      |Reply
  58. ViolettaD
    ViolettaD

    “Everything in the room screamed that I didn’t belong. The stairs were crumbling, the rowdy patrons were shoulder to shoulder, and the air was a medely of sweat, blood, and mold”
    I’ve braved similar venues to see Richie Ramone or Marky Ramone, but I wouldn’t risk it for an Econ class. Or fight club.

    Pink cashmere and pearls… who’s that stupid?

    December 6, 2018
    |Reply
    • ShifterCat
      ShifterCat

      Of all the awfulness on display, it’s the cashmere cardigan business that’s been bugging me. My brain keeps trying to come up with an explanation.

      At first I thought it might be that her friends just told her, “We’re going someplace super awesome!” and she only found out after the fact that it was a skeezy underground fight club. One of the anecdotes in Amy Cameron’s “Playing With Matches” was like this: a guy told his date that he was going to take her someplace special, so she put on fancy clothes… only to find out that it was a monster truck rally. But a few paragraphs later we find out that Abby knows about this place, so that’s not it.

      Next I wondered if she was one of those people who doesn’t own much that could be considered “grungy”. In that case, something like, “I was wearing the closest thing I had to dressed-down: Guess jeans, my workout shoes, and a shirt my aunt had bought me from the Hard Rock Cafe in Tokyo” would work better. Still unrealistic for a college kid, but close enough for suspension of disbelief.

      Then we find out that Miss Priss DOES own sweats and flip-flops! So why the fuck didn’t she wear those to the illegal basement fight?

      The only explanation I can think of: Abby is a horrible snob. She shows off by wearing her fucking cashmere and pearls, and thinks that sweats and glasses will be a turn-off.

      December 6, 2018
      |Reply
      • ViolettaD
        ViolettaD

        If she was the type of woman who got cashmere sweaters from vintage stores and wore them with rhinestone cat-eye glasses..

        Oh never mind, then she’d actually have a personality. She just exists so Mr. Hump-a-Ho can pursue her and make her feel important.

        December 6, 2018
        |Reply
        • Dove
          Dove

          Rhinestone cat-eye glasses lady, who shops vintage stores, is the hero that we need but apparently not the one this author thought we deserved…

          December 10, 2018
          |Reply
      • MayaB
        MayaB

        When I read about the cardigan I immediately had Umbridge’s cardigan in mins. Even though hers was not a cashmere one.

        December 10, 2018
        |Reply
        • Dove
          Dove

          This book would be a million times better if it was about Professor Umbridge having the hots for but refusing to give in to some smarmy, muggle asshole. XD

          December 10, 2018
          |Reply
          • ViolettaD
            ViolettaD

            As he undid the mother-of pearl buttons on my cardigan (pale pink today; he’d complimented my rose-pink one, and if I wore it too soon, he’d know I was paying attention—I wanted to keep him guessing), I felt my heartbeat quicken despite my own misgivings. “Whatever would the Ministry say?” I gasped, with little conviction. “No—no—we MUST stop!” I murmured, as he reached for my pink tweed skirt. The cat brooch (Angora today) gave warning yowls, but I, with all my power, was as putty in the hands of this mere Muggle….

            December 11, 2018
  59. ViolettaD
    ViolettaD

    “[…]Shake in your boots, boys, and drop your panties, ladies!”

    Pavlovian flashback to Monty Python’s “Hungarian Phrase Book” sketch: “Drop your panties, Sir William, I cannot wait ’til lunchtime.”

    December 6, 2018
    |Reply
  60. Sraf
    Sraf

    On the matter of the age confusion, an anecdote.

    As a non-American following these recaps (and reading American litterature in general) I have given up on following how old characters are. Like, I figured out Freshman means first-year. Of high-school or college. Okay. I can usually tell between the two. For the rest of it, though… Go figure. Junior and senior, okay – though why isn’t ‘junior’ the first year is beyond me. And “Sophomore”? What is that, some sort of pastry?

    I’ve looked it up a few times and keep forgetting, so, these days, I just roll with the confusion. Whenever a story is set in American high-school or college, I’ll have only the vaguest idea of how old everyone is.

    December 6, 2018
    |Reply
    • MayaB
      MayaB

      As a fellow non-American I completely understand and agree with what you say. Even while reading this recap I checked what sophomore is. For like the 50th time? It’s just annoying and when there are no other clues (like in this chapter) it’s simply impossible for me to keep it straight.

      December 6, 2018
      |Reply
      • Miimers
        Miimers

        Another non-american here: it also doesn’t help if the characters are written totally out of step with what their age should be.
        Like this Abby reads like she could be either 16 or a bitter Baby Boomer. And Travis reads nothing at all like a college kid, but more like a sqeevy 40 year old.

