‘Walking Disaster’ review: Chapter Six

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 warnings:

  • Misogynistic insult
  • Drunk driving being treated casually, careful driving being treated negatively


Chapter Six: Shots

Travis wakes up to find Abby’s hair over his face. He breathes in to smell it, and then – astoundingly – thinks he’s being creepy. Dude, after the way you were behaving in the last chapter, this isn’t even registering on a Richter scale of creepiness… but it’s still great to see some kind of momentary self-awareness, however odd it is that it chose this moment to show up. I feel like this line wandered in from a different and better book and is now staring around in panic at the toxic waste in which it has found itself.

Anyway, it doesn’t last long; his alarm goes off a few seconds later and Abby wakes up and tries to wake him up, which he ignores. This appears to be so that she’ll lean over him to switch the alarm off. Not quite sure why she doesn’t just elbow him sharply until he switches it off himself (apart from anything else, it seems like inherently a bad idea to try to switch someone else’s alarm off when they haven’t woken up) but, nope, she leans over him to try to get the thing switched off and only realises he’s awake when he chuckles. When she gets annoyed, he observes:

She seemed pissed about something, but I ignored it. She probably just wasn’t a morning person.

Sure, Travis, that’s totally the reason someone would be annoyed with you at this point. Travis realises the flaw in his theory is that Abby seems annoyed at other times as well; because he is incapable of considering the possibility that he might be behaving in a really annoying way, he concludes that she’s just ‘kind of a cranky bitch’, which he likes. I’m only surprised that he isn’t also pulling out the ‘must be PMT’ excuse again at this point.

(Sorry; PMS, not PMT. I’ve already confused one commentator by not realising that that particular term hadn’t made it across the pond.)

They have a bit more back-and-forth with her getting sarky and him insisting he’s ‘not just creating some elaborate scheme to get in your pants’ (while putting his hands on her shoulders, because he has no respect for personal space) and it’s no more interesting than the last however many times they’ve done this so I’m just going to skim through. He goes into the kitchen and starts making scrambled eggs with onion and peppers (damn, now I want some). Abby comes in and insists she doesn’t want any (she didn’t have dinner last night! How is she not famished?) and we get the whole ‘she just got out of bed and she’s still gorgeous’ line.

Shepley, meanwhile, is trying to persuade America to go to something called a ‘date party’, which seems to be some kind of frat thing. It’s in a month’s time; Shepley assures her that she’ll have ‘plenty of time to find a dress and do all that girl stuff’. Yes, lack of time to do Girly Girl Preparation Of Girlness must clearly be the overriding reason a woman wouldn’t want to go to a party. Anyway, Travis is taking about as little interest in this discussion as I am, until he realises that the actual issue is that America doesn’t want to go without Abby, and Abby not only doesn’t want to go, but couldn’t go if she did want to as only girls with a date from the fraternity can go. You see where this is going, don’t you? America offers to set Abby up with someone really nice for the evening, Travis hates the thought and volunteers to take her, Abby hates the whole idea, Travis and America between them manage to persuade her, yadda, yadda, there the two of them are all set up on a date. Voilà. America ‘screamed like girls do’. Sigh.

For anyone keeping track, this is where Chapter Two of ‘Beautiful Disaster’ finally ends. Phew.

America and Abby head off for an eight o’clock class. Goodness, is it common for lectures to start that early in the American college system? Colour me impressed. Shepley and Travis hang around and Shepley starts doing the dishes. Travis asks him not to go setting Abby up with anyone; he doesn’t want to see her making out with Parker Hayes (who is, you might remember, the frat member we briefly met in Chapter Three). That’s an oddly specific concern for this stage of the narrative. I’ve read a bit about the book’s plot in a Goodreads comment and know that Abby is going to have some sort of romance with Parker, much to Travis’s jealousy, and I also know from reading Jenny Trout’s recaps of ‘Beautiful Disaster’ that Abby’s already had a further conversation with Parker Hayes after the one we saw in this book. (Yes, I now hate myself for actually knowing this much about the books.) However, Travis doesn’t know about those things, so from his POV Parker is someone who spoke to Abby for a couple of minutes a few weeks ago and it does not make a lot of sense that that’s where his mind would immediately leap. I’m guessing that the actual reason is that McGuire forgot that the characters don’t at this point know where the plot is going, but in-text it comes across as a worrying degree of obsession from Travis.

Anyway, Shepley correctly discerns that the problem is that Travis doesn’t want to see her with anyone else. And we get a nice bit of common sense:

“How long do you think that’s going to fly?”

