The super nice thing about these recaps is that there’s no news to frantically keep up on. Except for news that happens in the comments. It seems a fair number of you are building an elaborate conspiracy theory in which this is Lady and The Tramp human AU fanfic. I don’t know how I’ll ever recover from typing that sentence.
I’ll add a disclaimer here that if I don’t point out a specific typo or error in a quoted passage, it’s not in the actual text. It’s just my butterfingers and I’ve overlooked it in the spellcheck.
Familiar faces filled the seats of our favorite lunch table.
Then everyone is sitting wrong.
America sat on one side of me, Finch on the other, and the rest of the spaces were picked off by Shepley and his Sigma Tau brothers.
So, the scene is set. We’re going to meet some of Shepley’s other friends, like…
“Hey, Brazil,” Shepley said, greeting the man sitting in front of me. His olive skin and chocolate eyes offset the white Eastern Football hat pulled low on his forehead.
Okay. First of all, my assumption is that his name is Brazil because he’s from Brazil. From his description, we can guess that he’s a person of color. Not just from his dark eyes and brown skin, but from the fact that his physical features are described using food references and a comparison to the color white.
Now, moving on from that, let’s talk about the fact that this book sounds like an Army movie. America, Brazil, Shepley, Mad Dog…it sounds like they’re going to team up to fight the fucking Predator.
“You’re sittin’ in my chair, Brazil.”
Brazil turned to see Travis standing behind him, and then looked to me, surprised. “Oh, is she one of your girls, Trav?”
“Absolutely not,” I said, shaking my head.
Brazil looked to Travis, who stared at him expectantly. Brazil shrugged and then took his tray to the end of the table.
Are we supposed to be swooning over Travis’s lack of manners here? My assumption is that I’m supposed to be turned on and impressed by his toughness, but he just keeps coming off as childish.
“What is that?” I asked, unable to look away from his tray. The mystery food on his plate looked like a wax display.
Travis laughed and took a drink from his water glass. “The cafeteria ladies scare me. I’m not about to critique their cooking skills.”
Wanna know how I know this was originally set in high school?
The thing that gets me is, if you look up the author’s bio, she went to like three different colleges. It’s not like she has no idea about the college experience.
Of course, everyone notices that Travis is paying attention to Abby.
Travis’s behavior piqued their curiosity, and I subdued a smile at being the only girl they had seen him insist on sitting with.
I promise you’ll never, ever get tired of hearing about how differently Travis treats Abby.
But I’m a notorious liar.
There’s a biology test after lunch, but America says she hasn’t had time to study because she spent all her time telling Shepley that Abby wouldn’t sleep with Travis.
The football players seated at the end of our table stopped their obnoxious laughter to listen more closely, making the other students take notice.
HEY EVERYONE LOOK HOW INTERESTING ABBY IS! LOOK! SHE’S SOOOOOOOO INTERESTING!
There’s a brief conversation about how Abby is definitely never going to sleep with Travis and imperil America’s relationship with Shepley, and then Travis asks Abby if she studied for the biology test.
“No amount of studying is going to help me with Biology. It’s just not something I can wrap my head around.”
Travis stood up. “C’mon.”
“Let’s go get your notes. I’m going to help you study.”
“Get your ass up, Pidge. You’re gonna ace that test.”
I’m so happy this passage is in here because it gives me a chance to talk about one of my favorite things: things that seem nice but are actually super controlling. This happened all through the Fifty Shades of Grey series and I’m going out on a limb and guessing it happens all through this book. Since both of them are super popular, they inspired countless other authors who wrote the same tropes, either knowingly or unknowingly. Basically, these authors liked what they read, wanted more, and wrote it. So, a certain pattern of character behavior emerges in all of them: heroes who don’t just think they know what’s best for the heroines. They know they know what’s best for the heroines. The heroines, for their parts, tacitly accept this. They might grumble and protest but ultimately they give in and then later are grateful to the heroes for bossing them around in the first place. And readers are expected to understand that the hero really does know what’s best for the heroine and that the heroine really doesn’t have a clue how to do anything on her own. It plays into the fantasy of having a man solve all of a woman’s problems. That’s all it is, just magnified under the type of microscope NASA would be responsible for building.
In this case, we’ve got Abby. She’s having lunch and chatting with her friends. Travis decides that she’s done doing that now because he’s going to make a grand gesture. And, of course, Abby goes along with it. Because he’s doing something that will help her, we’re meant to think of him as generous and caring toward her, when in reality he just told her he was going to help her, rather than asking if she even wanted his help in the first place.
They go back to her room and he quizzes her over the study guide.
“…and somatic cells use mitosis to reproduce. That’s when you have the phases. They sound sort of like a woman’s name: Prometa Anatela.”
A woman in this book, maybe.
I’m going to enter “bonding over mitosis” into the evidence that this might have been a Twilight fanfic. Although, unlike Travis and Christian Grey, when Bella told Edward not to call her Isabella, he actually listened and corrected other people, too.
Travis walks Abby to her class and she asks him how he plans to tutor her and train for his fights at the same time.
