‘Walking Disaster’ review: Chapter Five

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.

I realised, from reading over the bit of Jenny Trout’s post that’s equivalent to Chapter Four in this book (which makes it the middle part of Chapter Two in ‘Beautiful Disaster’), that McGuire left out another scene in this book. In ‘Beautiful’, there’s a scene where, after a few weeks of tutoring from Travis, Abby gets excellent grades and Travis celebrates this by throwing her over his shoulder and running through the crowd of students shouting. I was going to comment on this because – while it’s potentially a nice scene in itself and you can see how, in the right context, it could work well to show an easy and affectionate friendship between two people – it’s completely at odds with Travis’s realisation in a previous chapter that Abby hates getting attention. Once you know that Travis knows this about Abby, that scene becomes yet another unpleasant example of him disregarding her wants.

Anyway… in ‘Walking Disaster’ that scene was left out completely. I’m never sure to what extent scenes are left out because McGuire realises on at least some level they are absolutely not going to work when seen from inside Travis’s head, and to what extent it’s that she just can’t be bothered to put them in, but on this occasion I do think it’s the latter; I just don’t think McGuire would have joined the dots in her own narrative enough to notice the problem. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t here. But it was in ‘Beautiful’, so, if retconning it out was McGuire’s intention, then she was a bit late in doing so. A better way to rescue that scene would have been to include it but to show Travis realising afterwards that it would have been embarrassing and awkward for Abby and that he shouldn’t have done it. As it is… yet another example of Travis being focused on how he wants to act at the expense of considering what Abby wants.

Oh, well. On with this one.

Content warning:

  • Misogynistic insults (some of them recapped from Chapter One by me in order to illustrate a point; some of them new to this chapter)
  • Swearing (mine)
  • Slut-shaming and prude-shaming (yup; can’t win)
  • Pushy, boundary-trampling behaviour


Chapter Five: Roommate

This chapter opens right after the last one ends; the woman (as yet unnamed in the text) who just had sex with Travis is in the bathroom, and Travis is channel-surfing and thinking he’ll actually get her number since she seemed fine with no-strings-attached sex and thus might be one of the few women whom he’s happy to call up for sex on a regular basis.

He hears Shepley get a text from America (he knows it’s from America because she’s changed Shepley’s text alert for her to a kissing noise, which Travis finds somewhat nauseating. I do not expect to be able to say this very often in this book, but… right there with you on this one, Travis.) He doesn’t pay too much attention until he notices Shepley running around clearing up, asks what’s going on, and learns that the boiler in America and Abby’s dorm is out ‘again’ and they’re on their way over to stay for a few days. (I note that Shepley didn’t think it important to check this with Travis – who is not only his flatmate but, according to ‘Beautiful Disaster’, the person who’s actually paying the rent – before agreeing.)

Their ETA is ten minutes, according to Shepley. Out of curiosity, I checked the same scene in ‘Beautiful Disaster’, and found that America and Abby take half an hour just to get packed after America sends the text to Shepley; either America was extremely optimistic about their timing, or Travis has spent quite a long time being oblivious to the cleanup job going on around him.

Shepley tells Travis to start helping him ‘and take your trash out’. For a pleasant few moments of innocence I thought this was just a reasonable request by Shepley for Travis to clear up rubbish that he’d left lying around… and then I realised that he was talking about the woman who just had sex with Travis.

Yes. This is how Shepley is willing to describe another human being, based, as far as we can see, purely on the fact that she was willing to have casual sex while female. He’s happy to live with, remain friends with, and take money from a man who has casual sex nonstop; but let a woman have casual sex, and, in his eyes, she is Travis’s trash.

Shepley, I was willing to cut you some slack over your friendship with Travis – maybe you don’t realise just how toxic Travis’s attitudes get because he didn’t discuss the worst of them with you, maybe you didn’t like what you did hear but reluctantly put up with it on a ‘because family, what can you do’ basis – but nope. This was a shitty thing to say and there is no way round it. I know that, sadly, you’ll get a happy ending with America because that’s the kind of romance book this is, but, bloody hell, do I ever wish America would find out about your scummy attitude and double standards and decide to dump your sorry ass.

Travis realises that, if America or Abby get pissed off about Travis having had casual sex with this woman, this could make America annoyed enough to dump Shepley. OK, this is getting ridiculous. I was just about willing to go along with the ‘if you dump Abby after a one-night stand that might result in America being angry enough to dump me’ plot because it is passably plausible, even though McGuire has been milking it beyond what it’s worth to create fake tension. But if America would seriously dump Shepley just because his cousin had a one-night stand, then their relationship is too precarious to last anyway. (Especially given that, if that were the case, she’d have done it long since; we know that Travis slept with multiple women during the early part of this term, which would have been the early part of America and Shepley’s relationship.) Shepley, you should be a bloody sight more worried that she’ll find out about your shitty attitude towards women and dump you for that.

