‘Walking Disaster’ review: Chapter Three

This is a chapter-by-chapter review of problematic romance novel ‘Walking Disaster’ by Jamie McGuire. Posts in the series will all be linked back to the initial post, here. ‘Walking Disaster’ is a companion novel to ‘Beautiful Disaster’, which is being snark-reviewed by the magnificent Jenny Trout.


Chapter Three: White Knight

Travis is back at his apartment talking with Shepley, who is still worrying that Travis’s attempted romance with Abby is going to screw things up for himself and America. He’s convinced ‘she’s the one’ even though he’s only been with her for a couple of months…

Aha! One of the things bugging Jenny, in her recaps, is that there’s so little indication of how old these people are/how far they are into college. I think I’ve actually put it together now. While reading the beginning of this book on Amazon, I noticed a spin-off novella about Shepley and America, and at the beginning of that one we find out that Shepley first saw America when they were both at freshman orientation, and that Travis had been through freshman orientation last year. Now we find out that Shepley only met America a couple of months ago. That puts America, Abby, and Shepley all near the beginning of freshman year, and Travis near the beginning of sophomore year. Which also fits in with the scene in Chapter One where Travis was looking at the women surrounding him in the lecture hall and remembering that he’d had sex with half of them in freshman year and the other half before fall break; I don’t see Travis taking a year out from his sexual activities.

So that means we’re up to shortly after fall break (I assume that’s halfway through the autumn term?) of Travis’s second year at college and Abby, Shepley, and America’s first year. Hooray! Got that sorted. Must let Jenny know; she’ll be pleased. Right, where were we?

Travis is shaking his head over Shepley’s predilection for falling in love and getting all starry-eyed (which Travis describes more crudely). Because apparently Shepley has a history of this happening, and…

He always ended up getting his heart broken, and then I had to make sure he didn’t drink himself to death for six months solid.

This has happened multiple times before he even got to college? That sounds like a heck of a lot of underage drinking.

(Oh, I forgot to say that Shepley is actually Travis’s cousin, not just his roommate. This is largely because McGuire also forgot to say this, so I didn’t learn it at the point she introduced Shepley and it only came up at the end of Chapter One when Travis called him ‘Cousin’. This is how Travis knows Shepley from prior to university.)

Travis muses on how he’s never going to get that fixed on one girl, it just isn’t worth it, if a woman doesn’t want him he’ll just let her walk away. Gee, I wonder whether there might be some ironic foreshadowing going on? Then he goes to bed and lies awake thinking about Abby for two hours before getting up and drinking Jack Daniels. Clearly a man with good, healthy coping skills when stressed.

Next day, Travis charges over to the cafeteria for lunch and smirks when he sees Abby there. This had me flashing back to those bits at the beginning of CCCFK where Wallace kept describing Jeffries as ‘smirking’ even though Jeffries was supposed to be based on someone Wallace really respected, leaving me wondering whether he just didn’t know what the word meant or what. Of course, in Travis’s case it’s a mere drop to add to the ocean of his unpleasantness.

Travis wants to sit opposite Abby, but Brazil’s already sitting there. Because this is Travis, he solves this little problem by saying to Brazil ‘”You’re sittin’ in my seat”‘ and then just standing over him until he gets up and moves. Travis is astonished that Abby isn’t angry with him. Yes, so am I. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to represent any kind of recognition that he was out of line; he’s just used to Abby being angry with him, so he’s surprised that that isn’t happening this time.

America and Shepley are there. We once again get the whole topic of how Shepley’s scared that Travis is going to shag and dump Abby and thus screw things up for him with America. America and Abby both tell him that everything’s fine because Travis isn’t going to sleep with Abby. No-one seems to be addressing the question of whether America would leave Shepley if Travis dumped Abby. This seems like it’d be a key point here anyway, but there’s also another twist that Travis isn’t aware of; in ‘Beautiful Disaster’, there’s a conversation between Abby and America in Chapter One in which America basically just tells Abby to sleep with Travis and get it over with. As far as I can see, the options here are that either America wouldn’t consider Travis dumping Abby reason for her to dump Shepley, in which case she should just reassure him of this so that he can stop worrying over whether or not it happens, or she would consider it reason, in which case it’s pretty worrying that she was giving Abby that advice. (I mean, it’s worrying anyway because it’s lousy advice to give someone, but in this case it would also be worrying for her relationship.)

Travis’s contribution to this whole discussion, by the way, is to throw a ketchup packet at Shepley because he hopes this will lighten the mood. This is the third food-throwing incident we’ve had in two cafeteria scenes. I’m going to have to revise my above estimate of their ages; apparently, they’re actually all toddlers.

Huh, just realised one thing; at least, this time, we weren’t treated to the image of Travis having to run the Gauntlet Of Brazen Hussies. So that’s something, I guess.

Oh, one thing Travis notices in all this is that Abby is ‘mortified by any attention whatsoever’. I’m mentioning this because I already know from Jenny’s recaps that this will not lead to him carefully avoiding drawing any attention to Abby.

We then get this surprising passage:

I don’t know why I was so worried. It wasn’t like I wanted to date her or anything. She just seemed like the perfect platonic experiment.

Saywhatnow? I mean, apart from the fact that I have no idea what Travis means by ‘perfect platonic experiment’. A chapter ago, wasn’t he planning a whole strategy around wanting to be with her? I mean, given the conversation they’ve had since, it would actually be perfectly reasonable if he’d decided to accept that she didn’t want either sex or romance with him and just focus on being friends instead… it’s just whiplash-inducing that his inner monologue seems to have switched straight to talking as though his desire for more to happen never existed in the first place.