“I don’t train for my fights. Adam calls me, tells me where the fight is, and I go.”
“I’m just naturally violent,” isn’t exactly what you want to hear from the love interest of a book. Unless you’re one of the millions of people whose bells ring until the clangers break at the merest whiff of toxic masculinity. In which case, I got nothing for ya.
At the classroom, they run into a new character:
“Parker,” Travis nodded.
Writing Tip: You can’t nod dialogue. There needs to be a period after Parker.
Parker’s eyes brightened a bit when he looked to me, and he smiled. “Hi, Abby.”
“Hi,” I said, surprised that he knew my name. I had seen him in class, but we’d never met.
Travis tells her that Parker is one of his frat brothers, and the revelation that Travis is in a frat surprises Abby. For some reason. That makes no sense.
“Sigma Tau, same as Shep. I thought you knew that,” he said, looking beyond me to Parker.
Yeah, I would assume that she knew that, too. Since she eats lunch with the Sigma Tau guys and hangs out with the one her boyfriend is dating. So, here’s another thing that Abby somehow missed, despite her close proximity to Travis’s circle of friends and his fame around campus.
“Well…you don’t seem the…fraternity type,” I said, eyeing the tattoos on his forearms.
Maybe not at Liberty or Brigham Young, but I can walk into a frat house today, throw a dart, and hit a guy with a tattoo. And it’s going to be a super douchey one, too.
Turns out, Travis’s dad and his brothers are all Sigma Tau members, so it was a legacy type of deal. I’m not sure why we need to know this, at this time, because the conversation abruptly ends with Abby going into the class and America catching up to her. America asks how things went with Travis, and we get some serious characterization inconsistency. WHEE!
I shrugged. “He’s a good tutor.”
“Just a tutor?”
“He’s a good friend, too.”
She seemed disappointed, and I giggled at the fallen expression on her face.
It had always been a dream of America’s for us to date friends, and roommates-slash-cousins, for her, was hitting the jackpot.
According to America, she just spent her entire evening promising her boyfriend that Abby wouldn’t fall for Travis, because the way Travis treats women results in the destruction of Shepley’s relationships. America is also aware of Travis’s fuck-and-run hobby, to the point that she told Abby it would be easier to sleep with Travis so he would leave her alone forever. Now, America thinks they’re going to start dating? And she’s rooting for this to happen? This is…not a good friend.
Travis’s healthy interest in me had surpassed her ideas.
There is nothing healthy about Travis or his interests.
They take the test and Abby feels like she did great, while America is bummed out because she’s sure she failed. Abby suggests America get Travis to tutor her, as well, and they walk back to their dorm.
One section break and a week pass, during which Travis continues to tutor Abby in both history and biology. When the test grades are posted, Abby did really well:
“Third-highest test grade in the class! Nice, Pidge!” he said, squeezing me. His eyes were bright with excitement and pride, and an awkward feeling made me take a step back.
“Thanks, Trav. Couldn’t have done it without you,” I said, pulling on his T-shirt.
She’s so totally not into him. They’re just friends. Super platonic.
One of the reasons I feel like I could never connect to Jamie McGuire’s writing is that, like the other heavy hitters of the Jealous Haters Book Club, she pays the same attention to detail to deeply important stuff as she does to things that don’t matter at all. This is meant to show the first moment that Abby is starting to have some romantic chemistry with Travis. But what we get is a vague “awkward feeling” and a tug on his shirt. Writing like this feels lazy. It’s like saying to the reader, “Look, you know what to expect in this book. You know what you came here to see. So, you know that this is sexual tension. Why waste our time describing it in further detail?
Well. Because that’s what a story is.
What is it about Travis’s pride and excitement that makes Abby feel awkward? Does she have a hard time handling praise, or is this the first time he’s let his tough-guy mask slip and expressed genuine emotion toward her? When she grabs his shirt, does she feel a zing from the contact? Does it disturb her enough to quickly let go? She doesn’t question her “awkward feeling” or why she’s feeling it. These are details that could have given the scene the weight it’s clearly supposed to have.
He tossed me over his shoulder, making his way through the crowd behind us. “Make way! Move it, people! Let’s make room for this poor woman’s hideously disfigured, enormous brain! She’s a fucking genius!”
I giggled at the amused and curious expressions of my classmates.
Section break to:
As the days went by, we fielded the persistent rumors about a relationship.
GOSH I WONDER WHY ANYONE WOULD THINK YOU WERE IN A RELATIONSHIP THAT’S SO WEIRD IT’S NOT LIKE HE JUST PICKED YOU UP AND THREW YOUR GIGGLING ASS OVER HIS SHOULDER OR ANYTHING. WHY WON’T THE GOSSIP MONGERS LET YOU BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE?!
Travis’s reputation helped to quiet the gossip. He had never been known to stay with one girl longer than a night, so the more times we were seen together, the more people understood our platonic relationship for what it was. Even with the constant questions about our involvement,
Pause, please. Everyone thinks you’re in a relationship even though they know he doesn’t do relationships but they’re constantly questioning whether you’re in a relationship even though everyone knows he wouldn’t be in a relationship? Does your order look correct on the screen here? Because it sure as hell is missing a few burgers on mine.
the stream of attention Travis received from his coeds didn’t recede.
