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Jealous Haters Book Club: Beautiful Disaster Chapter Four, “The Bet,” or “I hate these blurred lines. No. Seriously. I hate them.”

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Before we start, I just want to say, Yes, I heard. I totally heard about E.L. James’s new book, and I’ve gotten many requests to add it to the Jealous Haters Book Club. I’m on the fence about running two selections at once, but I’m also filled with sick curiosity about what a non-stolen book from her is going to be like. Especially after what I read in the excerpt.

But right now, we have this other dumpster fire to put out.

We open with Parker staring at Abby during class:

America smiled and waved. “He’s already seen me. He’s still staring.”

I hestiated for a moment and then finally worked up enough courage to look in his direction. Parker was looking right at me, grinning.

Willam Dafoe smiling VERY creepily and not blinking.

So, he just stares and doesn’t talk to her, but he catches up with her after class.

“Don’t forget about the party this weekend.”

“I won’t,” I said, trying not to bat my eyes or do anything else ridiculous.

You know. Anything else girly that girls do.

I like that she has to try not to do those things. It means she’s fully aware that it’s something some people, including her, do naturally and have to actively concentrate on not doing. Therefore, it isn’t the batting eyes that’s an issue, but the fact that the girls don’t force themselves not to be girly. Or, she may still think it’s a contrived behavior, in which case she’s saying here that she had to fight the urge to engage in deceptive body language because she had that urge in the first place.

American mentions in front of Travis and Shepley that Parker had been staring at Abby.

“Who was it?” Travis grimaced.

I adjusted my backpack, prompting Travis to slide it off my arms and hold it. I shook my head. “Mare’s imagining things.”

You just saw this happen, reacted positively to the exchange, and now you’re gonna call your friend a liar right in front of her?

Travis’s expression twisted into disgust. “Parker Hayes?”

Let me guess. He’s a rapist and you have to do something drastic to protect her.

They all go to lunch, and Travis won’t sit by Abby.

Instead, he sat a few seats down. It was then that I realized he hadn’t said much during our walk to the cafeteria.

“Are you okay, Trav?” I asked.

“Me? Fine, why?” he said, smoothing the features of his face.

Huh? What does that even mean? Smoothing the features of his face? Do you mean he relaxed a scowl or something? I mean, I already figured he was scowling when he decided to pull his petty, “I’m not gonna sit by you and you can guess what’s wrong” move. All I can think of is stock footage of a hotel maid meticulously smoothing the wrinkles out of a duvet while someone does a voice over about luxury.

Some football players come up and sit at their table.

Chris Jenks tossed a french fry onto Travis’s tray. “What’s up, Trav? I heard you bagged Tina Martin. She’s been raking your name through the mud today.”

Again, I find myself fully perplexed that this guy has a reputation for having sex with women and callously tossing them aside, but they’re still sleeping with him. Why? Is it because of all those books out there that tell women that if a man mistreats them, it’s an invitation to save him?

I bet that’s why. It’s a good thing this book isn’t like that at all.

I leaned forward so the brawny giant sitting in front of Travis could experience the full force of my glare. “Knock it off, Chris.”

Travis’s eyes bored into mine. “I can take care of myself, Abby.”

“I’m sorry, I…”

“I don’t want you to be sorry. I don’t want you to be anything,” he snapped, shoving away from the table and storming out the door.

Now, obviously, he’s angry because she talked to another guy or has an interest in another guy. But of course, Abby has no clue what’s going on with him.

Shepley shrugged and turned his attention to his plate. “You should know by now that it takes patience and a forgiving attitude to be friends with Travis. He’s his own universe.”

That’s called a one-sided friendship. In order to be friends with Travis, you have to be willing to do all the work so that he can continue being self-absorbed?

I shook my head. “That’s the Travis everyone else sees…not the Travis I know.”

That is literally every single iteration of Travis we have seen on the page so far.

Shepley leaned forward. “There’s no difference. You just have to ride the wave.”

No! No, she doesn’t! Nobody does! These people are the most horrible people I’ve ever read about. I know I say that every time we start a new book, but Jesus Christ!

Travis is not that valuable. There are billions of people in this world. You guys don’t have to cling to Travis! And if you do keep clinging to Travis, it’s not like he’s going to magically stop being a douchebag. The fact that you’re all making excuses for his behavior and automatically forgiving him without him ever apologizing or making any effort to treat any of you better is a huge “red flag”.

By the way, over the weekend, someone sent me a link to a blog post the author wrote to explain her inspiration for Beautiful Disaster. I’m not going to link it here, because it will ping back to her site and she is well-known for siccing her minions upon anyone who dares criticize her, but the gist was basically that she had a crush on a guy in college and ran into him some years later when, horror of horrors, she wasn’t wearing makeup and her hair looked sloppy. This made her cry, and she was inspired to drop everything and write this epic “romance”…which she originally titled Red Flag.

The name of the book was Red Flag. That’s the title she chose. And it wasn’t a red flag that she either shouldn’t publish this trash or take a real, real deep look at why she would even want to write about a character like this in the first place.

So, I wanna talk about this. Real, real big time. In the book, the supporting characters are gaslighting Abby hard by telling her that she can never expect Travis to act like a decent human being and implying that she’s somehow not a good friend if she expects otherwise. And the author is gaslighting the reader with her constant insistence that Travis is totally not exhibiting the abusive and manipulative behavior she’s writing. I’m just boggled by this. It’s like she’s looking every reader in the eye directly and saying, “Don’t trust what you’re reading. Trust what I’m using the heroine to tell you.”

Is it really that hard to write love interests who aren’t abusive monsters? I do it literally all the time.

So, after class, Abby goes back to her dorm, where–SIKE! she goes to Travis’s apartment.

I went into his room and curled into a ball on his bed, resting my head on my arm. Travis had been fine that morning. As much time as we had spent together, I couldn’t believe I didn’t see something had been bothering him.

I can’t believe you didn’t see that he didn’t get surly until you started talking about another guy, but the entire plot so far seems predicated upon The Big Misunderstanding™, which requires Abby to be completely oblivious to point of unbelievable stupidity and an alarming lack of situational awareness to “work”.

Not only that, it disturbed me that America seemed to know what was going on and I didn’t.

So, I’m split on this America thing. Because she has been telling Abby what’s going on since practically the beginning of the book. However, I can’t be Team America: Story Police because of her actions in the next scene. After Abby falls asleep, she wakes to hear both America and Shepley reassuring Travis that all of his behavior toward Abby that day was totally fine:

“Abby gets it, Trav. Don’t beat yourself up,” Shepley said.

Yeah, Travis. Don’t feel bad about your shitty behavior. Abby has learned to roll with it. You’re safe to just keep on being a bastard.

“You’re already going to the date party. What’s the harm in asking her out?” America asked.

Friends don’t let friends date Travis Maddox. America has seen first hand the way Travis treats women. Why would she want her best friend to be treated that way?

I stiffened, waiting for his response. “I don’t want to date her; I just want to be around her. She’s…different.”

“Different how?” America asked, sounding irritated.

“She doesn’t put up with my bullshit, it’s refreshing. You said it yourself, Mare; I’m not her type. It’s just not…like that with us.”

First of all, Travis, Abby absolutely puts up with every little bit of your bullshit. She is one of the few friends you have, despite you somehow being Mr. Popularity. And it’s been established two pages ago that putting up with your bullshit is a requirement for your friendship.

Again, here’s the author saying, “Don’t believe all that other stuff I wrote. Only believe what the characters are saying out loud.”

Writing Tip: Speaking of what the characters are saying out loud, please note Travis’s somewhat repetitive dialogue pattern. Now, I’m 100% a champion of the ellipses. But ending two paragraphs of the same character’s dialogue with the exact same sentence structure is a little bit jarring. “I don’t want to date her; I just want to be around her. She’s…different,” and, “You said it yourself, Mare; I’m not her type. It’s just not…like that with us,” have the same punctuation and structure, so they stick out. If you find yourself in a position where you’re like, “I have to write these lines this way,” just throw on a dialogue tag so you don’t have two paragraphs close together with the exact same pattern.

Abby comes out of Travis’s room and says hi to everyone who was just talking about her, rather than bringing the discussion about her own life to her.

Travis stared at me for a moment, and when I smiled at him, he walked straight toward me, grabbed my hand, and pulled me down the hall to his bedroom. He shut the door, and I felt my heart pounding in my chest, bracing for him to say something else to crush my ego.

“I braced myself for the hero to make me feel like shit.”

Travis does initially own that his behavior was shitty and he apologizes for it, but the abuse-as-romance narrative can’t continue if he doesn’t give an excuse.

“I wasn’t mad at you. I just have a bad habit of lashing out at those I care about. It’s a piss-poor excuse, I know, but I am sorry,” he said, enveloping me in his arms.

Hey, you know what you should do with that habit? Fucking break it, rather than expect everyone to just put up with it.

Now, Abby, who has just heard her friends counseling Travis to ask her out, still has no clue what upset Travis. She has yet to put two and two together, so I guess it’s great news that she’s not a criminal justice major or something.

So, this is obviously the part where a good friend might suggest that Travis should stop lashing out at people he cares about and that if he truly cared about her the way he claims to, his apology would include, “And I’m going to work on that.”

But it doesn’t. Instead, Abby says:

“I can handle your temper tantrums.”

Feel free to continue to be a deeply infected pilonidal sinus, Travis. Abby will suck it up and learn to adjust, like so many heroines of ’10s “romances”.

So, of course, Travis accepts these conditions:

“I don’t know why you put up with me, and I don’t know what I’d do if you didn’t.”

By turning Abby’s willingness to be a doormat into an admirable character trait for which he praises her, Travis is training her to accept his bad behavior. She’s like a dog being given the treat of his affection for exhibiting the correct behavior.

So, Travis’s phone rings and it’s a call about a fight.

He quickly tapped in the information, sending exclusive text invitations to those who knew about the Circle. Those ten or so members would text ten members on their list, and so on, until every member knew exactly where the floating fight ring would be held.

I mean, basically, everyone is going to know where the fight is, because super secret fight club is open information to everyone, even from out of town.

The air in the apartment was tense and buoyant at the same time. Travis seemed the least affected, slipping on his boots and a white tank top as if he were leaving to run an errand.

Is he supposed to get dressed up? You gotta wear clothes you’re not going to get blood on.

America says:

“You have to change, Abby. You can’t wear that to the fight.”

And she gives her an outfit that looks like this:

I pulled on the deep-cut yellow halter top and tight low-rise jeans America had thrown at me, and then slipped on a pair of heels, raking a brush through my hair as I shuffled down the hall.

And Travis says:

“Oh, hell no. Are you trying to get me killed? You’ve gotta change, Pidge.”

America argues that Abby looks cute, but:

Travis took my hand and led me down the hall. “Get a T-shirt on…and some sneakers. Something comfortable.”

“What? Why?”

“Because I’ll be more worried about who’s looking at your tits in that shirt instead of Hoffman,” he said, stopping at his door.

A FEW GOD DAMN DING DANG NOTES HERE:

Anybody else notice how Abby never makes any of her own choices? Everyone tells her what to do and she just goes along with it. This is another hallmark of ’10s New Adult romance. If the heroine makes a choice, that might make the reader think things about her if they don’t agree with those choices. It’s so much easier to defend Abby and Ana Steele if you can immediately jump to, “THAT’S NOT HER FAULT [character] MADE HER DO IT!” So, we’re stuck with a lot of heroines who just have things happen to them so that the reader can never disagree with them.

Also, can we please remember that trying to control how you dress is a warning sign for abuse? And he’s yet again doing it to “protect” her, with a side of, “you’re going to negatively affect me if you don’t do as I say.” We’re clearly meant to take, “I will lose the fight if you wear that because I will feel so protective of you,” as a romantic declaration. But it’s possessive and creepy, especially considering his constant claims that he’s not romantically interested in Abby.

Travis looked down at my chest and then up at me. “You can’t wear this to the fight, so please…just…please just change,” he stuttered, shoving me into the room and shutting me in.

Sometimes I feel like I can’t adequately point out abusive behavior in these books because I can’t come down to a level where I can understand the mindset that would find this shit romantic and that leaves me with absolutely no idea how to approach it. This is one of those cases. Like, it should be obvious to every woman on the planet that a hero who tells you that you’re dressed too provocatively and you’re not allowed to leave the house that way, then actually shuts you in a room until you acquiesce (which Abby does immediately, putting on a t-shirt and sneakers and pulling her hair into a ponytail) is abusive. But it’s not. And that makes me want to burn down an Arby’s.

This is also a way that abusers knock down their partner’s confidence. Making them dress in sloppy clothes so they don’t attract sexual attention from other people is a sign of extreme possession and lack of trust. If a guy is doing this before he’s even dating a girl, do you really think it’s going to get better once he feels he has a claim over her?

Spoiler: it doesn’t. Ever. Not once in the history of abusive relationships.

