The Brief Respite of the Cardigans: Beautiful Disaster Chapter 9

Mick Jagger Dancing

Last week, Trabby still didn’t get together, but the rest of the school was sayin’ that Abby slept with Travis AND Blando in the same night. SLANDEROUS LIES!

Chapter 9 – Promises 

My Kindle app just informed me that I’m only 39% of the way through this book. That means we’re almost halfway though, yet the chapter starts like this:

Finch shook his head. “OKAY, so you’re with Parker, or with Travis? I’m confused.” [Said everyone.]

“Parker’s not talking to me, so that’s sort of up in the air right now,” I said, bouncing to readjust my backpack.

He blew out a puff of smoke and then picked a piece of tobacco from his tongue. “So are you with Travis?”

That’s 20% of the way shit right there. We’ve read this same conversation repeatedly, so having Finch initiate it instead of America this time is not making me care about the answer any more than I did before (which was not at all). [Matthew says: Even a character who stands out from the crowd of random, smoking, edgy-tongued college guys like Finch.]


Except I’m not really done. I’m not even halfway done somehow.

“You realize everyone thinks you two are having some sort of freaky friends-with-benefits thing going on that you’re not admitting to, right?”

Rather than being “freaky,” wouldn’t that actually make this entire story make more sense? Three words: platonic bed-sharing. Two more words: contrived bets. [Matthew says: One more word: Palimpsest! It’s a piece of paper that was previously written on but has been erased so it can be reused and written on again. This has nothing to do with the book, I just think it’s really cool we have a word for that.][Ariel says: Nothing to do with this book? I wish this entire book had been one big palimpset.] 

“I don’t care. They can think what they want.”

“Since when? What happened to the nervous, mysterious, guarded Abby I know and love?”

She went the way of the dodo, cardigans and pearls, Finch.

“…you’re hiding something. The cardigans, the demure sophisticate that goes to fancy restaurants with Parker Hayes … that’s not you.

Wait. Cardigans you say? Have the cardigans been here in our hearts all along? Like the treasured memory of a long lost friend? Or like the treasured memory of a long lost characterization? ‘Cause they definitely haven’t been on Abby’s body. [Matthew says: We’re not actually at this point of our viewing of The Room yet, but I think this is a super appropriate time for this gif]

What cardigans?
What cardigans? What pearls? What demure sophistication?

We get our first glimpse into what Abby’s been hiding in her past, and it’s her dad Mick Abernanthy, a gambling, “drunken has-been” with a bad temper. We also get a glimpse into why this bit of plot is somehow the dumbest fucking thing in Beautiful Disaster, which is quite the accomplishment because there is so much competition for dumbest fucking thing in Beautiful Disaster. 

“I was born in Nevada. Everything Mick touched turned to gold back then. When I turned thirteen, his luck changed.”

“And he blamed you.”

Do not read this as just a throwaway line or Abby’s unique interpretation of the situation. This is a major driving force in the rest of the story and is somehow supposed to have an emotional impact on the reader. At least make Mick blaming his daughter for his failures rooted in some truth other than “Abby turned thirteen and suddenly Mick’s luck went from bad to good.” [Matthew says: I’m somehow more confused than before.] It would be like if in Harry Potter there wasn’t actually a prophecy about Harry defeating Voldemort, and instead Voldemort was like, “Harry was born around the time my luck turned to shit. I MUST KILL HIM!”

Travis shows up to go to lunch with Abby, and we learn that McGuire has a bizarre understanding of flirtation. [Matthew says: You say “learn” like this is new information for us.][Ariel says: Shit, you’re right. By learn I guess I really mean “continue to bemoan.”]

We sat at the lunch table together picking on each other with pinches and elbows to the ribs.

What a strange and uncomfortable way to eat lunch with someone. I’m just surprised there was no mention of them throwing food on each other’s plates. Does this count as character development? It would be the most we’ve seen here so far, even more so than Travis’ apparent transformation from man-whore to guy-who-only-pines-for-Abby.

Everyone at the table noticed, and when he instigated a mini–food fight with me, it garnered the attention of those sitting at the tables around us.