It’s important for the reader to know that even if Travis did get into a relationship, women would still throw themselves at him shamelessly. I don’t know why, but it’s super important.
It didn’t take long to realize I had been wrong about him, even finding myself defensive toward those who didn’t know Travis the way that I did.
When? This is a huge problem in this book so far, and we’re only chapter two. We’re either getting only showing with no telling (like the t-shirt pull above) or all telling and no showing. You have to have a balance of both, otherwise, there’s no context for either. Abby is our POV character. We’re in her head for the entire book. But we don’t see any of her thoughts evolving. What we get is a recitation of the physical things that are happening. Travis helped me study. Travis walked me to class. Travis said this. We don’t ever find out how she feels about these things while they’re happening. Events are just listed off until she finally goes, hey, my thinking about this guy has totally changed. It doesn’t help that we’ve skipped all the parts that would explain why her thinking has changed. What has Travis done or said during these unseen study sessions that’s made her think he’s different? We don’t get a single scene of that, just a super vague time jump: “As days went by.” As days went by, what? You saw him save some baby ducks from a storm drain? Did he confess to feeling peer pressure to keep up his sexy bad boy charade? What happened in those days that would result in you realizing you’re wrong about him, Abby?
We’re not experiencing the story through Abby. We’re just watching the events through her eyes while she fails to examine them.
In the cafeteria, Travis brings Abby a can of orange juice, which Brazil views as a sign of total, humiliating submission:
“Did she turn you into a cabana boy, Travis? What’s next, fanning her with a palm tree leaf, wearing a Speedo?”
Travis shot him a murderous glare, and I jumped to his defense. “You couldn’t fill a Speedo, Brazil. Shut the hell up.”
The way that sentence is worded, Abby is jumping to Brazil’s defense by mocking his penis and telling him to shut up.
Travis is shocked:
“Now I’ve seen it all. I was just defended by a girl,” he said, standing up. Before he left with his tray, he offered one more warning glare to Brazil, and then walked outside to stand with a small group of fellow smokers outside the building.
If he smokes, you know he’s a bad boy.
So, this is an interesting passage. Someone jokes about how ridiculous it would be for Travis to do something for a woman. Abby defends him from so degrading an allegation. How? By mocking his manhood, as if to say, “Oh yeah? You think Travis is submissive and weak? At least he would have a big penis while doing it.” Then, in response, Travis points out how outlandish it is for a woman to defend him. I can’t even begin to unravel all the toxic masculinity here. This scene would read so differently if, instead of glaring at Brazil for suggesting he would be nice to a girl and making a snarky comment about a girl being nice to him, Travis had just high-fived Abby while they had a laugh. We would see that he respects Abby as an equal and get a sense of their friendship and why she would want to be around him.
I mean, if we don’t know what it is about Travis that makes him such a great friend, we might assume Abby really is like those other girls. And she’s Not Like Other Girls™. Especially not the girls who are mobbing him outside. America has thoughts about them, let me tell ya.
“They’re so obvious. Look at the redhead. She’s run her fingers through her hair as many times as she’s blinked. I wonder if Travis gets tired of that.”
Shepley nodded. “He does. Everyone thinks he’s this asshole, but if they only knew how much patience he has dealing with every girl that thinks she can tame him…He can’t go anywhere without them bugging him. Trust me; he’s much more polite than I would be.”
Imagine writing this section. And then not being too ashamed of yourself to show it to anyone. Seriously. We’re supposed to feel sorry for Travis because too many women flirt with him. While he publically revels in his womanizer reputation and takes advantage of it at every opportunity. And we’re supposed to feel angry at those girls for wanting his attention, despite the fact that he prides himself on being able to fuck and discard as many of them as possible. Then, we’re supposed to admire him for having the patience of a saint because he’s not as aggressive toward them as another male character would be?
I’m not buying it.
I’m also not buying that if this guy has the reputation he has, that every woman on campus would still aggressively pursue him. Sure, some would, but we have yet to see any female characters besides Abby, America, and Kara do anything other than stalk and fawn over Travis. Does McGuire have any female friends? Is she unaware of how women talk to each other about exactly this subject? That there is always a whisper network wherein girls go, “No, no, no, do not fuck that guy?” If this college is as small as it’s been made out to be, how has he not run through every last female student and burned all those bridges yet?
As Abby leaves for her next class, Travis stops her and offers to walk with her. She tells him she can get there by herself.
Travis was easily sidetracked by a girl with long black hair and a short skirt. She walked by, smiling at him. He followed her with his eyes and nodded in the girl’s direction, throwing down his cigarette.
Oh no. Poor Travis. That girl walked by and smiled at him. How he must suffer. I mean, sure, he followed her, but she’s clearly bewitched him, the hussy! If only he were less patient and noble and kind. Then he could choose not to go introduce himself, ask her back to his place, fuck her, and never speak to her again. Alas, he must. Woe. Woe, dear reader, and anguish.