I frowned. “I don’t know. As long as it can. Just don’t step on my toes.”

“Travis, do you want her or not? Doing what you can to keep her from dating someone else when you’re not even with her is kind of an asshole thing to do.”

THANK YOU, Shepley.

Travis says they’re just friends. Shepley points out that friends can talk about ‘a weekend fuck’, which at first I took as describing a friends-with-benefits situation; however, from the context it seems to be that friends can talk about their sexual encounters with other people, and Shepley says he doesn’t see these two doing that. Travis protests that that doesn’t mean they can’t be friends:

Shepley’s eyebrows shot up in disbelief. “It kinda does, bro.”

Travis doesn’t want to admit it, but recognises Shepley’s right. He reluctantly admits that there’s something about Abby he needs and that he doesn’t ‘want to share’.

“You can’t share her if she’s not yours.”

THANK YOU, SHEPLEY. Someone needed a reality check round here.

Shepley tries to persuade Travis to date Abby if he feels that way, but Travis says he isn’t ready yet. Shepley asks him whether he’s scared and what he’s waiting for. This whole conversation is like a breath of fresh air in this stinking book, except that unfortunately we do get this:

“She’s different, Shepley. She’s good.”

So, NotLikeOtherGirls ™, and also this seems to be one more thing fitting with the bash-women-for-having-casual-sex theme. Oh, well, it’s minor compared to much of the stuff in this, I can live with that line.

Shepley drops the issue and just tells Travis that it’s Abby’s birthday in just over a week, and Travis immediately starts worrying over what to get her. They head into class (after a couple of lines about how quick it is for Travis to get dressed and get his stuff and how he can’t imagine being a girl because the ‘bullshit routine they had to go through just to get out the door consumed half of their lives’, so I hope we don’t get any bits in this book where he criticises a woman for not having makeup or whatever).

On a tangent… I assumed Shepley was doing the dishes by hand, but during this conversation it says that he starts up the dishwasher. How common would it be for students to be living in a place with a dishwasher? None of the houses I lived in as a student had a dishwasher. Though this setup is different anyway; Travis seems to be renting the whole flat, not just a room in a shared house, which was what I always had. Come to think of it… how is he doing that? If it’s a decent flat (sorry, apartment) and not just student housing, then I can’t see the landlord renting to a student unless he has some kind of proof of income. While Travis does in fact have good income, from the illegal fight club, he can’t exactly tell a landlord that. Maybe it’s considered OK as long as you can put down enough money as a deposit.

After class, Travis charges over to the building where Abby lives. He’s temporarily angry to see her talking to someone male, because that is the sort of healthy, well-adjusted reaction we can expect from our hero, but relaxes when he sees it’s Finch (who is gay). Travis tells Abby he’s going back to his apartment and asks her whether she wants a lift back, but she says she’s going into the dorm; he’s briefly upset as he thinks she’s not staying over that night, but relaxes when she says she just wants to get some stuff. I know, I know, you’re all riveted, but I mention this because I have my usual compulsion to pick apart continuity errors:

  1. Since this appears to be their first time discussing the evening’s plans, how did Travis know that this was where he should meet Abby? The narrative doesn’t describe him tearing all over campus looking for her; it describes him going straight to Morgan Hall.
  2. What happened to lunch? They’ve been eating lunch together for the past few weeks (other than yesterday, when they were going to but Travis walked out in a snit before eating) and Travis clearly wants to spend as much time as possible with her at this point. Doesn’t make sense that they wouldn’t have had lunch together that day.

Phew, that’s better. Let us continue:

Abby says she needs her razor, and Travis makes a quip about how that’s good because she’s been tearing up his legs. Yeah, Travis, a jokey put-down is exactly what I’d want from anyone I was sharing a bed with, especially if I was only there because I’d been manipulated into it in the first place. However, Abby freaks out for a different reason; the thought of people thinking she’s sleeping with Travis. She runs into the building, upset, and Travis follows her.

Apparently her having sex with me was a bad thing. If I had questions of whether she was into me like that at all, she’d just given the answer: not just no, but hell no.

Yeah, amazing how slut-shaming all your sex partners makes people feel that way about the thought of sleeping with you. But, in fact, that isn’t exactly Abby’s reason; she also feels slut-shamey about women who have casual sex, so her main concern is that people might think that she falls into this category.

“[…]It’s not funny. Do you want the whole school to think I’m one of your sluts?”

My sluts? They weren’t mine. Hence them being sluts.