Never mind. The book couldn’t even give me character development when I was making a joke about it. [Matthew says: Why is everyone in this novel constantly using food in this way? People are always fighting with it or aggressively throwing it onto each others’ plates. I’m starting to get concerned that McGuire had some traumatic experience with food and should really with a professional about it.]

Abby comments that she’s tired of feeling like a “zoo animal,” which prompts Travis to take a stand.

For some fucking incomprehensible reason Travis starts singing “Satisfaction” on the table. People have to eat off those tables, Travis, you inconsiderate fuck. [Matthew says: This is yet another scene left out of Travis’s version of the story in Walking Disaster, which is actually kind of upsetting because this is the sort of thing where it’d actually be nice to know what on earth he was thinking.]

Travis jerked his hips, and a few whistles and squeals from the girls in the room fired off. He walked by me again, singing the chorus to the other side of the room, the football players his backup singers.

Travis, drunk with the delusion that he’s somehow become Mick Jagger, continues to enchant the cafeteria because why the hell not?

Mick Jagger Dancing
See for more “delightful” Jagger dancing gifs!

He finishes his performance and tells Abby that no one is looking at her anymore, which only lasts for a second because Blando chooses this time to return and tell Abby they need to talk. [Matthew says: Notice how Ariel wrote all of that without a single “Moves Like Jagger” joke. We’re professionals!] This must be the most entertaining lunch ever for the students without Netflix. I imagine their discussions must be along the lines of, “Triple crap, did you see that? First Travis and Abby were elbowing and pinching each other whilst eating divine lettuce. I wonder what it could mean?? But wait! Travis then performed a song and dance for us, which was simply riveting! Oh my! We thought things couldn’t get even more exciting, but then Parker showed up to talk to Abby. And it’s like omg I don’t even KNOW. I’VE NEVER HEARD OF THE INTERNET!! WHAT IS E-MAIL EVEN?” Yes, my impression of everyone at their university is also very similar to my impression of Anastasia Steele.

Parker tells Abby he had no reason to get upset about her and Travis given they’d only been on a handful of dates. It’s true, but I actually think Blando would have the right to be upset if she had slept with Travis because she explicitly told him he had nothing to worry about there, and everyone is entitled to get mad at liars who lie. Anyway, he tells Abby he wants them to have a real shot, but that he’s going to wait until after her bet is over. Wise words, Blando. But I don’t see why Abby would want anything to do with him if he did start the rumor about her sleeping with Travis (and seriously, who else would have started it?). [Matthew says: This is also left out of Walking Disaster. What the shit, McGuire? The novel just continued without any explanation of what was going on with Abby and Parker, somehow making it seem like they both were and were not still involved, like some sort of Schrodinger’s secondary character.]

For the last two weeks of the bet, Trabby spends lots of time together doing things only friends do! Like cuddling on the couch, going on dates… er, I mean getting drinks and dinner, and “play-wrestling.”

He made a point to ignore every girl that batted an eyelash at him, and everyone talked about the new Travis.

Now that’s character development.

Anyway, it’s now Abby’s last night at the apartment, and they’re both super sad. Abby acts like this is the most devastating thing in the world, which lacks any ability to strike an emotional chord because the solution lies completely with Abby. Imagine I said to you, “I really have to pee, but I don’t want to leave the couch.” While this is a far more legitimate problem than Abby’s, it’s still far less easy to sympathize with than, “I really have to pee, but I’m driving and there is no place to stop for another hundred miles!”

The weight of the grief we both felt was crushing, and an irrepressible need came over me to save us both.

Yes, Abby! Save yourselves (and us) from your “grief” by becoming a couple and hanging out at the apartment together every day and night. Clearly you’re not going to just sleep with Travis and then leave thinking this is saving you both, right?

“I’ve wanted you for so long, Abby. You’re all I want,” he breathed against my mouth.


My eyes snapped shut with the thought of his expression when he learned that what had happened between us wasn’t a beginning, it was closure. I couldn’t go down that road, and he would hate me when I told him.