Travis starts wondering where Abby will sleep, deciding he’s not having her sleeping on the couch as it has ‘fourteen months’ worth of bodily fluids on it’. Apart from ‘Eugh’, this is also further confirmation that Travis is early in his second year at university, so that’s passingly useful. Shepley suggests the recliner; Travis isn’t having that, so he decides Abby’s going to sleep in his bed. Shepley cracks up completely with laughter at that point; I entertain wistful hopes that he’ll give himself a painful hernia.

Abby and America arrive eleven minutes later, so either my second guess above was right (Travis took forever to notice Sheply cleaning up) or McGuire is screwing up her continuity again. Take your pick. Unnamed woman emerges from the bathroom at around the point that they’re coming through the door, and we get one of those passages that has me reading it over thinking ‘Huh? What’d I miss??’:

She froze in the hallway, took one look at Abby and America, and then finished buttoning her blouse. She definitely wasn’t freshening up in there. She still had makeup smeared all over her face.

For a minute, I was completely distracted from the awkwardness by the letters W, T, and F. I guess she wasn’t as uncomplicated as previously thought, making America and Abby’s unannounced visit even more welcome.

‘Uncomplicated’, here, is Travis’s way of referring to someone who’s happy just having casual sex and doesn’t want a relationship. So, Travis initially thought this woman fell into this category and now something in this scene has apparently made him change his mind and be all WTF, no, obviously she’s not someone who’ll be happy to keep sex casual after all… and I’m stymied as to what. As far as I can see, the choices seem to be a) the fact that she’s thrown off stride to find two unexpected strangers there when she’s still doing her clothes up, b) she hasn’t cleaned the makeup off her face, or c) McGuire had something different in mind that would have actually made sense out of this but forgot to include it. Does anyone have more of a clue about this than I do?

We also find out here this point that Travis is only wearing his boxers. I’m torn between thinking ‘Jeez, Travis, for goodness’ sake cover up when people are coming round’ and reasoning that, since these two have dumped themselves on him as guests without bothering to check first whether it’s OK, maybe he’s got a point in not wanting to change his normal behaviour; as Miss Manners once wrote, it’s a rudeness draw. Although it is odd that Shepley didn’t tell him to get himself covered up, seeing as he’s so concerned about not offending America; I mean, having your roommate wandering around in just his underwear sounds reasonably likely to give offence.

Nameless woman kisses Travis goodbye; now that Abby’s watching, her lips feel like ‘two sticky buns lined with barbed wire’ to him. Lovely image. She says she’ll leave her number on the counter, and he tells her not to ‘worry about it’. We’re told that the ‘rejection in her eyes shone bright’, which technically would mean that she’s rejecting him, but, from context, is clearly meant to indicate that she’s feeling rejected by him and is surprised and hurt by this.

Travis is clearly assuming that this reaction is because she wanted a relationship with him rather than continued casual sex, which strikes me as quite a big assumption. We’ve been told that she enjoyed the sex, and that Travis has an unspecified but plural number of women whom he’s happy to contact on a regular basis for repeat casual sex; why assume that that’s not what she wanted? This would make perfect sense out of her surprise and hurt, which seem like a reasonable reaction to finding out that a sexual encounter that you put a lot of effort into and thought was good for your partner actually isn’t good enough for them to want a repeat performance. At any rate, that would make a heck of a lot more sense than the idea that, having been aware of what Travis’s reputation was like prior to sleeping with him (which it’s specified in the last chapter she was), she would still be mysteriously surprised that he didn’t want a relationship with her. That idea is unlikely enough that America actually lampshades it at this point:

Every time!” America said. She looked at the woman. “How are you surprised by this? He’s Travis Fucking Maddox! He’s famous for this very thing, and every time they’re surprised!”

Yeah, America, my feelings exactly. You tell McGuire.

The woman storms out. Travis – uuuggghhhh – Travis reflects that he’s got ‘a shrew to tame’. Meaning Abby. Because this is how our romantic hero sees his love interest. OK. Deep breath. There’s a whole book to get through here. I’ll manage it if I pace myself.

