So get ready for that.
Chapter 19: Daddy’s Home
Jesus, Jamie McGuire really has the worst chapter titles.
Want to know why this is such an awful chapter title? Of course you do, you’re reading this blog. Amazingly enough, the answer is not because of the expression’s rooted misogyny, glorification of the patriarchy, or straight-up creepy overtones (although those all do apply). What makes it bad is that Travis has never said “daddy’s home” at any point in the book. Sure, it’s a fairly well-known expression, but it’s never used in the context of this book until it suddenly shows up and we’re supposed to understand this thing we have no prior understanding of. [Ariel says: What I hate most about the chapter titles in the Disaster series is that it always feels like Jamie McGuire is doing an exaggerated wink at us for each and every one of them.]
As you may recall, this example is indicative of problems with the entire narrative of this book at this point. Last chapter we suddenly learned that Abby is a world-famous poker player we’ve never heard of and her dad is another world-famous poker player we’ve never heard of and Travis idolizes him which – once more, with feelings – we’ve never heard of. So get ready for this chapter, where more things that have zero foundation within the story take it radically (and unintentionally hilariously) in a different direction.
But first we have Travis’s frat’s date party.
Travis and Shepley buy Abby and America a billion zillion flowers. This also goes on for a billion zillion pages. See, I just saved you from having to read all that. No need to thank me. Just doing my job.
Abby and America get ready at Travis and Shepley’s [Ariel asks: Have we mashed Travis and Shepley’s names yet? Because both “Trash” and “Shet” are options.] apartment, because apparently it makes most sense to do this not where you live. Travis objects to his girlfriend’s choice of clothing because it’s too revealing AKA Christian Grey-style AKA “You’re not leaving the house like that young lady!” dad-style.
“You look incredible… but you can’t wear that. Your skirt is… wow, your legs are… your skirt is too short and it’s only half a dress!”
“That’s the way it’s made, Travis.” Abby smiled. […]
“Do you two live to torture each other?” Shepley frowned.
Yes, Shepley! They do! It is very unhealthy.
“I can’t take you to my frat house looking like that. I’ll get in a fight the first five minutes.”
Seriously, someone listen to Shepley. These two are destroying each other. [Ariel says (gazing at the ceiling): But it’s a beautiful disaster.]
Travis and Abby talk about this and eventually Travis concludes that no matter what Abby wears she’ll look gorgeous and other guys will find her attractive but it doesn’t matter because she wants to be with him. Hopefully this never fucking comes up again.
They go to the party and we also learn another reason why Travis is crazy:
“Dude, you got your girl’s name [tattooed] on your wrist?”
WHAT. They’ve been dating for a matter of DAYS and he got her name tattooed on himself?! [Ariel says: Wait, your book kept in the scene where Travis objects to Abby’s choice of clothing, but not the scene where he gets the tattoo in the first place OR the scene where he reveals the tattoo to her and frets about their future?] [Matthew adds: McGuire seriously cashed this book in.]
I turned over my hand to reveal Abby’s nickname.
Okay, I didn’t think it could actually get worse from there, but Travis has once again challenged my definition of “stupid”. First, he gets his a tattoo of his girlfriend’s name when they’ve dating for what I think is still less than a week. Second, he didn’t get a tattoo of her real name, but of her nickname (second and a half, it is a stupid nickname that still doesn’t make sense). Third, Travis said when he got this tattoo last chapter that it was “What I always said I would do if I met the right girl”, except if he’s just getting a tattoo of a nickname that he gave her – a nickname he would have given to whoever the right girl was – then what is the point? He could’ve gotten that tattoo years ago; it would still have said “Pigeon”. Travis has somehow gotten a tattoo that is both way too serious and completely meaningless.
At the party, Travis and Abby talk about how much the other person means to them. And then they walk in on Parker fingering a girl.
The second we stepped outside, I paused, as did Abby, and Parker, and the makeup-spackled girl he was fingering.
Wow, Jamie McGuire is really trying to make this book’s sudden shift in narrative as thorough as possible. Remember how last chapter Parker was plotting to win Abby back? [Ariel says: Just wait till next chapter when McGuire reveals that Parker is also a world famous poker player and is going to try to win Abby back by playing the most important poker game of his life.]
“At least he’s moved on from trying his damnedest to get you back,” I said, smiling.
Yep, I guess that’s not as important as the first half of this book just having nothing to do with the second half.
“He took one girl home for me once. Now he acts like he’s made a habit of swooping in and saving every freshman I bagged.”
Abby shot me a wry look from the corner of her eye. “Did I ever tell you how much I loathe that word?”
OH MY GOD DID THAT REALLY HAPPEN?
Abby finally told Travis to stop using the word “bagged”! This is the best chapter ever! Maybe the book will be readable from here on out!
“If it feels this good to have this on my arm, I can’t imagine how it’s going to feel to get a ring on your finger.”
…right, I forgot that this book is taking that whole “Abby and Travis need to get married by the end of this” thing seriously.
“I’m saying we need to slow down. That’s all I’m saying.” […]
“It seems like we take one step forward and two steps back, Pidge.”
Yes. Your girlfriend of less than a week not wanting to marry you is a step backwards in the relationship. Yes. [Ariel says: Worse, Matthew. It’s two steps back.]
“I don’t get it… most girls are hounding their boyfriends to get serious, to talk about their feelings, to take the next step…”
“I thought we established that I’m not most girls?”
More importantly, when do they establish that they haven’t even been dating for a week? [Ariel says: Most importantly, I feel this is the appropriate time to bring back Pink’s song Most Girls.
You’re very welcome.]
