Speaking of erotic narratives of questionable quality, did any of you guys see Nymphomaniac? I have some thoughts on Part 1 on my other blog. Take a look if you’re interested in stories about sex! You’re reading Bad Books, Good Times, so you might be!
Chapter 26: Panic
[Ariel says: I just got a wave of sympathy panic. She already sent them to Vegas in a fit of desperation to grasp for something to do with this book, so this can only end poorly.]
This chapter is called “Panic”, presumably because Jamie McGuire realized that now that Travis and Abby are together after a long period of fighting, which has already happened once in this story, she has to do something to make the narrative seem like it’s moving forward instead of meandering about aimlessly and meaninglessly.
Case in point:
Life had returned to normal – maybe more for Abby than me. (This doesn’t even mean anything. Travis and Abby’s “normal” is constant fighting whether they’re dating or not.) On the surface we were happy, but I could feel a wall of caution building around me.
Yep, this is probably the “one” “problem” in the way of Trabby’s “happy” ending. “Yep.” How do you think Jamie McGuire will “solve” this?
It’s a tricky one! Which will it be?
The story continues perfunctorily plodding along. The campus’s students without Netflix have reacted to Trabby getting back together with “gossip spik[ing] to an all-time high” (Bless their poor, Netflix-less hearts. They can’t even gossip about House of Cards.) [Ariel says: Like what is there even to gossip about now that they’re actually back together with no ambiguity. Their interest in Trabby’s lives has somehow reached new implausible heights.]
Local fight-organizer Adam [Ariel says: So you remember who Adam is but not beloved BFF Finch, huh, Matt? That’s just rude.] has put a pause on fight-based activities “after the arrests following the most recent fight” that apparently happened and we’re only just learning about now. (Wait, so there are police in this town? Shit, someone really needs to tell them about Travis.) [Ariel says: Wait so OTHER people were arrested? Other people.]
Also it snowed recently. Look at all this important stuff happening in the third-last chapter of this book!
One day in the cafeteria (oh, how I will miss this strange place of ambiguous friendships) [Ariel says: If McGuire really does write a book for all the beloved Maddox brothers who don’t at all read like exactly the same person, I really hope that they all have their very own Lunch Table of Ambiguous Friendships and Thrown Food], Travis gets a call from Adam for his last fight, for which he will be paid in the tens of thousands of dollars, because the economy is really confusing. Travis has mixed feelings about it:
Part of me needed that last fight, but part of me knew it would be time spent away from Abby. After she was attacked at the last one, there was no way I could concentrate if she came to this one
After Abby was “attacked” at the last one. Guess McGuire really is just going to pretend that sexual assault scene in Beautiful Disaster didn’t happen.
Because it’s not like this novel has ever been particularly concerned with consistency, Travis decides Abby needs to come to this fight anyway. [Ariel says: Lolgic.] There is then just page after page of Travis trying to find one of his brothers who will be able to guard Abby at the fight. This actually became a conflict I had to read about for like ten pages. Artificial tension at its finest, because it’s not like there’s any actual tension in this narrative. McGuire does have the characters acknowledge that this isn’t even a real problem because there’s no good reason why Abby couldn’t just not be at the fight, but it’s a “it doesn’t make sense lol” kind of explanation.
“When you’re not there, I can’t concentrate. I’m wondering where you are, what you’re doing… if you’re there and I can see you, I can focus. I know it’s crazy but that’s how it is.”
This would be like if The Godfather didn’t make Michael the only viable successor because Sonny was hot-headed and Fredo was weak, but instead had Vito Corleone simply say “I know it’s crazy but that’s how it is.”
“And crazy is exactly the way I like it,” she said, leaning up to kiss my lips.
“Obviously,” America muttered under her breath.
Shut the fuck up, America. Shepley is the one who can comment on how awful being in this novel is. Go back to not being a good friend. [Ariel says: Yeah, last chapter when Abby was begging for Travis to put her down at the party while he dragged her outside, America’s reaction was literally to be like, “You two look so funny!” Stop saying anything at all, America.]
The fight is in a different building than any of the previous ones, and it’s smaller and lit with lanterns to not draw attention, or because suddenly it’s the 1800s.. McGuire tells us that there’s tension, because actually creating tension would have taken effort.
A sick feeling came over me. The venue was a mistake.
[Ariel says: McGuire uses a nearly identical line in Beautiful Disaster to create tension. This proves what I already suspected: she learned absolutely nothing between writing the two books. I remember when I first read it I was like, “Why is she acting like this fucking lantern is so ominous and why is there a lantern in the first place?”] [Matthew adds: Maybe everybody forgot where the nearest Home Depot is.]
Adam introduces the two fighters to the crowd. First is a new character who just showed up and we’re told is quite a badass-no-seriously, like every single time Travis has ever fought someone in this book. Second, naturally, is Travis, who is quite impressively introduced with “Shake in your boots, boys, and drop your panties, ladies!”, which just sounds like it’d be tonally awkward.
Travis explains the rules of the fight to us for some reason, because I guess the very last fight scene in the novel is the best time to do this. He also tries to explain why badass-no-seriously is going to be tough by talking about, you guessed it, fighting his brothers as a kid! Let’s all enjoy one last “SHUT THE FUCK UP ALREADY”:
The reason the advantage had always been in my favor was because I had four brothers, who all fought different ways.
WRITING TIP: If an explanation in your story is incredibly unbelievable, just keep constantly reminding the reader about it until it is! Even better, the “different ways” Travis’s brothers fight aren’t even all different, because the last one (who is like new-badass-no-seriously and that is why he is the toughest fight evrrrr) fights like Thomas, who… fights like all Travis’s other brothers put together. Thanks for establishing such great characters for us to enjoy, McGuire. Which one is Thomas again? [Ariel says: I have no idea whatsoever, but I hope Thomas is the one that falls in love with Finch in a future novel. Then two people no one can remember can share the epic love story we all deserve.]
There’s a fight and Travis wins. It’s not like there was ever any tension that he wouldn’t, so I don’t see why we should spend any more time on it. [Ariel says: No point in focusing on that when there are ominous lanterns lurking about. I’m getting very concerned that the well of lantern related jokes is going to run dry for me before I get to this in next week’s post from Abby’s perspective.]
Suddenly, MORTAL PERIL:
A hanging lantern in the corner of the main room had fallen, catching a white sheet on fire.
The room catches fire, and in the chaos, Travis is separated from Abby! People desperately try to escape the basement, quickly filling up with smoke. Travis gets to an exit, but can’t leave without knowing what happened to Abby (and Trent), and goes back into the flames to try to find them.
Honestly? I’m kind of all about this climax, because it’s the first time in the entire novel McGuire hasn’t just written the same thing again and told us we’re supposed to care about it. There is mortal peril and Travis going back into the fire – while, yes, obviously stupid – shows Travis’s feelings for Abby, rather than an ending where, say, he’s telling her. Again. And again. Also, as an added bonus, I can pretend this book might end with Travis and Abby dying in a fire until next week’s chapter, which is weirdly everything I’ve ever wanted from this book? [Ariel says: I would have accepted this as a happy ending. Well, only if the very end was Kara dancing on their graves.]