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.
Well, the first chapter lived up to the book’s title. I’m not holding my breath for the second one to be any better.
By the way; for those interested in keeping up with Jenny Trout’s snark-reviews of ‘Beautiful Disaster’, she now has Chapter Three up. That book isn’t getting any better either, but, as always, Jenny’s comments on it are definitely worth a read.
Back to ‘Walking Disaster’. Brace yourselves, everyone; here goes with Chapter Two. Wait, content warnings first:
- Swearing (mine)
- Swearing (Travis’s)
- Mention of violence (only insofar as referring back to the first chapter)
- Male main character being pushy and ignoring boundaries (yeah, what a surprise)
- Objectification of female main character
Chapter Two: Backfire
This chapter starts with Travis cleaning up the apartment ready for Abby’s visit that evening, making sure he hasn’t left any condom wrappers lying around.
Pretty sure I didn’t quote the line, but, at the end of the lunchroom scene in the previous novel Travis assured us that he didn’t want to fuck Abby. This opinion appears to have lasted only hours.
Pigeon, though. It would take far more than false advertising to bag her on my couch. At this point, the strategy was to take her one step at a time. If I focused on the end result, the process could easily be fucked up.
You know, this attitude is ringing some bells. Remember this, from the beginning of the last chapter?
Fucking vultures, they could wait you out for hours. Days. Nights, too. Staring right through you, picking which parts of you they will pull away first, which pieces will be the sweetest, the most tender, or just which part will be most convenient.
And remember how this description specifically included women who wanted a relationship with him despite his clear lack of interest?
But of course, it’s fine for Travis to treat someone else this way.
Abby and America arrive. Shepley normally listens out for America’s car so that he can be waiting at the door for her, so Travis thinks he’s a pussy. I think Travis might be managing to be even less charming than in the last chapter.
Abby’s turned up in manky clothes, glasses, no makeup and a boring hairstyle. In ‘Beautiful Disaster’, we learn that this is a deliberate plot of hers to put Travis off. Here, Travis sees through it immediately and thinks she looks gorgeous anyway. Of course, it doesn’t even occur to him to pay any attention to the fact that she’s trying so hard to put him off; he doesn’t care how she feels except insofar as it’s an obstacle or a help to him getting what he wants.
The book summarises their conversation rather than repeat it all from ‘Beautiful’. Oh, well, better than in the first chapter when McGuire just skipped the first bit of their conversation without even mentioning it happened (she did this in the scene in the lecture theatre as well, BTW). We do get the line about how Travis learned to fight the way he does:
“I had a dad with a drinking problem and a bad temper, and four older brothers that carried the asshole gene.”
The fight described at the beginning of ‘Beautiful Disaster’, you might recall, ended in Travis smashing his opponent’s nose and beating him unconscious. If he learned how to fight that way in his family, that is one frighteningly dysfunctional family.
Of course, the description of all four of Travis’s brothers as carrying the ‘asshole gene’ is seriously at odds with the sweet little scene we get at the end of the prologue where Thomas is trying to take care of Travis after they’ve both just lost their mother. McGuire wrote ‘Beautiful Disaster’ first, so I’m guessing she didn’t bother with trying to make that bit consistent, but it’s a shame; so far, that’s the only bit of writing in this book that I’ve actually liked.
Travis pushes Abby into coming out for a pizza with him even though she’s clearly not keen, taking her on his motorcycle. At this point we once again skip over a bit of dialogue that was in ‘Beautiful’, and one of the bits we skip is where Abby points out to Travis that she’s wearing flip-flops, whereupon he stares at her as if she’d ‘spoken a foreign language’ and tells her ‘”I’m wearing boots. Get on.”‘ I’d been looking forward to reading this bit from Travis’s POV; I wanted, if that’s the right word, to see how he justified this screw-you-I’m-OK attitude to his love interest. Oh, well, I guess this is my answer; it isn’t even important enough to Travis to register in his mind.
(And I do wonder whether the Doylistic answer to why that particular line was left out is that even the author realised – on some level, even if not consciously – that there was just no way she could describe that bit of dialogue from Travis’s POV without it sounding anything other than terrible.)
While they’re on the bike, Travis thinks he’s had a realisation about Abby:
She hated me on sight because she’d been burned by someone like me before.
That’s quite a conclusion to jump to, especially given all the other reasons you’re giving her to dislike you. I think this might be one of those books where the author chooses to move the plot forwards by Main Character Telepathy rather than actually having to go to the bother of writing it.