Abby tells Travis she’s disgusted with him, and they have a conversation about whether the way he just acted was OK or not; Abby thinks he shouldn’t be having sex if he’s not prepared to call the woman afterwards, and Travis disagrees, pointing out that he didn’t promise the woman anything and that she didn’t state before sex that she would want a relationship afterwards. I’m not going to go through the whole thing, because a lot of it boils down to ‘Travis and McGuire Abby have different ideas about whether casual sex is OK’, but there’s one passage that’s worth quoting.

It starts when Abby describes the woman as ‘someone’s daughter’ (and there’s a whole can of worms in the implication that that’s the only way of presenting her as worthy of respectful treatment, but I won’t open that can) and asks how Travis would feel if, someday, someone treats his daughter like that. Whereupon Travis is more concerned with the actions of the hypothetical daughter in that scenario:

The thought had crossed my mind, and I was prepared. “My daughter better not drop her panties for some jackass she just met, let’s put it that way.”

No, Travis, let’s put it this way: “I’m regularly doing something that I disapprove of so vehemently that I would never want my children to do it, I have no intention of stopping this behaviour, and I’m perfectly OK with all this.” Why gloss over the hypocrisy?

(Actually, I have a horrible feeling that this isn’t even about whether his children are doing it, but about whether his daughters are doing it. I wish Abby had thought to explore how he’d feel about a son of his having casual sex, and – if his reaction to that was different – why it was different.)

That was the truth. Did women deserve to be treated like sluts? No. Did sluts deserve to be treated like sluts? Yes. I was a slut. The first time I bagged Megan and she left without so much as a cuddle, I didn’t cry about it and eat a gallon of ice cream. I didn’t complain to my frat brothers that I put out on the first date and Megan treated me according to the way I behaved. It is what it is, no sense in pretending to protect your dignity if you set out to destroy it. Girls are notorious for judging each other anyway, only taking a break long enough to judge a guy for doing it. I’d hear them label a classmate a whore before the thought ever crossed my mind. However, if I took that whore home, bagged her, and released her strings-free, I was suddenly the bad guy. Nonsense.

I’m at a loss as to how to disentangle this mess of toxic attitudes. We’ve got Travis trying to defend casual sex (a position with which I agree, as long as it’s all consensual) but he’s doing it within a narrative written by an author who seems to be anti-casual sex to the point where she’s doing a messed-up job of portraying the position of someone who’s OK with it. Meanwhile, all of this seems to be missing the point; the fact that Travis despises these women and is downright nasty about them in his private thoughts (and sometimes openly).

There’s nothing wrong with taking someone home for casual sex if that’s what you both want, you’re both otherwise unattached, and you’re taking precautions. There’s a lot wrong with dismissing people as ‘some dumb bitch in a pair of fuck-me heels’ because she has casual sex, or dismissing whole categories of people as ‘vultures’, or getting nasty and snide about physical features that people can’t help, or finding it arousing to have possibly hurt someone, or feeling that you should get respect while the women you have sex with don’t deserve that same respect… all of which Travis did in the first chapter. Or with disregarding their boundaries because it suits you better to do so, which Travis has persistently done in minor but annoying ways with regard to Abby. Or with disregarding their physical safety and treating that as a joke. Or with acting as though it’s somehow ludicrous and humiliating to do a mildly kind act for someone who happens to be female.

Travis is actually right in thinking that he shouldn’t be labelled as ‘the bad guy’ just for having casual sex. He should be labelled as ‘the bad guy’ because his attitudes and behaviour are so horrible. That is the actual problem.

Anyway. Moving on.

Abby gives up trying to argue the point with Travis, and just calls him a pig. Travis shrugs this off while secretly reflecting that it’s true but that it still hurts to hear it from Abby. They move on to a discussion of where Abby is going to sleep, since she’s also not keen on sleeping on the couch. Travis tells her she’ll sleep in his bed, which she also isn’t keen on as she assumes it’ll have the same issue of being a place where Travis has regularly had casual sex. Travis assures her he doesn’t let his sex partners into his room, and Abby asks why, in that case, she is being allowed in, which is the cue for an emo passage of Travis thinking how he needs her, really wants to tell her this, can’t admit it, knows she deserves better, etc.

She was my opposite: innocent on the surface, and damaged deep within.

I’m not sure how this makes her his opposite. My first thought was that McGuire wants to portray Travis as damaged on the surface and innocent deep within, which would work better if a) she hadn’t already been portraying him as dodgy on the surface and vile deep within, and b) drawing that sort of contrast between ‘damaged’ and ‘innocent’ made any sense anyway. Maybe it’s actually meant to mean that he’s guilty on the surface and undamaged deep within? Maybe the description should be described as Deep and Meaningful on the surface but incomprehensible deep within?

