Apr 2 2013 11:30am

First Look: Jamie McGuire’s Walking Disaster (April 2, 2013)

Walking Disaster by Jamie McGuireJamie McGuire
Walking Disaster
Atria / April 2, 2013 / $15.00 print, $7.99 digital

Can you love someone too much?

Travis Maddox learned two things from his mother before she died: Love hard. Fight harder.

In Walking Disaster, the life of Travis is full of fast women, underground gambling, and violence. But just when he thinks he is invincible, Abby Abernathy brings him to his knees.

Every story has two sides. In Beautiful Disaster, Abby had her say. Now it’s time to see the story through Travis’s eyes.

We all know their type. The kind of guy that’s only with a girl for one thing; the kind who has built up an impressive reputation around his sexual exploits. He either attracts women who think they can change him or the ones that just want that one thing too. He’s also the type to scare away anyone that doesn’t want to take the risk. But even if we do know someone just like him, we rarely get to see the inner workings of his mind.

Walking Disaster offers that rare glimpse by giving Travis Maddox’s side of the story in the follow-up to Jamie McGuire’s Beautiful Disaster. He is a stereotypical player, complete with his use of the term “bagging” in relation to his conquests. Since his appearance in the first book, he’s been a controversial character because of his temper and possessiveness over Abby Abernathy, the girl he grows to realize is the love of his life. He initially comes across as completely one dimensional with his fighting, drinking, and womanizing. Fortunately, there seems to be more to him than the sum total of these less than stellar qualities. His complex inner workings and struggles with sense of self are in considerable contrast to what he displays outward throughout his morphing relationship with Abby.

As much as we could talk about all the players in the story and how they affect Travis, really this story is about how he sees things and how he ultimately makes his decisions. The novel is a mirror to that of Beautiful Disaster, as far as the timeline is concerned, with many of the situations made fuller for the reader through Travis’ commentaries. Essentially, you do need to read both books to get the entire effect, as some moments are more dependent on the reader knowing what happened in book one, but most of Travis and Abby’s journey are replayed here for a well-rounded effect.

Following along with the clarification on the overall plot line, McGuire shows us Travis’s initial desire to become friends with Abby and how this even surprises him in its fervency. The need he feels to have this young woman in his life seems incredibly unbalanced much of the time to those looking on, either as players in the book or those reading along.

“[America] 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 f*&%up, you just might be exactly what she needs. You get one more chance…Don’t mess it up…you know…any more than usual.”

It’s the ability to watch the thought process that adds to the emotional tangibility of the main character. The reader might not agree with Travis’s actions but they are compelled by him to continue reading, with a stronger connection to his humanity and all its faulty tendencies.

“Abby pulled me closer to her. Each movement she made was further affirmation pf her answer. She felt the same. She cared about me. She wanted me. I wanted to run around the block screaming in celebration, and at the same time, didn’t want to move my mouth from hers.”

Travis and Abby have their work cut out for them from day one. Abby has an unusual past. Travis was raised in a house full of men, losing his mother at an age young enough to affect his future ideals of love in a seemingly permanent way. Neither of the two has any idea how to handle what they are feeling, while dealing with the normal, and abnormal, situations that arise through the story’s time frame. It can easily be regarded that the shutting down or lashing out that they each do is a direct result either of background or emotional immaturity and the accompanying inability to readily cope.

“Abby wouldn’t have noticed, but Thomas’s expression was a front for what he was really doing—analyzing her every word and movement. Thomas was always on the lookout for someone that could potentially rock our already rickety boat. Waves weren’t welcome…”

The biggest challenge for McGuire here is convincing the reader to believe in the possibility of her characters in making a true and lasting go of things. This is especially difficult because of their age, as merely first year students in college, but also because so many have questioned Travis as a decent role model. The author doesn’t shy away from the controversy, instead bringing on an epilogue that will answer questions and may even quell the more vociferous of her readers concerned with Travis’ mentality and Abby’s willingness to stay with him.

“Maybe it was just me. Maybe it was just me and her. Maybe together we were this volatile entity that would either implode or meld together. Either way, it seemed the moment I met her, my life had been turned upside down. And I didn’t want it any other way.”

Walking Disaster is a story that makes you question the idea of a love that is meant to be. It makes you uncomfortable at times, but it also points out that love isn’t perfect. Everyone has to make hard choices about who they want to spend their time with. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. Travis is hotheaded and not always entirely rational, but he is capable of much deeper feelings than his outward appearance led many to believe after reading about him in Beautiful Disaster. Sometimes, it appears, you just have to give a guy a break.

Learn more about or order a copy of Walking Disaster by Jamie McGuire:

Buy at Amazon

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Jackie Lester imagines a day when she can make a living as a writer. Until then, she reviews eclectic books at My Ever Expanding Library and lives in small-town Ontario with her daughter.

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1. emmel
Beautiful Disaster was one of those books that I didn't think I would like and then found I just couldn't put down. Yes, I bought the story, so reading Walking Disaster is something I'd like to do. If nothing else, just to see this construct of "the other side of the relationship" should be pretty interesting.
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
We've done a post where we talked about hearing from a different point of view before, and now it seems as though there are more and more authors presenting the "other side." I'm not sure I'd want to read the other side if I loved the first book, but I am open to being persuaded.
Jackie Lester
3. JackieLester
@emmel - I did a lot of eye rolling in both stories but for some undefinable reason, I couldn't stop reading either one.

@Megan- I can understand authors writing the other POV to make their characters more well rounded, in the draft phase. But selling it? I'm still not convinced. I have to admit that I did rate this one a little higher than Beautiful Disaster because Travis brought more emotion out in me. Could've just been my mood at the time though :p
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