        December 8, 2018
        |Reply
      • ViolettaD
        ViolettaD

        Technically, for high school or college:
        1st-year: freshman
        2nd: sophomore
        3rd: junior
        4th: senior

        Where these get complicated:
        Some places start high school in 9th grade, around age 14. For other systems, that’s still jr. High. So if you start high school in 10th grade, are you a freshman or a sophomore?

        Many college students don’t finish in 4 years, thanks to distribution requirements. What if you graduate in 4-1/2 years? What if you did a certain amount of credits at the cheap community college, then transferred to a more prominent school so their logo would be on the diploma?

        I’ve been to two urban schools where there were few dorm students because most students commuted from their parents’ place or had efficiencies and day jobs, and one more traditional school in a college town. Neither had an atmosphere even remotely like this. Nobody was terribly interested in anyone else’s sex life, especially if that was YOUR roommate distracting you from study or sleep. You just didn’t want to know.

        December 9, 2018
        |Reply
  61. Alice
    Alice

    A couple years after this book came out, I ended up in a very confusing conversation where I was discussing the book “Beautiful Ruins” and my coworker thought I was talking about “Beautiful Disaster.” After the confusion was resolved, she enthusiastically recommended “Beautiful Disaster” to me, but I never got around to adding it to my reading list. Even though you are only one recap in, I can say with certainty that this book will never make it onto my reading list now. Thank you for saving me from a bad read!

    December 6, 2018
    |Reply
  62. Small jar of fireflies
    Small jar of fireflies

    So all women love him and behave like idiots as soon as his aura touches them, to the point where one exception baffles and challenges him. While all men yell “bro!!!” And want to be his friend. And he starts off with a big show of what he can do with 0 regard for how it affects people around him.

    Same shit different day.

    Also, I don’t understand how “I have multiple casual partners and no intention of slowing down” is sexy? Like. “I am brewing STDs at home! I am a science fair of herpes recombinants. Compete to be the Typhoid Mary to my Patient 0!”

    December 6, 2018
    |Reply
    • Small jar of fireflies
      Small jar of fireflies

      I’m sorry, I didn’t realize how judgey that sounded. I was thinking of the context of this chapter, where he makes it clear there’s been an unending stream of partners who are then disgusted with him. I’m sure people have done casual sex safely. This guy? Um.

      December 6, 2018
      |Reply
      • John Doe
        John Doe

        Yeah, no; that’s totally fair. This guy absolutely seems… he doesn’t seem like he’s in college; he seems like a high schooler who hasn’t figured out how to put on a condom yet.

        December 8, 2018
        |Reply
      • the-great-dragon
        the-great-dragon

        I think it’s fine to be judgey on this particular issue with this particular character.

        Statistically, his level of sleeping around IS a giant red flag. It’s exponentially worsened by the fact that he’s also demonstrated a complete disregard for the safety and comfort of the people around him.

        He’s got Abby on his motorcycle with no safety equipment whatsoever and doesn’t care. He dumped a woman on the floor with little care for her risk of injury. He’s harassing Abby when she’s shown clear disinterest and is making it out to be her fault. So yeah, this dude is not Mr. Safety and it would probably not be the smartest idea in the world to exchange bodily fluids with him.

        Part of sexual safety is not jumping into bed with someone who is this risky and I think it’s worth saying that.

        December 11, 2018
        |Reply
        • the-great-dragon
          the-great-dragon

          Also, I thought your comment was funny and totally inoffensive.

          December 11, 2018
          |Reply
  63. Eve
    Eve

    I hope not too many people have mentioned this, but one thing that always sort of baffles me re: the type of book where the hero has a lot of interchangeable female hangers-on is that the girls’ voices will go all high pitched and babyish when they’re trying to get his attention. People don’t do that! There’s even been studies that like, scientifically prove that people actually typically LOWER the pitch of their voice, regardless of gender, when they’re interested in someone??? Why does this keep happening in these books???

    Also, I cannot tell you how hard I winced at the wanton destruction of cashmere. Hopefully, the poor sweater was salvaged with some carefully applied baking soda/vinegar and a dry cleaning off screen!

    December 6, 2018
    |Reply
    • Jane Eyre
      Jane Eyre

      I think it’s bc they’re supposed to be a) feminine because high pitch is associated with that and most importantly b)annoying. These girls are supposed to be horribly annoying and sound stupid and infantile because of the high pitches.

      December 6, 2018
      |Reply
      • ViolettaD
        ViolettaD

        Look there he goes
        Isn’t he dreamy?
        Monsieur Gaston
        Oh, he’s so cute!
        Be still, my heart
        I’m hardly breathing
        He’s such a tall, dark, strong and handsome brute!

        December 6, 2018
        |Reply
  64. ViolettaD
    ViolettaD

    “I don’t mind being friends, but that doesn’t mean you have to try to get into my panties every five minutes.”
    ….
    “You have my word. I won’t even think about your panties…unless you want me to
    ….