I’m just having such a ‘Where to start’ reaction to that line that the answer will have to be ‘Nowhere. Move on.’

Abby realises, to her horror, that most people are probably thinking not only that she is with Travis, but that he’s still sleeping around while being with her. Travis is bothered by how upset she is. (Meanwhile, they’re having a tug-of-war over her bag, because he is as incapable of respecting her wishes as ever and is insisting on carrying it when she doesn’t want him to.)

That’s when the realization hit: as a couple, we weren’t going to work.

Um… I thought you’d decided that weeks ago? I mean, it’s absolutely possible that he could just have had another moment when it whacks him between the eyes – unpleasant realities do have a way of doing that – but it seems like we’re well beyond initial ‘and that was when the realisation hit’ type of moments as far as this point’s concerned.

Travis comes up with the idea of taking her out to dinner and then to a club to make it up to her. Abby points out that this is hardly going to help with the problem of people thinking they’re together when it isn’t true. He tries to reassure her by telling her that, since he’ll be drunk, he’s bound to end up hooking up with another woman. She asks whether she should hook up with another man to get the point home; Travis, of course, is all no, no, you don’t have to go that far.

Abby goes back to rolling her eyes over the idea that Travis is planning to hook up with someone from the bar as his way to ‘make it up’ to her. Right there with you on the eye-rolling, Abby, but you seem to have lost track of what this argument is about; you’re not expecting Travis to make anything up to you (although goodness knows you’d have plenty of reason to want him to, with the way he’s been acting). The actual issue here is that you’re upset over the prospect of people thinking a) that you’re sleeping with him and b) that he’s cheating on you. So, it’s hard to see how this whole ‘let’s go out together so that I can hook up with someone else’ plan that Travis has come up with is going to help; it sounds as though it’s going to add fuel to the flames. Travis, rather than trying to deal with that point, evades it by asking whether she’s jealous. I can’t remember which of the wonderful commentators over at Captain Awkward’s blog gave me the term ‘projecting like an iMax’, but, whoever it was, thank you; it’s exactly what I need right now.

This book continues to have a completely rampant double standard over the issue of men who have casual sex vs. women who have casual sex, and so the next line we get is (and brace yourselves here):

“Jealous of what? The STD-infested imbecile that you’re going to piss off in the morning?”

And Travis chuckles to himself, because apparently he finds this amusing.

If she only knew how impossible that was.

How impossible what was? If he means pissing someone off in the morning, then it’s not only possible but likely, given how he treats people. If he means something else, then it’s sloppy writing.

We get a couple of lines about how everyone else just disappears for Travis when Abby’s around, and it takes all his concentration ‘to stay a step ahead of her’, because he still thinks of this as some kind of game of one-upmanship, demonstrating once again just how healthy his attitude to relationships is.

We informed Shepley and America of our plans

If you’re thinking “Huh? Where was the bit in which they resolved the argument to the point of being able to make any plans?” then right there with you; the narrative really does just jump straight to that line. I checked out ‘Beautiful Disaster’ in case there was a bit that McGuire missed out of this version, and… yes, there is. It consists of Travis once again smashing the speed limit while driving with Abby on the back, then treating it as a stupid joke. (With sexual overtones, since he jokes about her thighs squeezing the life out of him and how it would be a great way to go.) So, apparently having her life put at risk by Travis thinking it’s a huge joke is what it takes to persuade Abby. Or something.

The four of them get ready (Shep and America are coming out too). Abby looks knockout gorgeous when she gets out of the shower. Travis holds her hand on the way to Shepley’s car and then on the way into the sushi restaurant, which Abby does nothing to try to stop, because apparently her concern over whether people think she’s with him has simply evaporated in a puff of bad plotwriting.

They order two rounds of sake without problems but then get asked for ID when they order beer. I looked sake up as I’m not familiar with it, and apparently most commercial varieties are stronger than beer and even the weakest ones are the same strength as beer, so this makes zero sense. The girls both have fake IDs; Travis already knew this about America and shows no surprise that Abby has one.

Take a second, at this point, to remember that this is the same guy who was puzzled in the last chapter as to how the girl he thinks of as sweet innocence personified could know where to get condoms from. (Not even how to use them; literally, just the fact that they can be obtained from a health clinic.) He was surprised that she had even that incredibly minor level of knowledge about things sexual. But he shows no surprise whatsoever that she has fake ID, or that she uses it to buy alcohol illegally, or (over the next page) that she goes on to get drunk. Casual sex for women really is set up as the ultimate evil behaviour in this story, isn’t it?

