Saturday, 9 March 2013

I've been thinking about these books for a few days now, I keep writing the reviews in my head, so when they were on my mind this morning, I decided to finally sit down and write them out for real. I've paired them together not only because they're both books I do not recommend, but because they both deal with violence and abuse.

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire
Self published by the author in 2011
Source: purchased for Kindle
Rating:  1 paw

From the blurb: Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand.
Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby wants—and needs—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.

I'm a bit late to the Beautiful Disaster party. I bought the Kindle version after reading lots of reviews last year, then when I started seeing negative reviews, and reports of author-behaving-badly, I decided I might not bother. But last week Amazon sent out an email saying my copy was no longer available and I’d have to buy another. I opened up Kindle and my copy opened and for some reason I started reading, even though I was at work, even though I was currently reading a fantastic Aussie YA book. And once I started reading I found it hard to stop. 

I was going to start with the positives, but I guess the readability was the only thing I liked. I did not like the main characters, I didn't like the way serious issues were played down, I definitely did not like the ending.

I feel like this book needs to come with a warning, or a Ryan Gosling meme that says “Hey Girl, this is not the sort of relationship you should be looking for. And if you’re in one, DTMFA.”

And I'm serious about that. Yesterday I saw a status update from a Goodreads member who was mad because on a list of Best Book Boyfriends, Travis Maddox had the number 1 spot. What the fork, people? Travis Maddox shouldn't even be on a list like that and it troubles me that he is and that girls see him as the kind of guy they want. He’s violent, one of the most violent characters I've read about outside the crime genre. He’s manipulative, he’s needy, he’s controlling and all of it should be a glaring warning to girls, not appealing. I am a bit disappointed in authors who push characters like this onto their readers (*cough* Noah Shaw *cough*) because while I know most readers are intelligent and can look at this book and know it’s not what they should want, some readers clearly do think this relationship is passionate instead of messed up. In real life, guys like this are not fun to be with, it’s annoying to be kept from spending time with friends, especially male friends; it’s really annoying to find they've gone through your things and deleted all the male names/numbers from your phone. I really take issue with this sort of personality and behaviour being glorified when in fact Travis will probably end up bashing Abby and whoever else he dates/marries.

Travis felt like the boy from a teenage girl's fantasy. He's good looking, cool, everyone wants him. He's experienced, but he's used protection with all the girls he's slept with and has never let any of them in his bed. Until he meets Abby of course. And then the story involves special-girl-syndrome, because once he meets Abby he has a cutesy nickname for her within minutes, he ignores and is rude to other girls, lets her sleep in his bed, thinks she's too good to have sex with, and devotes all his time to her. And that's ok, most teenage girls will have ideas like this about boys, but it's been done before in lots of YA books, and let's face it, it's not realistic.

And the main girl, Abby Abernathy, wasn't a great example for girls, either. She flailed around and whined about everything, overreacted to the smallest things, said one thing while meaning another, said something else and then contradicted herself with her actions. I had no interest in her secret past and felt that plot line was just filler in the middle. She was annoying and I personally would not put up with a friend like her.

The use of the word Pigeon, or Pidge, as a nickname was so hilarious that I can’t even find it that annoying. I do think that using Pidge 136 times and Pigeon 97 times was extremely excessive. 

I didn't mind the first 40% and I think the story should have ended after Travis got up in the cafeteria and sang Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones - it was the best bit of the book and reminded me of Jeff from Community singing Evil Woman (3.38).

I can't say that I'd recommend this book to anyone, even though I did find it hard to put down, because I have a feeling I just got lucky with my timing and this easily could have been a DNF for me.

Kill the Possum by James Moloney
Source: library
Rating: 1 paw (but if I could give it minus 100 then I would)

From the blurb: A girl desperate to live a normal life. A family tormented by a monster's cruelty. Two boys with a plan to make him stop. Forever.

Sometimes books make me mad. Usually I am lucky and I read good book after good book, but this book really struck a nerve with me and I found it infuriating. Maybe the title should have been a giant warning to me, but the blurb makes no mention of the sub-plot. Also, I really didn't think this YA book would involve a teenager killing an animal.

I am going to spoil the shiitake out of this book, but that’s because I do not recommend that anyone reads it.