Well, this is awkward. [Matthew says: Wait, so we don’t actually get any explanation for why Abby suddenly decided to sleep with Travis from her side of the story either? What the shit, McGuire? Why even have a novel from each characters’ perspective if neither of them can explain why they do anything they do?][Ariel says: I know! Abby never actually explains anything to us! The only hint of a reason she gives is that the night will be really sad and hard for both of them if they don’t have sex. Thank God she isn’t in charge of solving real problems because her solutions would be terrible.]

One thing I will give Jamie McGuire props for is the fact that this sex scene didn’t talk about having a billion (voice-activated) orgasms, nor is there an orgasm described as “detonating”. It reads like an actual first time would probably read and all the wording is decidedly not gross like 90% of the word choices in Crossfire or Fifty Shades books. [Matthew adds: I can support this, and let you know that unlike the cartoonish sex scenes in Fifty Shades, this was definitely something that I really wish I didn’t read on public transportation.]

Abby sneaks out after Travis falls asleep and casually asks America to drive her to her dorm room now instead of in the morning. You know what this means, guys. KARA’S BACK!!

Seen the last of me
Oh hi, Kara. (If you’re not reading Matt’s posts about The Room, this joke may be lost on you.)

The next morning, Kara tells Abby to answer her phone because it’s been ringing nonstop since 8 a.m. Poor Kara has gotten used to living peacefully for an entire month, and Abby’s back for one night and already has ruined everything.

America shows up, thus disrupting the peace even more, to tell Abby this:

“Travis is a fucking wreck! He won’t talk to us, he’s trashed the apartment, threw the stereo across the room . . . Shep can’t talk any sense into him!”

Just in case you weren’t sure, I’ll translate for you. “Travis is acting violent and sexy again. You should come back and talk to him with your vagina.”

Kara grabbed her shower bag and fled. She slammed the door behind her, and I frowned, afraid she would tell the resident adviser, or worse, the dean of students.

Tell them what? That Abby disrupted her sleep… or are they just as interested in the Trabby drama as the rest of this damn school? [Matthew says: Actually, the dean of students is the one person in this book who really should be concerned by Travis’s activities.]

Abby won’t tell America what she did.

“His face was… Jesus, Abby. I’ve never seen him like that. He ripped his sheets off the bed, and threw them away, threw his pillows away, shattered his mirror with his fist, kicked his door… broke it from the hinges! It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life!”

Remember, this is the guy who is supposed to be the sexy love interest! Yummy! Also, McGuire has assured us that this book is NOT depicting an abusive relationship in any way and that these characters are both just a little damaged, but this is Definitely. Completely. Romantic. Not creepy. How fucking dare you imply that. [Matthew says: For those of you curious to know just what Jamie McGuire could have written about reviews criticizing this novel as glorifying abusive relationships, I finally got curious enough to Google it myself.]

Abby calls Travis after America insists.

“I need to see you,” he said, his voice desperate.

I sighed. “I have a lot to do today, Trav. I have to unpack and I have piles of laundry.”

This is a worse excuse then the time they were about to talk about her feelings, and she was like, “Sorry, I really need to go shopping.” She could have at least been like, “I need to get tested for STDs after coming into contact with your peen.” [Matthew says: I’m honestly waiting for the cliched “I need to wash my hair” excuse. We still have half a book left!]

America rightfully points out that this all makes no sense and that last night should have been a happy milestone for Trabby, not this bull shit. [Matthew says: Although “happy milestone” is a little up for debate, since they’re still not communicating and can now only add “just banged that one time” to their communication failures.] Abby claims that she’s no longer worried that Travis is Mick (her father) but that she is her father. This would be a more interesting reason why she felt like she couldn’t be with Travis if earlier in this chapter she hadn’t said exactly the opposite thing. Or if somewhere between then and now she’d realized that she had it all wrong. [Matthew says: This would be interesting! I would have read the shit out of that book!]

Blando calls and Abby agrees to go out with him. The chapter ends with Abby assuring America that “this time tomorrow” Travis won’t even miss her. But how could that be possible? Abby’s sparkling personality just makes her so lovable.



  1. Madeline Reply

    I voted for impromptu song and dance without really believing there would ACTUALLY BE an impromptu song and dance. This fucking book man. Also,
    America: “He got really freaked out and violent. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. You need to call him RIGHT NOW my bestest friend in the world.”
    What the hell, America.