Travis’s seat remained empty during class, and I found myself a bit irritated with him for missing over a girl he didn’t know.
I haven’t read the whole book yet, but knowing this author’s M.O., I guarantee there will be a scene where they skip class to fuck and it’s the most totally okayest and cute thing ever. If it doesn’t come up, I’ll…well, I’ll do nothing. Because I’m not that invested. But if I was going to do something, it would be drastic and unnecessary, as are all things in my life.
After class, we get introduced…to the guy we met in an earlier scene?
Parker jogged across the grass to walk beside me. “I don’t think we’ve officially met,” he said, holding out his hand. “Parker Hayes.”
I took his hand and smiled. “Abby Abernathy.”
He…knows already? He said your name when you…met? Already?
Unfortunately, Parker’s name means I’m imagining him as Stupid Fucking Douchebag from Buffy. So, even if he turns out to be a swell guy that Abby should end up with instead of Travis and only doesn’t because our culture has fucked up straight women so badly that a huge number of them fantasize about being treated like dog shit by men who aren’t required to meet even the lowest bar for human decency, I’ll still not like him.
Anyway, he congratulates her on getting a good grade on her test, then assumes she and Travis are dating, again, despite all the groundwork the author has laid to make it clear that everyone knows that Travis doesn’t date, and then he tells her there’s a party at the Sigma Tau house that weekend.
“I’ll talk to America. I don’t think we have any plans.”
“Are you a package deal?”
“We made a pact this summer. No parties solo.”
“Smart.” He nodded in approval.
Actually, yes. Smart.
“She met Shep at orientation, so I haven’t really had to tag along with her much. This will be the first time I’ve needed to ask her, so I’m sure she’ll be happy to come.” I inwardly cringed. Not only was I babbling, I’d made it obvious that I didn’t get asked to parties.
This paragraph alone establishes more romantic and sexual tension than we’ve seen between Abby and Travis for the book so far. Why? Because for once, Abby’s thoughts comment on her action and reaction, rather than on what other people are doing. Instead of trying to establish tension via looking at other girls and commenting on how much they desire Travis, we’ve got Abby having a conversation with Parker and thinking about how uncool she must seem to him. Meaning, it’s important to her that he find her desirable.
He flashed his perfect Banana Republic-model smile with his square jaw and naturally tan skin, turning to walk across campus.
I watched him walk away; he was tall, clean-shaven, with a pressed pin-striped dress shirt and jeans. His wavy dark-blond hair bounced when he walked.
Most of this stuff is detail a reader could use when the character is either first introduced, or before an interaction like this. I don’t know that we would need this full description the first time we met Parker, but the square jaw, clean-shaven face, and hair are all things that could have been described in the beginning of their interaction. At the very least, this description could have been broken up and sprinkled through their conversation. Just something to think about if you’re writing stories of your own.
I bit my lip, flattered by his invitation.
Again, not entirely sure this isn’t Twilight college AU fanfic where they’re all humans. Because while I love Kristen Stewart, fuck her entirely for biting her god damn lip so much. It’s so bad that if my characters bite their lips for any reason, I immediately think of Fifty Shades and Twilight and now it’s going to be this book, too, and my confidence as a writer will be utterly shattered. Again.
Finch sees Abby talking to Parker and they talk about how attractive he is because Finch is apparently the gay bestie of the piece. He also mentions that the boilers are broken at the dorm and there’s no hot water. Abby goes to her room, where Kara also tells her that the dorm has no hot water.
I’m going to imagine Kara as a video game NPC who is always in the exact same spot, dispensing information on whatever Abby’s current quest is.
America walked in and plopped onto my bed, arms crossed. “Can you believe this shit? How much are we paying and we can’t even take a hot shower?”
Kara sighed. “Stop whining. Why don’t you just stay with your boyfriend? Haven’t you been staying with him, anyway?”
America’s eyes darted in Kara’s direction. “Good idea, Kara. The fact that you’re a total bitch comes in handy sometimes.”
So, what’s this deal with Kara? Why is she a total bitch? Is it just because she’s Abby’s roommate, which America wanted to be? I have yet to see any behavior from Kara that I would consider rude. Twice now, America has shown up at Kara and America’s shared dorm room acting super dramatic and loud about something while Kara is apparently trying to study. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for Kara to be annoyed at that. #TeamKara, to be perfectly frank.
How much would it suck to be roommates with the heroine of a New Adult novel? No matter what you might really be like, you’re a total bitch by default.
America tells Abby that they’re going to go stay at Shep and Travis’s apartment, since they have two bathrooms and hot water (keep the two bathrooms thing in mind. It’s coming up later, probably on a tide of my lunch). Abby says no, but America argues that Abby can sleep on the couch if Travis “isn’t using it” (also something that will be making a return appearance, opening for my lunch), in which case Abby can platonically sleep in his bed.
You guys. Come the fuck on. There is no way this wasn’t originally fanfic of something. “And there was only one bed,” is the oldest fanfic trope in the book.