Fifteen year old Kirsty Beale lives with her mother, her younger brother, Tim, and her younger half-sister, Melanie. Every second weekend they drop Melanie off at Ian Cartwright’s house, Kirsty and Tim’ ex-stepfather. Kirsty's mum married him after the death of her first husband, who was a lovely husband & father. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Ian. He turned out to be controlling, manipulative, a liar, and abusive. He beat his wife and Tim, and attempted to sexually assault Kirsty and when caught, tried to blame it on her - she was only thirteen at the time. Her mother, who is described as being weak and with possible mental health issues, finally divorced him but he got visitation rights hence the fortnightly weekend visits with his daughter, Melanie. Every second Sunday when he returns with Melanie, he leaves her in the car while he forces himself inside and verbally abuses the Beale family. He no longer touches them, that would leave evidence, but he makes sure they are scared and vulnerable. It takes them days to recover, Tim often skips school and drinks – though no mention is made of how a 12 or 13 year old boy obtains alcohol (it’s not from inside the house).

One weekend, a classmate of Kirsty’s, Dylan drops round, he gets there just before Ian arrives and is caught up in the confusion and panic. He stands just outside the living room and is witness to Ian’s behaviour and is shocked by it. He can’t get the family’s distress out of his mind and immediately wants to help them. Sounds like an ok guy, right? Yeah, not for long.

Kirsty and Tim have lots of reasons why they cannot do anything about Ian. If they lock the doors in the hope that he will just leave Melanie on the doorstep, he won’t drop her off. They can’t ask anyone to be at the house because he drops Melanie off during the afternoon, but they never know when exactly. Ian’s brother is a cop and together they have spread rumours that Mrs Beale made it all up and is an unreliable witness. So Tim and Dylan come up with a plan to kill Ian, sure it’s their only option.

At first I thought this would be a bit like Heathers, a black, satirical look at what would happen if you took this problem into your own hands. But it's not, it just creepy and horrid.

Dylan has a possum in his roof, his grandad lends him a cage in which he traps the possum. His grandfather comes over to help find the hole in the roof so they can patch it and suggests waiting until dark to release the possum. But Dylan has an idea in his stupid head. He brings Tim over one afternoon. They’re getting more serious about their plan to murder Ian, and he wants Tim to do some damage to an old mannequin in their garage, to see if he can do it. Tim does but Dylan suggests it’s not enough and attempts to bully Tim into killing the possum.

I was listening to this as I drove home and when this scene started, from the moment I realised where this was going, I felt sick. Thankfully Tim can’t do it, and I was relieved. Killing an innocent animal in cold blood has nothing to do with killing a man who has abused you, your mother and your sister, especially if you do it hot blooded. These two actions are not related and the first will not prove the other.

I thought it was over, but no, Dylan has major issues. He’s mad because his father left before he was one year old and now has a new family in England. He takes some advice from his grandfather, twists it to suit his intentions, and then he kills the possum.

The scenes involving the boys and the possum weren't even believable, it turns out the possum is a brushtail, the biggest ones we have here, and they can be really aggressive when caught. As a former vet nurse, I do not believe that two boys were able to handle the possum the way they did.

I won’t go into details because unlike the author I do not want to give people ideas. Things like this happen all the time. Yesterday, I read about 4 different incidents in which people had violently killed Australian native animals, just like Dylan and the possum. It really did not need to happen, he could have justified his ability to kill Ian another way, and he doesn't even end up killing Ian, he freaks out and can’t do it. So the whole scene was useless and sickening.

I'm not a fan of the idea for having a system of ratings for books, like we have for movies, because I do think kids are smart enough to read a book and be able to distance themselves from it, or realise it’s a bit too old for them, or that they shouldn't copy what happens in a book, but I do think there are some topics that should not be written about, and especially not justified - this includes rape, and animal cruelty.

The ending is messy - the boys steal Ian's gun and Tim hides it at his house. Ian shows up when he realises it's been stolen. He tries to kill Tim but ends up shooting Kirsty and then himself. Tim ends up in hospital and then a psych ward and Dylan gets away with playing his part, the cops even think he's a good guy because they assume he and Tim were stealing the gun so Ian couldn't use it, not because they had plans to kill him. Dylan never speaks up and the book ends there.

At the beginning I wanted to hold this up as a book that fans of Beautiful Disaster should read because Ian is a horrible person, and this could easily be Travis’ future. But then this book turned out to be awful and now I just hope that no one else reads it. 

I have another 2 of the author's books but I won't be reading any more.


Kristin said...

I actually really enjoyed BD but I also didn't swoon over the guy either. I found their relationship to be a hot mess but it was entertaining. Even though you didn't like the use of Pidge or Pigeon, it's a heck of a lot better than having the MC's call each other baby the entire time. That makes me want to yack every time. LoL But then against, maybe it's just me. Great review!

Anna Scott said...

