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 currently being snark-reviewed by the magnificent Jenny Trout. Links to that review and other reviews of Jenny’s can be found here.
Jenny Trout has her next ‘Beautiful Disaster’ post up! Check it out! For those wanting to read the two reviews in parallel, the plot covered in that chapter of ‘Beautiful’ is the same as that covered in the end of Chapter Eight, Chapter Nine, and the first part of Chapter Ten of ‘Walking’, because of how badly the books are synced up.
And, yes… I did find it cool to read her review after having done the parallel chapters in ‘Walking’, so now I’d like to cover enough of ‘Walking’ to get through the equivalent of Chapter Five in ‘Beautiful’ before Jenny reviews that chapter. But, again, we’ll see how it goes. (And I do have my other book review to work on as well.)
Back to Chapter Ten of ‘Walking’, guys!
Red flag levels of possessive jealousy.
Chapter Ten: Broken (Oddly appropriate chapter title, since I broke the chapter review. Ba-dum, shh. OK, OK, moving on.)
Tonight, it seems, is the Sig Tau party that was mentioned in Chapter Nine. I think it’s reasonable to deduce that this is therefore a Saturday, so we finally have some clue where we are in the week. I’m just going to take a minute and reconstruct the timeline:
That feels better; I like to have stuff like that sorted out. Back to the story.
Abby apparently spends the next few hours taking over the bathroom/Travis’s bedroom so that she can prepare for the frat party. This is literally in the next paragraph after the bit about Travis talking to her while she’s in the shower; no scene break. Given that it was meant to be ‘early afternoon’ when Travis woke up, I’d say that the latest I can possibly see the shower conversation being is around 3 pm, and that’s pushing it. So, if this party starts in the evening, that is one hell of a lot of time to get ready for a party, especially when you’re taking over a shared bathroom for such a huge chunk of that time. I assume she stopped for something to eat in that time, although that doesn’t seem to be mentioned, but…. even so.
(McGuire does come across at being not that good at either showing her characters doing stuff to fill in time, or jumping ahead appropriately. I mean, a scene break would have helped there.)
Travis spends this time sitting on the sofa watching TV, apart from briefly getting into his room to get changed while Abby is using the bathroom. Not surprisingly, he gets pretty fed up with this. Eventually he’s had enough and knocks on his door; Abby is pretty much ready, and of course she looks super-beautiful, yadda-yadda-yadda. Travis stares at her with his tongue practically hanging down to the floor and tells her she looks amazing.
They go to the party and it’s all noisy with ‘obnoxious music’, though we aren’t told what. When they go in, Travis tells Abby not to accept a drink from anyone except him or Shep (I’m not sure why America can’t get drinks? Is drink-pouring some kind of exclusively male activity here? In Travis’s mind, it probably is. Sigh) because he doesn’t want anyone spiking her drink. Sadly, this is probably good advice, although it would have been nice to have it before they decided to go to the party.
Abby rolls her eyes at him and says no-one’s going to spike her drink.
She clearly wasn’t familiar with some of my frat brothers. I’d heard stories about no-one in particular. Which was a good thing, because if I’d ever caught anyone pulling that shit, I would have beaten the shit out of them without hesitation.
He’s heard these rumours, but they conveniently don’t name anyone? I have a strong suspicion that McGuire didn’t realise how awful the implications of ‘Travis knows some of his frat brothers spike women’s drinks’ were when she was writing the scene from Abby’s POV in ‘Beautiful’. In fact, given the clumsy way that paragraph reads, I wonder if she initially realised it even when she was writing it from Travis’s POV, because that does look horribly like a poor edit. It would not surprise me in the slightest if the second sentence in that quote originally read ‘I’d heard stories about some of them’ and someone then pointed out to McGuire how awful it made Travis look if he knew he had frat brothers who were spiking drinks and did nothing to try to stop them, necessitating a hasty rewrite to let us know that really the stories he’d heard weren’t about anyone in particular, of course they weren’t, and of course Travis would totally beat up anyone who tried shit like that if he knew who they were!
Travis reiterates the instruction not to accept a drink, telling her she’s not in Kansas any more. She snarks back that she’s never heard that one before, which was at least a good line.
They stand in the hall by the stairs and it’s all kind of awkward. Travis asks her to dance but gets turned down, which he thinks is because of the way he acted last night. While that’s a perfectly plausible motivation, it also doesn’t seem to occur to Travis that the night before last she did accept an offer to dance… and he promptly started making moves on her that she briefly went along with only to regret it. Seems like that in itself is a really good reason why Abby wouldn’t want to try dancing with him again. But it’s ignored by the text.
Travis is about to start back in on self-flagellation for last night, but… enter Parker Hayes!
Huh. Abby says that they’ve been there for ‘an hour or so’ and Travis doesn’t correct her even in his inner narrative, so I guess that’s correct. What… they’ve been standing awkwardly together by the stairs for that whole time? McGuire is really bad at showing time passage awareness; I thought this was only a few minutes. Also, why was Abby just standing there with Travis? Even if she didn’t want to mingle with a bunch of drunk strangers, which is plausible, surely she’d have gone to see what America was up to, even if it was just to break the tension of standing there awkwardly with Travis?