They get increasingly drunk and loud, except for Shepley, who does drink but not too much because he doesn’t want to endanger either America or his car (it’d be nice if he also cared about not endangering other people on the road, but I’ll take what I can get here). He’d be a lot better not drinking at all, if that’s his aim; there’s no mention of him getting a soft drink during the two rounds of sake that are specified, so I’m worried about how much he actually is drinking. Travis mentions that Shepley is always super-careful to drive carefully and obey all traffic laws when America is with him because he lurrrrves America so much. Travis has a one-word description for this behaviour: ‘Whipped’. I was going to snark about how clearly the manly-man thing to do is to endanger the life of your loved one, and, fuck it, I cannot even bring myself to type that sentence in snarkiness. This whole attitude is just such utter poison.

They leave. Travis puts his arm around Abby as they walk back to the car, so, once again, Abby’s whole concern about not wanting people to think they’re a couple has gone straight out of the window. (In fairness, it sounds as though she is now drunk enough to be making some poor decisions, so that is actually not unrealistic.) America starts tonguing Shepley’s ear as he’s trying to drive. You know, when I was at uni I was way too passive and excessively compliant and if someone had tried to pull that shit on me while I was concentrating on driving they would still have got an elbow in the ribs, because distracting a driver like that is dangerous.

Shepley drives around the parking lot a few times looking for a wide space, which Travis thinks is because he wants more time with America licking his ear, but which Shepley says is because he doesn’t want ‘some drunken idiot dinging the paint’. I’m totally calling that as Shepley describing himself. We know he’s been drinking, and all we know about the limit involved is that it was described as ‘not too much’ by a jerk who thinks it’s funny to endanger people with dangerous driving and thinks safe driving is for wimps, so I’m betting he’s actually had quite a bit.

This, please note, is the behaviour McGuire is apparently happy to model to her readers. She could have added a few words to the line about buying rounds of sake to say that Shepley was the DD and stuck to soft drinks (sodas, you call them sodas, don’t you?); she could have had Travis thinking that he appreciates this because he doesn’t want them to end up dead or maimed. But instead she went for Shepley drinking before driving and Travis thinking he’s ‘whipped’ for even trying to limit his intake. The behaviour she’s describing isn’t funny or cute or sexy; it’s lethal.

Abby takes Travis’s hand once she’s out of the car, so the ‘what will people think’ concern is out the window and heading for the hills. Travis asks Abby about her fake ID; he’s impressed because it’s better quality than anything that can be bought around the university, which Travis knows because he’s purchased ‘many’ fake IDs. Huh? I might be missing something, but surely you’d only need one to buy alcohol. He’s not running from the law through multiple states. Abby comments that she and America needed the fake IDs because it was necessary

“… in Wichita.”

Dun-dun-DUUUUNNNNHHHH! So, Abby has a Deep Dark Secret, involving Wichita. (Although probably only as the location for the Deep Dark Secret.)

America drunkenly trips (Shepley catches her) and giggles “It’s a good thing you have connections.” Travis asks what she’s talking about. America starts mentioning Abby having ‘some old friends that…’ and Abby cuts in to say that you need to know the right people to get fake IDs. Travis gets that she’s trying to hide something from him but decides not to push it. I thought for about three seconds that he was having a moment of tact, but…

She thought she’d just pulled one over on me. I’d definitely have to revisit that later.

Or maybe just LET HER ALONE IF THERE’S SOMETHING SHE DOESN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT, and stop seeing all this as some kind of bloody point-scoring game.

They head into the club with Abby saying she wants a drink and America drunkenly yelling “Shots!” (there you go, title grab for chapter… except, wait, it ends before they have any shots, so it’s kind of a weird choice for a title grab). Everyone turns round to check Abby out, because we have to emphasise how beautiful and special she is and this apparently includes some kind of magnetic power over people’s gazes that makes them look round even when they weren’t looking in that direction at all. They walk over to the bar and see Megan standing there (Megan is Travis’s regular casual sex partner from Chapter One, if you remember). She smirks when she sees Travis and Abby walking in holding hands.

Travis’s usual seat by the bar is free but none of the others are. However, someone called Cami (who? Probably the bartender, but it isn’t made clear) alerts the attention of other people to the fact that Travis has arrived, so the people on those seats quickly skedaddle without making any kind of fuss about it.

Say what you want. Being a psychotic asshole had its perks.