Once Travis is happy with her outfit, he and Abby jump helmetless onto his bike and roar off to the fight. When they get there, Travis tells her they can’t go in the way everyone else is. Oh no, they have to go in through a window, so he can make his big entrance. And this pisses me off so much because he could have just said, “You might want to put on something like a t-shirt because we’re going to crawl through a window.”

He also could have just let her walk in with America and Shepley, who use the door. But then we wouldn’t have gotten the scene where she clumsily falls through the window and perfectly into his arms. Oh, and so he can protect her:

“They went in the other way. Just follow me out; I’m not sending you into that shark pit without me. […]”

Shark…pit?

Like…

A pit. But with sharks in it?

Shark pit.

PIT OF SHARKS DOOT DOO DOOT DOO DOO DOOT DOO DOOT DOO DOO DOOT DOO

Travis tells Abby that the guy he’s fighting is from another school, which has its own secret underground fighting ring. Because why not. Abby expresses concern about Travis getting injured.

“If it’ll make you feel better, I won’t let him touch me. I won’t even let him get one in for the fans.”
“How are you going to manage that?”
He shrugged. “I usually let them get one in–to make it look fair.”

So, it’s unfair then?

Travis Maddox has 100% lost a board game or a foot race and said, “I let you win.”

“How much fun would it be if I just massacred someone and they never got a punch in? It’s not good for business, no one would bet against me.”

But they’re not betting on how many punches you guys take. They’re betting on who wins the fight, and we’ve already heard over and over that you not only never lose, but you rarely get hit at all.

So, Abby calls him out for sounding way too confident, and he says:

“Would you like to make a wager on that, Abby Abernathy?” he smiled, his eyes animated.

You can’t smile a sentence.

“If you win, I’ll go without sex for a month.” I raised an eyebrow and he smiled again. “But if I win, you have to stay with me for a month.”

“What? I’m staying with you anyway! What kind of bet is that?” I shrieked over the noise.

“They fixed the boilers at Morgan today,” Travis said with a smile and a wink.

Okay, so, a few things. It took them two weeks to fix the boilers? The entire dorm was without hot water for a full two weeks and there were no on-campus alternatives?

Another thing: you’re probably going, “But if she’s staying with him, it’s not like he’s going to be having sex with anyone, anyway.”

The Septa from Winterfell on Game of Thrones saying, "Oh my sweet summer child."

They go into the fight and Abby tells Adam she wants to put “two” on Travis. Two dollars? Two hundred dollars? What the fuck does “two” mean? I really seriously wanted Travis to lose the fight and have Abby find out that “two” meant “two thousand,” but obviously, that’s not the case.

Anyway, Adam says:

“You’re not the Goody Two-shoes I thought you were,” he said, giving me a once-over.

Adam has never met Abby. I went back and searched the whole book. The only time he’s even close to her is when she first meets Travis and Adam comes up and leads Travis away. They’ve never interacted. How does he even know who she is?

So, there’s a fight. It’s meh.

Instead of attacking, Travis took a few steps back. Brady swung, and Travis dodged to the right. Brady swung again, and Travis ducked and sidestepped to the other side.

“What the hell? This ain’t a boxing match, Travis!” Adam yelled.

Seth Meyer on his talk show looking confused and saying, "Where am I?"

It’s not a boxing match? What the fuck are they doing?

Both men were covered in sweat, and I gasped when Brady missed another punch, slamming his hand into a cement pillar.

I hope he’s still on his parent’s insurance because that fucker is broken.

When he folded over, cradling his fist beneath him, Travis went in for the kill.

He was relentless, first bringing his knee to Brady’s face and then pummeling him over and over until Brady stumbled and hit the ground. The noise level boomed as Adam left my side to throw the red square on Brady’s bloodied face.

Travis absolutely didn’t have to knock this guy out. Dude had just broken his hand and was all folded over in agony, and Travis doesn’t even bother to give him like, a warning punch and a chance to tap out. It’s just, oh, this guy just broke his hand, better beat him into unconsciousness. Like, to me, this isn’t a fair fight. I don’t remember the rules stating that one fighter had to be knocked out for there to be a winner. What is the point of showing the love interest going “in for the kill” when the person he’s fighting isn’t fighting back?

Anyway, there’s way too much description about how crowded it is as she tries to leave and her and Travis getting separated, etc. They do eventually catch up to each other to have this conversation:

“You’re really going to make me stay with you for a month?”

“Would you have made me go without sex for a month?”

You’re the one who came up with the terms there, buddy. But yes, now it’s officially a “…and there was only one bed!” fic.

They crawl back out the window rather than using the door (I don’t know, either):

The monkey grass that lined the sidewalk waved in the gentle breeze, reminding me of the sound the ocean makes when I wasn’t quite close enough to hear the waves breaking.

Bitch, you’re from Nebraska.

Also, I love the way it’s worded so that the waves don’t make that sound if she’s not there.

“Why on earth would you want me to stay with you, anyway?” I asked.

So he can micromanage every part of your life, Pidge.

Travis shrugged, shoving his hands into his pockets. “I don’t know. Everything’s better when you’re around.”

GOSH I DON’T KNOW WHY TRAVIS IS ALWAYS SO UPSET IF I TALK TO OTHER GUYS HE TOTALLY DOESN’T LIKE ME WE’RE NOT LIKE THAT I WONDER WHY HE REACTED THAT WAY BECAUSE HE DOESN’T LIKE ME WHY DOES EVERYONE THINK HE LIKES ME BECAUSE HE DEFINITELY DOESN’T GOLLY I WISH I COULD FIGURE OUT THIS PUZZLE OF A MYSTERIOUS, SEXY MAN.

They go to the dorm to get Abby’s stuff.

I breezed by Kara, who studied on her bed, held captive by the textbooks that surrounded her.

Isn’t it weird how Kara is only ever surrounded by books or doing homework on her computer? She never goes anywhere, she just sits there studying. What if she’s a ghost haunting the room and that’s why she can’t leave? And she’s studying because she’s caught in some kind of loop where she doesn’t realize she’s dead?

“Travis, this is my roommate, Kara Lin. Kara, Travis Maddox.”

Oh. Okay. She’s not a ghost. She’s Chinese. Just a Chinese character who studies constantly and who the white girls call a bitch.

Becca from Pitch Perfect saying "Yikes."

This chapter is really super long because there is way too much filler. Stuff like, “How do we get your stuff back to the apartment” turns into a whole scene about calling Shepley and him arriving and them putting the bags in the car and walking back to the motorcycle and it’s like, come the fuck on, just do a section break and be like, “After we picked up my things,” and have them right back at the apartment. Do authors seriously have no clue how much this little bullshit between scenes undercut the important parts? We got no reaction at all from Abby as to how she feels about him winning the bet. There’s no tension or urgency, she’s not thinking gosh, do I want him to win or do I want to win, there’s none of that. It goes:

  • They make the bet
  • He fights
  • He wins the bet
  • They go get her stuff and he meets Kara
  • They get on his motorcycle

It needed to be:

  • They make the bet
  • He fights, while every swing makes Abby question her feelings
  • He wins the bet and Abby questions how she feels about that
  • Section break
  • They arrive at the apartment and Abby has more feelings.

Abby never has any feelings. We’re just watching her walk through actions without much internal reaction. She just…there. Having things happen to her.

At least there are some thoughts in her head as they ride the motorcycle. Of course, since they never wear helmets, those thoughts will probably get smeared all over the pavement.

At every stoplight, Travis would either cover my hands with his, or he would rest his hand on my knee. The lines were blurring again, and I wondered how we would spend a month together and not ruin everything. The loose ends of our friendship were tangling in a way I never imagined.

And they’re not particularly enlightening thoughts. They’re just more indication that she’s not super observant.

Inside the apartment, America makes more incredibly unsubtle jokes about Travis and Abby being a couple, because Travis seems so happy. Travis reminds her that he just won a lot of money in a fight.

“No, it’s something else,” she said, watching Travis’s hand as he patted my thigh. She was right; he was different. There was an air of peace around him, almost as if some kind of new contentment had settled into his soul.

The lines aren’t so much blurred as completely erased, then? Also, this is showing, rather than telling. What makes him seem more peaceful? Is his usual scowl relaxed? Does he seem less restless or fidgety? Is he smiling instead of smirking? Give us some indication of his mood change.

Shepley tells America to cool it, but she keeps pressing the issue, once again bringing up Parker’s interest in Abby.

America’s mouth spread into a mischievous grin, almost bobbing in anticipation. “He said he’d see you there, though. He’s really cute.”

And of course, this leads to Travis demanding to know if Abby plans to go to the party or not.

I already didn’t like America, but I’m liking her even less now. Earlier that day, she saw Travis throw a tantrum that hurt Abby’s feelings because of this very subject. Now, she’s looking to cause another fight? Another blowup? What is the point of constantly pressing the issue if she knows that the person who’s going to end up hurt in all this is Abby?

Anyway, Abby says she’s going to the party and asks Travis if he is. When he confirms he’ll be there, Shepley says:

“You said last week you weren’t.”

“I changed my mind, Shep. What’s the problem?”

“Nothing,” he grumbled, retreating to his bedroom.

America frowned at Travis. “You know what the problem is,” she said. “Why don’t you quit driving him crazy and just get it over with?”

America and Shepley are terrible. Like, seriously, they are angry that Travis and Abby won’t get together? Since when is it their fucking business? I get that Shepley is afraid that Travis’s behavior will ruin things between him and America. And clearly, Shepley and America aren’t on the same page as to whether or not Abby and Travis dating would even be a good idea. But you know who’s fault all this is? Everyone involved in this situation. Travis behaves badly and everyone around him enables him with their constant, unconditional forgiveness. Then, when he hurts them with his shitty behavior, that’s when they get riled up.

“Well, I’m glad everyone else knows,” I said.

And then there’s Abby, the victim of her own selective obtuseness. It is obvious to the point of narrative excess that Travis likes her. She admitted in the scene before this that she feels the “lines are blurring” between her and Travis. The fact that Travis likes her is outlined in radium, and she’s still pretending to be in the dark because if she doesn’t, the lukewarm romantic tension is resolved within the first twenty percent of the novel.

America goes after Shepley and they shut the door. While they’re in his room talking, Travis tells Abby that he wants to talk to her about something having to do with “us”…and then he goes to the bathroom.

I twisted my hair around my finger, mulling over the way he emphasized the word “us,” and the look on his face when he’d said it. I wondered if there had ever been lines at all, and if I was the only one who considered Travis and I just friends anymore.

The "You Don't Say" meme

This is the shit I’m talking about. How on earth is the author expecting us to think, “It’s reasonable that she’s not picking up these subtle hints?” No one has believed that you and Travis are “just friends” for the entire book. She is constantly having to correct every single character about her and Travis’s relationship being totally platonic. But only now it’s dawning on her that maybe people might think she and Travis are more than just friends? SHE HAS SAID MORE THAN ONCE THAT IT ANNOYS HER THAT EVERYONE THINKS SHE AND TRAVIS ARE MORE THAN JUST FRIENDS.

We’re supposed to forget all of that because if we didn’t, the author couldn’t write the most laughable confrontation I’ve seen since Fifty Shades Darker:

Shepley burst out of his room, and America ran after him. “Shep, don’t!” she pleaded.

He looked back to the bathroom door, and then to me. His voice was low, but angry. “You promised, Abby. When I told you to spare judgment, I didn’t mean for you two to get involved! I thought you were just friends!”

America tries to tell Shepley that it won’t hurt their relationship if Abby and Travis get together. I haven’t read very far ahead, so I don’t know if it does, but I have this wild feeling that America and Shepley’s relationship will be affected. Either way, Shepley storms off again, and Travis is still in the bathroom, which gives America and Abby time to rehash the “you like him,” “no, we’re just friends,” routine that, believe me, is not getting painfully boring at all at this point. Abby tells America that she overheard Travis saying he wasn’t interested in her “that way” and America insinuates that Travis has previously told Shepley otherwise. Abby is like, well, if he really liked me, would he be bringing a new chick home every night? And would I be going on a date with another guy?

I’m not seeing things, Abby. You have spent almost every moment with him for the last month. Admit it, you have feelings for him.”

Let it go, Mare,” Travis says, tightening his towel around his waist.

America and I jumped at the sound of Travis’s voice, and when my eyes met his, I could see the happiness was gone.

How did Abby see that Travis tightened his towel around his waist if it’s his voice that alerted her to his presence? This sentence is ordered wrong. She has to jump and look at him before she sees him with the towel.

But I laughed so hard throughout this entire thing, because I was like, “Did Travis just hold out on confessing his feelings to Abby so he could go and do a massive shit, first?” and then it turned out that he went and took a shower and that made it even funnier; hang on, Abby, I have to conveniently leave so we can have a big misunderstanding because the author wants to write a slow burn story but has no interest in the scenes that would make it a slow burn. She just tells us that Abby and Travis have spent a lot of time together, but she doesn’t show it to us. She mentions it before she jumps to another melodramatic scene. It’s like, race, race, race, to get to the drama, then oh, shit, this plot is wrapping up too soon. What do I do to delay their romance a little bit more? I know! I’ll have something interrupt him right as he’s about to express his feelings to Abby…what could I use…aha! He’ll just get up and go take a shower instead. I mean, the perfect opportunity to wreck the moment was provided by Shepley bursting out of the room all pissed off. Instead, the author has Travis go, we need to talk, and then be like, yeah, hold that thought, though, because I’m going to take a shower.