Anyway, Travis comes up with the idea of answering Abby’s question (why she’s allowed in his room, in case you were losing track) by asking her whether she’s planning on having sex with him tonight. She indignantly tells him no, and he tells her that that’s why. OK, not even going to bother to try to pick that apart, moving on. He then goes on to:

“[…}Now get your cranky ass up, take your hot shower, and then we can study some bio.”

  1. Abby isn’t ‘cranky’; she’s angry at him over the way he’s behaved, which she thinks is wrong. Now, it’s fine for Travis to disagree with her; they seem to have somewhat different views on the acceptability of casual sex, and that’s OK. What isn’t OK is for Travis to dismiss her feelings as her being ‘cranky’. It’s patronising; a way of letting her know he doesn’t take her views seriously.
  2. Abby has, at this point, said nothing whatsoever to indicate that she wants to take a shower right then or that she’s OK with studying with him tonight. It’s possible that McGuire meant to start this argument with a line indicating that Abby was about to take a shower, followed by Abby getting sidetracked into the argument, but that she forgot to put that line in. Whether or not that’s the reason, this is the way she’s actually written it. Having Travis tell Abby out of the blue like this to go take a shower just sounds weirdly controlling.

Abby shoves past him into the bathroom, and Travis… Travis promptly goes through her bag. Taking particular time to check out her underwear. It’s creepy as fuck. Travis sees that her underwear is all ordinary cotton stuff, from which he concludes that she really doesn’t plan to get naked with him ‘or even to tease’ because apparently the only motivation he can think of for her underwear-purchasing choices is her plans regarding him. He finds this slightly disappointing, but, despite his whole pro-casual-sex position from a page back…

at the same time it made me like her even more.

Travis, your attitude is seriously messed up. Although it’s still paling into insignificance beside the fact that you are currently perving over your friend’s underwear without her permission.

He speculates briefly on whether she’s a virgin, which apparently is ‘unheard of these days’ in college. I doubt that very much. He gets some of her stuff together (a change of clothes, toothbrush/paste, face cream), grabs a towel, and knocks on the bathroom door. When she doesn’t answer after one knock, he walks in on her. His rationale for this is that a) she’s behind the curtain anyway (gee, Travis, lucky she wasn’t on the toilet or anything, right?) and b) he’s seen naked women before, which somehow, in the scummy sink that is his brain, equates to him not needing to bother with getting the permission of the woman whose naked body it is.

Abby, fortunately, actually is in the shower, so at least she gets to maintain a modicum of privacy. Not surprisingly, she’s furious and yells at him to get out… to which Travis’s response is to laugh and think ‘What a baby’. To which my response is to wince and think ‘What a dick’. He tells her he’s brought her stuff in, and she’s horrified and angry to realise he’s gone through her bag. To which we get this response from our romantic hero:

I brought in Prudezilla’s things to be a nice guy

And I’m sure that you have successfully managed to convince yourself of this. Why, you were just trying to be nice! Invading her privacy is all right, because it was in the cause of being nice! Checking out her underwear is fine, because at the time you were in the process of being nice! No need to think about whether there might have been a less invasive way of getting her stuff where she could reach it than walking on her in the bathroom… it was all in the cause of being nice! You make a big deal out of not letting anyone else in your bedroom, so you clearly understand the concept of personal space and privacy when you want to… but no need to worry about how that applies to someone else you supposedly care about, because you were being nice! And no need to worry that you’ve switched straight to mentally insulting Abby… why, she deserves it, for daring to object to your actions when you were being nice!

Travis isn’t being a nice guy; he’s being a Nice Guy ™. For anyone who doesn’t know, ‘Nice Guy‘ in this context is a term used for men who do apparently nice things for a woman solely because they think it’ll persuade her to become romantically involved with them, or at least sleep with them, and get whiny and entitled when the strategy doesn’t work. Technically this doesn’t apply to Travis here, as he is currently avoiding becoming sexually involved with Abby… but this whole business of doing something to serve his ends, then getting snotty when the woman doesn’t take it as a favour, is classic Nice Guy ™ attitude.

and she was freaking out. Not like I was going to find anything interesting in her bag anyway. She was about as naughty as a Sunday school teacher.

Translation: I got called out on being a dick, and getting snotty and whiny about it is easier than accepting that I’m in the wrong and owe an apology here.

Travis then stays in the bathroom and starts brushing his teeth. With her toothpaste, by the way. She peeks round the shower curtain to glare at him.

Her irritation was a mystery. To me, the whole scenario was oddly relaxing.