    Am I the only one who wonders why romantic leads talk like toddlers? Grown women wear underpants, underwear, knicks if they’re Brits. “Panties” are worn by three-year-olds who can appreciate the duckies or Disney Princesses on them.

    December 6, 2018
    |Reply
    • ShifterCat
      ShifterCat

      “Panties” seems to be pretty common parlance AFAICT. “Underwear” can refer to any sort of undergarment, while “underpants” just makes me think of Captain Underpants. And “knickers” is definitely a UK thing.

      December 6, 2018
      |Reply
      • ViolettaD
        ViolettaD

        I find it gratingly infantile.

        December 6, 2018
        |Reply
        • John Doe
          John Doe

          That’s because you’re a Brit.

          I hate this book as much as anyone, but “panties” is one thing that isn’t an issue.

          December 8, 2018
          |Reply
          • ViolettaD
            ViolettaD

            I am not a Brit, although I have some Brit ancestry and have visited there.
            I just find it cutesy-pootsy-wootsy. Like shoeseies and socksies. Seriously, who talks like that if you’re not dressing a three-year-old? I know it’s common, especially in retail (like fast food joints saying “crispy” instead of “crisp”), but I just find it patronizing.

            December 9, 2018
        • John Doe
          John Doe

          By that I mean it’s not unrealistic. Honestly, though, I prefer the term “underwear”; it’s more utilitarian and less cutesy-~scandalous~. So you’re right that it’s a weird vernacularism, but wrong about how common its usage is with certain age groups. Toddlers don’t wear panties.

          December 8, 2018
          |Reply
          • ViolettaD
            ViolettaD

            Sitting on a park bench
            Eying little girls with bad intent
            Snots running down his nose
            Greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes, hey, Aqualung
            Drying in the cold sun
            Watching as the frilly panties run, hey, Aqualung

            December 9, 2018
    • M.
      M.

      I didn’t realize how much of a regionalism this could be. Where I live (East coast America) grown women wear panties while underpants or undies is the expressly childish and nonsexual way of informally referring to undergarments.

      Victoria’s Secret advertises “panty” sales, and that brand is explicitly sexualized

      I’ve got a billion issues with this book but panties isn’t one, but I can understand that word choice feeling grating

      December 7, 2018
      |Reply
      • Person
        Person

        Same experience here on America’s west coast. It’s funny how these slang terms are totally reversed in meaning across the pond!

        December 7, 2018
        |Reply
        • Anon
          Anon

          “Panties” is a pretty common adult way to refer to women’s underwear. I’m not sure what rock you live under, but I hear it and read it all the time.

          It’s not my preferred word, but it’s also not a word I would ever use to describe a child’s underwear, especially since it’s one of those words that’s highly sexualized. I implore you to not refer to a 3-year-old’s underwear as “panties.”

          December 10, 2018
          |Reply
          • Small jar of fireflies
            Small jar of fireflies

            I’ve been wearing ’em all my life, so I kind of resent retroactively sexualizing my language? And my clothes now are adult, but there’s nothing special about them. It’s just a bra, those are just panties. I use ‘lingerie’ for sexy.

            Underwear for boys and girls has different construction. I don’t see why there shouldn’t be a word for that.

            December 10, 2018
  65. Ys
    Ys

    Damn I am just like what ? I read your work on radish and it was fun unlike this piece of shit. So many red flags in one chapter and ewww at all the women fawning over him. Plus ugh the main girl seems just ugh. I like this mainstream anime where the guy is a bit of Gary Stu and has had many girls fawn over him. But in the end he chose one girl, is devoted to her and treats her with respect. Like seriously why do jerks have to be love interests in novels.

    December 7, 2018
    |Reply
  66. TheMeanReader
    TheMeanReader

    You know what the real deal is?
    To know that this abomination of a Book is going to get sooooooo much worse.
    Like, you took the Abortions of all Toxic Relationships together by Miss “It’s ok, when a guy beats girls“- McGuire and glue it together.
    This is not a bad Book, it is the fucking Mother of bad Books.

    December 7, 2018
    |Reply
  67. Hill
    Hill

    Because of the misogyny in this book, I’m gonna lock in my answer and say he calls her pigeon because she has small tits, as in being ‘pigeon-chested’

    December 7, 2018
    |Reply
    • Tez Miller
      Tez Miller

      Or she crapped on someone’s car. But your guess is more likely 😉

      December 8, 2018
      |Reply
  68. Bunny
    Bunny

    “Eastern University” – oh no, I hope this doesn’t take place in Washington. Haven’t we suffered enough under the brutish terribleness of these crappy JHBC novels?

    Although I guess there’s an Eastern University in Philadelphia. Is this book set in Philadelphia? Maybe location is going to be one of those vague things, like what year they’re in.