Masterful.

Travis goes to his room and America says:

“You don’t need to go to that party to meet a guy, you’ve got one that’s crazy about you right here,” she said, leaving me alone.

Yeah. A guy who treats women like garbage and ruins his roommate’s relationships. Why would Abby not want to pursue him instead of the guy who doesn’t act like the world owes him and isn’t paying up?

An hour had passed when Travis came out of his room and down the hall. When he rounded the corner, I expected him to ask me to come to bed, but he was dressed and had his bike keys in his hand. His sunglasses were hiding his eyes, and he popped a cigarette in his mouth before grabbing the knob of the door.

Abby asks where he’s going, he just says, “out,” and Abby waits up for him until two in the morning before she goes to bed.

I had nearly fallen asleep when Travis’s motorcycle pulled into the parking lot. Two car doors shut shortly after, and then several pairs of footsteps climbed the stairs. Travis fumbled with the lock, and then the door opened. He laughed and mubled, and then I heard not one, but two female voices. Their giggling was interrupted by the distinct sounds of kissing and moaning. My heart sank, and I was instantly angry I felt that way. My eyes clenched shut when one of the girls squealed, and then I was sure the next sound was the three of them collapsing onto the couch.

So, Abby is trapped in Travis’s bedroom while this is going on. And since he goes to his room for condoms, he’s aware that Abby is still there. But he proceeds to have a very loud three-way, anyway:

Seconds later, moans, humming, and shouting filled the apartment. It sounded as if a pornographic movie were being filmed in the living room.

So,  he doesn’t even care if he wakes her up by loudly fucking two chicks. The girl he was about to confess his feelings for is in his bed, but he chooses to have a super rowdy threesome on his couch.

Whatever lines had blurred or disappeared in the last week, an impenetrable stone wall had gone up in their place. I shook off my ridiculous emotions, forcing myself to relax. Travis was Travis, and we were, without a doubt, friends and only friends.

Yoda telling Luke, "This is why you fail."

Why would you even want to be friends with this guy? Tell me why. You have friends. You have a guy who’s interested in you who didn’t just bring two chicks back to his apartment and have sex on the couch while you couldn’t leave. This guy is gross.

The shouting and other nauseating noises quieted down after an hour, followed by whining, and then grumbling by the women after being dismissed.

They were whining and grumbling because their threesome only lasted an hour.

Travis takes a shower and gets in bed with Abby. And you’d think she’d be grossed out by the fact that he just fucked two chicks and got in bed with her, right? Not in an ew, gross, fluids! kind of way, but in a symbolic kind of angry way. But nope. This time, she’s more concerned about something else:

Even after his shower, he smelled like he’d drunk enough whiskey to sedate a horse, and I was livid that he’d driven his motorcycle home in such a state.

She had no problem with drunk driving in the last chapter. But if she doesn’t have a problem with it now, she has to blame her anger on Travis for choosing to have sex with those women. She can’t lay the blame for that on him, right? It’s the sluts’ fault he slept with them.

Abby goes to the living room and sleeps in the recliner, only to wake up and find Shepley and America on the couch watching TV with the sound off.

So, is this a pod people thing?

Shepley looked miserable. “I’m sorry about last night, Abby. This is my fault.”

Kristen Wiig from SNL Weekend Update playing the weird outraged film critic lady, saying What?

HOW IS THIS YOUR FAULT? Did you go out and pick up two chicks and fuck them on the couch last night? Did you make Travis do that? Was it mind control?

America tells Abby she packed her things and can take her back to the dorm before Travis returns from the store. Where I assume he’s banging someone up against the milk coolers.

It wasn’t until that moment that I felt like crying; I had been kicked out. I worked to keep my voice smooth before I spoke. “Do I have time to take a shower?”

These people are the most shower-taking people I have ever read about. But this is what’s making you upset, Abby? Not the fact that Travis intentionally weaponized his sexual escapades against you? The fact that you won’t be staying in the same apartment for a month with the guy who intentionally weaponized his sexual escapades against you?

The good news is that Travis is “sweet”:

“When Pidge wakes up, let me know, okay?” he said in a soft voice. “I got spaghetti, and pancakes, and strawberries, and that oatmeal shit with the chocolate packets, and she likes Fruity Pebbles cereal, right, Mare?” he asked, turning.

When he saw me, he froze. After an awkward pause, his expression melted, and his voice was smooth and sweet. “Hey, Pigeon.”

I couldn’t have been more confused if I had woken up in a foreign country. Nothing made sense. At first I thought I had been evicted, and then Travis comes home with bags full of my favorite foods.

Okay, first of all, it was America, not Travis, who said you had to leave. So I don’t know what that part is about. But I do know what the food and the confusion are about: abusers manipulate their victims with patterns of hurt and comfort. He hurt her by having a loud threesome to prove he doesn’t like her. Then, he knew he fucked up, so he went out and bought this food in the hopes that once she sees that he’s noticed, IDK, basic, inconsequential details about her, she’ll be so won over by his thoughtfulness that all will be forgiven.

He goes on to offer to make her pancakes. And inform her that he also bought her “pink foamy shit” for shaving her legs and a hairdryer. Then he goes to his bedroom and sees that all of Abby’s stuff is packed up. He’s like, wait, whoa, you’re leaving? And America is like, fucking duh. I’m paraphrasing here, but that’s the gist. Travis tries to apologize, but America is not having it:

Travis took a step, but America pointed her finger at him. “So help me God, Travis! If you try to stop her, I will douse you with gasoline and light you on fire while you sleep!”

Which is all well and good, but let’s see how long it takes for her to go back to trying to get them to hook up. Because you know she’s going to be #TeamMaddox again soon.

“America,” Shepley said, sounding a bit desperate himself. I could see that he was torn between his cousin and the woman he loved, and I felt terrible for him. The situation was exactly what he had tried to avoid all along.

And the situation is 100% caused by Travis. The blame rests entirely on him. But nobody is going to say a damn thing. They’re going to keep covering for Travis. Especially Abby.

I rolled my eyes. “Travis brought women home from the bar last night, so what?”

America looked worried. “Huh-uh, Abby. Are you saying you’re okay with what happened?”

I looked to all of them. “Travis can bring home whoever he wants. It’s his apartment.”

Yup. Abby is gonna do whatever it takes to cover for Travis’s bad behavior. Just like everyone else in the book. And I’ve yet to figure out what the fuck it is that makes Travis so appealing that everyone is behaving this way.

Travis is like, wait, Abby, you didn’t pack your stuff? And she’s like, no, and now I have to unpack it all because apparently America trying to get her out of the toxic situation in the apartment was unacceptable or something. She goes into the bathroom and slides down to the floor thinking about how she promised Shepley her friendship with Travis wouldn’t break up him and America and like, again, how the fuck is this Abby’s responsibility at all?

The door vibrated with the soft bump of Travis’s forehead against it. “I don’t want you leave, but I wouldn’t blame you if you did.

(Just pausing here to say the missing word in this excerpt is in the text and not one of my patented typos.)

“Are you saying I’m released from the bet?”

There was a long pause. “If I say yes, will you leave?”

“Well, yeah. I don’t live here, silly,” I said, forcing a small laugh.

“Then no, the bet’s still in effect.”

I looked up and shook my head, feeling tears burn my eyes. I had no idea why I was crying, but I couldn’t stop.

Because you’re emotionally overloaded from being constantly manipulated by this dbag.

Through the door, she hears America call Travis and selfish bastard and like…America? You were the one pushing and pushing and pushing them, trying to smash them together like Barbies.

Because like, everyone showers all the time, Abby does that.

After another knock on the door, Travis cleared his throat. “Pigeon? I brought some of your stuff.”

“Just set it on the sink. I’ll get it.”

Travis walked in and shut the door behind him.

That is NOT what she asked you to do. Nor did she ask you to stroll in and throw this bullshit at her:

“I was mad. I heard you spitting out everything that’s wrong with me to America and it pissed me off. I just meant to go out and have a few drinks and try to figure some things out, but before I knew it, I was piss drunk, and those girls…” He paused. “I woke up this morning and you weren’t in bed, and when I found you on the recliner and saw the wrappers on the floor, I felt sick.”

First of all, dickass, she never said everything was wrong with you. She said she didn’t want to date you because you bring home a new girl every night and she’s not interested in that. Then, she defended your right to do that just minutes ago. She wasn’t pointing out a character flaw. She was stating a reason she didn’t want to date you.

It’s okay that she doesn’t want to date you.

Nobody should want to date you.

Especially when he’s trying to paint this whole thing as the fault of the girls he brought home. I was just going to go out and get stinking drunk. Then these girls… THEN THESE GIRLS WHAT, TRAVIS? FORCED YOU TO HAVE A THREESOME TO SPITE ABBY?

But it’s cool, everybody. He feels really bad about it.

I cringed at his explanation. I hadn’t stopped to think how it would make him feel to hear me talk about how wrong for me he was, and now the situation was too messed up to salvage.

I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” I said, standing under the water.

You know what? I’m not even going to comment on how yet again, people are apologizing for Travis’s shitty behavior. I’m gonna focus on the fact that…where was Abby standing before? She’s been in the shower this whole time.

“I know you didn’t. And I know it doesn’t matter what I say now, because I fucked things up…just like I always do.”

A scene from Les Miserables where Enjolras plants a giant red flag atop the barricade.

I caused you pain. Feel sorry for me, because I always cause everyone pain and it makes me feel sad. Not sad enough to stop causing people pain. It’s the accountability that hurts me.

But of course, it works. Abby tells him not to drive drunk anymore (but how will any of you get around if you have to drive sober?) and that’s the end of the chapter.

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120 Comments

  1. Gretel
    Gretel

    I think the slow burn has to reasons.
    For one, as you said yourself, the author needs to pad the story and thus the heroine needs to be perpetually confused and unsure of her feelings while being cockblocked by everyone and anything.
    The other element is that the heroine in these types of romance novels have to simultaneously be interested and not interested in the hero. Clearly, she must have feelings but she can’t be expressing them overtly or 100% because that might make her a Slut (TM). By having unacknowledges feelings the heroine can be in love while remaining “pure” because she’s unaffected by lust – unlike all those other slutty women – or obsessed with a guy – unlike all those other sluts – and claim indipendence.
    It’s a weird trope. It insinuates that women with clear interest in men are bad and it plays into the stereotype of “women don’t know what they want, they just need a little bit of convincing” that permeates romance movies.

    Also, Travis just probably killed this guy during the fight. He was already incapacitated due to his broken hand and probably torn ligaments and what not. And THEN he beat him so brutally that Adam (or whatever his name was) has to stop the fight. That guy’s gonna need extensive care and rehab, if he’s even alive.
    I already don’t understand the appeal of violent men but a dude mercilessly and brutally beating the man who’s already lost, possibly to death, is not attractive. You’d think he beats his wife and kids and not fantasize about fucking him.

    February 12, 2019
    |Reply
    • ‘Also, Travis just probably killed this guy during the fight.’

      I’m still worried about the guy he beat in the last fight. I mean, at the end of the fight that guy was lying on the floor unresponsive, having just had what sounds like arterial spurting from his nose. Travis is going to be a mass murderer before he gets his college degree.

      February 12, 2019
      |Reply
    • Dvärghundspossen
      Dvärghundspossen

      Yeah the “violent man” fantasy is weird to me to begin with, but it would be slightly more understandable if it played into old chivalry tropes in some way… like if he was only this violent to men who, IDK, groped Abby’s ass or stuff like that. It would still be BAD, but it would be less incomprehensible as to how female authors or female readers could find it appealing.

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
    • Mike
      Mike

      The slow burn plotline would work so much better if there was a legitimate reason for it other than ‘gosh golly gee I just don’t know if this person who constantly hurts me is right for me!’ I’d rather see ‘Dear lord I’m so overworked I do not have time for a relationship, but he’s so nice to be around, it’s relaxing and makes me feel good… but then I don’t get anything done and oh no deadlines!’

      It’s still tropey but at least it’s not abuse covered up by someone who doesn’t understand their own feelings. You could even still have the fights. Maybe he takes her to training sessions and she gets exercise and has some fun, but goes home completely wiped and falls asleep instead of studying for a test or something. Then the tension comes from how she can balance two things that are both important to her, and maybe he backs off when she decides to give in to her feelings because he can see how important school is to her and he doesn’t want to hold her back ‘cuz he actually gives a shit about her and her feelings and her desires.

