The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate percentage of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance between her and 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 needs—and wants—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.
On the surface, Abby appears to be easy-going, diligent and smart. No one, except her best friend, knows about her pain, her sense of vulnerability, her burden and her family struggles. When she meets Travis, the bad boy on campus, she feels the mutual attraction but tries to stay away from developing anything deeper than a platonic friendship with him. However, the longer she gets to know Travis, the more she realizes his gentler, caring side and she feels she can no longer resist his charm.
Travis knows how much he likes Abby but somehow finds himself not good enough for her. Even when they become a pair, he still feels Abby could easily slip away and he tries hard to come up with something – some form of good surprises, some form of security – to fortify their relationship. Unfortunately, his wanting to prove his capability somewhat blinds him from seeing what Abby truly wants and ends up causing undesirable consequences to their fragile relationship.
In the story, Abby and Travis make a lot of choices that I don’t quite agree but as I learn the backdrop of their upbringing, I start to see their worlds through their eyes and I begin to understand why they behave and withdraw in their own stubborn and imperfect ways.
What I really like about the story is the exploration into the topic of what money may do to a person. Although money is a form of a medium of exchange, a person may feel limited, trapped, aggravated or provoked when there is money involved in a dire situation. Both Abby and Travis suffer tremendously from money-induced circumstances and while money is not god, they somehow feel as though they were diminished to become its slaves.
This is a story that evokes sadness, sympathy and concern.
A coming-of-age novel, Beautiful Disaster illustrates growing pain from a level of intensity that I normally would not prefer to explore. This story offers a glimpse into the inner world of those who harbor blame, guilt and shame to the unbearable boiling point of explosive anger. While it is not healthy to release hurt in the form of manipulation or violence, McGuire offers a voice to those who feel powerless and helpless towards their unresolved growing pain and I commend her for bringing this somber topic to our attention.