    December 7, 2018
    |Reply
    • ViolettaD
      ViolettaD

      Per Wikipedia: ‘Eastern University is a co-educational, “comprehensive Christian university located in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia on the Pennsylvania Main Line.’

      This could make for some really interesting plot twists. It won’t, of course, because I think you’re right that she’s being deliberately vague. But it COULD.

      December 8, 2018
      |Reply
      • Tez Miller
        Tez Miller

        I just guessed that Eastern University was just a made-up name. But if it’s real…is there any Christianity stuff in the novel?

        December 8, 2018
        |Reply
        • ViolettaD
          ViolettaD

          I doubt it.
          A. They could sue.
          B. She’d have to do some real research and have real conflicts, like what it’s like trying to have a sex life in a repressive atmosphere. Do you just avoid being caught, or are you quietly riddled with guilt? How much gossip is based on reality and how much on just relieving the boredom? How many reputations are unfairly ruined over spite?
          You’d have the basis for a real book there..but she’s writing Bangin’ the Bad Boy genre fiction, and doesn’t want to have to put too much thought into it.

          December 9, 2018
          |Reply
  69. Miimers
    Miimers

    “Who can tell me which president had a cross-eyed wife with a bad case of the uglies?”
    Why is this even a line in this book? The author thought “all woman-hating, all the time!” was a good theme to go with?

    December 8, 2018
    |Reply
  70. Nocturnal Queen
    Nocturnal Queen

    So his friend is allowed to insult the women he is hanging out with but they are not allowed to insult her back?

    The whole cashmere and pearls vs rough crowds and men with tattoos feels very Titanic or every other story about middle to upper class women who discovers the lower class and fetishizes them.

    December 8, 2018
    |Reply
  71. John Doe
    John Doe

    Hate saying this because I love Dramione, but…. this entire thing reads like a Dramione high school AU. One of the really shitty ones written by a thirteen-year-old who doesn’t recognize red flags yet.

    December 8, 2018
    |Reply
  72. HK
    HK

    I can make the age ambiguity worse for you. 🙂 Them ordering drinks probably means they’re 21 or over, but the fact that (at least from the recap) they weren’t even ASKED for ID means they’re VISIBLy 21 or over. So what, thirty? : D

    December 9, 2018
    |Reply
    • Miimers
      Miimers

      I’m 40 and get carded, so being visibly over 21, they’d have to be at least 40 or just… had a very rough life.

      And now I can’t stop imagining Abby and Travis as being part of the regular alcoholics gang that hangs around the tube station next to my work. o.O

      December 9, 2018
      |Reply
  73. Milly Tudor
    Milly Tudor

    He is utterly repulsive and she’s more annoying than Ana. I know we’re only one chapter in, but this mess seems like it’s going to be even worse than FSoG.

    December 10, 2018
    |Reply
    • NavigatorBR
      NavigatorBR

      I listened to the book a few weeks ago, and I was having a conversation with a friend that I think these characters might actually be worse that FSoG.

      I can’t articulate why, without going deep into spoilers, but they come off to me at the end of the book as truly garbage people.

      December 10, 2018
      |Reply
      • Milly Tudor
        Milly Tudor

        They both already seem like garbage people to me after one chapter. I shudder to think how much worse they’ll get by the end.

        December 11, 2018
        |Reply
        • ViolettaD
          ViolettaD

          I was hoping his motorcycle would spin out and kill them both. As long as nobody else got hurt….

          December 11, 2018
          |Reply
  74. Liza
    Liza

    This seems like an incredibly long and boring chapter. How can so many scenes pass without anything happening other than 1) ooooh, hot guy; 2) he’s an ass; 3) nobody seems to care that he’s an ass; 4) apparently because they are all asses too; 5) Abbannabella is a doormat; 6) end scene?

    December 10, 2018
    |Reply
  75. Barbara
    Barbara

    I read this whole book, because I hate myself (I guess). I am BLOWN AWAY by the dumpster fire of missed opportunity to make this a decent story. Just the usual get together, fight over nothing, be miserable, get back together even though nothing has changed. Rinse. Repeat.

    December 10, 2018
    |Reply
  76. Amavra
    Amavra

    This reminds me most of “After” which I know was written after it. So changed my designation of “After” from 50sog one direction fanfic to beautiful disaster one direction fanfic. The resemblance so far is uncanny and making me side eye both these authors so hard.

    Cause the “romantic” relationship is so textbook abuse it really only makes sense if it’s being done on purpose.

    December 11, 2018
    |Reply
  77. the-great-dragon
    the-great-dragon

    Holy.
    CRAP?!

    I genuinely did not expect the book to be THIS bad. I just voted for the book I had heard of before, because I’m lazy and didn’t want to dig too deep. Now I regret!

    December 11, 2018
    |Reply

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