      Slow burn can happen without abuse or being objectively dumb. Or you could skip the slow burn and have the tension come in because she DOESN’T like his fighting. She thinks it’s barbaric or it terrifies her every time he does it, but he doesn’t feel he can give it up because it’s paying for his schooling. Or you could do the slow burn by having them genuinely just being friends but as they spend more and more time together they grow closer and closer and the line actually does just get fuzzy, instead of this ‘person I have only known for a short time, come sleep in my bed with me and we’ll pretend there’s nothing between us!’ He could slowly spend less and less time with other women, maybe even respect them more as people, she could spend more and more time with him, start sitting next to him in class, they study together, the two of them hang out with Shep and America a lot, they just occasionally start randomly touching each other more, not super intimately just, the occasional hand on a shoulder that makes her feel warmer than she thinks she should feel at the touch of a friend…

      There are so many better ways to do this story than having an abusive asshole manipulate and use her as a surrogate partner while he gets all the benefits of a relationship and fucking around, and she gets gaslighted and strung along and can’t even LOOK at another guy.

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
      • Gretel
        Gretel

        Yep, all of these are legitimate and vastly superior ideas to what we have thrown up on the pages.
        You could even make the story line about how they dislike each other at first but then get to know each other and start developing a friendship and even feelings. Have them work together in a bigger project. This could play out in so many different ways but if the author wants to keep the “underground fighter” angle, Travis could maybe slack off on his part of the project because of the fights that he needs to do because 1) he needs the money to pay for university or 2) some form of psychological venting, whatever the fuck.
        And Whatsherface could be angry that he’s being completely useless and slowly learning what’s going on and then start working together to change their shitty situation.
        I mean, he could even start as a douchebag that gets called out and has to change his behavior.
        There are endless possibilities completely wasted just because the author and therefore every single character don’t think that Travis needs to change. He needs to be ~*~UNDERSTOOD~*~ by a woman and thus magically saved while in actuality not having to change dickwad. It’s a performative change.

        The sad thing is that it can only fail because the author is utterly unaware of the toxicity. She can’t write it better because she doesn’t see anything wrong with any of Travis’ behavior. And any change will be telling, instead of showing, like Christian who supposedly changed at the ending of Freed because everybody said so. Meanwhile, Christian got even worse towards the end. That’s what’s gonna happen here, too.

        Any character: “Travis has changed! The heroine saved him!”
        Travis: *does literally the same abusive shit and doubles down on his misogyny*

        February 13, 2019
        |Reply
      • Tami Marie Alexander
        Tami Marie Alexander

        My father was a violent man. Oh, he could be charming as hell and everyone loved him, he was funny and a real joker. But no one knew how he beat his little girls and abused them sexually, or picked them up by the throat. Or how this combat-trained Marine once punched his 12-year-old daughter in the jaw so hard he caused permanent damage. This guy was the deacon of his church! He volunteered at fundraisers for child abuse prevention! No way was he hurting his own kids and screwing the neighbors’ wives while his wife was working double shifts at the hospital!

        Yeah. Travis is a really awesome guy. Every guy wants to be him and every woman wants to be with him.

        *PUKE*

        P.S. My father named his youngest son/my half-brother “Travis” and he’s a prick, too. Hmm…

        February 13, 2019
        |Reply
        • Drea C
          Drea C

          I hate that this happened to you and I’m sorry that there are books like this that glory this kind of sick and twisted behavior.

          February 13, 2019
          |Reply
        • Dove
          Dove

          Ugh. I’m sure he volunteered out of guilt (and possible misdirection) but it doesn’t excuse anything he did. That was a horrible way for him to treat you and the rest of his family! 🙁

          I hope things have gotten much better since you cut him and that abusive ex out of your life. And hey, if you do drop these reviews, at least you’ll have more time to work on your own story.

          February 13, 2019
          |Reply
        • Gretel
          Gretel

          I totally get it, Tami. My father was violent and abusive, too. Threatening to kill us regularly. He almost killed me twice when I was a child because he hit me so hard. But also: gambling, alcohol, cigarettes, prostitutes/prostitution, keeping all the money for himself, numerous lovers, etc. The list is long.

          And yeah, for many people like them are charming. But they aren’t. Because there’s always hints and red flags people just ignore or don’t (want) to see, like a simmering rage, boistering about having done this and done that, easily threatening to do harm when somebody does something minor, insisting on very clear roles (e.g. gender roles), quiet but hate filled stares, impatience and much more. They also feel like they’re always treated unfairly and that they never do anything wrong and if you “accuse” them of a mistake, they’ll lose it and berate you.
          But all these red flags are seen as perfectly acceptable and normal behavior.

          Travis is incredibly dangerous and would absolutely beat his wife to death and abuse his children while wasting money for alcohol. And of course he’d accuse his wife of cheating on him when he’s the actual serial adulterer. But boohoo, he can’t be anything but abusive because his dad was a shithead, too.

          I’m so sick of it.

          February 14, 2019
          |Reply
  2. Chaosaccountant
    Chaosaccountant

    So now we know how everyone knows about the ‘secret’ fights. They’re a multi-level marketing scheme. Dbag tells ten people (10) who tell ten people (100) ‘and so on’ (1000+). And that assumes that there’s no level above him…

    Also, *it* is stuck in my head now and that’s your fault.

    February 12, 2019
    |Reply
    • SPIT TAKE!!!

      That is hilarious. I love it. It’s a multi-level marketing secret fight club.

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
  3. Amber Rose
    Amber Rose

    “PIT OF SHARKS DOOT DOO DOOT DOO DOO DOOT DOO DOOT DOO DOO DOOT DOO”

    I prefer Dinosaur Laser Fight. There were dinosaurs, but also there were robots and sharks. And now I have an earworm again.

    Spoiler alert: Nothing changes in this entire series. Nothing. Except we get some back story that tries to convince you that Travis is just a pawn, unable to control his own actions, despite his clear freedom to do whatever he wants whenever he wants because he’s super “lovable,” intelligent and makes money hand over fist.

    February 12, 2019
    |Reply
  4. ‘He quickly tapped in the information, sending exclusive text invitations to those who knew about the Circle. Those ten or so members would text ten members on their list, and so on, until every member knew exactly where the floating fight ring would be held.’

    So the privileged inner circle who know about this super-duper-secret fight club are numbering in the thousands?? McGuire doesn’t quite seem to grasp maths here.

    ‘I breezed by Kara, who studied on her bed, held captive by the textbooks that surrounded her.’

    They’re vicious, these textbooks. Also, I now want there to be a big plot twist involving Kara, but I’m guessing that either that isn’t going to happen or, if it does, I’ll hate it so much it’ll be a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’.

    Anyway! If anyone’s interested in reading a review of ‘Walking Disaster’ (you know, the ‘Midnight Grey’ type thing telling the whole story from Travis’s POV), I’m still doing that over on my blog, and the links are all at https://freethoughtblogs.com/geekyhumanist/2018/12/17/walking-disaster-review-prologue/. (The chapters are reallyout of sync, so the storyline from this one actually starts part way through Chapter Eight in ‘Walking’ and runs to half way through Chapter Ten. I have no idea how that’s going to end up matching up.) Content warning for all the awfulness you’d expect and at least one bit (in Chapter Eight) that you might not.

    February 12, 2019
    |Reply
    • NavigatorBR
      NavigatorBR

      Sad to say (granted, given how the author would likely botch it, maybe fortunately), no big plot twists with Kara, but still, Kara and Finch are my favorite characters in this whole story since they’re the least garbage to actually fine people in it. I’d get happy when they’d get some page time while I listened to the book.

      Forget spin offs with the Maddox family, I want a Kara and Finch spin-off… by a better writer.

      February 12, 2019
      |Reply
    • Chris
      Chris

      I thoroughly enjoy your breakdown of Walking Disaster (as well as your other writings!), Dr Sarah. It’s really bad for my production but I love them still.

      February 22, 2019
      |Reply
  5. Emily Barnard
    Emily Barnard

    “PIT OF SHARKS DOOT DOO DOOT DOO DOO DOOT DOO DOOT DOO DOO DOOT DOO”

    GODDAMMIT, JENNY TROUT.

    February 12, 2019
    |Reply
    • Paheli
      Paheli

      I read that line and was depressed. I just got that song out of my head and now it’s back doot doo doo doot.

      February 12, 2019
      |Reply
      • We need to take action. EVERYONE SING:

        “Karma, karma, karma, karma, karma chameleon
        You come and go, you come and go-o-o-o-o!”

        February 13, 2019
        |Reply
        • Aurelia
          Aurelia

          Hey … I know this one!!

          (I’m assuming that the ‘Pit of Sharks’ bit was a BabyShark reference … which (because I’m thankfully free of small persons in my life) I’m *aware* of … but have never actually heard/seen/whatever

          February 14, 2019
          |Reply
  6. Toby Danger
    Toby Danger

    The more I read about this book, the more I seriously question how the hell it got printed and sold. Aside from all the problems with the terrible characters who all act like utter fuckwits.. this story is plain boring.

    The synopsis suggests that this story is about a girl who can’t stand this badass dude who’s the complete opposite of her, but due to some wacky hijinks, ends up being forced to live with him, and the two constantly annoy each other and engage in battles of wit until they begin to see more aspects of each other’s personality and gradually become attracted to each other. That might have been an interesting, if somewhat derivative plot.

    Instead, right at the beginning the girl somehow becomes on and off pals with the guy whose behavior she can’t stand, is willing to put up with his shitty antics, and despite him not doing much to really make himself more attractive or change his attitude, realises she might be falling for him … all by the fourth chapter?

    How the hell did this get past an editor? It’s a plot based around the idea of romantic tension, but there’s none whatsoever. Surely the basis of any good romantic story is seeing how the couple get together, but there is nothing interesting going on between them, mainly before this author can’t be fucked to write anything vaguely interesting about the cast or their feelings or motivations. It’s like she wrote out some dramatic scenes, and then realised at the last minute she needed some plot to tie them together. This feels like something a 13 year old writing fanfiction for the first time would put out, not a full grown person.

    February 12, 2019
    |Reply
  7. Sushi
    Sushi

    Wait, so Abby wakes up and America and Shepley are sitting on the couch? The couch Travis had a threesome on a few hours earlier?
    EWW.

    February 12, 2019
    |Reply
    • Medli
      Medli

      That was my immediate thought too! 😡

      February 12, 2019
      |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      Same… Also, is Shepley constantly hosing down the couch or something?

      February 12, 2019
      |Reply
      • Corbeau
        Corbeau

        I hope beyond hope that Travis at least puts a blanket or something on it before having sex there. He already marches to his room and back to get condoms, how much more effort would it take to get a blanket too?

        February 13, 2019
        |Reply
      • Aurelia
        Aurelia

        I’m voting for an industrial-sized spray cannister of bleach next to the couch at all times!

        February 14, 2019
        |Reply
    • Mike
      Mike

      That was my first thought too. I wouldn’t touch that couch with a ten-foot pole… If I were Shepley I’d have forced Travis to buy a second couch that he’s not allowed to fuck on. Or, you know, insist he use his goddamn bed like a normal person. Or better still, kick his ass to the curb.

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
  8. Medli
    Medli

    Pit of sharks? Oh, if only there were a sharknado handy to toss these awful people into…

    February 12, 2019
    |Reply
  9. Paheli
    Paheli

    Looking forward to the part where Travis “ Wannabe Dothraki” Maddox upends a pot of boiling gold onto Parker’s head. Will Abby’s panties survive all that “manliness”? We’ll find out next time! Same bat time, same bat channel.

    February 12, 2019
    |Reply
  10. Dove
    Dove

    It would be so easy to fix the “dressing my paper doll” scene. Along with your comment about him just TELLING her they’d be climbing through a goddamn window, make his suggestion of sneakers be based on her comfort. It would prove he cares about her since it’s something she might change her mind about, based on her own personal experience and concerns.

    Instead, we can’t take it at face value that he gave a single shit about her future aches and pains because even the author can see their relationship would be boring as fuck if it weren’t so abusive… even the abuse isn’t interesting, just the commentary, but it is how she’s propping up this sad example of a supposed plot.

    The sex isn’t just boring either, it’s gross… Even beyond the horrible threesome which cements that idea. We’re really supposed to think he could never say no? He’s your generic hookup guy who’s bitter and only keeping score. He isn’t saying no because the sex sucks but he has a sunk cost fallacy about this empty lifestyle (considering the whole campus knows about it) and after reading a few of the excerpts for the companion reviews of his POV there’s no doubt that he’s bitter. He thinks of the women that he fucks as vultures…

    Anyway, that idea about Ghost Kara is way better than anything in this book. XD

    February 12, 2019
    |Reply
    • Corbeau
      Corbeau

      Ghost Kara is such a good idea. She needs her own story. Why is she trapped there, always studying? Did she take her own life after dissappointing her parents by failing her exams and now she tries to make amends? Or did she really want to attend this university but did not have an opportunity to do so in her life? Does she sabotage the boiler time to time to mess with people living on her haunting grounds? Maybe she was bullied when she was alive? Bullying is not so typical at universities but does anybody act like adults in this story anyways?