And this pretty much sums it up. Travis has so little empathy, so little ability to consider the feelings of others, that he literally cannot comprehend why she’s angry or upset about a situation when he’s happy with it. It doesn’t even occur to him that her experience in this situation (being naked in the presence of a boundary-pusher with whom she doesn’t want a relationship) is vastly different from his (having a naked woman he’s attracted to in his presence). He’s mystified that Abby has her own reactions to a situation that differ from his; in his perception, his feelings are the only ones that matter.

Except, strike some of the above, because he does possess these abilities. Remember how, at the beginning of the chapter, he rapidly worked out what was bothering Shepley about the prospect of Travis’s one-night stand still being here? So, in fact, he can consider the feelings of others and comprehend why they might feel that way. He just doesn’t bother doing that when it comes to figuring out why something he likes doing might be bothering Abby. The very idea of trying to do so is so far beyond his ken that it does not even occur to him to try to understand. That’s his attitude towards someone who is supposedly his friend about whom he cares, but who also happens to be female.

Our romantic hero, ladies and gentlemen.

She growls at him to get out. He tells her he can’t go to bed without brushing his teeth. Nice try, Travis; since it was right after lunch when you picked up the woman you had sex with, and since you’ve already also told Abby that the two of you will study together after her shower, there is no way it’s so late you have to get to bed now and can’t wait till Abby’s finished in the bathroom. And if it was that late, you could have brushed them before ordering her into the shower.

Abby, wisely, does not even bother getting drawn into debating the feebleness of Travis’s excuse here; she gets right to the point and tells him that if he comes near the shower curtain she’s going to poke his eyes out. Travis does at least tell her he won’t peek, and then sticks to that, so we have a very minor level of consideration and basic decency from him. Hold the front page. He finishes his teeth and leaves, then sticks his head back round the door (with no mention of him knocking at all, this time) when she isn’t coming out of the bathroom fast enough for his liking. She throws her comb at him, which he finds funny, because of the whole being-a-dick thing.

She and America call out goodnight to each other. Either Travis spent an entire afternoon and evening with Unnamed Woman, or we’ve mysteriously jumped forward in time a few hours. She knocks on Travis’s bedroom door, because at least one of them has some respect for privacy. When she comes in, she looks round at the room and Travis finds himself thinking for the first time about the way he keeps the walls bare. Quick question; how did she know which room was his? There’s no point in the preceding conversation in which she was told this. Oh, well, whatever.

Time for biology studying. Travis tells her she can find a pen in the top drawer of his nightstand, then remembers with horror that his ‘stash’ (having read Jenny Trout’s review of ‘Beautiful Disaster’, I know we’re talking not about drugs, but about condoms) is also in there and she’s about to see it.  Strikes me the obvious thing to do at this point, since the prospect bothers him, would be to immediately add “Here, wait a minute, I’ll get it”; but, for whatever reason, Travis doesn’t do this and lets Abby go ahead with opening the drawer.

(Tangent: why are the condoms in the bedroom anyway? Travis only uses them in the living room. Sure, I understand he and Shepley might not want them visibly sitting around, but it can’t be hard to get some sort of closed storage container/mini-chest. Seems like that’d be a lot more convenient.)

Travis’s concern, in case you were wondering, is that Abby will blow up at him again when she finds them. There might actually be people who would react that way, and I find that really sad; she already knows he’s having sex regularly so that part of it isn’t a new finding, and, regardless of what someone thinks of casual sex, ‘I’m careful about taking precautions’ should never be an objectionable stance in itself. And in fact, that seems to be how it plays out here; although Abby seems annoyed, she does drop the subject after he tells her “Better safe than sorry, right?”

First, however, we get this: Abby asks him if he robbed the health clinic, and his thought is “How does a pigeon know where to get condoms?” (italics in text)

OK. No.

Bear in mind here that when Travis says ‘pigeon’, it’s his way of referring to his perfect ideal woman. Travis, apparently, finds this incompatible with knowing where condoms can be obtained. It’s not just that he expects Perfect Pigeon Woman to be sexually innocent (which in itself is a bad enough double standard as well as being none of his damn business); it’s that he’s assuming PPW will be downright ignorant of matters sexual.

Does freshman week not include a talk on safe sex and where to get condoms? Aren’t there any posters up around campus? Any leaflets in the student health centre (center, whatever) that Abby could have seen when there for something else? Does Travis assume that her friends never discuss things like this when she’s around? Did she not have sex education classes in school where she learned this stuff? Why the hell would Travis be surprised that she knows something so basic? Why is his image of his ideal woman automatically defaulting to ‘not only does not have sex, but doesn’t even know basic practicalities about how to have it safely?’