Remember what I said before about how it’s okay for Abby to want Travis to desire her as long as her words and actions make it clear she doesn’t want him to desire her?
“Don’t be such a baby, Abby. You guys are friends, right? If he hasn’t tried anything by now, I don’t think he will.”
Her words made my open mouth snap shut. Travis had been around me in one way or another every night for weeks. I had been so occupied with making sure everyone knew we were just friends, it hadn’t occurred to me that he really was interested only in friendship. I wasn’t sure why, but I felt insulted.
This “I don’t want him to want me/hey, why doesn’t he want me” dance is pretty common in fiction, but it’s usually a slower burn than this. If you establish that the tension here is the heroine not wanting the hero to like her, but then in chapter two it’s like, oh, I feel so insulted that he doesn’t like me, then congratulations. You’ve wrapped up the only conflict you’ve established so far. By chapter two.
Even Kara is aware of Travis’s reputation. She’s just as shocked as everyone else that he hasn’t tried to sleep with Abby, who reiterates again that they’re just friends.
“I know, but he hasn’t even tried? He’s slept with everyone.”
“Except us,” America said, looking her over. “And you.”
Kara shrugged. “Well, I’ve never met him. I’ve just heard.”
“Exactly,” I snapped. “You don’t even know him.”
Abby had the same impression of Travis when they met, based on his reputation. She didn’t even want to speak to him, lest her panties lept from her body unbidden and she spread herself like a feast before him. Her interactions with him throughout the previous chapter were firmly rooted in the belief that he’s a disgusting person who treats women like crap. But it’s only okay if Abby thinks like that.
Abby and America pack up and go to the apartment, where Shepley makes a comment about the heaviness of America’s suitcase. Then they go inside and:
America and I froze when a woman emerged from the bathroom, buttoning her blouse.
“Hi,” she said, surprised. Her mascara-smeared eyes examined us before settling on our luggage. I recognized her as the leggy brunette Travis had followed from the cafeteria.
Minor nitpick: You can tighten this up pretty easily. “American and I froze when the leggy brunette from the cafeteria emerged from the bathroom, buttoning her blouse.” Not necessarily bad or terrible that it was written this way. Just tightens it up a little. Just in case you want to file that away as an example for the next time you’re editing, writers of Trout Nation.
America glares at Shepley, who says the girl is with Travis. Honestly, why is America not jumping to that conclusion automatically, based on what she knows about Travis already? In fact, if Shepley ever wants to cheat, he could do so super easily by claiming any girl coming out of the apartment was fucking Travis and not him. However, Shepley is so concerned about Travis ruining his relationship it seems unlikely that he’d do something to potentially sabotage it himself.
Travis rounded the corner in a pair of boxer shorts and yawned. He looked at his guest and then patted her backside. “My company’s here. You’d better go.”
She smiled and wrapped her arms around him, kissing his neck. “I’ll leave my number on the counter.”
“Eh…don’t worry about it,” Travis said in a casual tone.
Obviously, she’s offended at his dismissal. Which is all her fault, according to America:
“Every time!” America said. She looked at the woman. “How are you surprised by this? He’s Travis Fucking Maddox! He is famous for this very thing, and every time they’re surprised!” she said, turning to Shepley. He put his arm around her, gesturing for her to calm down.
Of course, Abby jumps to his defense, right? Because there’s so much more to Travis than his reputation, and she’s been getting hostile with anyone who argues otherwise all day long? Ha ha, no. Of course not.
Hey, Abby, here’s a tip: if you’re the only one defending someone’s bad behavior and you’re also the only one that person treats with respect? They’re using you as an unpaid PR consultant.
The girl leaves in a huff and America and Shepley head to his bedroom with her luggage.
I collapsed against the recliner and sighed, wondering if I was crazy for agreeing to come. I didn’t realize Shepley’s apartment was a revolving door for clueless bimbos.
…yes, you did. It’s why you didn’t want to go over there the first time. Because you thought you were being invited over so Travis could seduce you. This happened in the first chapter. We’re on the second chapter. How have you forgotten this?
Also, I like how it’s Shepley’s apartment and not Travis’s apartment in this statement. Travis lives there, too. Travis is the one behaving badly. But it’s Shepley’s apartment and the apartment is the problem. Not Travis’s actions.
Then, there’s the “clueless bimbo” remark. We’ve had Abby running all over campus, defending Travis, saying he’s not really like the womanizing trash hole he seems to be, but when a girl goes back to his apartment, well. She got what she deserved for being stupid.
You. Can’t. Have. It. Both. Ways. But you’re sure as fuck going to try, just like you’re going to try my patience.