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
  11. Lily
    Lily

    Goddam it. Just…goddam it. Why does this manipulative, regressive shit continue to be championed in popular literature?

    February 12, 2019
    |Reply
    • BECAUSE LADIES, YOU CAN CHANGE HIM AND IT’S SOOOO ROMANTIC AND EMPOWERING!

      Or, in other words, internalized misogyny. This is why I’m writing a gender-flipped version of the Alpha-Dom-BDSM-CEO-abuse-is-love romance. Funny how my readers find it creepy rather than romantic when the shy, innocent, virginal rescuer is male, and the sexy, powerful, sadistic, mind-fucking, abusive Alpha is female.

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
      • E.
        E.

        Is it online? Did you publish? Can I have a link/name, please?

        February 17, 2019
        |Reply
        • Jan Do
          Jan Do

          Seconded

          February 20, 2019
          |Reply
  12. E dog
    E dog

    “America’s mouth spread into a mischievous grin, almost bobbing in anticipation.”

    Kate in 50 shades did that same thing, as I recall – needling the boy that she knows is possessive and abusive, just for funsies. Do these authors have the worst friends, or ARE they the worst friends? And how exactly does a grin bob?

    Ugh, do not make America grate again.

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
    • But the girls’ besties just KNOW that the girls are so awesome they can save the troublesome, possessive, abusive boys! YAY!

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
  13. EdgePatrol
    EdgePatrol

    First, I just want to say thank you and that I enjoy your posts. I stumbled upon your site a few months ago and it has been very entertaining. I’ve been going through a lot and my mental illnesses have been harder to fight off than ever before, but your site is one of the few things that has kept me laughing and even inspired me to start working on my original story all over again. I’ve taken your suggestions to heart while continuing my fanfiction stories and I will definitely continue to do so with my original one.

    That being said, I think this is the most infuriating book you’ve picked up for the Hater Book Club so far. For me, at least. The back and forth between Abby knowing something and then not knowing it twenty minutes later without a head injury to blame it on, everyone defending Travis’ terrible behavior, America being the worst friend possible in the situation…it’s like I’m going insane. We’ve barely met Parker and he’s currently the best character of the book, but like you said, he’ll probably end up being a rapist or something. I’ll enjoy his barely-mentioned character while I can. Abby and Travis, “having.” to share his bed is some bullshit straight out of the Bad Fanfiction Playbook.

    I don’t have enough words to describe my absolute hatred for this book and its characters and I haven’t even read it. It’s pissing me off more than 50 Shades and I’m not exactly sure why. I personally read most of the first book before tossing it Frisbee-style out my window after the 1,000,000th time Christian did something abusive and it was portrayed as cute or romantic. I think it’s because I could, at the very least, do that with the book and blow off some steam. I can’t really do that to my laptop in this situation. It has done nothing wrong.

    I guess it just infuriates me on a personal level because I do everything in my power possible to avoid that kind of bullshit when I’m writing. I especially try to make my women characters out to be actual people and not…whatever Abby or Ana are. I honestly don’t know what to call them. I will admit, in my younger days, I did emulate the typical, “all other women are sluts,” thing (I am asexual so it appealed to me in a different way), but I learned and matured, and despite that flaw, my characters were still people with personalities who didn’t let everyone and their dog make decisions for them. That was over a decade ago and seeing women my age and older still writing women like that just irritates me.

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
    • MyDog'sPA
      MyDog'sPA

      Yeah, at one point you have to give up reading the drek as it may start influencing your own writing in a bad way. My wife absolutely refuses to read these recaps because she’s afraid it will adversely affect her own writing. And she may be right, with a good set of beta readers offering great feedback and a really great editor doing the same and more, after a lot of ass-busting work her first self-published novel won a Feathered Quill award in their latest contest.

      So if you feel like you want to hurl this book out the window, then maybe it’s time to stop reading it and find a better set of influences to help your career. The only reason I stopped by this time was to snipe at EEL’s latest (“The Mister) as it sounded like a story about the grocer who sprays the veggies in the produce aisle. I skimmed this chapter, and, yup, it’s not worth getting too upset, so I may have to just stop reading them.. I don’t know how Jenny does it. My hat’s off to her, but I can see how it could drive someone nuts. One’s own mental health just isn’t worth it, so if you think it could ever be adversely influential on your own work, then just don’t read the recaps. (Save it for the Buffy/Angel posts)

      Best of luck to you in your writing, I truly hope it will be successful for you someday. It can happen.

      February 14, 2019
      |Reply
      • EdgePatrol
        EdgePatrol

        I’m pretty confident in my writing abilities now as opposed to when I was younger. These recaps and any, “bad,” stories I read have no effect on my writing. I’m very stubborn and set in my ways. I also have beta readers to help keep me on track, so my writing abilities are fine, considering my experiences and background. My moods definitely affect what I write, but not how I write. The only things I’m taking away from these recaps to add into my writing are Jenny’s editorial suggestions for sentence structures and what not.

        As for hurling the book, I haven’t read this book, and I haven’t thrown a book since reading 50 Shades when it was first published. In my defense, I had just escaped an abusive childhood, and I didn’t know exactly what those books entailed. I just heard they were really good, and looking back, those who said that were not habitual readers. Lesson learned. This book might be that streak-breaker, though, so I won’t touch it. I don’t know why, but all the characters in this book are hitting all of my wrong buttons. XD I also don’t know how Jenny does it. I’m guessing since it’s her career, she has a higher tolerance for it while for me, reading and writing is a hobby.

        Anyway, thank you for your tips and congrats to your wife for winning an award. That is something to be proud of. I hope to have something published one day. It’s one of my long-term goals.

        February 15, 2019
        |Reply
  14. Carrionbird
    Carrionbird

    Didn’t Ana shower a weird amount too? Or am I thinking of something else? It seems like a Thing in these kinds of books.

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      “Still not clean; still not clean… Still not clean!”

      I imagine all of the characters thinking that as they shower away. XD

      But while I’m not sure if it is a thing, I’m going to guess it’s the lazy option for adding in action. What can I get this character to do to remove them from the scene? Take a shower! This character isn’t doing anything yet… I guess we better wash up. It’s a step up from sending them to bed and a step down from anything that’s actually interesting but I guess it gets the reader pondering nudity, maybe, so the author assumes it’s hot?

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
    • Athena
      Athena

      Ana and Chrissy-boy were supposedly having an inordinate amount of sex, so the idea of them showering a lot isn’t the worst. I think it has more to do with what Jenny said about section breaks and moving the scene forward. James and this author both seem to have no ability to skip ahead or skim unnecessary details. Every second of these characters’ lives is documented, except all the bits that would actually be interesting. Any other author would go, “I’ve written these two having showers into the double digits and I’m only on chapter 4. Maybe I should do something about that.”

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
    • Liza
      Liza

      I imagine these idiots as Sims left to their own devices. Sims always shower an inordinate amount and have no common sense.

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
      • Raven
        Raven

        Considering people write Sims fanfictions, you might be on to something.

        February 13, 2019
        |Reply
        • Dove
          Dove

          Wouldn’t there be more missing doors and pool ladders in that case? XD

          (It definitely explains the fights… and how quickly people forgive Travis.)

          February 13, 2019
          |Reply
  15. A. Noyd
    A. Noyd

    “America’s mouth spread into a mischievous grin, almost bobbing in anticipation.”

    Uh? Her mouth was almost doing what now?

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
    • Bunny
      Bunny

      Obviously this was edited by the same trio who did Handbook for Mortals.

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
      • I would love to find out that this CrapFic motherlode of late was due to a cabal of horrible editors trying to make a point to the publishing world about quality.

        February 13, 2019
        |Reply
  16. Lucy
    Lucy

    Kara is definitely the most interesting character here. A student who actually…studies! Instead of becoming all-consumed by relationships and parties like character in YA/NA too often do.
    I also don’t get why in this sort of romance, the girls the hero sleeps with are framed as “sluts” but then ae upset he doesn’t want to date them? You ‘d think “sluts” who enjoy casual three somes wouldn’t care about not keeping contact.

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      Yeah, I think they’d be more annoyed at how long it lasted as Jenny suggested. Also, the excuse Travis gives almost sounds like date rape on his end except he’s such a jerk, and it didn’t sound like he was dealing with the aftermath of a drunken blackout the next day, that I’m inclined to think he lied and picked them up sober. (Admittedly I don’t know the exact symptoms of that but he seemed perfectly normal, so… Liar.)

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
  17. Devin Awe
    Devin Awe

    Wait, so did Abby ever actually agree to the bet? Or did Travis just say that was the bet, and because he’s Travis, that bet is now legally binding regardless of the other person’s consent?

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
    • EdgePatrol
      EdgePatrol

      It’s somehow both.

      February 15, 2019
      |Reply
  18. Miimers
    Miimers

    Ok, 1. why is Shepley angry at America/Abbernathy for maybe possibly affecting his and America’s relationship? How does other people dating wreck his dating life when those people are not in romantic relationship with him??? What is this? Why is this a side plot?
    2. It’s doing my head in they keep calling America Mare. Mare. Really? Really really? Not Amy or Rica, no it has to be “mare”. Come on, just say you hate other women.
    3. This whole chapter is filled with the most unintentionally hilarious imagery. I just want to draw Abercrombie standing in a pit of sharks like “Welp, this sure is a pit of dead stinky sharks!”, or Travesty pulling his face skin back to smooth his features like the space roach in a human suit in MIB. And who hums when they’re having a threesome?! Speaking of which..
    4. that better be a pull out couch, because boinking on a couch is not the best in the first place, much less if you try to fit 3 fully grown adults there for a threesome. Everyone would be fully uncomfortable for the whole hour and no one would be sad that it’s over.

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
    • Liza
      Liza

      1. Because Shepley is anxiously attached. He’s consumed with the idea that America is going to leave him, even when there is literally no sign that things are going south between the two of them. It’s just this whole stupid thing he’s made up in his head and McGuire is such a bad writer that she doesn’t even realize that she’s added this little tidbit of an actual relationship issue that a lot of people have – she’s just doing it to add tension-less tension.
      2. Or even Mer. Mer would be a totally acceptable nickname. I actually think it’s cute. But not when you spell it like she’s a freaking horse.
      4. Travis seriously must be the worst lay. He doesn’t give a flying fart about the satisfaction of his partner, and who (seriously, who?) actually likes doing it on the couch (I mean maybe every once in a while to change things up, but seriously couches suck and I will take a bed any day)

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
  19. Nanani
    Nanani

    “trying not to bat my eyes or do anything else ridiculous.”
    IDEK what batting your eyes even IS. I’m pretty sure it’s just blinking seen through the Boner Lens. Like, “Yeah dude she blinked she totally wants me” sounds dumb so they replace “blink” with “batting her eyes” but the same logic remains.

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
    • Small jar of fireflies
      Small jar of fireflies

      …basically its a little motion that invites eye contact by briefly denying it. It can be either a moment longer than a blink, or a kind of double-blink lash flicker. If you have to think about doing it, you’re doing it too slow. I do the double-blink when I am fake-denying taking the last cookie because it’s all “I’m cute and innocent I would never,” but I don’t actually know what it looks like because my eyes are shut during it.

      But you don’t just sit there doing it, that’d be awkward as hell. It needs to part of a joke or a smile or a flirt or something.

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
    • Bunny
      Bunny

      For the longest time I thought ‘batting your eyes’ meant literally reaching up and tapping the edges of your eyelids with your fingers. For obvious reasons, I had no idea why it was supposed to be so flirtatious. Although it’s much funnier if imagined that way.

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
  20. Jules
    Jules

    This book is the most horrific thing I have ever heard of. So, she’s been forced to sleep in bed with a guy she claims she isn’t into because of a bet she never agreed to. Her friend gives her an out by telling her that her shithead not boyfriend having a loud threesome while she is trying to sleep in his bed is grounds to go back to her perfectly livable dorm with a bed she has all to herself, and she is all “nah, be bought me that cereal I like!” Bitch is crazy! Even if he was the greatest guy ever and we were in a relationship I think I’d want to go to my far less crowded dorm room, where I have my own bed and there isn’t a sperm covered couch in the living area. Well, their might be, depending on how busy the common room at the dorm is, but still, she KNOWS the couch she is hanging out on at Travis’s is covered in his dead sperm so, yeah, go home!

    Jenny, your blog gives me a reason to go to work, and not work because I’m secretly reading your blog to get through my day. I thank you, my company, well, what they don’t know won’t hurt them, right? Maybe if I buy them some foamy stuff for their legs they will just accept my not working for an hour or so a day.

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
  21. MyDog'sPA
    MyDog'sPA

    Before we start, I just want to say, Yes, I heard. I totally heard about E.L. James’s new book, and I’ve gotten many requests to add it to the Jealous Haters Book Club. I’m on the fence about running two selections at once, but I’m also filled with sick curiosity about what a non-stolen book from her is going to be like. Especially after what I read in the excerpt.

