First, the usual backstory for anyone new here:
‘Walking Disaster’ is the male POV companion novel to ‘Beautiful Disaster’, a romance that’s problematic and awful in all sorts of ways. About a year and a half ago, blogger and author Jenny Trout picked ‘Beautiful Disaster’ for the latest in her series of snarkreviews (in which she goes through terrible books to explain – incisively and hilariously – what’s terrible about them), and I had the bright idea of doing a parallel snarkreview of the parallel novel. So, she has been reviewing ‘Beautiful’ and I have been reviewing ‘Walking’, both at a rate of about one chapter every several months (we’re neither of us very fast). Jenny’s reviews so far can be found on the same page as her others, here; mine can be found here.
Now, an update:
Three months ago, Jamie McGuire reposted a video defending Ahmed Arbury’s killers, saying she was doing this because she thought it ‘discussion worthy’ and ‘interesting’. Jenny wrote a response discussing this decision, the decisions McGuire made in her Facebook comment thread about whom to block and whose behaviour to ignore, and McGuire’s recent attempts at running for public office. Her conclusion at the end of the post was that she no longer wished to give McGuire any attention; not even in the form of critical book reviews. Jenny is, therefore, done with reviewing ‘Beautiful Disaster’.
And me? After some thought, I’ve decided I would prefer to go ahead and finish ‘Walking Disaster’. I hope that’s the right decision, but I do get a certain grim satisfaction from pointing out this book’s awfulness, and I think that anyone who would see McGuire in a positive light as a result of reading these reviews is the kind of person who’s going to be voting for her whether they read these reviews or not. Like Magnus Magnusson, I’ve started so I’ll finish. I might well decide to be a lot briefer in my reviews, but I still aim to finish.
And so, here we go: Chapter Thirteen.
- Ablist insult
- Harmful drinking behaviour encouraged and exalted
- Animal neglect
Chapter Thirteen: Porcelain
I originally wrote ‘Please tell me this isn’t going to be a chapter about a toilet. That would be one of the few ways in which this book could get worse.’ Then I thought about it and… I actually don’t know if it would be worse. Might be an improvement.
Anyway. The chapter starts with Travis saying that Abby didn’t stay in the bathroom for long, which kind of amused me because of Jenny Trout’s comments in her reviews about how much showering goes on in this book; is this case of bathroom brevity a turning point in the book in which the characters stop focusing on showering? Might some plot actually happen instead? I had probably better not get my hopes up.
It seems the reason Abby doesn’t spend long in the bathroom is because she’s heading out ASAP on this shopping trip. Travis tries not to let this bother him:
Abby usually spazzed out when something serious came up.
For those who don’t know, ‘spazzed out’ is what’s called an ablist term; a term in which something negative or potentially insulting is signified by a word derived from a term for disability. (This particular one is also weirdly ’80s; you don’t see it around much these days, or at least I don’t, so I’m surprised McGuire chose it.) TLDR; please don’t use this term.
Trav puts up some photos of Abby on his bedroom walls. Somehow, all I can think of here is the sort of horror story where the heroine walks into a guy’s house and sees photos of her all over the walls and, in a long-drawn-out chilling scene (with creepy music if televised), she realises he’s been stalking her all along. This is probably not the effect McGuire was aiming for.
Trav and Shep go over to Brazil’s apartment, where the surprise party’s being prepared. Brazil tells them that the only girls will be ‘a few of Abby’s classmates and girlfriends of the team’ and that he thinks Abby’s going to love it. Does Abby know these people? Why do the guys think she’ll want a party that consists mainly of frat boys she doesn’t know? Shep’s glad they aren’t having the sorority girls along because apparently America would, for unspecified reasons, hate that. I guess this is just one of the random bits of misogyny that McGuire seems to feel the need to throw in from time to time.
Also, Brazil has got her a bottle of Patrón in accordance with some sort of custom they have of offering the birthday person $20 for every shot they can down. Shepley asks if he’s planning to give her alcohol poisoning for her birthday. You tell him, Shepley! Travis thinks it’ll be all right to offer her $20 for one shot. After all, what could possibly go wrong with treating alcohol consumption as a game or a competition?
Travis helps them get set up for the party and then heads back to shower. His brother Trenton brings the puppy round in a box ready for later. Trav phones Abby:
‘”It’s dinnertime! Where the hell did you two run off to?”