I've heard a few bad things about Beautiful Disaster, enough for me to guess that it probably isn't for me. I've never heard the James Molony one, but I have read one of his books before. Can't remember the title, but I do remember it was incredibly dull. And that he was labouring under the assumption that teenagers like Nickelback :/
But this one just sounds...weird. And out to shock. Which is never a good thing.
Thanks for these reviews Mand :)

TwoGirlsandaNovel said...

I had a similar experience reading The Boy Who Sneaks in my Bedroom Window by Kristy Moseley. Abusive father, weak mother, brother and best friend drive father away in a brutal attack and then the main girl spends every night since she was 8 with the brother's best friend DESPITE telling everyone he's an arsehole during the day - all cocky and horrible. But it's ok for him to hold her every night and for him to take her out of school and to slap her on the arse in the school hallway. I have no idea how the book ended because I just couldn't stand to read any more of it.

I thought it was going to be a really good book, because it was in the Goodreads Awards last year and people were rating it highly. But I just couldn't imagine how it was getting rave reviews. The writing and plot were terrible and this supposed best friend - a hottie and "super cool" guy - was getting so many fans. It made no sense to me.

People keep telling me to read Beautiful Disaster, but I think I'm going to avoid it.


Keertana said...

I'm the past year that I've gotten to know you, Mandee, I have never seen you give a book 1 Star, so that speaks volumes about these two novels. I couldn't agree with you more on the issue of BD - it disgusted me. I hated Travis (that scene where he has a threesome on the couch while Abby is in his room trying to sleep? Ugh!), I hated Abby, and I absolutely detested the ending. It's a shame that literature teaches us that these are the sort of people we should find to spend our lives with when they are the absolute worst type of people out there. I wasn't sure any book could rival BD, but the second book sounds even worse. I haven't read it and I'm already angry about it. I'm so sorry you had to read these two horrible novels, Mandee, and I sincerely hope your next book is MUCH better! :)

Sam said...

Funnily enough, I found Beautiful Disaster a little hard to put down, too. It was almost like watching a car crash - I just couldn't look away. I did like parts of it well enough to give it one and a half starts more though, but I agree that it was disappointing. I haven't heard of Kill the Possum and I'm pretty sure that it isn't for me. Sorry neither of these worked for you, Mandee, but great honest reviews!

YA Anonymous said...

Wasn't her use of Satisfaction the reason there was so much drama (again!) because it was a major copyright violation? Travis is no Jeff Winger! I haven't read Beautiful Disaster and everything I've heard about it is telling me to avoid it at all costs. I'm glad no cats were bothered to take pics with these books!

Sophia said...

I agree with Keertana--I don't think I've ever seen you give a 1 paw review. And here are two! Wow. I've heard SO many awful things about Beautiful Disaster that I know to steer clear from it. The mention of Travis and his type of character make me want to bang my head into something. I hadn't heard of Kill the Possum, but since you don't recommend it, I think I'll pass on it. Thanks so much for the warnings, Mandee! I sincerely hope your next reads are immensely better. :)

Jennifer Messerschmidt said...

Beautiful Disaster is hard to put down! As I said in my review it's a train wreck you can't look away from. I don't want a relationship like that but I did enjoy reading about it and will read the next book from Travis's POV.

Alex (A Girl, Books, OtherThings) said...

so Beautiful Disaster sounds like I imagined, readable but kind of garbagey at the same time, doesn't really stand for analysis and all that.

But Kill the Possum? I would never ever read that!!!
OMG!!! killing of innocent animals? that should come with a parental warning at least!. It sounds awful

Belle said...

I didn't think I would read BD because of all the negative reviews I've read, and yours confirms it. How anyone can think that relationship is romantic from is beyond me.
Kill the Possum is definitely not for me either.

Erin W. said...

Great reviews! I know exactly what you mean with Beautiful Disaster. Travis Maddox was just . . . well let's just say he is an awful example of a great boyfriend and is far from it. And his nickname for Abby . . . I found it absolutely annoying. Hehe.

Hilda K said...

Fabulous reviews, Mandee! I picked up Beautiful Disaster few months ago and ended up skimming it. I can understand why some love it, but it's just not one for me. I can't stand Travis' abusive side. >.< Although far-fetched, it's kind of romantic that Travis knows instantly Abby is the one. Too perfect to happen in real life though haha. :P

Kill the Possum is totally not for me - the idea of killing innocent animal in cold blood drives me mad. >:| That book seems to be full of strange, strange people. Thank you for the warning though, Mandee! I'll make sure to steer clear out of that book! :)

Hope you're going to read a good book soon! <3

Michelle said...