Parker tells Abby she looks incredible. Travis makes a face at him. Yes, Parker, how dare you compliment the woman that Travis wants. Parker is supposedly too ‘preoccupied with Abby’ to notice Travis’s face, although my headcanon is that he totally noticed but, being a normal person who is capable of responding appropriately to things, thought it best to rise above it and ignore it. Abby smiles in response to Parker’s compliment.
It occurred to me that I wasn’t the only one who could make her smile that way, and suddenly I was working to keep my temper in check.
Note that there’s no in-text recognition of how bad a response this is. Of how indicative it is of a real problem. Travis shows no insight into the fact that, if hearing the woman you’re attracted to show pleasure at getting a compliment from someone else makes you so angry you have to struggle to control your temper, that is a huge red flag.
Parker asks Abby to dance, but she says she’s too tired. Travis is briefly relieved at the thought that she wasn’t just making excuses when she gave him that excuse, but then gets angry again because it’s his fault Abby didn’t get much sleep, and…
Now Parker was here, sweeping in as the knight in shining armor like he always did. Rat bastard.
Yes, Parker, how very dare you treat Abby well when Travis is failing so dismally at doing so. Clearly, you are the awful person here.
(You know, it strikes me that one of the problems with this is that – up to a point – it’s actually relatable. It’s normal and human to have at least some kind of automatic anger responses towards the wrong target, including the person who’s succeeding at something that you screwed up. The trouble is, here it’s being written with a) no sign of insight into the fact that it is wrong and b) within a context of Travis having serious problems with losing his temper at the wrong target.)
Parker asks Abby whether she wants to get some air, Abby agrees, and Parker takes her hand and leads her upstairs to the balcony. Travis stands there desperately (though at least successfully) trying to prevent himself from going after them.
This is interrupted by America, who’s here for some straight talking. She says he looks angry, he denies it, she calls him out for lying. She asks where Abby is and, when he says she’s upstairs with Parker, she states that he’s jealous; Travis first tries to evade this and then outright deny it, but she calls him out for lying again. She tells him he really fucked up last night and he says he knows.
“You should walk away, Trav.” She looked up, to the top of the stairs. “He’s what she thinks she wants.”
An oddly convoluted way of putting it; is Abby supposed to not know what she wants, or something?
Travis feels awful hearing this from America, because he’d thought ‘maybe she’d be okay with me and Abby’, an opinion no doubt strengthened by the fact that, yesterday evening, she was actually advising him to ask Abby out on a date. Bothered if I know what game she’s playing. Travis says she knows, and America says she doesn’t think he does.
So far, this has all been good, but now it starts to go south:
For some odd reason, America then does the thing of gripping his jaw hard enough to dig fingers into cheeks. You know, the kind of thing people do when they’re being super-controlling and probably abusive? To be fair, it doesn’t have quite the same connotations when it’s this way round (Travis mentions earlier in this passage that America’s tiny, so she’s hardly a physical threat to him), but it still leaves me with the impression that McGuire doesn’t know how to write a conversation without putting something weirdly abusive in it.
[…]”Probably not. I’m not exactly notorious for doing the right thing.”
Which is an odd answer given that the original question was whether Travis knows that Parker is what Abby thinks she wants. (Admittedly, not the clearest of questions, so I’ll cut him some slack for having lost track of exactly what this conversation is meant to be doing at this point.)
But, unfortunately, we then get this:
She slapped my cheek, and then pointed at me. “You, Mad Dog, are exactly what I came here to protect her from. But you know what? We’re all broken some way or another. Even with your epic fuckup, you just might be exactly what she needs. You get one more chance,” she said, holding up her index finger an inch from my nose. “Just one. Don’t mess it up … you know … more than usual.”
So, America thinks Travis is exactly the sort of person Abby needs protecting from, she thinks he’s really fucked up, she’s seen a fair bit of what he’s like and the way he treats women, she’s angry enough with him to actually hit him, and she also believes that Abby prefers the idea of being with Parker. And yet she still thinks Travis should get another chance. Because… because everyone’s screwed up in some way. That seems to be her only reason.
Honestly, sometimes I feel it would be a lot quicker if these conversations would just say ‘Because the author needs this to happen for the plot’.
America walks off and Travis thinks ‘She was so weird’, with which I cannot disagree. Still, being written by an author who can’t make up her mind about your character’s motivation will have that effect on you.
He goes on standing there and staring at the top of the stairs, waiting for Abby to reappear (and fending off the women who try to chat him up, because we seem to be back to the Gauntlet of Brazen Hussies). When she eventually reappears, she tells America that Parker’s offered her a ride home. Hoo boy, here we go.
America’s eyes light up ‘like double bonfires’ (yeah, I looked for a .gif, they all seem to be about hatred/revenge, which I don’t think is what’s meant here). So… she’s back to supporting a Parker/Abby match? Oh, well, I suppose it has been an entire, I dunno, hour or something since she was all ‘Yes, Travis should get one more chance’… of course she’s done a one-eighty again.