    Wait. Huh? What is EEL doing writing a book about and evaporative-cooling device? (The Mister) How is that even kinky? She knew nothing of helicopters, how are we supposed to believe she can write anything about A/C that only works in non-humid climates?

    :confused:

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
    • Nanani
      Nanani

      Mister. I loled

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
    • Bunny
      Bunny

      Watering your air plants or getting doused in the produce isle is about as sexy as it gets.

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
      • MyDog'sPA
        MyDog'sPA

        Well, OK, I suppose at first I was thinking that it was the story of the device itself, but I suppose it could be the person who maintains turgor pressure in the produce aisle . . . .

        February 13, 2019
        |Reply
  22. Jo
    Jo

    Holy shit. Travis is awful and Abby has to be the most spineless heroine ever. She has no agency whatsoever, America has to cause the drama for her because Abby is incapable of even doing a dramatic exit.

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
  23. Trynn
    Trynn

    The ONLY time it is appropriate for a guy–or anyone, really–to tell me to change clothes is if I have dressed inappropriately for the occasion. If someone says to me, “Hey Trynn, you can wear that outfit if you want, but I’m actually taking you somewhere nice instead of McDonalds. You can do what you want, but if you would like to go change, I’ll wait.”

    Or I’ve even heard, “Hey Trynn, have you checked the weather? You sure wanna wear a pair of shorts? You have? You do? Okay, let’s go.”

    If someone told me I was dressed “too sexy” and that that was in any way “distracting,” that would be a huge red flag.

    Unfortunately the culture in which I Was raised believed it was actually a sign of virtue… stupid purity culture.

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
    • Jules
      Jules

      The infuriating thing is, as Jenny pointed out, he had the perfect excuse for asking her to change. They were going to be climbing through a window for no reason whatsoever, but still, heels and a crop top aren’t the most comfortable breaking and entering clothes so he could have been all “Hey, we’re going to be climbing through a window, so you might want something more comfortable.” Instead it’s meant to be all romantic that he doesn’t want other men looking at her. I freaking hate society sometimes. WTF kind of romance is that? Nothing about this “relationship” has been even slightly romantic, or erotic, or anything but watching an abuser groom/train his newest victim.

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
    • Rebecca
      Rebecca

      I’m going out with a guy Tuesday. Could be not quite a date. Could be a date. Things are still being defined. Doesn’t matter. We’re going to a nice place, and I’m wearing a gorgeous, all-eyes-on-me type dress. I’m trying out a new hairstyle. If he doesn’t like it, or thinks it’s too sexy, or there was too much attention being paid to how I look by me or others, he doesn’t have to ask me out again. I control my actions (what I wear) and he controls his (whether or not he wants to keep company). Easy peasy.

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
      • Trynn
        Trynn

        I hope it all goes well. It’s so nice to have a dress that you like and makes you look cute.

        I have had a guy tell me I wear shitty dresses before.

        And people seriously wonder why I don’t wanna date this guy.

        Why would I date a guy who says I wear shitty dresses?

        I mean, my style is a bit weird, but it’s not “shitty.” And Frankly, if I can’t wear an orange and black dress with yellow flowers to a Halloween party, then that party sucks.

        February 14, 2019
        |Reply
        • Rebecca
          Rebecca

          Um, that dress sounds awesomesauce. Whatever his problem was, you don’t need that negativity in your life.

          February 14, 2019
          |Reply
  24. Camelia
    Camelia

    I have a theory about the constant showering. I think that showering is a tired trope with two purposes: (1) it is a trite way to show angst, and (2) it is an excuse to have the heroine (who is often young) be naked in a dramatic scene.

    In movies and tv shows that are similar to this book, the shower scene is the perfect excuse to show the female character naked. The angles and perspective often are set up to sexualize the act of taking a shower and are a blatant example of the male gaze. But, because it is just a shower, the creators don’t have to take responsibility for the way they are portraying female leads.

    In this book in particular, Abby taking a shower often puts her in a vulnerable position. According to the poor characterization so far, Abby tries extra hard to dress “proper” in order to appear to be a “good girl” with all her cashmere sweaters. Her demure outfits are always contrasted with the slutty outfits that all the other women wear. So, the author then uses the excuse of the shower to get Abby naked without compromising her nun tendencies. Also, even this early in the book we have seen Travis take advantage of this vulnerable moment to cross boundaries with Abby more than once. These stupid shower scenes are just a poor excuse to have Abby literally naked and vulnerable during key scenes with Travis designed to create the sexual tension. They don’t! They just help Travis take advantage of Abby in a compromising situation so that she is distracted from how unacceptable his behavior is.

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
  25. Mike
    Mike

    When I read the bit about Travis buying Abby’s favourite foods I immediately thought about The Good Place, in I think the first or second episode, Eleanor is consistently shitty to Chidi, and at one point she says she got him a ‘present’. The present is just her properly remembering where he’s from, and she’s called out for thinking basic human decency is a gift she should be praised for. Only Travis is never called out.

    “What is the point of showing the love interest going “in for the kill” when the person he’s fighting isn’t fighting back?”

    I think the appeal of this is supposed to be that he’s powerful and strong and such a badass that no one could ever beat him. I don’t think the author realizes that kicking a man while he’s down isn’t a show of strength, but specifically a cowardly tactic by someone whose only desire is to hurt someone. He’s a psychopath.

    I really can’t get past how disturbing this ‘relationship’ is. Travis is incredibly manipulative, and everyone is just, helping him do it. It’s like he’s somehow managed to gaslight every single person around him…

    I think I’ve said this on past chapters but it stands; Abby is the literary heroine version of the sexy-lamp trope. She has absolutely no agency whatsoever. She makes zero choices for herself, she has no strong feelings except confusion… The only way she could have less agency in her own story is if she were a literal lamp.

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
  26. Liza
    Liza

    Travis looked down at my chest and then up at me. “You can’t wear this to the fight, so please…just…please just change,” he stuttered, shoving me into the room and shutting me in.

    Incensed at his audacity, I quickly gathered my things and shoved them haphazardly into my bag. I’d had enough of his controlling nonsense. The boiler in the dorm might be broken, but I’d rather bath in frigid arctic ocean for the rest of my life than spend another second with this jerk. I took a moment to calm my frustration and slow my breathing before picking up my bag and calmly walking into the living room. I stopped to briefly look at Travis’ idiotic face. Speaking calmly and with conviction I said “I’ll wear whatever I want, Travis,” before I marched confidently toward the door. As I pulled it open, I turned back toward Travis. “And don’t call me Pidge. Asshole.”

    With that I walked away and never spoke to Travis fucking Maddox again.

    When I got back to my dorm, Kara, who was getting ready to go out with some friends, could sense a new air about me. “What’s up with you? You seem so…confident. I like it.”

    For the first time since we met, I talked with Kara like she was a real person and not just some evil bitch. She wasn’t terribly shocked to hear how terrible Travis had been. He had a reputation after all. She was shocked, though, when I told her how America had acted through the whole thing.

    “Back that up. I thought she was your best friend. Why the hell would she tell you to sleep with some guy who’s such an ass to you? Especially after you said you weren’t in to him! No offense, Abby, but she sounds like a shitty friend.”

    In hindsight, I had to agree.
    —-
    There. Fixed (some of) it for you.

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
    • Jules
      Jules

      I’d read the hell out of this version!

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
      • Rebecca
        Rebecca

        ME TOO!!

        February 13, 2019
        |Reply
      • Dove
        Dove

        Me three! XD

        February 13, 2019
        |Reply
    • Tami Marie Alexander
      Tami Marie Alexander

      THANK YOU.

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      *applauds wildly*

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
    • triflepillow
      triflepillow

      Oh, excellent.

      February 16, 2019
      |Reply
  27. Small jar of fireflies
    Small jar of fireflies

    I actually am starting to feel bad for Travis.

    Its been bothering me since last update that Travis gets to enjoy no part of his experiences with these women. He doesn’t have any interest in undressing them, or in the whispers and murmurs of what they like. He doesn’t care as they’re taking their hair down, as they’re exploring his body. How they feel about him isn’t part of the experience. Tattoos, piercings, individual quirks? Not what he cares about. He has to be incredibly good, while dismissing them entirely, while still remembering names and faces so he’ll never get near them again.

    And if he doesn’t do all that, then he loses all value to Abby.

    She s the one who needs him to dump and discard women. If he didn’t, they’d both just have sex and hang out. Maybe they’d be in a relationship, maybe not, but it would give Abby no one to feel better than. And her hollow shell would crack and collapse.

    She was fine with listening and judging, as long as they’d left disappointed. If they hadn’t enjoyed it, Travis would lose value because other women wouldn’t want him. If he hadn’t asked them to go, he’d lose value as someone who only she could win.

    Also, I am just not buying that he has sex every single day, sometimes late-night threesomes, and is an incubus every time. One of those ladies is getting disappointed, at which point Abby leaves.

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      Please don’t feel bad for Travis. He’d be doing this even if Abby never existed. And ignoring the excerpts from Walking Disaster, which proves his frame of mind, there are some pick-up artists who act like this as a way to get back at women… by lying, seducing, and then ditching them. (And although the author has all the women clamoring for his dick, most women would really need to be sold on the product before trying to buy it. I might be wrong but I think good looks only get you so far, even with people who are comfortable with casual sex.)

      Besides, Abby has no agency. Even though she expresses the same misogyny, let’s be real for a minute… if she actually reacted badly to how Travis treated women, it wouldn’t make a difference. She’d be convinced into slut-shaming just as quickly as everyone else around her.

      I’m not saying she’s any better for being spineless but Travis has no one to blame for his shitty actions but himself. He murdered two men. He clearly is a rapist. He kicked two women out of his house an hour after a threesome and crawled into bed to snuggle up against some random arm candy until she crawled back out again. Abby, America, and Shep aren’t forcing Travis to jizz on the communal couch; that’s his weird rule. They’re enabling his horrible choices, so they aren’t off the hook, but they’re not directly responsible.

      I sort of pitied him too but that was before he tried to imply that he couldn’t say no in some previous chapter. It’s possible but not every time! There’s no way every single one-night stand coerced him. Plus, Travis is acting “woe is me” about having his way and while it really would be awful, he’s the one doing this long before he meets Abby because he already had this twisted idea of worth.

      The Abridged version of chapters 1-4:

      “Pity me!” Travis cried.

      He got down on bended knee and tugged on Abby’s skirt. She tried to smack his hands away but the only thing that ensued were the sounds of gross sobbing and some muffled words that Abby craned over to hear in spite of herself.

      “Every other woman I meet wants to have sex with me, in spite of me refusing to date them. I don’t know how they got that idea and I have to sleep with any hottie who looks my way! Oh, please, save me! Be my friend instead.”

      “Oh–okay, but I never said I wanted anything to do with you,” Abby muttered.

      “Good! I’m glad that’s settled.” Travis stood up quickly, nary a tear streak on his face. “By the way, I have to have complete control over my relationships. All of them. Take off that shirt and put on something less sexy. Your boobs are distracting me from our wonderful friendship.”

      His expression was filled with stone cold disdain hidden behind “boyish innocence” and she could only stare at him in confused shock.

      “Hey, which line do I read?” America asked. “I don’t have my contacts in… Ah, screw it, I’ll ad-lib. Whassup?!”

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
      • small jar of fireflies
        small jar of fireflies

        I’m not talking about as a person. We’ve all gone over how, as a person, he’s lacking.

        As a character, he exists as a prop. If any part of him weren’t as it was written, he’d become useless to Abby. And as I wrote, all of his traits exist to define her and support the way she’s written. Hence, pity.

        February 13, 2019
        |Reply
        • Dove
          Dove

          Oh, my mistake. I get your point, that is how their characters work, but I wouldn’t say he’d be useless to Abby. She’d just change shape again if Travis was written differently. I think Abby is the prop in this situation since she’s the “mirror” into his soul. She doesn’t have one of her own; all she can do is reflect back. I mean, her misogyny is only there because the author made all of them like that. I actually can’t think of another trait Abby portrays.

          But it’s hard to figure out; it’s hard to tell if it’s just their horrible, abusive relationship’s effects, a strong streak of Evangelicalism, or the amateurish and sloppy writing.

          February 13, 2019
          |Reply
          • small jar of fireflies
            small jar of fireflies

            That’s the thing, though. What can she change to? Without that constant threat of being — gasp! like all other girls that Travis seems to respect, then devalue! — she’d have basically a normal relationship with him. Maybe a one-night stand that would then fall apart, because the relationship is almost “not like other girls!!!!” tension more than sexual tension.

            I once that read, maybe here? that Fifty Shades of Gray wouldn’t have ever happened if Christian was poor. Travis’ bizarre sexual strategy is the misogyny equivalent.

            February 14, 2019
  28. Bunny
    Bunny

    This book is like the undead incarnation of that horrible saying “there are girls you sleep with and girls you marry.” That seems to be the biggest theme so far and it really is awful. Close runner-ups: “Not Like Other [Slutty Slutty Slut Slut Slut] Girls™” and “he’s a domineering a-hole because he really cares”.