  1. Yes, Travis, we know it’s got perks for you. That’s why you do it. However, it also means you’re treating other people so badly they’re terrified of you and won’t stand up to you. That’s the behaviour you’re currently revelling in, because it means you don’t have to go through the minor inconvenience of finding seats for our group further from the bar.
  2. Please do not say ‘psychotic’ when you mean ‘psychopathic’. ‘Psychotic’ is a term for mental illness causing hallucinations and/or delusions. As you can imagine, this can be severe and debilitating, not to mention being subject to all sorts of social stigma. It really doesn’t help people in that state to have their condition perpetually confused with a description of ultimate human evil.

And that is the end of the chapter. Odd place for it to end, made odder by the fact that we’re still only half-way through Chapter Three of ‘Beautiful’ so goodness only knows how these are ultimately going to sync up. We must be in for some seriously long chapters of ‘Walking’ in the future. I cringe at the thought.


  1. ridana says

    You don’t have to worry so much about translating British English for us Yanks (or just me). 😀 I think most Americans know what a flat or lift or boot is. I knew what PMT is, just not what the T stood for (all I could think of was temper, trauma or tantrum, none of which seemed likely. :)). And “soft drinks” is probably your best bet. What Americans call them depends on what part of the country you’re in (just as sweet green peppers are called mangoes in some regions), and could fill a couple of pages of discussion. Pop and soda are most common, I guess, but soft drinks is universally understood.
    Yes, 8 am classes are most definitely a thing, and were the bane of my existence in college as I am a hard core night owl. I avoided scheduling them whenever possible and missed more than my share of the ones I had.
    I think that while the alcohol content of sake is about 2-3 times that of beer, the consumption is different. A “gō” of sake is 180 ml or ~ 6 oz, served in those gourd-shaped ceramic bottles called tokkuri . If a round is defined by the cup, that’s maybe 1-3 oz, served in tiny little cups (chokos) poured from the tokkuri. So a couple of rounds of sake would probably equal about one beer. Still, without knowing what she means by a round, it’s hard to say.

  2. Anne-Marie SHIELS says

    Thank you for recapping this book. I’m currently reading Jenny Trout’s recapping of the original book and so I’m enjoying seeing things from the other perspective.

  3. suttkus says

    Regarding multiple fake IDs, it’s not uncommon for a someone given a fake ID who realizes that it is fake to confiscate or destroy it. I’m not sure how legal that is, since however fake the ID is, it’s your property, but I suppose that complaining to the police would require that you admit you were using a fake ID to commit an illegal act, so people get away with it. In other words, if someone is in the habit of buying poorly made fake IDs, they might well have to do it a lot.

    Peppers are called mangoes? Haven’t heard that one. Weird, since… there’s nothing mango-like about peppers, really. But what do I know? I come from a part of the US that calls gophers salamanders.

  4. Jazzlet says

    I feel like this line wandered in from a different and better book and is now staring around in panic at the toxic waste in which it has found itself.

    Hah! Good line.

    I have been in a cinema when the magnetic effect happened for real, I don’t know why I looked round just as everyone else did, but there was Lauren Bacall making a quiet entrance with no fanfare or any bustle around her to alert us. It was a strange experience.

  5. Nomad says

    “America starts tonguing Shepley’s ear as he’s trying to drive. You know, when I was at uni I was way too passive and excessively compliant and if someone had tried to pull that shit on me while I was concentrating on driving they would still have got an elbow in the ribs, because distracting a driver like that is dangerous.”

    This feels like an example of what I’m going to call narrative leakage. This sounds like something out of Travis’ world. It doesn’t make sense as a part of Shepley and America’s world. This is not something that a girlfriend who you are worried will dump you if your dirtbag friend has casual sex does. This is something that Travis’ casual sex partners do, and he smirks and manages to mentally insult them for it.

    Shepley was supposed to be different, but in this one bit he turns into an aspect of Travis’ mentality. I don’t quite know what to call it, but I find this revealing. The thing is, as an amateur writer, when I’ve had characteristics bleeding between multiple characters it inevitably revealed something about myself. The aspects that all my characters shared ended up being things that I shared too. So I have questions.

  6. Liz says

    What kind of upside down am I living in? Peppers are mangoes and gophers are salamanders? And I thought I was weird for calling them pee-cans instead of peh-cons.

  7. NavigatorBR says

    I know I’m a little late, but something I need to jump on is that our dear Travis is going into a criminal justice profession. (I don’t recall where it’s stated, but somewhere he does reference it when asked what he’s studying, early on.)

    They frown upon law breaking and having a criminal record. Getting caught and cited for underage drinking could completely screw him professionally.

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