To her credit, Abby does call out Travis for the way he treated this woman, but it’s so at odds with her internal reaction of stupid-bimbo-should-have-known-better. She asks Travis why he wouldn’t take the girl’s number, to which Travis asks why he should have when he had no intention of calling her. What I really want Abby to ask is if he sets clear boundaries with these women before he has sex with them. Does he make it clear that he’s only interested in having sex with them, and that he’s only interested in having sex with them this one time and plans never to contact them again? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with living your life that way, so long as you’re clear about your intentions to these partners and they’re entering into the sexual encounter with that understanding. But we also saw the way Travis pursued Abby, through pet names and teasing, insisting he wanted to get to know her better, and trying to “charm” her (though nothing he did was charming). If he’s using this approach with all these other women he plans to throw in the dumpster, then no, he’s not being clear about his intentions and these women have every right to be insulted when they find out that what had appeared to be genuine interest wasn’t. The attitude displayed by Abby and America and Shepley has repeated over and over again in real life, and it enables society in the policing of women’s sexuality and the forgiveness it extends towards men who disrespect women. Oh, Travis runs through women the way other people run through water while brushing their teeth with the tap on? Stupid women. They shouldn’t let him treat them this way.
And women, including fans and authors of books like these, are more than happy to advance this narrative of sexy bad boy, dirty slut over and over again because it reassures them of their own goodness and worth. It’s what the entire world promotes as attractive behavior. The more I read Beautiful Disaster and other books of its ilk, the more I find myself asking, “Are straight women okay? Is there something we need to be doing to fix them?” Come on. You deserve better. Every time I write a recap, I feel like I’m staging an intervention in the abusive and toxic relationship between women and the pop culture produced by and for them.
“I don’t promise anyone anything, Pidge. She didn’t stipulate a relationship before she spread-eagled on my couch.”
See, this is the kind of remark that leads me to believe that Travis is not upfront with these women before they have sex with him. It sounds like he’s letting himself off on a technicality. She didn’t set the boundaries, it’s her fault.
I stared at the couch with revulsion. “She’s someone’s daughter, Travis.
She’s a person and deserves to be treated as such on that merit alone, Abby.
What if, down the line, someone trreats your daughter like that?”
“My daughter better not drop her panties for some jackass she just met, let’s put it that way.”
Again, it’s the women’s fault. If they had just been smarter, better, less slutty women, Travis wouldn’t have to treat them the way he does. It’s not his fault. He’s so patient with them.
“I’m saying that I was honest with her. She’s an adult, it was consensual…she was a little too eager about it, if you want to know the truth. You act like I commited a crime.”
“She didn’t seem as clear about your intentions, Travis.”
“Women usually justify their actions with whatever they make up in their heads.
Wanna know how I know that Travis has definitely raped women before? It’s the real subtle clues like, “[…] it was consensual…she was a little too eager about it, if you want to know the truth,” and “Women usually justify their actions with whatever they make up in their heads.” How often is a woman’s “eagerness,” cited in court? How often do we hear that women only accuse men of raping them after they regret consensual sex? This is directly from a criminal defense lawyer’s handbook. I’m not saying he raped the woman on the couch. I’m just saying that the excuses rapists give seem to roll right the fuck off his tongue like they were fully lubed and gliding on steel ball bearings.
She didn’t tell me up front that she expected a relationship any more than I told her I expected sex with no strings. How is it any different?”
So, here’s our confirmation that he’s not setting boundaries with the women he’s basically leading on. You know why he’s not? Because he wouldn’t get laid as often if he were honest. Anything. For. The. Sex.
I stared at the couch, the cushions still askew and bunched up from its recent use. I recoiled at the thought of how many women had given themselves away against the fabric. Itchy fabric at that.
There is no way Jamie McGuire has never worn a purity ring. Gave themselves away? They lose value, no, destroy their value by having sex with Travis, but Travis still has value? Would they be less disgusting if the upholstery were of a higher quality?
Abby makes a comment about how she’ll sleep in the recliner, to which Travis tells her no, she’s going to sleep in his bed with him. She balks at that, figuring he’s had more sex on the bed than on the couch.
“There’s never been anyone in my bed but me.”
I rolled my eyes. “Give me a break!”
“I’m absolutely serious. I bag ’em on the couch. I don’t let them in my room.”
But, again…I’m not so sure this wasn’t copied from Master of The Universe on some level. The whole thing where his bed is sacred and these slutty women aren’t allowed in it was an Edward thing in that story. And excuse me, Travis, but you have a roommate who was apparently home the whole time.
Abby asks why she’s allowed in his bed, and Travis says it’s because she’s not having sex with him. So, in Travis’s eyes, women who have sex with him are lesser than women who won’t have sex with him. There’s some USDA Certified Grade A Black Angus self-esteem if I’ve ever seen it, boy howdy.
He orders her to go take her hot shower so they can study bio together, but Abby is like, no, there is no way I’m staying here in this apartment. Friendship off.
No, obviously not. She goes and takes the damn shower and drops her argument about not sleeping in his bed with him because things happen to Abby, Abby can’t make anything happen for herself.
I walk a real fine line in these recaps between insisting that women are victimized by the patriarchy and blaming them for their part in their own victimization. I want to be able to sit here and go, “I think that no matter what, Abby is the victim of a society that has trained her to be a doormat and nothing that happens as a result of her action or, more likely, inaction is her fault.” But it’s so, so hard to read a heroine have a conversation with the hero where he’s straight up telling her that he knows he treats women like garbage, doesn’t hold himself responsible, and doesn’t care, anyway, and then to have her be like, ugh, guess I have to sleep in his bed with him. The showers are broken at her dorm. Not her room. Not her bed. There’s no reason that at this point if she’s as disgusted with him as she claims, she should even remain friends with him, let alone sleep in his bed.