And Travis? If you guessed ‘Oh, joy, we’re going to be back to red flag control freakery here’ then well done, you’re spot on.
He pulls Abby aside and tells her she doesn’t even know Parker. Well, Travis, she knows him better than she knew you that first evening when you pushed her into accepting dinner out with you.
Also… you know who around here does know Parker, Travis? You do, that’s who! Back when we first met Parker, it was established that you feel you’ve got actual reasons for disliking him. Why not let Abby know what it is about him you feel is a problem, then back off and let her make her own decision based on that?
(Because Travis can’t conceive of treating Abby as an adult he can discuss things with rather than as a Love Object for him to control, that’s why. Sigh.)
She points out that it’s none of his business.
“The hell if it’s not. I’m not letting you ride home with a complete stranger.[…]”
Sorry, Travis! We completely forgot that you were the Official Authority On Abby’s Transport Arrangements and that all such decisions first have to be run by you for permission. I don’t know how that slipped our minds…
…oh, wait, it was because that never happened and you’re actually just a controlling git.
“[…] What if he tries something on you?”
“Good! He’s cute!”
So, since Travis now knows that Abby is definitely interested in Parker but he himself thinks this is a bad idea, this is surely going to be where he properly explains his reasons for thinking it’s a bad idea to get involved with Parker…
“Parker Hayes, Pidge? Really? Parker Hayes. What kind of name is that, anyway?”
Well, don’t know about you, but I’m totally convinced by that logic.
(Convinced that Abby needs to ignore Travis’s opinion and stay the fuck away from Travis, that is.)
Abby tells Travis that he’s being a jerk. Travis says that he’ll kill Parker if he touches Abby. This is two sentences after Abby made it clear that she was quite happy for Parker to make a move, so he’s not even talking about killing Parker if he tries to assault Abby (though that would be problematic enough; we have police and legal systems for a reason). He’s ready to commit extreme violence against Parker just for making a move against the woman he himself wants.
Abby says she likes him. Travis thinks about what an idiot Parker Hayes is and wonders why Abby’s ‘getting all giddy’ over him. (Which is at odds with yesterday’s reaction about how Abby will obvs fancy him because he’s got rich parents and is going to medical school and seems nice on the surface, but I’ll give McGuire this one; we don’t necessarily think too logically at times of high emotion.)
I was prepared for the next line because I’d actually read it in a review of ‘Beautiful Disaster’ over on Goodreads. If you’re not, then brace yourselves:
“Fine. If he ends up holding you down in the backseat of his car, don’t come crying to me.”
Oooookaaaaay. Deep breath. I will take this slowly, starting with one question that seems key in determining the precise way in which this is awful:
TRAVIS, DO YOU ACTUALLY HAVE A FUCKING REASON FOR THINKING THERE IS A RISK THAT PARKER WILL SEXUALLY ASSAULT ABBY?
If you have, then fucking tell her. She needs to know. (Also, tell the police. But, right here and now, tell Abby.) Ordering her around and getting increasingly angry when she won’t unquestioningly obey? Not gonna work, and rightly not. Explaining to her “Abby, I’m worried about this. I’ve heard some awful stories about Parker. [explain details] I know he’s good at seeming really charming on the surface, but it sounds like there really is another side to him. Please. We can get you home now, if you’re ready to go, but I’m scared of what will happen to you if you ride with him” is going to stand a much better chance, not to mention doing Abby the respect of treating her as someone who can process information and make decisions for herself.
If, on the other hand, you don’t have any such reason (which is where my money would be, considering we heard precisely zero on that subject in Chapter Three when Travis was explaining why he didn’t like him), then
a) throwing that accusation out there was a jerk move
b) throwing that accusation out there was also a pretty hypocritical move, given that it is two days since you were utterly furious with Abby for throwing exactly the same accusation at you.
However, regardless of which of those two scenarios is correct, there’s another huge problem here: You’ve just effectively told Abby that if she gets raped or sexually assaulted, it will be her fault for accepting a freakin’ lift with the guy.
a) an extreme jerk move
b) incredibly hypocritical (anyone spotting a pattern here?) from someone who’s expected Abby to not only accept lifts from him, but be fine with him walking in while she’s in the shower, and sleep in his bed.
tl;dr: Travis, you’re a toerag and a shitstain on the underpants of humanity.
Since even Travis realises at this point that he does want Abby to tell him if anything happens to her, he tells her he didn’t mean it and to let him know if he does anything to hurt her/make her feel uncomfortable. Yes, Travis, I’m sure she’ll feel totally safe and comfortable doing that after the way you’ve been acting.
She tells him he’s ‘got to curb this overprotective big brother thing’ and he laughs humorlessly at that because brotherly is the last way he feels about her. Parker shows up, and the chapter ends with Travis feeling miffed that Abby notices and smiles when Parker holds a door open for her but ignored it when Travis did so earlier.