“We indulged in a little pampering. You and Shep knew how to eat before we came along. I’m sure you can manage.”‘
Good one, Abby. The moments when she calls him out and sticks with it are few and far between, so I treasure them when they happen.
They go round to Brazil’s for the party. A guy called Chris Jenks is there:
He was the only person I liked less than Parker. No one could prove it, but Jenks was rumored to have slipped something in a girl’s drink once at a frat party. Most believed it, since that was the only way he could get laid. No one had come forward to say he had, so I just tried to keep an eye on him.
…but didn’t actually ask or challenge him about it, and everyone seems to be OK with keeping him in the group. Missing Stair time.
Everyone crowds in in the dark ready for Abby to get there. She arrives, they do the ‘Surprise!’ shout, and Abby seems pleased, though I don’t know whether this is because she actually is pleased or because she feels obliged to be polite now that this party has been sprung on her.
Meanwhile… the puppy has been left alone in his box hidden in Shepley’s room. I have never owned a puppy in my life and know almost nothing about raising them, but I still managed to work out that leaving a fairly helpless baby animal alone for extended periods might not be a great idea. So I took an entire thirty seconds to look up puppy care on the Internet and found that, indeed, it is considered a Bad Idea to leave puppies on their own for long; they find it really upsetting. Travis/McGuire apparently couldn’t be bothered to do even that much research. That’s how little Travis/McGuire cares for the welfare of a living, conscious creature.
Up until this point in the book, I’ve stuck faithfully to writing my comments on whatever I read as I go along. I do go back to edit for smoother writing style and to throw in any extra thoughts that strike me, but these posts have all still been my reactions to what I read when I read it. But, in this case, I was worried enough about the damn puppy that I started skim-reading just so I could check it was OK. I’m not even particularly an animal lover and this whole plot point still upset me. And, of course, the puppy does turn out to be perfectly OK, rather than being miserable and lonely and ending up weeing and pooing in Shep’s room and howling all night, which is what would happen in real life. Which means that McGuire is portraying a puppy as an extra-cute toy to give as a super-romantic perfect gift instead of a living, conscious creature that needs proper care and should never be casually given or abandoned like that. This is so bloody irresponsible of her, and I’m angry about it.
since I skimmed ahead, I’m going to just try summarising the rest of the chapter instead of making detailed notes (OK, so forget that, I obviously suck at summarising, hands up who’s surprised?).
Brazil offers Abby the $20-per-shot offer and she jumps on it and bargains him up to doubling the money if she gets through fifteen shots. Shep is the only one with enough sense to protest this, and he gets shouted down by America, who, as usual, shows zero sign of the protectiveness that the book claims she shows Abby. Travis thinks the fact that Abby can knock back shots is sexy as hell. So, if McGuire does run for public office and anyone who’s deciding whether to vote for her does happen to stumble across this review… well, please realise that she’s quite happy giving young people the message that getting blind drunk is fun and sexy.
Parker shows up at one point but can’t stay long. He has a rather clumsy slow dance with Abby and takes her out into the hall to talk to her, but within a few minutes she’s back, looking uncomfortable about whatever he said, and he’s gone. While he and Abby were in the hall, America was reassuring Travis, so it looks like she’s still (again?) pro-Trabby. OK, let’s see… Three chapters ago, she was giving him the speech that boiled down to ‘You get one more chance
because plot, but that really is your last one, don’t blow it’ (my paraphrase), and between then and now we’ve had him getting blackout drunk and seriously scary because he thought Abby was going to have sex with someone else. Clearly America/McGuire doesn’t think that behaviour counts as ‘blowing it’.
Travis manages a couple of slow dances with Abby during all this and, amazingly, refrains from mauling her. Abby keeps drinking. By the time she’s downed the tenth shot, Travis has realised that this is probably not a great idea, WELL, GEE, WHO’DA THOUGHT IT, TRAVIS. However, he has no luck trying to talk her out of it, because if she makes it to fifteen shots she’ll win $600, which is enough of an inducement to convince herself that little things like alcohol poisoning/liver damage are NBD. You should have tried talking Brazil out of this horrible idea in the first place, Travis.