If you really want to convince me that she has no other choice, have the dorm treated for bed bugs, forcing the students to stay in temporary housing in a gym or something. Have Abby think to herself that she’s better off there than on a cot in a disaster-shelter scenario. Because right now, what I’m reading is, “This guy is so gross and horrible but we’re friends so I guess I have to sleep in his bed with him,” and it’s not flying with me.
While she’s in the shower, Travis just strolls on into the bathroom. She tells him to get out, and obviously, he doesn’t because it’s clearly so hot and sexy that he’s invading her privacy.
“You forgot a towel and I brought you clothes, and your toothbrush, and some weird face cream I found in your bag.”
“You went through my stuff?” I shrieked. He didn’t answer. Instead, I heard the faucet turn on and the sound of his toothbrush against his teeth.
So, again, we’ve got Travis trampling boundaries, but he’s doing it to be nice. She forgot her towel, so he had to go through her bag. He had to. Now, he could have knocked on the door and said, “You forgot your towel.” But that wouldn’t be as squeeful and sexy as a man just barging in while a woman is showering. Tee hee, they had to be in this intimate situation! Isn’t this total disregard for personal space so zany and cute?
I peeked out of the plastic curtain, holding it against my chest. “Get out, Travis.”
He looked up at me, his lips covered in suds from his toothpaste. “I can’t go to bed without brushing my teeth.”
Hey, remember what I said about the two bathrooms thing and how it would come up later?
Why isn’t he using the other bathroom?
Or the kitchen sink?
Or just waiting until the bathroom isn’t occupied?
He swears he won’t peak, so that is the predictable end of it. And if you thought she was going to continue to be (rightfully) mad about his invasion of her privacy, this is what she thinks when he finally leaves and she gets out of the shower:
The night moisturizer Travis had brought caught my eye, and I couldn’t help but smile. He was thoughtful and almost nice when he wanted to be.
I can’t believe I have to write this sentence, but it isn’t “thoughtful” or “nice” to rifle through someone’s bag, then bust in on them in the shower.
And then he opens the door without knocking again, by the way. Because he’s so “thoughtful” and “nice.”
So, on Abby’s way to Travis’s bedroom, America says goodnight “from the darkness,” indicating that they’re going to bed and it’s night.
Earlier in the chapter, in a passage I didn’t excerpt, Abby says she has to meet Finch at three to give him some notes for another class. Then she goes directly to her dorm and has the interaction with America. Let’s slap a half-hour on for that for generosity’s sake. There’s a part where Abby says that a half hour after that, they were headed to Shepley’s apartment. So, we’ll say they left at four. Hell, four-thirty, even. Abby describes America as driving super fast and almost blowing stop signs, but I’m even willing to give them an hour for the drive. Assuming that the interaction between Abby and Travis after the girl leaves takes a full half-hour, that would put Abby in the shower at six. Then she gets out and America and Shepley are going to bed for the night.
How long a shower did Abby take?!
Abby goes to Travis’s room and knocks on his door because she has manners. Here’s how his room is described:
He pulled the door open and I walked in, seeing his black iron-rod bed parallel to the line of windows on the far side of the room. The walls were bare except for a lone sombrero above his headboard.
I half expected his room to be covered in posters of barely clothed women, but I didn’t even see an advertisement for a beer brand. His bed was black, his carpet gray; everything else in the room was white. It looked as if he’d just moved in.
So, now the scene is set. They get their books and get ready to study on the bed, but Abby needs a pen. He tells her to get one from the top drawer of his nightstand.
I reached across the bed and pulled open the drawer, finding three pens, a pencil, a tube of K-Y Jelly, and a clear glass bowl overflowing with packages of different brands of condoms. Revolted, I grabbed a pen and shoved the drawer shut.
Why is the fact that he has condoms revolting? It’s a fucking miracle that he has condoms. He has so little regard for his sexual partners, why would he give a shit about protecting them? And I think someone pointed out in the comments on the first recap that his pattern of reckless behavior would almost naturally lead to sexually risky behavior, as well.
I pulled the cap off the pen, unable to keep the sickened expression from my face. “Your lifetime supply of condoms.”
“Better safe than sorry, right?”
I rolled my eyes.
Ugh, yeah, safe sex and not getting STDs and STIs is so gross.
An hour after they start studying, Abby is too tired to keep her eyes open. She gets in bed and Travis goes to the shower. When he comes back, this happens:
He strolled across the room with a towel wrapped around his hips. He had tattoos on opposite sides of his chest, and black tribal art covering each of his bulging shoulders.
OMFG, of course, he does. Why wouldn’t he?
On his right arm, the black lines and symbols spanned from his shoulder to his wrist; the left, the tattoos stopped at his elbow, with one single line of script on the underside of his forearm. I intentionally kept my back to him while he stood in front of his dresser and dropped his towel to slip on a pair of boxers.
