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.
This was initially a companion series to the magnificent Jenny Trout‘s review of the original novel, ‘Beautiful Disaster’. Jenny has since stopped her review, not wanting to give McGuire any further publicity in the wake of her attempts to run for office.
Content warning: Sexism.
Chapter 17: Lowball
Travis rides around for a while with Abby on the back of the bike, planning what he’s going to say when he drops her off back at the hall.
Pressuring Abby was never a good idea
Well, what a bloody shame that hasn’t stopped you, then.
It would have to be direct
Ya THINK?? Does this mean we’re finally going to see Travis saying straight out how he feels instead of all this bloody ‘I cannot possibly tell her for reasons never properly clarified! I have no directness but I must angst!’ crap?
something Abby couldn’t ignore, or pretend she didn’t hear or understand.
Well, that’s a disturbing way to put it. It would be one thing if Travis was thinking ‘something she couldn’t misunderstand’; yes, if you want someone to know how you feel about them, telling them in a way they can’t misunderstand is an excellent idea. But if he really thinks that Abby is just pretending not to understand how he feels… well, the obvious reason why she would do that is because she does not feel the same way and just wants to avoid an argument and let him down gently. In which case, putting her in a position where she doesn’t have plausible deniability is a really bad idea.
Travis pulls into a gas station and Abby tries to get the tangles out of her hair with her fingers, which reminds me that she still doesn’t have a spare helmet and shouldn’t have accepted the bike ride at all. Abby realises it’s 3 am. They supposedly started driving shortly after Parker had dropped her off at the end of their date. How many hours have they been just driving around for?? And how is Abby not frozen? Let’s see, all this supposedly started a couple of months into the autumn term, and now we’re a month after that… seems like this would have to be at least late November.
(No, wait… Travis first noticed Abby a couple of months into the autumn term, and then they spent an unspecified amount of time supposedly making friends with each other, of which we are told only that it was long enough for Travis to figure out when Abby was due to get PMS. So, minimum another couple of months. And then another month for the bet. It should be at least January of next year; probably later. But of course that’s not the case because this is McGuire Time, which doesn’t work the same way as actual time. Even in McGuire Time, though, this surely should be somewhere in late autumn at the very least.)
Anyway, Travis is about to take her back to the hall. Abby tells him he’s important to her, which seems like it would be a great opening for Travis to say the same thing. You know, like he’s been desperately wanting to be able to tell her. Instead, he whinges:
“I don’t understand you, Pigeon. I thought I knew women, but you’re so fucking confusing I don’t know which way is up.”
Yes, amazing how assuming you can generalise about an entire gender leaves you bewildered when you realise one of them isn’t fitting in with your assumptions.
Abby says she doesn’t understand him either, since he’s meant to be the school’s ladies’ man. I don’t know what this is supposed to mean in context, but amuse myself by speculating it’s her way of saying she doesn’t understand why he’s this terrible at sex. Travis thinks she only slept with him to get him to leave her alone and she says that isn’t what it was, which is just as well given that it would be a spectacular failure if so.
They drive back with Travis still panicking at the prospect of having any sort of honest discussion. FFS, Travis, you have the emotional maturity of a gnat. They get back, and Travis wants to know if Parker kissed her. FFS IT IS NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS, TRAVIS, and besides is that seriously what you want to sidetrack into? He wants to know if they did anything else apart from kissing and Abby actually does tell him it’s none of his business, and, after a bit more back-and-forth which I skimmed, Travis finally blurts out the big speech. He tells Abby he’s in love with her, he loves her more than he’s ever loved anyone before, he doesn’t care about the fighting or drinking any more, and all he wants is to be with her. It would have been beautiful… except that while she is still standing there looking dazed and clearly trying to process it all, he asks her again if she slept with Parker.
So, there you have Trav’s priority at this key moment. Not finding out whether Abby has any reciprocal interest, now that he’s finally made his interest clear. Not backing off and giving her a bit of space so that she can process. But finding out whether she’s had sex with his rival, because that’s clearly of much greater importance than either of the above two.