Ick! Both these books sound creepy and infuriating. Knowing out similar reading tastes I can see they would definitely not be for me. Hope your next book is so amazing, you can forget these!

Lauren said...

"I feel like this book needs to come with a warning, or a Ryan Gosling meme that says “Hey Girl, this is not the sort of relationship you should be looking for. And if you’re in one, DTMFA.” <---OMG, this made me seriously crack up!

I still haven't jumped on this train yet, and thanks to your review, I feel pretty good about that decision. :-)

(Oh and THANK YOU for linking to that Community clip—so freaking hilarious!)

And Kill the Possum sounds like a total hot mess. A Heathers style story would have been awesome, but this just sounds creepy and bizarre.

Katja Weinert said...

I stayed away from Beautiful Disaster too, it encourages women to baby men who have a low self-esteem. A guy who manipulates you and controls who you're friends with is a passive aggressive person who doesn't know how to connect healthily on the emotional level. Some guys are victims of such relationships too, and I don't mind reading about toxic relationships if the other person figures it out, but if the behaviour is normalised I despair. We're meant to be happy in life, be a friend to an emotionally confused person, but be warned off from romantic entanglement, because if they don't want to change - and only they can change themselves, it's not the other persons task to change them - life can become a hell filled with unnecessary drama...rant...grrr...Just don't go there guys and gals, lol.

The possum book just sounds horrendous, I think it would have been a DNF for me.

Grad Student @ Young Adult Fiction and Whiskey Sours said...

"special-girl-syndrome" IS A FANTASTIC term. I have not heard it before and am giving you credit for it- why is that everyone in YA books? whats wrong with being normal?

Livvy said...

I agree with all your thoughts on Beautiful Disaster.

Travis is not a good example of a boyfriend, but weirdly the book was addictive. Like you I did like the first 40% despite not liking the characters of their actions.

Fab reviews! :)

lunaslittlelibrary said...

I gave up on Beautiful Disaster after the first 200 pages. I agree that reading it wasn't hard but when I went to pick it up the next day I just couldn't because all I could think was "WRONG".

Leah said...

Um, no. No, no, NO. Animal cruelty is NEVER okay, especially when it's only added for shock value. I have absolutely nothing else to add other than I will never give this book a second glance.

I've been hearing a ton of mixed reviews for Beautiful Disaster. I haven't read it and it doesn't sound like my kind of book, but some bloggers I like a lot have really enjoyed it. Admittedly, they've stated they're aware that it's a Bad Relationship, so at least there's that?

Mandee said...

Kristin – ha, overuse of the word babe/baby is SO bad!

Anna – Nickelback – ha! I’ve read 2 others of his but won’t be reading anymore

Kim – that sounds pretty bad, I’ll make a note *not* to read it!

Keertana – I really did feel strongly about giving these 1 star, I just felt like anymore was lying to myself. I feel the same way you did, disgusted.

Sam – I was almost going to give BD at least 2 stars but in the end I couldn’t. I agree, it was hard to put down.

Magz – I’ve only heard about the author’s bad behaviour, nothing about copyright, but I bet that was an issue, she includes the whole song. Yep, no cats, they didn’t want to be seen with either of these books

Sophia – thanks, my last couple of reads have been better!

Jennifer – yup, I agree with the train wreck analogy!

Alex – I’m glad KtP doesn’t sound like a good read to you either, I sort of felt like people might think I was overreacting.

Belle – I really don’t get it either, B!

Erin – haha, it was annoying, wasn’t it!?

Hilda – I can understand too, but the abuse was just too much for me.

Michelle – they were! And my last few reads have made me feel much better :)

Lauren – haha, I’m glad you found that funny :) Also, yay Community!

Katja – yes, you’re right about babying boys/men and thinking they can change them. It’s terrible.

Grad Student – Haha, I’m glad you like my new term! Exactly, why aren’t there just normal kids, kicking around these stories?

Livvy – I know, it was hard to read this because it could have been enjoyable, but the abuse made me feel bad for even reading it

Luna – yes, WRONG is the perfect word for it

Leah – I’m glad you feel so strongly about animal cruelty, too. And I can understand enjoying BD while stating that it’s a bad example of a relationship.

Flannery (The Readventurer) said...

Like you, I've heard about how unhealthy this relationship is. Unlike you, I think/know I can restrain myself from experiencing what I think would probably be a total trainwreck for me:) I am not surprised you felt this way about either book--I didn't know what Kill the Possum was about and I'm not sure about that one working for me either. Like some other commenters, I was surprised to see a 1 star review from you. AND spoilers! I'm always trying to get you to spoil everything. *sigh*

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