Anyway, pen acquired, they get on with the biology studying. Travis expresses surprise that she’s behind in biology when she’s advanced enough in maths to be studying calculus, which interested me solely because I’m fascinated by the differences between the US educational system and ours. We specialise a lot earlier; most people in the UK wouldn’t do maths after the age of 16 (I mean, after the end of the school year in which they turn 16, which would be the equivalent of a US high school sophomore year, if I understand your system correctly), but the ones who do continue till age 18 would learn calculus in that time. But they also wouldn’t do a lot of the subjects that someone of the same age in the US would be doing, so you guys get a lot more general education than we do, which I think is probably a better system overall.

They go through photosynthesis and then plant anatomy; Abby calls an exhaustion-induced halt at the point at which Travis is asking her what lipids are. Why is he asking her that if they’re studying plants? Do plants have lipid molecules, or is McGuire just randomly dropping in the first biology thing she could think of without worrying about whether it’s consistent or not, which wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest? (I genuinely have no idea. As per my comment above about the earlier specialisation in our educational system, the last time I did general biology was for my O-levels when I was 16, and I haven’t done any botany since then. Can anyone fill me in? If plants do have lipid molecules, can a plant have cholesterol that’s too high and would that be a problem if so? I’d guess not, because they don’t have blood vessels as such. I’m intrigued here.)

Travis mentally cheers at the thought of it being bedtime (this might not have been clear before, but what he’s planning is to share the bed with Abby, and he’s looking forward to doing so even platonically) while Abby looks nervous at the thought. Travis goes to take a shower. (See, Travis? You notice how this would be the perfect opportunity to brush your teeth? Notice how totally the whole ‘brush while Abby takes a shower’ thing was not required?) By the way, hasn’t either of them had dinner? Travis also hasn’t had lunch, having missed it in that whole ‘storm out in a snit because, gasp, clutch pearls, a woman defended him’ incident. Unless he found time to have something substantial to eat while Unnamed Sex Partner was in the bathroom, he must be pretty hungry by now. Even if he did, surely Abby would be wanting something.

Travis comes back; Abby is lying in bed, ‘stiff as a board’. He drops his towel and changes into his boxers, which are apparently all he finds it appropriate to wear while lying in bed with someone who’s probably going to feel uncomfortable being there with him. I notice he didn’t bother taking his boxers into the bathroom with him in case his nudity offended her. Fortunately, she’s lying turned away from him with eyes closed. (Although this might be a good moment to mention that the corresponding scene in ‘Beautiful’ had her describing his tattoos, so apparently she can see with the back of her head.)

Abby’s so tense I’d assumed she’d realised Travis was planning to share the bed with her, but apparently she didn’t until now, because at this point she tenses up even more and asks him “You’re sleeping in here, too?” He casually confirms it. She doesn’t try to leave, but is clearly bothered.

“Don’t you trust me by now?[…]”

Since you’ve now shown so little respect for boundaries that you’ve walked in on her on the bathroom twice and refused to leave the first time when she was yelling at you, I should very much hope she doesn’t.

Travis swears he’ll be on his best behaviour, holding up his first, middle, and little fingers and telling us that this is a gesture known as ‘the shocker’, which I had not actually come across before and so looked up. If you also don’t know what it means… well, you’re not missing out on anything worth knowing. What is worth mentioning here, for those who don’t know, is that there’s a nasty little joke implied in that gesture about not respecting sexual boundaries, which makes it particularly inappropriate in this context. It is at least possible that McGuire was only after a rude finger gesture here and didn’t think about that particular implication; I can only hope so.

Travis does, however, actually mean it when he promises to behave well:

I wasn’t going to run her off the first night by doing something stupid.

So, not because you’ve recognised that it’s the decent way to treat someone, then.

Pushing her too far seemed to garner the same reaction as a cornered animal.

Or possibly that of a person who’s just had their privacy totally disregarded.

It was fun to walk the tightrope she required

That’s not a tightrope you’re getting your feet all over, Travis; it’s a thing called a boundary. While you might indeed be getting some fun out of your total disregard for it, she isn’t.

And, flippancy aside… this quote is, again, just so bloody telling. Travis isn’t walking a ‘tightrope’ here because Abby requires it. He’s doing it because he’s trying to push the boundaries with her as far as he can get away with. That’s the tightrope for him; crossing boundaries as much as he can without losing his plausible deniability about what he’s doing. And he finds this fun. This is classic, textbook, manipulative behaviour.

in a terrifying driving-at-a-thousand-miles-per-hour, backward-on-a-motorcycle kind of way.

