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.
Content warning: Objectification of women.
Chapter Four: Distracted
The decision was crazy, but freeing.
Huh? What decision? What’d I miss?
OK, I flipped back to the last chapter. It ends with Travis recognising that he has a dilemma; a) he’s really attracted to Abby, and b) he believes that for her sake he shouldn’t make her into another one of his ‘conquests’, as he has so charmingly described them. This chapter goes on from that sentence to describe Travis hanging out with Abby as a friend. So apparently that’s the decision. It’s not ‘crazy’, but it’s still not a great decision; in the first place we all know how his inability to make a clean break is going to end, and in the second place it would be a heck of a lot better if his recognition that he’s treating women badly went beyond “Let’s spare this one woman whom I really like” and into “I need to sort my attitude out properly and treat women like human beings instead of being such a dipshit to them”.
So, Travis keeps hanging out with Abby. As you might expect, this means he just keeps feeling more attracted to her as he gets to know her better. We get a mention of details he’s noticing about her, which all seem to be about how she looks or smells rather than her personality. Well, apart from this one:
I even got a pretty good handle on which week I shouldn’t give her any extra shit, which, fortunately for Shepley, was the same week not to fuck with America. That way, we had three weeks to not be on guard instead of two, and we could give each other fair warning.
Apparently, as they’re women they obviously must suffer from PMT. And also apparently Shepley, despite having such a wonderful relationship with America who is the love of his life, can’t just discuss basic stuff like this with her directly.
We get a ‘NotLikeOtherGirls ™ about Abby’s lack of fussiness (good thing for you, isn’t it, Travis?). We learn that they get occasional questions about their relationship which Abby doesn’t like but which Travis deals with. Time passes and people speculate less, which sounds like the reverse of what would happen; the only way I can interpret this is that Trav’s got such a ‘fuck ’em and leave ’em’ reputation by now that people assume he can’t possibly be in a relationship with someone he spends this much time with. In which case, it becomes even less clear why so many women are chasing him and thinking he’ll date them. Probably because McGuire’s setting this up as some kind of stupid contest-type-thing in which every woman thinks she’s going to be the one to win him and Abby is the one who does because of her special specialness. Not a kind of plot I care for.
Meanwhile, Travis keeps fantasising about sex with Abby. For Travis, this means sex on the couch, because this is where he has sex, because of some kind of screwed-up issue about not letting women get close to him emotionally; so, when he starts imagining Abby in bed with him, he knows he’s got it bad and needs to stop focusing on her. So, does he decide to take a complete break from seeing her so that he can finally start to get over her? Hell, no. He decides:
The only cure was to stop thinking about her long enough to land my next conquest.
So he chooses a woman called Lucy, whose defining characteristics in Travis’s eyes are ‘fairly hot’, ‘never missed a chance to show off her cleavage’, and, wait for it… ‘very vocal about hating my guts’. This, of course, means that it takes him a mere thirty minutes to win her over and she’s ripping his clothes off almost as soon as they’re through his door. Yeah, McGuire, way to write your female characters as though you have any sort of decent opinion of women. This thirty minutes of winning over does, apparently, include ‘a tentative invite to the Red’; don’t know what ‘the Red’ is, but I’m guessing, given Travis’s history, that he does not mean to follow through on his invite. This, remember, is the guy who disliked Parker in the last chapter because he supposedly wasn’t being honest with women.
Travis has sex with Lucy and she leaves with ‘a smile on her face and disappointment in her eyes’, which sounds like a weird expression to have; I guess this is authorial code for ‘the sex was great but Travis won’t see her again’. Why would she have thought otherwise, given that she knew enough about Travis to hate him and thus can’t have had enough illusions to have expectations of him? Maybe the disappointment is in herself for sleeping with him, which would make complete sense.
Anyway, predictably, this does not help Travis get over Abby. Also, he actually feels guilty after having sex with Lucy, although we aren’t told whether this is because he regrets the way he’s treated Lucy or because he feels he’s in some way cheated on Abby.
The next day, he asks Abby to have lunch with him off-campus and she says no, saying she’s got to use her meal plan. (As far as I can work out, this seems to be a system where she gets meals on campus at no extra cost, or maybe reduced cost? If you’ve been to a US college with a meal plan, fill me in.) Travis doesn’t believe her but gives up on arguing the point because he’s having this argument via notes in the margins during their history lecture and is running out of space. I guess letting it go because he’s decided just to respect her decision and not hassle her about it would be too much for him.