Abby’s eyes glossed over
I suppose it is possible that McGuire wanted to tell us that Abby’s eyeballs were recounting something in a way that skipped over important details that they wanted to hide, but I’m fairly sure she actually meant that Abby’s eyes glazed over.
Anyway, Abby shakes her head and Trav dives on her and starts kissing her, or, as McGuire puts it with her usual lovely imagery, ‘Without another thought, my lips slammed into hers’. Another thought? Were his lips having thoughts in the first place? That seems to be more than the rest of him was doing. Abby kisses him back. He comes up for air and tells her to tell Parker she won’t see him any more. Finding out how Abby feels about him is still, apparently, less of a priority than making sure she won’t be getting together with his rival. Abby answers the question Trav actually should have asked by saying she can’t be with him. He wants to know why not, but she just shakes her head. Trav gets sarcastic:
“Unbelievable. The one girl I want, and she doesn’t want me.”
Oh, Travis, it is very believable that someone doesn’t want you. Especially when you get all angry and self-pitying like that. Resentful whinging; the anti-aphrodisiac.
We get an unexpected burst of honesty from Abby; the life of fighting, drinking, and gambling that Travis lives is the life she left behind her. She moved hundreds of miles to get away from that life, and she doesn’t want to get drawn into it again. OK, that’s the first plausible, sensible, realistic reaction I’ve read in this book in a while.
Travis insists he’ll change; he’ll stop fighting as soon as he graduates (I assume he has to leave it till then so that he can keep paying rent on their cushy apartment), and he’ll give up drinking now. Oh, if only he’d realise the anger was an even bigger problem and work on that. But still, it is actually progress, if he can stick to it. Anyway… his promise works. Abby asks to borrow his phone (I don’t know why; she definitely has hers with her, because she checked the time on it) and phones Parker to tell him she can’t go to dinner with him on Wednesday and can’t see him again at all because she’s in love with Travis. I realise this is meant to be a big plot moment, but all I can think is a) good grief, it’s after 3 am and she’s waking Parker to break up with him, that’s pretty shitty, and b) why on earth has a 21st-century teenager memorised someone’s phone number?
Meanwhile, Travis, of course, is over the moon. He asks Abby back to the flat and she comes with him. Shep bursts out into the hall thinking Trav’s brought another one night stand home but then realises it’s Abby. Trav pulls Abby into his room ready for makeup sex but realises, whoops, yesterday morning he destroyed his bowl of condoms in his blind rage. This would have been a narratively good time for Travis to run up against the consequences of his actions, but Abby decides to have sex with him anyway because it’s a safe time in her cycle. Seriously? I mean, I’m not knocking the fact that she’s thought about at least that much – it’s better than nothing – but a) this is a pretty unreliable method if you don’t know much about fertility awareness (and not the best even if you do), and b) with Travis’s history it’s really worth thinking about STIs. I know he’s used condoms in the past, but it seems worth at the very least asking searching questions about whether he’s ever, ever skipped them in the heat of the moment. Better still, hold off on condom-free sex till he’s had a chance to get tested and you’ve had a chance to get some other contraception sorted out.
But, no, McGuire doesn’t want her romantic couple being held back from sex by practical considerations. So they have unprotected sex and apparently it’s wonderful for both of them this time. Travis gets pretty loud, which must be a delight for Shep and the neighbours given that it’s now somewhere after 3 am. They fall asleep together, this time Abby is still there when Travis wakes up, and he vows to keep his temper and be a better man so that he can be worthy of her. Then he comes up against reality, including the bit where anger problems and learned responses don’t magically go away just because you’ve fallen in love:
By lunchtime, Chris Jenks had pissed me off and I regressed. Abby was thankfully patient and forgiving, even when I threatened Parker not twenty minutes later.
And that seems to be all the detail we get on those incidents. Even if Abby’s eyes weren’t glossing anything over, sounds like Travis certainly is. You know… I’m going to check out those scenes in ‘Beautiful Disaster’ to see what exactly went on. Bear with me a minute.
….ooookay. I initially started writing about the equivalent section in ‘Beautiful’ here, but it was making the post massively long. So what I’m going to do is stop this post here and write a separate post about ‘Beautiful’, then finish reviewing this chapter in another post at a later stage. Catch you guys later!