Saturday, August 12, 2017

ARC Review: Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios

Title: Bad Romance
Author: Heather Demetrios
Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Pages: 368
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Grace wants out. Out of her house, where her stepfather wields fear like a weapon and her mother makes her scrub imaginary dirt off the floors. Out of her California town, too small to contain her big city dreams. Out of her life, and into the role of Parisian artist, New York director—anything but scared and alone.

Enter Gavin: charming, talented, adored. Controlling. Dangerous. When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it's too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she's unable to escape.

Deeply affecting and unflinchingly honest, this is a story about spiraling into darkness—and emerging into the light again.

If you're surprised to see me reviewing a contemporary YA novel, you're not the only one - I can't believe I read it! The cover was what caught my eye at first, but then reading the synopsis hooked me. I have some personal experience with bad romance and I also know a couple people who have more in depth experience in toxic relationships than I do. I thought that if any contemporary was for me, it was this one. But while Bad Romance started out strong, it didn't end up being as good as I'd hoped.

Grace is the protagonist of this story. She is already a victim when this book begins. Her mother has married an abusive man who takes out his anger on his family and treats Grace like his own personal slave, and her mother does nothing to stop it. Grace's home life is rough and she has plans to escape as soon as high school is over. Before that can happen though, she meets Gavin, the high school's resident broody musician. Gavin is charming and gorgeous and talented. Gavin has also recently attempted suicide over a breakup and Grace (obviously) thinks this is oh-so-sweet. For whatever reason, Grace writes him a letter which begins their extremely unhealthy relationship.

Demetrios does a fantastic job of creating a relationship that's believable. It's easy to see why Grace falls for Gavin and it's just as easy to understand how their relationship devolved into such a toxic one. This is something that a lot of people don't understand - why women don't just leave when their significant others turn into abusive jerks. It isn't always that simple for a victim to leave an abusive situation and that's something the author makes about as clear as possible. Unfortunately, that's about as far as the positives go for Bad Romance.

I have several complaints about this book and the first is the choice in writing style. For some reason, it's written like a letter to Gavin, except it really isn't. Bad Romance pretends to be a letter, but instead it's written like any other book but with a jarring "you" thrown in every now and then where you'd expect to see "he." This writing style might work for some other books, but I didn't feel that it added a single thing to be addressed as the abuser in this particular narrative.

Like I said earlier, the story is believable in the way it shows abuse victims staying in relationships, it isn't very enjoyable to read. A huge part of this book is repetition. Grace goes to work, Gavin plays some music, Gavin gets mad, Grace gets upset, Grace's friends worry, Gavin says sorry, rinse and repeat. I know that this is the way a real life situation might play out but it made for a super tedious and boring reading experience.

Finally, I never felt that Grace really saved herself. While I can appreciate that sometimes it can take the interference of friends or meeting a guy who doesn't treat you like crap, it would've been so much more satisfying for Grace to pull herself out of this situation. I also wish the book hadn't started with the ending. It's so much less impactful to know how everything ends up before you even get to the actual story.

I expected Bad Romance to be a great book if not one I particularly enjoyed reading because of the subject matter. It had all of the makings of a good read, but it was executed oddly and the story really dragged on. That being said, I do think it's an important book, especially for the YA audience! I really hope more books on this topic will follow (and hopefully I'll like them more).