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Is a novel by some gitfaced hack named Jamie McGuire which, in 2012, found itself up for awards in the "young adult" category at the instigation of its author. It also has, as of this writeup, 340 reviews on Amazon, most of which are positive. And it's being touted by some parts of the Internets as "Fifty Shades of Grey jr."

Well, if by such you mean it follows the same pattern of "horrible Mary Sue meets abusive man who hides behind daddy issues and changes him and they all live happily ever after," then, I suppose it is. Just without the BDSM nonsense.

So, I read it to save you the agony.

Executive Summary

It's okay to have an abusive boy friend as long as he's hawt.

A little more detail, if you wouldn't mind?

Well now. In this novel, set in a US university helpfully named Eastern whenever it is referred to, one Abby Abernathy (what the fuck?), our protagonist, goes to some sort of underground fight club with her friends America (yes) and Shepley (yes, seriously) where she meets some sort of fight club person called Travis "Mad Dog" Maddox. He is all ripped and tattooed and has a reputation as being a love em and leave em kinda fella.

Well, next thing we know, Abby Abernathy is crackin' a moistie over him. Ain't life grand.

The rest of the novel then proceeds to revolve around how she somehow changes her abusive, stalky, psychotically violent beloved with her awesome pure pureness and Mary Sue niceness. Now, in reality, I don't need to tell you that this is a Very Bad Idea and the graves are filled with the cadavers of women who thought they could change their abusive partners. But, this not being reality, and because Abby Abernathy is a Mary Sue, she adopts this inauspicious course of action, finds herself lumbered with a diabetically sweet pet name - "Pigeon," or sometimes just shortened to "pidge" (ugh, pass the sickbags), and it all goes from there.

The first thing of note is just how stupid all the characters are. Aside from their ridiculous names, they all overreact massively. Every other woman in the story bar Abby and her friend America spends her time simply throwing herself at Travis and being rebuffed by same. Abby herself turns out to be the offspring of some legendary card sharp, which causes consternation, and so forth. When Abby thinks Travis is losing interest in her, she doesn't just cry herself to sleep, she "let the tears drench the pillow case." And Travis himself is a horrible, stalky, abusive cunthole who slaps and beats Abby for looking at other folks appreciatively. This does not cause her to dump him, but to stick with it because, well, yano, he's all hawt and has a six pack and tatts and all that. You see, this is not just about reforming a bad boy type, it's about suffering the slings, arrows, and right hooks of an outrageously violent man-child. Who should be got rid of, not allowed to cling to your leg like a homesick turd and please-baby-please-baby-please his way back into your life.

It was roughly when she did stump up the testicular fortitude to ditch him, and then couldn't live without him, and kept ringing him, and this resulted in him "smashing {his} phone into a million pieces" on New Year's Eve that I shut my eyes and screamed at the top of my voice until my throat bled, so much was the concentrated stupidity therein. A process which was repeated when she only did take him back regardless. And in the end (note lack of spoiler warning because this book deserves spoiling), reader, she married him. Alas. And had "Mrs Maddox" tattooed on her forearm. Double alas. Did I mention - SHE'S ONLY NINETEEN?!?!?!?!

Let's have a digression here, because this seems, unfortunately, to be a trend in books right now. Abusive relationships. And glamorising the abuse therein because the heroine's lust object is sufficiently hawt, or rich, or both. There's a lot of it about. "Twilight" springs to mind here, with the whole stalkyness, the "I watched you sleep" scene which cements Edward as a bit of a creephat, and the general obsessive controllingness of it all. But it's okay, because he's a hawt sparkly vampire. (Even Robert Pattinson hates his character and the novels and admits he only signed up to do it for the money and to get a chance at porking Kristen Stewart.) Then there's "Fifty Shades of Grey" in which abuse is conflated with BDSM and handwaved because Christian is giga-rich. Then there's the execrable Fifty Shades knock-off "Bared to You" in which the romantic interest, as well as treating Eva like a vagina with legs, gets away with it because he's hawt and spectacularly wealthy and has a mutton dagger like the colossus of Amenhotep. And then there is this. It really, really, genuinely bothers me that novels and novelists are downplaying abuse in relationships and glossing over it all in this manner. I mean, yes, 50 years ago Mills and Boon had a guideline that the romantic interests had to be "capable of rape," but they didn't actually go ahead and do it, now, did they. No, they did not. But now, they are. And it sells. Massively. More's the pity.

Anyhow. Digression over. There's some sort of sub-plot about how the fight club and the card games are all linked into organised crime somehow but it's all of secondary importance to the Mary Sue like protagonist and her ongoing affair with an abuser. By this time I lost interest.

I should also mention that the author's ability to take criticism is non-existent. One of the higher rated one-star reviews on Amazon calls the author out on this and on classifying it as "young adult" fiction to whore for awards and ends up with several sniffy comments from the author, and sniffy blog-posts by her encouraging her fans to boycott fellow writers who have been critical on flimsy grounds.

Oh, and it gets worse. There's going to be a sequel named "Walking Disaster" but probably should be called "Barefoot and Pregnant." I dare say it will be just as execrable. Course, the real sequel should be one in 10 years' time which documents Abby Abernathy Maddox's quest to escape her wreck of a marriage without ending up holding up a lily.

In short, well... this novel is worse than facial herpes. Let's stick with that.


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