Travis asks Abby whether she’s studied for the biology test they’re having that afternoon, and finds out she’s no good at biology, so he leaps at the chance to announce that he’ll help her study. As Jenny pointed out in her recap of this scene, this would be a lot nicer if he offered instead of just stating that he’s going to help her and expecting her to drop everything and come with him. However, Abby comes along with him and hangs on his every word, and it sounds as though he actually manages to be quite helpful as far as teaching her biology is concerned. And, amazingly, manages not to flirt with or harass her the entire time, at least in his version of events. (OK; just checked the scene in ‘Beautiful’, and, same thing. So, while he’s pushy about getting her to study with him, at least he’s helpful when she does.)

Also, he comments that the mattress in her room is really uncomfortable to sit on, and decides that the reason the women at this school are so cranky is because they can’t get a good night’s sleep. Actually, Travis, it’s just the effect you have on them; when you’re not around, they’re fine.

Travis sees her into class. As he does so, a guy called Parker Hayes comes by and greets Travis. He is, Travis tells us, a douche, and Travis hates him. That sounds like a good sign. Travis’s issue with Parker, apparently, is that he’s also a womaniser but isn’t honest about it; he ‘pretended to care and then let them down easy’. In the very next paragraph, we hear about the time that Travis took a woman home for a one-night stand and the woman got pissed off when Travis ‘didn’t pretend to want a relationship afterward’. So… if Travis is being so honest with the women he sleeps with, why did it come as news to her that he didn’t want a relationship? Didn’t he make this clear to her before he slept with her? Wouldn’t that have been the honest thing to do? Anyway, the woman called her friend, who was with Parker, who came and got her and then used the story about how he ‘saved’ her to score points with other women. (This, apparently, is where the ‘White Knight’ of the chapter title comes from.)

Also, there’s some weird thing where Parker keeps trying to sleep with the women Travis has already slept with, which Travis, being Travis, refers to as ‘sloppy seconds’. So, when Parker sees Travis with Abby, he immediately says hi to Abby as well, and Abby looks confused that he’s started talking to her. Travis tells us that Parker had had class with Abby for several weeks and was just now showing interest. Kind of like you, Travis, in that case? Travis reluctantly introduces Parker as one of his Sig Tau brothers, and Abby’s surprised that Travis is in a frat because he doesn’t seem like the type (because he has tattoos, apparently). Travis explains it’s because his father and brothers were in the same frat. Abby goes into class and Travis leaves, in a horrible mood because he hates the thought of Parker ‘sleazing his way into Abby’s good graces’. Yeah, apparently only Travis is allowed to do that.

We then get this:

I had notoriously been a piece of shit to every girl with whom I’d had a private conversation over the age of sixteen – since I was fifteen.

Apart from this being an unexpected degree of honesty, it’s also not a very well-written sentence; it makes it sound as though some of Travis’s private conversations were over the age of sixteen.

Travis gets back to his apartment and snaps at Shepley, who realises that the reason he’s so annoyed is because he’s really into Abby. He thinks Abby is too good for him and shouldn’t be with him. Of course, he doesn’t want her to be with anyone else, either, so he’s got a dilemma. He doesn’t want to talk to Shep about this any more, so the chapter ends. This, by the way, puts us part way through the second chapter in ‘Beautiful Disaster’.


  1. ridana says

    I translated it from the original McGuirese as “Since I was fifteen, I had notoriously been a piece of shit to every girl over the age of sixteen with whom I’d had a private conversation.” But the sentence is so poorly constructed, she could just as easily have meant he was a conversational shit since the age of 15 and continuing on past turning 16, i.e., right on up to now.

  2. NavigatorBR says

    > Fall Break
    I have no idea what this is supposed to be, because we didn’t have a break in the middle of the fall semester. We did have two days off, Labor Day (1st Monday in September) and ‘Reading day’ which was study day that I think existed to balance the day off on Labor Day for number of classes, since Reading Day was always a Tuesday, in October. Neither of these are ever referred to as a ‘break’ since you really can’t travel and are allowed to stay on campus for them.
    “Thanksgiving Break” is in the only true ‘break’ in the Fall semester, where you have to go home, but it’s the last or 2nd to last week of November, usually two weeks before finals, semester is basically over at this point. Nobody would *ever* refer to it as a midpoint. It’s also *always* called “Thanksgiving Break”.
    *And, I know that it *isn’t* Thanksgiving Break, because that’s coming in another like 5 chapters and at least a month down the the timeline. This timeline actually makes no sense, unless, the author seriously meant ‘Labor Day Weekend’ as ‘Fall Break’, which is like a week or two into the semester, and again, nobody refers to it as a ‘break’ or as ‘Fall Break’, but it is a 3 day weekend, since Labor Day always falls on a Monday.
    God that’s what she meant… *facepalm*
    I hate that I just put this much thought into this… Loving the review though, great job, keep it up!

  3. Dr Sarah says

    That’s a plausible translation, and a seriously sad one if it is correct; the implication there is that something about a girl hitting sexual maturity triggers his nastiness to them. Argh; maybe we’re better off just not knowing what the hell McGuire means here.

  4. Dr Sarah says

    Thank you, on both counts! If that is what she meant, then sounds as though Travis did some serious shagging in his first week or two of this term (although I suppose we don’t know how many women were in the group of which half became his sex partners between the start of the semester and the oddly-named ‘fall break’).

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