    Has anyone here seen the play Big Love? Travis reminds me of Constantine so, so much.

    Yuck.

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
  29. K R
    K R

    I happened upon your old posts on “After” and I thought it was kinda funny how you mentioned then that you might be reviewing this book and lo and behold, 4 or 5 years later it has happened.
    I could try to understand to a certain level the appeal of an asshole character if they at least were charismatic (which a lot of assholes in real life are), but these characters never come off as charismatic, so the reader can’t even chalk up their popularity to being because their charisma blinding others.
    I didn’t immediately hate Abby. In the beginning she showed some (albeit very minor) signs of not being a doormat, but as the chapters progress and the “romance” blooms, she’s lost whatever little autonomy she displayed at the start.
    I don’t usually read romance novels because I don’t care much for romance, but a “nice” guy doesn’t have to mean a “boring” guy, which is what I think these authors think. The same goes for appearance. A good looking guy is a good looking guy regardless. Being clean-cut doesn’t make you unattractive, just like being “edgy” doesn’t automatically make you attractive.
    I will say it again, not everybody finds tattoos sexy and the fact the Travis is covered in them and you still have every single female tripping their feet over him is lazy writing. There are people that naturally attract others, but it still doesn’t mean every single person they cross paths with will be sexually or romantically attracted to them. On the flip coin, if these characters are so stunning, how come they never seem to attract others of their same sex? Attractive is attractive, and your attractiveness is not exclusive to a certain type of person.
    Anyway, it is sad that sh*tty books like these are raved about, and genuinely good stories wallow in obscurity.

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
  30. Tami Marie Alexander
    Tami Marie Alexander

    God, this makes me sick — physically sick — to my stomach. I won’t be able to follow this one, and yet I loved your cover of the “Fifty Shades of Vomit” because it was hilarious. This? Is not. It’s hitting way too close to home.

    As I’ve mentioned before, I spent 23 years with a narcissist who gaslighted me and fucked me up so bad that I will never again be able to have an intimate relationship (read: trusting, committed partnership) with anyone. We split up in 2010 and in 2017 she died from cancer. People close to her at the end of her life praise her like she was a saint, and yet they had believed her when she told them horrible lies about me. While many people excused her bad behavior (as Travis’s friends excuse his), gradually there were those who emerged who admitted that my ex was indeed a bad person, calling her a thief and a liar. It’s been a relief to receive that kind of validation, but I also feel bad for my fellow victims. No one deserves a narcissist’s abuse, and it’s always kind and empathic people who wind up getting used by them because that’s what they prey upon.

    I still run into people who refuse to believe my ex was anything short of perfect. Or they knew what she was like and excused it anyway. Like Travis, she had a “do what I say, not what I do” attitude about everything, including sex. When we got together, she told me that she was polygamous and would continue to be with other people, and often flaunted her previous lovers in my face (even bringing them into our home and kicking me out of our bed so she could be with them). A few years into our relationship, I had met and clicked with someone. My ex encouraged me to be with that person. Afterward, she turned around and accused me of cheating on her, and made me cut all ties. (This type of control extended to other friends AND family members, which is what narcissists do — hello, Christian Grey!) Those times when she would cross the line — say or do something so hurtful that I considered leaving — she would backpedal and offer gifts, just like Travis and the Fruity Pebbles. These people are all about manipulation.

    At any rate, because I lived that life, I cannot bear to read about it as the lead-up to a ROMANCE. You know that question, “If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?” I always say, “Don’t get involved with ___ and people like her.” Unfortunately, I was raised by a narcissist (my father, who also abused me) so I fell into the stereotypical trap of going on to a relationship with another one. Now I know better, thanks to years of therapy, and I have the PTSD to show for it. But these kinds of stories are triggers; they make me scream and want to break things because I get so angry at the authors who are promoting these toxic relationships. “Find yourself a partner who will control your life and treat you like garbage while making you believe it’s all your fault!” NO, YOU IGNORANT FUCKS — DO NOT DO THAT! It’s NOT romantic, it’s fucked up, and most of all? YOU CANNOT “FIX” THESE PEOPLE WITH YOUR LOVE.

    Gah, I’m getting all worked up just writing this. I need to go de-stress before I wind up in a full-blown panic attack.

    I love you, Jenny. You’re a far braver soul than I, to go through these horrid books. I think I’ll use this as an incentive to get back to work on my cathartic novel where my main character is the survivor of a narcissistic abuser and manages to find a healthy relationship and a HEA. Because I need to cleanse myself of this Disaster which is in no way Beautiful.

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
  31. RodeoBob
    RodeoBob

    OK, so I have a weakness for fix-fic, for taking the ugly and broken stories and trying to find the salvage from them…

    Let’s start with Travis. He fights for money, because he’s broke. He comes from poverty, and is trying to get out of it, but it’s hard, and cash under the table is not easy to pass up. The other thing about fighting like he does is that it’s a way for him to literally connect with other human beings. (“When you’re fighting a guy, you know him and he knows you in this way that you don’t get when you’re working at a cash register or sitting in a lecture hall. Yeah, you’re trying to beat each other bloody, but it’s something you’re doing together… does that make any sense?” “No, but I can see it means something to you…”) He sleeps with women in the same way he fights with men: it’s brief, performance-based connections that never go anywhere, just isolated encounters. Once he starts talking with Abby Abernathy, though, he discovers a different kind of connection, one that rattles him, changes how he looks at things. So in his next fight, he ducks, he dodges, and when the other fighter breaks his hand, he doesn’t “go for the kill”; he looks to the ref to throw the red flag because one fighter is incapacitated already.

    Next, the whole “you have to stay with me thing”… so the college boilers aren’t working, which means no hot water. The students complain, but the school says hot water isn’t a legal requirement. The parents threaten to sue, but that stuff takes months or years to shake out. Abby’s family can’t afford to put her up in a hotel for two months, so Travis offers to let her stay with him. Growing up, his cousins would stay at their family house in the winters when it got cold, and he had to share a bed with his two (female) cousins. It was only after he moved out that he realized his cousins’ home probably didn’t have working heat; he’s been poor and had to share and make due.

    Let’s tackle “will they/won’t they” next. First, simplify: Abby wants to date him. She’s interested in him. Also, let’s all agree to be honest: Travis is a jerk who isn’t good at relationships, and everyone sees this. Thus, our tension is not “Do I like him?” but more of a “Is this a good idea / will he try to make it work / can he learn / is he worth it?” sort of thing. By overtly making Travis a bad romantic choice, our heroine can call him out on bad behavior, and then watch him get better.

    This sets up our “bet”. (notice how Travis dictated both sides of the wager? Isn’t that just a bit odd?) In this version, Abby specifically says he should abstain for a month, but only from “one-night stands”, that he should be looking for “meaningful connections”.

    There’s too much wrongness going on here to fix everything (drunken noisy threesome in the living room?!) but re-casting some of the basics gives us more room to work with what we have.

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      Yeah, I like all of these suggestions! And if you combine this with the “fixed matches” idea too, which makes them way more interesting, you could add that the hand-break was a real accident and as soon as shit gets real, Travis stops playing his part and shows some actual concern. He needs the money but not so bad that he’ll sacrifice all human dignity to get it and that’s one kernel of goodness to give the reader some genuine hope.

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
  32. Drea C
    Drea C

    So, how conscious is this author of what’s in her book? I mean she was going to title it, “Red Flag” so she has to know this is an abusive relationship, right? The “red flags” being all the signs that this guy is no good. Unless we’re supposed to assume she doesn’t know what the term red flag means.
    Also, the heroine doesn’t have a consistent personality. Does the girl in this chapter seem like the same girl wearing pearls and a cardigan in chapter 1? If she wanted to make her sort of uptight and sheltered and “proper,” how is she okay with a threesome a few feet from where she’s supposed to be sleeping?

    Actually, why would a girl like that be okay with any of this–sleeping in some random guy’s bed, going to fights, etc? It’s not like the heroine is having any internal conflict or even looking to be more outgoing or something?
    Honestly, this book is so gross. Every single detail is so unappealing and so implausible.

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
    • Liza
      Liza

      Abby’s inconsistent personality is such a good point. It just proves that Abby is a prop. Her personality changes to serve Travis and the so-called “plot”

      February 14, 2019
      |Reply
  33. hugseverycat
    hugseverycat

    I am SO CONFUSED about what Shepley and America want. We have America getting all excited about Abby liking Parker. And we know that Shepley thinks that Travis will sleep with Abby and thus cause America to break up with Shepley out of friend-loyalty. OK. Fine. Whatever. BUT THEN! Travis treats Abby badly and Shepley then all but begs Abby to forgive every single horrible thing Travis ever does. And THEN!! America, in the physical presence of Shepley and in a conversation in which he is participating, tells Travis to ask Abby out to a party. And Shepley says nothing but THEN!!!! like 3 whole scenes later!!!! gets dramatically angry at Abby because Abby might go to a party that Travis is at, that everyone including Abby thought Travis wasn’t going to??? You know, the party where Abby was hoping to meet up with Parker? What the actual fuck

    February 13, 2019
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      I think the author had trouble keeping track of these secondary plots or else changed her mind on a whim and didn’t bother editing previous scenes.

      In-universe: I think America likes stirring the pot and she just wants to go on double-dates with Abby, regardless of the guy that her friend is with. And Shepley is torn between keeping his roomie happy and keeping his roomie from screwing him over because Shep still has to live with this violent maniac no matter what happens… That’s all I’ve got. It was definitely confusing though.

      February 13, 2019
      |Reply
      • hugseverycat
        hugseverycat

        That makes sense. I mean personally I wouldn’t try to torture my boyfriend and his roommate just for the chance of going on a double-date but, well, I kind of feel like America is a monster so yeah 😉

        February 14, 2019
        |Reply
        • Dove
          Dove

          Basically. I would suggest America might be low-key trying to get Shepley to stop living with Travis, maybe her idea is to get this hook-up to happen and then when it dissolves she tells Shepley again that she’ll stick with him if he finally moves out, but she’s still a monster for throwing Abby under the bus and Shepley is a complete idiot (or in dire financial straits or else hopelessly under the thumb of Travis) to stay where he is. 🙂

          February 14, 2019
          |Reply
  34. Chip Otle
    Chip Otle

    I’ll be seeing that Willem Dafoe gif in my nightmares, so thank you for that.

    February 14, 2019
    |Reply
  35. Ugh! Just ugh! The title if this book alone, ugh. Also, I am starting to hate the word ‘refreshing’, because I only ever hear or read it in this cliche context anymore.

    February 14, 2019
    |Reply
  36. yamikuronue
    yamikuronue

    >Why would you even want to be friends with this guy? Tell me why

    Ain’t nothin’ but a heartache! Ain’t nothin’ but a mistake; I never wanna hear you say that I want it that way

    (couldn’t help myself)

    February 14, 2019
    |Reply
  37. RodeoBob
    RodeoBob

    I hate to double-dip, but I keep coming back to “the bet” and how utterly bullshit the section really is.

    Normally, when you bet, each side states a wager. But as Jenny pointed out, our protagonist never makes any choices, so in keeping with that passive, coat-rack-with-a-face-taped-to-it standard, when it’s time to place a bet, Travis states both wagers, and this is total bullshit.

    See, the underlying concept of these kinds of bets, both in real life and in literary tradition, is that each side wants something from the other side. So either each side states what the other side will wager, or each side disclaims their reasons why their wager is desirable.

    “If I win this bet, you must surrender the deed to your family estate, the one you’re planning on bull-dozing to make room for a Wal-Mart! Would you make this bet if I wagered my father’s hand-carved walking stick, which we both know contains a secret map to the lost mines of MacGuffin?”

    In a literary sense, it works as a way for each character to state (or at least acknowledge) what they want from the other character. Viceroy James Sneerington doesn’t just hate Prudence Goodheart on principle, he wants something she doesn’t want to part with. Prudence Goodheart moral reasons for this conflict are symbolized in preserving a historical building. Basically, a bet is supposed to expose character traits!

    So why is Travis’ bet bullshit? Well, to be fair, it’s only half bullshit: he apparently really does want Abby to keep staying with him, so that half works. But the whole “no sex for 30 days thing”? Why would Abby want that?

    I mean, I can fix-fic a reason for it. but in the story so far it just makes no sense at all. Why would Abby want Travis to be celibate? Why would Travis ever even imagine that Abby would want that?

    It’s clear that Travis knows what he wants, but this section accidentally reveals that he doesn’t really know what Abby wants.

    February 14, 2019
    |Reply
  38. small jar of fireflies
    small jar of fireflies

    I think someone mentioned that this could be a plausible small Eastern college. In my experience, those tend to be joined onto small towns. With small blocks. Very stop-and-go.

    Travis was mentioned last time as going over the speed limit. I picture the result like so:

    vvvvVRRRRrmputputputput. vvVRRRRrrrmputputput. vvvvVRRRRrmputptpt. vvvvVRRRrmputputput. vvvvVRRRRrmputputput all the damn way.