    • Vivienne Reply

      I did too! I didn’t actually think there would be a dance number…but oh how I misjudged this book.

      • 22aer22 Reply

        The song and dance came completely out of nowhere, and even though it was supposed to serve the “purpose” of getting the attention off of Abby, it didn’t even work. I’m not even quite sure what the intended reaction to that scene was. In a hypothetical world where I am someone who likes this story and feel invested in the characters, would I find this heartwarming? Romantic? Fun? Unclear.

  2. Kate Reply

    Strangely enough, I feel like McGuire somehow tricked me into giving a shit about Abby and Travis getting together? Not because I even remotely wanted to read about that, but because I was so fucking sick of reading page after page of the same but-do-they-have-feelings-for-each-other? conversations. I was legitimately thrilled when they slept together, because I thought, “Ah, yes, finally they have acknowledged their feelings! We can move on!
    And then Abby stole away in the night, out of Travis’ bedroom and right into mine so that she could kick me directly in the face as punishment for my naivete, and on her way out the door, she loudly pondered why everyone thinks that she and Travis are more than friends.

    • 22aer22 Reply

      I totally get that! When I was first reading this I was so relieved, and I was thinking, “Okay maybe there will be more interesting issues ahead. Even if they’re only interesting enough to make fun of, fine, at least it’s not going to be writing about this will they, won’t they crap anymore.” But then it’s still just nonsensical problems!

  3. Vivienne Reply

    THIS. This was the scene that the people on Goodreads went ballistic over. The one that caused the fucking AUTHOR OF THIS BOOK to come in and start trash talking her critics. I believe I posted a link early on in the reading of this. You should read it.

    • Quinn Reply

      I can’t find the link to Jamie McGuire going ballistic, and it’s definitely relevant to my interests. (The link in this entry says page not found). Would you mind reposting it in a comment?

      For the record, I read Walking Disaster, and the only reason I didn’t repeatedly throw it across the room was it was a library book. I *like* well-written romance, but these books *so* do not qualify for that status.

    • Quinn Reply

      That link was highly entertaining in a trainwreck sort of way, so thanks bunches for providing it. Not only did I get to read Jamie McGuire behaving badly, I got *bonus* wank from the other authors.

      • 22aer22 Reply

        Yes, thank you for posting this again Vivienne! I keep hoping that McGuire will come here and yell at us so we can have some good laughs over that. I mean, obviously we’d be totally wrong because if an author is like, “This is a healthy relationship,” then DUH it must be.

  4. Kristin Reply

    I’ve decided that the only reason the people in the cafeteria are always watching Trabby is because even they can’t believe what nut jobs they are. They are watching simply because it’s a train wreck & they can’t look away. Also, I think they are secretly recording the lettuce fights on their cell phones to upload to the appropriate social media du jour, only Abby is too dumb to know what a cell phone is, thus the reason she never mentions being recorded.
    Now I’m off to Google Jamie McGuire’s rant in the hopes that it was better written then these books.

    • 22aer22 Reply

      Ha! You know I bet if this was real life Abby would be under the impression that there were all these rumors and stares but really, when it all boiled down, people were just eating lunch being like, “Look, it’s another episode of the idiot show. What will they do next? Oh, Travis is fucking dancing on a table.”

  5. Ali Reply

    How can Jamie McGuire just leave out entire scenes of shit that Travis does? I’m pretty sure she wrote walking disaster first
    Also I HATE her argument that her book is okay because damaged people fall in love too. Yup, they sure do, but you’re glamorizing it and making young women think that this is an acceptable relationship to be in.
    You know who could write better? my five month old. Right now all he says is “pppbbbtttt” (raspberries).

    • 22aer22 Reply

      Yes, exactly, no one here has ever said that damaged people can’t fall in love and have a totally romantic story. There are plenty of good stories from books, tv, and movies that have this happen! It’s just that this is poorly executed, tries to make violence seem sexy, and doesn’t even have good characterization for its damaged characters!

  6. Helen Reply

    Glamourising violent and abusive relationships AND not being able to write at all? Jamie McGuire is such a gem.

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