If your back is to him, how do you know he dropped the towel and put on boxers?
But yeah, so, about those boundaries. Abby has made it clear that she finds sex disgusting. And that’s fine. People can be sex-averse all day long. But if someone has displayed pretty clearly that they’re not interested in sex and anything having to do with sex makes them uncomfortable…don’t get naked in front of them.
Then he gets into bed, because of course, he does.
“You’re sleeping here, too?” I asked, turning to look at him. The full moon outside the windows cast shadows across his face. “Well, yeah. This is my bed.”
It’s your bed, Abby? See, this is why dialogue tags and paragraph breaks are important. Also, the moon would cast light across his face, not shadows.
“I know, but I…” I paused. My only other options were the couch or the recliner.
Or your own room back at the dorm. Just saying.
Travis grinned and shook his head. “Don’t you trust me by now? I’ll be on my best behavior, I swear,” he said, holding up fingers that I was sure the Boy Scouts of America had never considered using.
I…did he flip her off? Flash the shocker? Does she mean they would never have considered using them to swear about something like this? What is that sentence supposed to mean? Also, how is she supposed to trust a guy who went through her stuff and busted in on her in the shower twice?
Anyway, because she has no choice (and is absolved from anything that could be perceived as “slutty” due to her total passivity and helplessness), she stays in bed with him.
“Goodnight, Pigeon,” he whispered into my ear. I could feel his minty breath on my cheek, giving rise to goose bumps on every inch of my flesh. Thank God it was dark enough that he coudln’t see my embarrassing reaction or the flush of my cheeks that followed.
But it’s okay for her to be mildly turned on here because, as we all know, she has absolutely no other choice but to sleep in his bed with him. Also, she can feel the smell of mint, I guess. But hey, he’s brushed his teeth a second time. Meaning he didn’t need to brush his teeth at all the first time, if he wasn’t intending to do so until he was ready for sleep. Meaning he was in the bathroom just to make Abby uncomfortable for his own amusement.
After a section break, Abby wakes up to the sound of the alarm and is horrified when she accidentally touches Travis’s skin reaching across him. He pretends to be asleep so she has to crawl over him to turn off the alarm–has to, remember because she would never touch him otherwise. He teases her about laying on him and she gets out of bed to go get ready for class.
Travis stretched, and then walked over to me, still in his boxers. “Are you always so temperamental, or will that taper off once you believe I’m not just creating some elaborate scheme to get into your pants?” His hands cupped my shoulders, and I felt his thumbs caress my skin in unison.
Yeah, Abby. When will you start trusting the guy who admitted to omitting crucial information about boundaries and expectations before entering into sexual encounters, who busted in on you in the shower twice, who went through your personal items, and who then insisted on sleeping with you nearly nude even when it clearly made you uncomfortable? What’s not to trust, you stick-in-the-mud?
He leaned in close and whispered in my ear. “I don’t want to sleep with you, Pidge. I like you too much.”
Oh, swoon. He only sleeps with women he doesn’t like.
Travis Maddox slept with everyone; I couldn’t help but feel deficient in some way, knowing he had no desire to even try to sleep with me.
Okay, Abby, let’s review.
- You were disgusted by the idea that he might want to sleep with you.
- You made it very clear to him that you weren’t going to sleep with him and would remain friends only.
- You have objected to any suggestion that you might ever sleep with him.
- Now you feel bad about yourself because he won’t sleep with you.
I’m sorry, but I seem to have misplaced my jar of sympathy. Especially since we’ve spent two chapters so far hearing about how skanky it is for women to want to sleep with him.
Because this chapter will never fucking end, we have a little scene with America and Abby where America implies that Abby and Travis slept together and Abby denies it and then America has a “knowing smile”. The reader doesn’t need an explanation for it because we already know what America is thinking based on the thick coating of misogynistic slime dripping off every page like ectoplasm on the card catalog at the beginning of Ghostbusters. If Travis doesn’t want to fuck her, that means she’s special. He recognizes that she’s Not Like Other Girls™ and is clearly falling in love with her.
In the kitchen, Shepley and America argue about a party happening at the frat next month and how Shep wants her to go but America isn’t feeling it. She won’t know anyone there and wants to avoid “sorority bitches”. Fucking a frat guy, has a problem with sororities. Checks out. America says she’ll go if they can find someone who’ll take Abby. Like Travis. But Shepley argues that Travis can’t take her to the party because he doesn’t date people.
Travis crossed his arms and leaned against the sink. “I didn’t say I didn’t want to go. I think it would be fun if the four of us went,” he shrugged.
Of course, Abby doesn’t want to go to the party at all. She says they should hang out at the apartment, instead, but Shepley argues that as a freshman–
Holy shit. We have confirmation. They’re freshmen. They’re all freshmen, because Abby, Shep, and America met at orientation. So, I don’t know if Travis is a freshman, but at least those three are. Heads up for people not in the U.S.: freshmen in college coming straight from high school are usually eighteen years old.
Anyway, they peer pressure Abby into agreeing to go to the party with Travis and that’s the end of the chapter.