    The fact that he then touches his partner for the ride on the knee at every stop, in a very platonic, just-friends way, is icing on the whole thing.

    Also in my experience, small town cops are notorious for regarding speed limits as a shortcut to boosting the community coffers. They must know Travis by name and bike color.

    February 14, 2019
    |Reply
  39. Crystal M
    Crystal M

    All these abuse-as-romance books are running together and I can’t keep them separate in my head. I saw this recap and thought, “Is the one where the girl finds Wuthering Heights on the guy’s bookshelf and concludes that he is a romantic? Or is it the one where the girl has two boyfriends at once?”

    February 14, 2019
    |Reply
  40. Sheila
    Sheila

    Travis never put on pants. He’s described as putting on a white tank top, and boots but no pants. In a better written book, my mind would gloss over that but…this is exactly the sort of bad book which loves to regale us with irrelevant details but forget the important info.

    She spends so much effort to describe what the heroine wears, and has the hero strutting out his front door pantsless.

    February 14, 2019
    |Reply
  41. Bunny
    Bunny

    This book is so blatant. It’s like the author is holding a stinking dead fish with “IT’S LUUUURVE” scrawled across it in Sharpie – and we get to experience that lovely dead-fish smack every time she needs to make a point.

    “HE’S TOUCHING HER THIGH ZOMG” *whap* “SHE’S … DIFFERENT” *thwack* “CUTSIE CUTSIE CUTSIE NICKNAME CUTSIE CUTSIE” *whack* “HE FEELS REALLY BAD, SEE?” *whop* “HE’S NOT A MANIPULATIVE JERK, HE’S JUST MADLY IN LOVE” *crack* “LOOK AT THE LUUUUUUUUUUURVE”

    I dunno how you do this, Jenny – you must be a freaking superhero. Standing ovation after every chapter.

    February 15, 2019
    |Reply
  42. ShifterCat
    ShifterCat

    Why on earth would there be a concrete pillar right where the combatants are fighting? How hard is it to find a wide, empty indoor space?

    I suspect Maguire was thinking of the kind of action movie in which people are chasing each other around a warehouse or something, rather than fighting in a prearranged area.

    February 15, 2019
    |Reply
  43. Dove
    Dove

    Small Jar of Fireflies: That’s the thing, though. What can she change to? Without that constant threat of being — gasp! like all other girls that Travis seems to respect, then devalue! — she’d have basically a normal relationship with him. Maybe a one-night stand that would then fall apart, because the relationship is almost “not like other girls!!!!” tension more than sexual tension.

    She could change a lot and it would be the same within their dynamic. The pivotal point of contention is that Abby doesn’t want to date him but Travis needs a reason to want to date her and he doesn’t have to change much, if at all, to make their relationship all about how “unique” his partner is because he clearly isn’t expected to change anyway. So I mostly agree with you, but I felt the need to explain what I meant.

    Here’s an example:
    Abby is a poor girl who has to work hard for her scholarship and she doesn’t have time for dating! Travis is a rich, privileged asshole (lol, no change there) and could coast by, as he’s been doing, safe in the assurance that he’ll get his degree. All his other friends and girlfriends were equally lacking in dedication, total party zone, and many of them just want to ride the wave of his big spending habits, but instead of finding her boring, he thinks Abby is charming. She eventually inspires him to actually work hard, and they get closer as they begin studying frequently, which leads to actually going steady. Also, she gets flustered when he gives her fancy gifts and then a little embarrassed when he offers to pay for her textbooks instead.

    Lol actually I gave Abby way more personality but she effectively transformed into Kara. And in a better book, he might teach her how to de-stress in new ways that aren’t partying hard… or maybe that’s what she teaches him!

    Other examples of “special snowflake” that would be easy to achieve include making Abby unabashedly black while Travis is racist (not even a stretch), or along very similar lines, make Abby into a veil-wearing Muslim and Travis a conservative Christian (again, he hasn’t changed), or instead of Abby, we have Abner and he’s the only guy that Travis has ever felt attracted to, giving him all kinds of conflicted emotions that he doesn’t understand. Abby could even be the only female mixed-martial arts underground fighter that Travis has met and he’s shocked to find that he admires her! Really, he doesn’t have to change at all when you do this. The author simply has to focus on some specific aspect of his personality to examine further and Abby will help expose and reflect his opinions, so that he could, theoretically in a good story, overcome his shortcomings.

    Abby is a living MacGuffin and the slut-shaming is 100% the author’s hangup. Travis could enjoy all the sex that he wants but it’d make more sense if Abby was more active in the relationship and it wasn’t all on him to want to snag her. But honestly, he could still feel like his life was a bit empty on his own and still enjoy the sex if only the author would let him. It might not be as fulfilling but it doesn’t need to be toxic for Travis to wonder if the emotional connection is really something that he’s missing out on.

    Fifty Shades of Gray wouldn’t have ever happened if Christian was poor.

    Yes, but I think this is a commentary on society. Travis is also pretty wealthy. He dresses down and smokes but he has a ton of tattoos, lives off-campus, and rides a motorcycle (which would still be pricey to own and maintain.) The point is that being rich and powerful makes people more inclined to look the other way and it also makes the privileged less likely to see anything wrong with their actions. In reality, Grey and Travis would probably still be able to get away with some of this shit but the details would definitely change if they were poor and the reader would be less likely to think “okay but he is rich, so he’s still a great catch, right?”

    February 15, 2019
    |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      Forgot to add, Abby could also be his cousin or something, if you want her to stick with being a white girl of similar means. She could also be unrelated and just call him out on his fucking misogyny. Until he legit respects her as a human being, then she doesn’t want to date him. That alone would make her more interesting and give them something to tussle over. It would be a lot harder to write because he’d have to show a genuine and more subtle change over the course of the plot but that’s how stories are supposed to work and it’d still require Abby to change a lot more at first (she can’t be a doormat) and Travis can stay the same (or roughly the same… the abuse really has to go) to keep a coherent tension going. He has to change eventually but that’s what all of these plots are banking on; his narrative growth. Instead, in the book as it is, we know Travis won’t really change as a person and Abby will remain this blob of nothing.

      February 15, 2019
      |Reply
  44. Hannah Harris
    Hannah Harris

    SHARK PIT OO-HA-HA!

    February 15, 2019
    |Reply
  45. K
    K

    As a college freshmen, I am amazed that these friends have a daily schedule that allow them to eat lunch together. How do they do it? It’s like they’re in high school or something.

    February 15, 2019
    |Reply
  46. Sigyn
    Sigyn

    “I cringed at his explanation”
    ^ lol same. But for Jenny’s reasons, not Abby’s.

    February 15, 2019
    |Reply
  47. Mike
    Mike

    For some reason two of the youtube channels I follow have both covered the 50 Shades movies in the last few months. The first one did some research into an earlier story by James that had the POV character as Edward rather than Bella which got me thinking. Then the second channel to cover it just released a video today where he says that when he covers books he often accidentally swaps character names with the authors, and normally it would be the POV character that happens with but for 50 Shades Freed it was Christian. It’s been rattling around in my head for a while now that Anna isn’t the author insert, Christian is.

    The similarities between all of JHBC books are all very strong. But the strongest commonalities are at least one of the characters is INSANELY abusive, and the authors seem willfully ignorant of this fact. So to me, that presents two very depressing possibilities. Either the authors have all been abused and brainwashed so deeply they legitimately do believe that an abusive man is so incredibly romantic and an ideal partner, OR they are unintentionally writing a character that would fall for and excuse their OWN deepest, darkest impulses and excuse them. They’re writing a fantasy version of themselves, free to indulge in who they really wish they could be, and then writing in a POV character that romanticizes and excuses that impulsive and wretched behaviour. And some of the awfulness leaks out into the POV characters as well since they’re all misogynistic as all get out and will happily shit on any woman within a 100ft radius.

    In the case of this book, it would really fit with the fact that her protagonist seems ONLY to exist as an excuse for Travis and an object for him to covet. She has ZERO will of her own. And while she does exhibit some of the internalized misogyny of the other books POV characters, it’s toned down substantially. Travis is the fully fleshed out character. Travis is the one with an actual backstory, motivation, agency, something at least kind of resembling an arc… Even if he is AWFUL. This would even explain why both her and James wrote versions from the male’s POV and somehow made them even WORSE. Because they literally do not have the self-awareness to realize that they are terrible people who have put way too much of themselves into the trashbag character they wrote.

    Honestly this explains a lot to me. I mean, it disturbs me greatly, but it makes sense.

    February 16, 2019
    |Reply
    • Chris
      Chris

      Holy shit.

      February 16, 2019
      |Reply
    • @Mike: That is horribly plausible.

      February 16, 2019
      |Reply
    • Dove
      Dove

      Someone posted a link to this review of an evangelical book. I believe it was Dr. Sarah but I’m a little strapped for time so don’t want to hunt for confirmation. XD

      https://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2015/12/created-to-be-his-help-meet-a-compilation-of-posts.html

      I haven’t finished reading these but as far as I got has been a doozy (in part because I’m realizing how some of my own internalized misogyny probably got there.)

      I’ve only dabbled in writing over the past twenty years, but I always had some trouble creating fully imagined female characters. My best ones were fanfic based and thus someone else had laid the groundwork for me, which I could run with, but OCs were much harder. Male characters were easy for me to write, my own or fanfic; hero, sidekick, or villain. I found it disconcertingly easy to sympathize with most villains…

      I think some of it is the Mary Sue syndrome, where we want our girls to be amazingly idealized but that often ruins what makes them interesting, On the other hand, I think the other stumbling block from me was the implication that only men are really allowed to do anything or to have any agency. It’s weird to think this could be so deeply ingrained that I just wouldn’t understand it in that way, in order to overcome it, but here we are. I can’t speak for every woman and one example doesn’t make a theory, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they struggled with this too (and a lot of other horrible hangups…)

      So, I fully believe these two authors at least, MacGuire and James, use the male love interest as their outlet for wish fulfillment because they can’t imagine their female leads doing anything similar. And they secretly hate that, perhaps? But it doesn’t excuse their writing.

      February 16, 2019
      |Reply
      • Dove
        Dove

        lol I wish there was an edit function. I forgot to add, I also think this may be why Lani wouldn’t let Zade do anything in the third act. I’m not sure if she got advice to handle it this way but I doubt it… I think it’s also why Zade is so low-key stunted but also horrible… Lani made some progress, more so than those two did, but not by a lot.

        February 16, 2019
        |Reply
      • Wasn’t me who posted the link, but I must check that review out sometime; I love Libby Anne’s writing (and I’ve read the more recent posts from the review since she took that book up again).

        February 16, 2019
        |Reply
      • Mike
        Mike

        I wish I could just ‘like’ replies. I have nothing of value to add, but I wish to positively acknowledge your comment…

        February 16, 2019
        |Reply
    • Are you talking about The Dom videos? Love those (though I’m certain he’d rather chew both his arms off than have to spend a second talking about James’ next book).

      February 16, 2019
      |Reply
      • Mike
        Mike

        Yup, that’s the one! And yes, I agree that he’d take self-immolation over reading her new book XD Folding Ideas is the other one. He also does an interesting look at it as a movie series while doing a LOT of research into James as an author and the original version of the books when they were still Twilight fanfics.

        February 16, 2019
        |Reply
  48. Izzy
    Izzy

    This book makes me so tired. From the blatant abuse and misogyny to the little things like the batting of lashes bullshit to the writing itself (either McGuire ignored any and all editing notes or the editors phoned it in.)
    But I think the inexplicable timeline of this abomination is what will break me. How is it that Abby has *only * been staying with Travis for two weeks but at the same time how is it she’s been staying with him for *that long*? How does time work in this godforsaken universe?

    February 16, 2019
    |Reply
  49. ‘First of all, Travis, Abby absolutely puts up with every little bit of your bullshit.’

    I’ve been thinking about why Travis sees Abby as someone who doesn’t put up with his bullshit, and, depressingly, I think the answer is that she’s not falling over herself to have sex with him. It’s the ‘men respect girls who hold out’ message.

    ‘It took them two weeks to fix the boilers?’

    Does it actually say that in ‘Beautiful Disaster’? In ‘Walking’, the timeframe is actually clarified; the night out at the club is the day after Abby and America come to say, so it’s only actually been two days altogether.

    (I know, I know, I use ‘actually’ too much… sue me.)

    Also, can’t remember whether I posted this before, but I do have more clues about the overall timeline. From the Shepley-and-America spinoff, Shepley/America/Abby are all freshmen and Travis is a sophomore. From ‘Walking’, Shepley and America have been together for a couple of months at the point the book starts (having got together at the beginning of the school year), and it’s meant to be about a month after that that the boiler situation arises, so that’s where we are now. Although McGuire does lose track of her own timeline now and again, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if she’s posted other stuff that contradicts that.

    February 16, 2019
    |Reply

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