In the cafeteria, Travis notices that there’s no orange juice left on the shelves and thus Abby hasn’t been able to get the can that she usually does. He therefore schmoozes one of the cafeteria ladies into getting one from the kitchen for him, by talking sympathetically to her about how hard she has to work here; this would have been nice if it hadn’t been so obviously manipulative. And if we hadn’t had this:
The cafeteria lady sized me up once before deciding I was going to cause her trouble, as most women did right before I made their thighs tingle.
If all these women are realising Travis is trouble, why are they so willing to have sex with him? I could buy it if it was just a few – people make foolish decisions sometimes – but he’s describing this as a regular thing. I wish McGuire was writing this in a way that showed any kind of respect for her own gender.
I tried to subdue my disgust as the thought of her thighs appeared in the dark corners of my mind.
Travis, fer cry yi yi, if you seriously have this much difficulty thinking of women in a way that is not sexualised then YOU HAVE A PROBLEM. SEEK HELP.
Anyway, the saga of the orange juice cannot simply end with Travis handing it to Abby and getting thanked, because this means that Travis has actually made a minor effort to do something nice for someone female, and Brazil regards this as quite outrageous behaviour:
“Did she turn you into a cabana boy, Travis? What’s next, fanning her with a palm tree leaf, wearing a Speedo?”
It’s a slippery slope downhill, I tell you.
Travis worries that he does look ‘a little bit like a pussy’. This is how he sees the act of doing a very minor favour for a friend who happens to be female. Our romantic hero, ladies and gentlemen. Abby jumps to Travis’s defence. Unfortunately, she decides the best way of doing this is by joining in with the toxic masculinity.
“You couldn’t fill a Speedo, Brazil. Shut the hell up.”
And from Travis, we get:
“Now I’ve seen it all. I was just defended by a girl.”
Somebody call Ripley’s!
Travis abandons his lunch, walks out, and stands outside the cafeteria smoking. Would he be allowed to smoke right outside the cafeteria? Anyway, he stands there feeling ‘pissed off and humiliated, or pissed off that I was humiliated’. Apparently, he’s just spent the past two years giving his frat brothers a hard time any time they suggest wanting anything other than sex with a girl. (Two years? By my calculations in the last post, he should still be in the first part of his second year here.) Now, he’s the one who wants to do more for Abby, and instead of being able to use this as a chance to move on from the way he used to think and act, he’s getting angry about the whole situation.
Oh; while this is going on, girls are ‘pawing’ at him. Back to the Gauntlet of Brazen Hussies, I guess. Fortunately, this time we aren’t given any further details on this point.
Abby comes out, and Travis says he’ll walk her to her next class. Abby points out that he doesn’t have to walk her to every class, and Travis feels stung by this. He then sees an attractive woman in a short skirt walk past, and decides that he has to ‘give up’ and ‘finally draw a line’. He tells Abby he’ll catch up with her later, then goes to chat up the woman, who he thinks wants him:
She had crossed my path on purpose, hoping her short skirt and hooker heels would get my attention.
Because there’s no way a woman (except Abby, because she’s NotLikeOtherGirls(tm)) could exist in Travis’s presence without this meaning she wants to get his attention.
The woman knows Travis by reputation. For some weird reason I was briefly hopeful that she’d totally blow him off and tell him she wanted nothing to do with him. As you’ve probably realised, that was ridiculously optimistic; what actually happens is that she’s wanted a one-night stand with him for the past year and is totally up for getting him home and ripping his clothes off. I’ll spare you the details, of which many are given; bottom line is that Travis is seriously distracted at key points by thoughts of Abby but goes ahead and has sex with the woman anyway. Chapter ends.
Good grief; this was Chapter Four, and the equivalent storyline in ‘Beautiful’ is still only partway through Chapter Two. I’ve checked; this book only has three chapters more than ‘Beautiful’, so they should start syncing up better at some point soon (either that, or we’re going to end up with some extremely long ones at some point in this book to average out). Anyway, if you want to read Jenny Trout’s review of the equivalent scenes in ‘Beautiful Disaster’, her review of Chapter Two is here. I’ll try to get the next chapter of ‘Walking’ done as soon as I can.