And that quote I include just because it’s such an alarming metaphor to mix with that of tightrope walking.

Abby wraps herself fiercely up in the blanket, Travis tells her good night, and the chapter ends. I assumed this would finally be the end of Chapter Two in ‘Beautiful Disaster’, but I checked Jenny’s recap and, unbelievably, it still isn’t. Although we do now finally seem to be very close to the end of that chapter, and the next chapter in ‘Walking Disaster’ is called ‘Shots’ which sounds as though it’s going to cover at least some of Chapter Three in Beautiful, so maybe we will finally be catching up. My brain hurts.


  1. Nomad says

    Plants do indeed have lipids. Fats are a kind of lipid, and you probably already know that plants can have fat on some level. That’s how vegetable oil can be a thing. As to whether a plant can have dangerously high cholesterol levels for its own health, that’s beyond my knowledge, but I would assume not, seeing as how they make it themselves. They may not have blood vessels as such, but I was under the impression that they had something like a circulatory system. Something has to be able to bring the water up from the soil into the rest of the plant, and it seems that sap itself does flow to some degree.

    The first I heard of either this book or Beautiful Disaster was this review series, so far I’ve been content to just read it without any background on who McGuire is or where this book fits in, what group of people it’s popular with. But after this one I had to look it up. So apparently it’s credited with playing a part in creating the genre of “new adult fiction”. Am I wrong in thinking that it’s a similar phenomenon to Twilight? What I mean is that it appears to be a story aimed at still youngish audiences with a heavy romance angle, yet the depicted romantic behavior is just terrible. And also apparently it became a phenomenon. I wouldn’t know, I sure hadn’t heard of it, but the little I read about it made it seem successful.

  2. says

    take your trash out

    O. M. G.

    My (maybe none-too-close) readings of your previous posts had caused me to subconsciously file this Shepley character in the “nice guy” drawer, at least in comparison to Travis. Though in retrospect, that’s exactly the sort of comment one should expect from a “nice guy”, I suppose.

  3. suttkus says

    Cholesterol is an animal steroid, so it wouldn’t be found in plants.

    Lipid is actually a very broad category of chemicals to a biochemist. Medical people tend to use “lipid” to refer to fats, which can cause confusion, but lipids include many kinds of chemicals that aren’t fats. One very important type of lipid that all life on earth shares are the lipids that make up cell membranes.

  4. Nocturnal Queen says

    Something I’ve noticed with these kinds of books are that the male love interests are much more developed than the female main characters. Christian Grey and Travis have this whole back story with a wide range of characters they knew and they have life experience that is mentioned organically like how a real person might recall previous events. The female main characters on the other hand are inserted into the story with very basic, shallow backstory, few people they have had previous interactions with and doesn’t really have much experience about life, love or sex. Unlike the love interests they don’t have a lot of memories about things that happened before the book starts except for like a few key things that are just there for basic character introduction. Because they are just a blank canvas their entire lives immediately starts to revolve around their male love interests. Every action they take in the books is just a reaction to the male love interests actions and opinions. It’s almost like it’s implied that women are nothing until their future significant other comes into their lives and that’s when their real lives starts. Or/and that women should be like a toy in a package that hasn’t been opened yet and is waiting for the right man to open it.

  5. ridana says

    Plants don’t have cholesterol, but they have a chemically similar phytosterols. And as others have noted, plants have lipids, as in oils and waxes.

    Does freshman week not include a talk on safe sex and where to get condoms?

    Well, the author went to college in Oklahoma, so it wouldn’t surprise me all that much. :/ The state has no mandated sex ed in public schools and boasts the 2nd highest teen pregnancy rate. Carrying that over into colleges doesn’t sound far-fetched.

  6. ridana says

    #4 @ Nocturnal Queen:
    That’s because these are intended as self-insert stories for a female audience. The fewer details about the heroine, the less “that’s not me” moments the reader feels. One would hope the reader would be feeling that from the first chapter, but sadly, sales would indicate otherwise.

  7. Liz says

    So what was unnamed woman doing in the washroom for a full 11 minutes if she wasn’t freshening her makeup? Was she doing a line in hopes that she would forget her bad decision, because she’s obviously a slutty trashy cum gurgling gutter slut? Was she texting her friends that she doesn’t know why everyone wants to sleep with him because he’s honestly not that good? Was she having a poo? And how did her makeup get so smeared anyway? They just had an afternoon quickie. It’s not like she spent the night.