So with Parker seemingly thoroughly resolved forever, that pretty much marks the end of everything this book has had that can be construed as “narrative” or “plot” thus far, except we’re only 60% through this book. So what’s the next 40% about?
Those all seem like radically different stories than the one we’ve been reading for over half a book, and suddenly shifting over the second half of the book to one of these plots would be laughably unbelievable, right? Well, Abby’s dad suddenly shows up at a college frat party and the rest of the book is about Las Vegas mobsters.
They were crowded around an older, slovenly man, unshaven and dirty to the point where he looked like he smelled. (Although for some reason Travis can’t actually determine if he smells or not.) […]
Abby stormed over to the man […] “What in the hell are you doing here?” […]
Mick looked at Abby’s dress and clicked his tongue in disapproval. “Well, well, Cookie. (Also the rest of the book apparently takes place in the 1940s.) You can take the girl out of Vegas-” […]
Abby sighed. “What do you want?”
He held up his hands and shrugged. “I seemed to have gotten myself in a pickle, kiddo. Old Dad needs some money.”
Abby’s entire body tensed. “How much?” […]
“Well, shit, Mick, twenty-five hundred? If you’ll get the hell outta here… I’ll give that to you now,” I said, pulling out my wallet. (Somehow Travis preparing to pull $2500 out of his wallet at this party is the least ridiculous thing about this scene. That should say something.)
“He means twenty-five thousand,” Abby said, her voice cold.
Mick’s eyes rolled over me, from my face to my shoes. “Who’s this clown?” (Wait, the 1940s mobster is growing on me. Maybe this won’t be so bad.) […]
“Who do you owe this time, Mick?”
Mick scratched his greasy, graying hair. “Well, it’s a funny story, Cookie […] Benny.”
Abby leaned into me. “Benny? You owe Benny?”
YEP. THIS IS WHAT THE PLOT IS NOW. THE FIRST 60% OF THE BOOK DEFINITELY SET US UP FOR AN ENDING ABOUT LAS VEGAS MOBSTERS.
[Ariel says: I was giving this serious thought today while on the bus (where 90% of my serious thoughts take place), and this would be like if Lord of the Rings was suddenly about Frodo becoming the Wolf of Wall Street.
It’s just a completely different fucking story than the one we initially began reading. And not in like a You’re Next way (you know the movie where a family starts getting murdered at their reunion but suddenly one of the girlfriends is revealed to be a badass and fights back? Sorry if I spoiled that for anyone, but it was a fun little change of pace. Completely unlike the story we’re currently describing to you.]
He shifted; the smug grin on his face had vanished. “How much ya got?”
“Eleven thousand.” […]
Mick’s eyes were suddenly animated. “You can double that in a weekend, Cookie. You could get me the twenty-five by Sunday, and Benny won’t send his thugs for me.” […]
America sighed. “Pack your bags, boys. We’re going to Vegas.”
ONCE AGAIN, THIS IS SERIOUSLY THE PLOT NOW.
Now, I’d like to be extra clear on this one. I’m not saying that what’s bad about this story is that Abby’s father is an emotionally abusive father perfectly willing to use his daughter for money. Nor am I saying that what’s bad about this story is that Abby lets him. This is actually a complicated relationship that – in the hands of a competent writer – could make for a perfectly good story. Except Jamie McGuire is not a competent writer, because what I am saying is bad about this is where did it COME from? We knew Abby had a secret past since the beginning (which is not an excuse for not setting up a shift in narrative this significant), and we’ve know that she’s good at poker since… last chapter. And now the rest of the narrative hinges on this sudden influx of information we didn’t have for the first half of the book?
[Ariel adds: It’s also the whole shitty and sudden arrival of Mick to the party literally seconds after Abby thinks in her head that she’s Travis’ weakness like she is her father’s. Then American runs in and is like, “SPEAKING OF MICK HE CALLED MY FAM LAST NIGHT.” Speaking of speaking of Mick he’s suddenly fucking here at the party somehow!]
Even now I’d like to point out that even that doesn’t necessarily mean a book is “bad”. If you set it up properly, having the second half of the novel be about something completely different from the first half can make for a really good story, such as:
- The New Example: Looking For Alaska by John Greene – The story is split into two halves about what life is like for the main character before and after a major incident occurs (sorry, I have to be vague because I refuse to ruin this book for anyone)
- The Old Example: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – This story is massive in scope so it’s hard to split it cleanly into two halves (although the musical adaptation did), but the first half of the story is about a person trying to redeem himself for his criminal past, and the second half of the story would seemingly be very different because suddenly it’s all about a revolution, but at the heart of it there’s still that person and his changed struggle for redemption in this very different circumstance than existed in the first half of the book.
- The Shakespeare Example: A Winter’s Tale – Wikipedia sums it up best: “the first three acts are filled with intense psychological drama, while the last two acts are comedic and supply a happy ending”. But the two halves work together because of how they portray the passage of time. I think. Honestly, I only remember that this is the “Exit, pursued by a bear” one. You could even say I bear-ly remember it. Haaaaa okay what were we talking about
- [Ariel’s very topical example from above.]
- [Ariel adds: Or Cougar Town which started out about a show that didn’t know what it wanted to do or why it had given itself such a terrible title only to become another hilarious show about a group of friends that hang out, drink wine, and have wacky adventures.]
But basically my point is that in all of those three [Ariel says: FIVE] examples, the second, radically different halves of the stories work because the first half took the time to set them up. [Ariel says: Cougar Town obviously knew what it was doing all along…] The reader is not alienated by a shift they’re not prepared for, but rather come to terms with it in much the same way the main characters do. Having a single chapter right before the “shift” into the radically different second half does not count. It looks silly.