No way was she a slut, though. Not even a reformed slut. I could spot them a mile away.
Gee, can you spot a hypocrite when you’re looking at the mirror right in front of you?
My game face slowly melted away.
Hang on, I want to take a second to enjoy the pleasant fantasy of Travis’s face slowly melting. Mmmm, that felt good. Back now.
I’d finally found a girl that was interesting enough to get to know, and a version of me had already hurt her.
In an even remotely good book, this could have been such a great moment of epiphany. The character starts thinking, for the first time, about the effect his actions have on others. He starts feeling remorse. He starts thinking about how to do differently. It’s a turning point in his character arc.
Unfortunately, we’re in this book, so I’m guessing none of this is going to happen.
Even though we’d just met, the thought of some jackhole hurting Pidge infuriated me. Abby associating me with someone that would hurt her was even worse.
Priorities, amirite? I suppose it’s something that he cares about Abby getting hurt, but he’s still finding that thought less important than the prospect that this might impact on him. Our romantic hero, ladies and gentlemen!
It now turns out that, while he was getting angry about the thought of some hypothetical person hurting Abby emotionally, he was completely ignoring the possible risk he was running of hurting her physically. And thus, he’s not only ignoring Abby’s lack of safety gear (no, there was no mention of him giving her a helmet either), he’s also driving much too fast on his motorbike. Luckily for the two of them, they have plot armour and so do not actually end up splattered over the road; the first he realises that he was going too fast is when he parks and Abby starts yelling at him. Which makes Travis laugh, because in his twisted mind that’s an appropriate response to someone he supposedly cares about being legitimately angry that his actions put her in danger. He assures her that he’d never let anything happen to her. Gee, I’m sure she feels so much better now.
Travis holds the door to the restaurant open for her, which is quite a big moment for him because it involves him doing something slightly decent for someone of the female gender and thus is entirely new territory for him. Abby is too angry to notice or care. You don’t say.
The soccer team are in the restaurant, and start howling about Travis having walked in with a date, so he worries about Abby hearing. Travis briefly experiences the hitherto unknown-to-him sensation of embarrassment about his behaviour, but immediately gets over it because seeing Abby cranky and annoyed cheers him up so much. (I think the ‘seeing Abby’ bit is meant to be the bit that cheers up him, not the ‘seeing that she’s cranky and annoyed’ bit, but I’m not feeling like giving him the benefit of much doubt at this point.)
Travis describes the waitress as ‘blatantly flirting’ with him, which, interestingly, isn’t mentioned in Abby’s description of the same scene in ‘Beautiful’, so this just came across to me as Travis being so full of himself he thinks women are all over him when they’re really not. Abby looks unhappy, and Travis, astonishingly, thinks this:
Wait. Maybe the way I was treated by women was a turnoff.
‘Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it. Thank you.’
Travis asks her if she’s a man-hater in general or if it’s just him. For some reason, when the answer is that she thinks it’s just him, he tells her he can’t figure her out. Gee, Travis, I thought that answer was astonishingly easy to understand, under the circumstances. Travis assures her she’s the first girl who’s ever been disgusted with him before sex. No, Travis; all the other people who feel that way have just managed to avoid you successfully.
“You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t like me.”
No, Travis; she wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t badgered her into it. Not the same thing.
Abby tells him she didn’t say he was a bad person. Well, do say it, Abby, because he is. Better yet, just get the hell out of there and steer clear of him in future. She tells him “I just don’t like being a foregone conclusion for the sole reason of having a vagina” which is actually one of the few genuinely good lines in the book so far. It completely cracks Travis up, anyway (although that seems to be largely relief over the “I didn’t say you were a bad person” line because THIS MEANS HE HAS A CHANCE! Sigh.) Anyway, he insists that they have to be friends and he ‘won’t take no for an answer’ because of course he won’t. Sigh.
Abby, in spite of everything that has gone on so far, tells him she doesn’t mind being friends “…but that doesn’t mean you have to try to get in my panties every five seconds.” Travis assures her that he gets the fact that she’s not sleeping with him, and promptly responds to her smile with:
My brain flashed like channels through Pigeon porn
One for the ‘sentences that can be misinterpreted’ category…
And, to be fair, the sentence does go on to:
and then the whole system crashed, and an infomercial about nobility and not wanting to screw up this weird friendship we’d just begun appeared in its place.