    Shepley’s preoccupation with America dumping him over the slightest thing is a definite sign of an anxious attachment style. I wouldn’t be surprised if he texts her every morning and every night and loses it when it takes her more than 5 seconds to respond.

    Being a virgin is unheard of these days in college? I’ll have Travis/McGuire know that I was a virgin until the ripe matronly age of 22. I’ve also had my fair share of casual sex since then. I’ve also gotten married and been completely monogamous with my husband. Because it is possible for a single person, at different stages in her life, to 1. not want to have sex at all; 2. want to have regular safe consensual casual sex; and 3. want a meaningful committed relationship. And none of those things are morally superior to another, damn it.

    “Not like I was going to find anything interesting in her bag anyway. She was about as naughty as a Sunday school teacher.”
    Dude. She did not come over for sexy times. The lack of toys in her bag does not mean that she doesn’t like to play. It just indicates that she came over to shower and sleep. People do that, you know.

  8. says

    Yeah, plants do have tubes for transport; xylem and phloem. (Nice to know I remember something about botany. Those names stuck in my head for some reason; I think xylem are the tubes that carry water and phloem carry nutrients, though don’t quote me on that. Tangential interesting point; apparently this is what the stringy bits are on bananas that always get left behind when you peel the banana, so I now refer to those as ‘banana veins’.)

    I’d never heard of McGuire’s work at all until someone nominated ‘Beautiful Disaster’ for Jenny Trout’s snark-reading. I then found Jenny had reviewed another book of hers, ‘Apolonia’, which actually manages to be even worse writing than this one. It’s an utter mystery to me why they’re so popular; I mean, I do get how something problematic can still be enjoyable or funny or build up sexual tension well, or whatever, but this just doesn’t seem to do any of those things.

  9. Dr Sarah says

    Bloody hell, of course – phospholipids, right? I did know that cell membranes were made of phospholipids, but it had totally slipped my mind (though, in my defence, I learned this almost thirty years ago and since then I’ve had many years of thinking of lipids in terms of LDL, HDL, triglycerides…) Thanks!

  10. Dr Sarah says

    This is a really good point. Of course, the biggest example of this was Twilight: Edward is over a century old, he’s got multiple university degrees, he’s travelled, he’s become an accomplished musician, he has this amazing backstory… and Bella is a teenager who shows some passing interest in reading romantic classics.

    I’ve recently been reading some of the archives from the ‘When Cows And Kids Collide’ blog, where the author has been reviewing books about the stay-at-home-daughter movement among some Fundagelicals (the daughters live with their parents until marriage and aren’t allowed even to show any interest in men during this time), and it’s truly sad how daughters in that movement are expected to curtail their lives to expected/appropriate pursuits, which usually ends up as ‘do some work for the family business and have very limited group of ideologically approved female friends’. Not that these sorts of books are written with the movement in mind (actually, they’d be anathema to the sort of people who are in those movements) but it somehow strikes me that the authors of these books are limiting their fictional heroines’ experiences in similar sorts of ways to stay-at-home-daughter movement adherents limiting the lives of their real-life daughters. I’m probably pushing that parallel too far, but it just somehow struck me.

  11. Dr Sarah says

    Good point, but it’s so sad that it actually works.

    I remember reading Tamora Pierce’s ‘Song of the Lioness’ series; no way would I want to be a knight, but I still loved being in Alanna’s head as she fulfilled her dream. Or Douglas Hill’s ‘Last Legionary’ series; the female character in that is a telepathic alien bird from another galaxy, and I still loved projecting myself into such a kickass character and enjoying imagining myself as her. Having your imagination stretched like that is so much more fun.

  12. Dr Sarah says

    Unnamed woman was actually in there for quite a bit more than 11 minutes; she was already in there when Travis heard Shepley get the text from America, and we know from ‘Beautiful Disaster’ that it took America and Abby a half hour to get packed after America sent the text, plus however long the drive took. I like the headcanon that she was texting her friends about how bad he was at sex. 🙂

    Good point about Shepley. He and America are clearly meant to be the story’s example of a happy relationship, in contrast to the ups and downs experienced by our main characters; it’s sort of ironic if they’re messed up as well.

  13. Person says

    …Yeah, don’t use this book to understand the American school system. I’m American, and Calculus was a class taken by Juniors/Seniors in high school where I attended and at any schools I’ve seen (if the person chose to take it). It would make sense for it to *also* be offered at a college, though, where some students are coming in with different experience levels with subjects and we have various General Education requirements (which most try to get out of the way in the first couple years) mandating having a certain breadth of knowledge before getting in depth in your major.

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