Abby makes it to fifteen shots and cleans Brazil and his friends out of money, everyone cheers her, and Travis tells her she’s incredibly sexy. Great writing move, McGuire; how nice that your intended audience are getting this loud-and-clear message about how popular and hot getting blind drunk will make you. The evening reaches its end and Abby drunkenly tells Travis “In another life, I could love you” and he tells her “I might love you in this one” and she plants her lips on the side of his mouth, and Travis realises everyone who hasn’t yet passed out drunk themselves is ‘frozen, staring in shock at what they’d just witnessed’, which seems like rather an excessive reaction to two drunk students doing the “I really love you, HIC” end-of-evening bit.
They all head down to Shepley’s car, with Travis carrying Abby because by this point she’s passed out. Shepley, bless him, lets America know exactly what he thinks of her stupidity in encouraging her friend to get blackout drunk, and America responds to this by getting really nasty with him and then by storming off as soon as they’re back to the apartment, thus leaving her best friend, towards whom she is supposedly really protective, alone and unconscious with an irresponsible man who has serious boundary issues. So no way that could go horribly wrong, then.
However, fortunately, Travis actually refrains from any sort of sexual assault for the rest of the chapter. Here’s what happens: He takes the unconscious Abby in a fireman’s lift to carry her upstairs, which has the predictable result and she vomits copiously on the backs of his legs. So, if you were wondering whether this book had any redeeming moments whatsoever, well… there you are. He gets her upstairs to the bathroom where she keeps being sick to the point where he’s getting quite worried about it, though not enough to take Shepley up on a suggestion of getting help. Abby comes round enough to say she’s fine, even though she clearly isn’t.
Travis asks about Abby’s present and Shepley says he’s got it, looking unhappy at the thought. While I was writing this review, one of the doctors at our surgery got a new puppy and there was some puppy-related talk on our WhatsApp group. Know what I learned? When you get a new puppy, apparently they spend the night crying unless you cuddle them. Travis went out and left this poor puppy alone for hours. It should be howling the place down by now.
Shepley goes off to bed, saying he’s going to try to think of how he can get America to forgive him. Bad idea, Shepley; she was a really mean drunk just because you called her out on something she’d done that was actually wrong. I know you love her, but someone who acts like that isn’t a good person to be with, however much you love them and however much fun it is to be with them in the good moments.
Travis, meanwhile, gets some blankets, covers Abby up, and spends the rest of the night sitting on the bathroom floor with her head in his lap. I’m a GP, not an A&E doctor, but I did have some doubts about ‘spend night on bathroom floor in care of immature teenager who is literally demonstrating his inability to take care of a puppy’ as a management plan for someone who is dangerously drunk, so I looked up the actual recommendations. To my lack of surprise, the actual recommendation is that uncontrollable vomiting and unconsciousness are both considered indicators to seek urgent medical help for the drunk person, because those are scary signs that the person is in danger of dying of alcohol poisoning during the next few hours.
(In the course of said internet search, I also found this chart correlating alcohol consumption at a sitting to risk level. You might notice that having fifteen drinks in an evening is literally off the chart. You might also notice that, for women weighing 140 lb or less (which seems likely to describe Abby, as she’s a romance heroine in a terrible novel and will therefore be expected to be skinny), drinking ten drinks in an evening puts them in the ‘Death Possible’ zone. This is not a fun party game.)
Epiphany time; Travis realises that he doesn’t mind spending the night like this, because he has, dun-dun-duuuunnnnn, fallen in love with Abby, and so helping her when she vomits and spending the night in the bathroom with her are all totally worth it. And so yet again we get a moment that is meant to be really sweet and romantic but is anything but because a) Travis is putting her life in danger by not seeking medical help and b) he’s been an active part of the pro-heavy-drinking culture that encouraged her to get this way in the first place. Oh, and c) he tried to rape her last night when he was drunk. Yup, I checked that section of ‘Beautiful’ to see what actually happened in the bit McGuire mysteriously avoided going into any detail about and, no surprise, it was all ‘Abby tries to fight off drunken man trying to rape her, isn’t this all sexy and hot?’ I’m glad for Jenny Trout’s sake that she dropped out when she did; as much as I’d have loved reading her take on that and future chapters, I definitely prefer Jenny’s head in the unexploded state.
Anyway… that’s how the chapter ends. Abby is sleeping off her alcohol poisoning, Travis is sitting with her and failing to get her medical help, and Shepley has had the job of taking care of the puppy dumped on him because impressing Abby is more important to Travis than actually treating animals responsibly. Yay, romance!