Which actually looked for a moment as though we were going to get a learning arc and some positive character development. But then, with absolutely no apparent sense of irony;
Of course, my eyes went right to her tits.
Of course, they did. Of course. This, by the way, was right after he’s assured her that he won’t even think about her panties unless she wants him to. Well, I suppose technically he’s keeping to what he said…
She tells him that that (her wanting him to think about her panties) isn’t going to happen, so they can be friends. Travis thinks ‘Challenge accepted’, which, for my own mental well-being, I shall choose to interpret as ‘The challenge of maintaining a friendship without bringing sex into it has been accepted’ and not as ‘The challenge of persuading this woman to have sex with me in spite of her clear statements that she doesn’t want to has been accepted’.
They move on to actual conversation. Thank goodness for that, because that ‘no, we won’t, really we won’t, not ever’ dialogue was seriously boring me. Abby asks about his nickname of ‘Mad Dog’, which makes Travis cringe because he hates that name and people keep using it anyway. I can’t remember whether I’ve actually said this in this recap, but Abby repeatedly tells him not to call her Pigeon, and he goes right ahead with doing it anyway. YES, TRAVIS, ISN’T IT ANNOYING WHEN PEOPLE KEEP USING A NICKNAME YOU DON’T WANT.
Abby wants to know a bit more about him, and we skip over more dialogue that was in ‘Beautiful’. Oddly enough, Travis tells us this:
Talking about myself – especially my past – was out of my comfort zone.
I say ‘oddly’, because it explicitly didn’t bother him when, earlier in the chapter, Abby asked him a question to which the answer included his father’s drinking problem and his family’s history of violence. At the time, he’s surprised that Shep and America look embarrassed on his behalf when the question’s asked, and tells us ‘I sure as hell didn’t mind’. Oh, well; who needs character continuity, eh?
By the way, one of the lines from ‘Beautiful’ that gets skipped over in this is Travis telling Abby that he can’t remember his mother at all. Of course, if that’s true, it completely removes the point of the whole story in the prologue about Travis learning from his mother that he should fight for the woman he wants. Which, of course, is a good lesson to forget completely, since the way it was phrased was setting Travis up to be a stalker and harasser (and, oh, look…), but makes me wonder what the point was of having the prologue there at all. Which, in turn, makes me wonder whether McGuire left that line out as an attempt at a retcon. Clumsy, if so; a better idea would have been to have that dialogue, but with Travis’s internal commentary telling us that he did remember his mother and just didn’t feel comfortable talking about her.
Meanwhile, the soccer team are still making stupid jokes about Travis and getting him increasingly angry. Abby wants to know what they’re saying (no, there is no apparent reason why he can hear everything they say and she can’t) and he eventually confesses that they’re making cracks about him having to take her to dinner ‘first’. He’s worried Abby’s going to storm out, but instead she confesses that she was worried they were joking about the way she was dressed.
They chat a bit more, and it turns out Abby moved away from her home state to go to university because she ‘just had to get away’ from her parents, and that talking about this fact clearly bothers her. Travis, in a hitherto unheard-of burst of tact, is actually about to respect her feelings and change the subject, but is interrupted anyway by another stupid joke from the soccer team. He’s had enough, so gets up and walks towards the team, which for some reason is enough to make them all run away despite the fact that they didn’t seem in the least afraid of him when they were sitting there cracking jokes at his expense. Yeah, that doesn’t make sense, but we’re now on the last page of this chapter and I want to get it finished so I’ll just ignore that and keep going. Travis refrains from chasing after the fleeing soccer team because:
Abby’s eyes penetrated the back of my head, bringing me back to my senses
If that’s meant metaphorically, it’s pretty weird; how the heck does he know she’s staring at the back of his head? I shall therefore entertain the hope that it was meant literally, which is weird on a whole different level but does at least enable me to enjoy the idea of Travis getting stabbed in the head.
Travis decides to move on with the conversation as if nothing happened, so he asks her why she chose this university. She says it ‘just felt right’, which resonates with Travis because it’s how he feels about being with Abby, so he smiles at her and tells her he knows what she means. Chapter ends.
This, by the way, for anyone keeping track of both recaps, is the end of Chapter One in ‘Beautiful’; McGuire split the same part of storyline into two chapters in this book. So, if you want to read the equivalent bit of ‘Beautiful’ being snark-reviewed by Jenny Trout, it’s here. Enjoy.