Release Date: June 13th, 2017
Trigger Warnings: emotional cheating, OCD, girl hate, suicide attempts, threats, depression, rape, sexual assault, abuse (emotional)
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
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.
R E V I E W
Bad Romance was an intense read. I had already put this book down once because I wasn’t ready for the triggers in the book. I finally felt ready to jump into this story of how the relationship a girl had dreamed about went wrong. So very wrong. Statistically speaking, many girls and boys will find themselves in relationships similarly to the one in Bad Romance without even realising it. It may be a few of the traits Gavin had or his whole personality. It can all change in a moment, or be something that gradually develops over time.
Bad Romance is a depiction of emotional abuse in a teenage relationship. Grace has dreamed of being with Gavin for years. However, he has been unattainable having been a year older and having a girlfriend. That all changes though with Gavin attempting to commit suicide. Summer is suddenly out of the picture and Grace passes a note to one of Gavin’s friends to pass on to him while he’s in recovery. As soon as he returns to school a week ago he sets his sights on Grace. He wants her and he knows he’s going to get her. What follows is a series of events that show Grace go from a bubbly and happy girl into something much more recluse in order to fit what Gavin wants. Throughout there is also the second narrative of the abuse in Grace’s home life, which really gives the parallel of what her life could be life if she chooses to stay.
The story is told from Grace’s point of view after things with Gavin are called off. She is going through what has happened that led to where she ended up and analysing it. She addresses the book with ‘you’ when talking about or to Gavin. It creates an uncomfortable feeling from the get-go, as you know an impending doom is coming but you’re unsure of how it is going to occur. Honestly, I felt like I was going to throw up several times reading this. Purely because of my past experiences with relationships like this (my sister is currently in one, I was in one and my mum with physical abuse).
I initially gave Bad Romance four stars. I thought it was well done and a pretty accurate description of emotional abuse. However, the more I thought about it the more problems I had with it. I lowered the rating to three stars, something I feel much more comfortable with. I mean, that’s all I can really say, so let’s jump into what I liked and disliked in Bad Romance.
L I K E S
✗ ACCURATE REPRESENTATION OF EMOTIONAL ABUSE IN A RELATIONSHIP
I’ve said this in other sections of this review but the representation of emotional abuse is so well represented. The author mentions at the end of the book that she was in a relationship like this when she was a teenager, so obviously, this is a lot of her own thoughts and feelings from when she was in that relationship. You can tell that this is something she has experienced because of how raw the narrative is. It is honestly so emotion and beautifully depth.
There is such a transition between what is okay in a relationship and what is crossing a line. You’re not in a relationship to be someone’s pretty little doll to sit on their arm and they can fuck whenever they want. You are your own person with your own family and friends.
It isn’t even in the relationship of Gavin and Grace that this is represented. Her mother is in an abusive relationship with her stepfather, which ultimately has Grace being treated like a slave while he screams at her mum and belittles her. I’m speaking from my own experience here, but I can understand why Grace ultimately ended up in the relationship she did. Growing up and witnessing such a mess it’s difficult to think that’s not the normal kind of relationship. It’s honestly just so heartbreaking to read.
✗ STRONG FRIENDSHIP TIES
This is actually my favourite thing about Bad Romance. Grace pushes away her two best friends because of Gavin. They suddenly get pushed to the sidelines and she no longer needs them now that Gavin is here. She has to spend all her time with him and if she isn’t she’s grounded for sneaking out. Suddenly her friends are forgotten. However, they don’t leave her. Despite the fact they’re now hard-core side characters to the story of Gavin and Grace they wait for their friend and point out his flaws that she doesn’t see. They’re there pushing for her to change while she resists in fear of not having anyone who loves her. Her friends are there the entire book despite all Grace’s stupid actions, they make sure to support her. It was so good to finally see such a supportive network of friends.
✗ DETERS FROM THE NORM
I don’t know if anyone noticed but in fiction (whether TV or novels) abusers are so commonly the person from a bad home. The easy target. In Bad Romance this isn’t the case. Gavin is well off, has great parents, and has the whole world about to be delivered to him on a platter. This doesn’t mean he’s a good guy though. Nope. I typically find it’s these kinds of guys one should look out for. They’re the guys who have never been told no, have never had to fight for anything and have too much ego for anyone’s liking. I just really appreciated that Bad Romance didn’t have him from the wrong side of the tracks. It was an interesting change.
D I S L I K E S
✗ GRACE HAD FLAWS
I don’t mind that Grace had flaws, not at all. I love a character that is complex and has depth. My problem was that we’re meant to view Gavin as the ultimate bad guy when Grace really isn’t that great of a person. For one, she emotionally cheats on Gavin. Now, I’m not saying Gavin doesn’t deserve this but she quite literally jumps ship to this other guy really quickly. A line from the book is actually ‘I always fall fast’. I just didn’t think it was fair on either guy as she led them both on, ultimately also having the second guys life threatened by Gavin. It was just a mess and I really think we should acknowledge this. Obviously, Gavin is completely in the wrong but the emotional cheating on Grace’s part still gives me an icky feeling in my stomach and I am not on board with this.
✗ GIRL HATE
My biggest hate in books. It had girl hate. There isn’t much for me to say here, except Grace really feeds into the mentality that guys can’t have girl friends. Not only that but she pretty much slanders Gavin’s ex-girlfriend Summer in the beginning. Which just makes me uncomfortable. She doesn’t understand why someone would want to break up with Gavin, which I guess she very quickly learns.
✗ WHO EVEN WEARS THIS?
This is another mediocre point. But, the descriptions of all the outfits were outlandish and 100% something no teenagers wear. Thank you. I’m sick of authors writing clothes that 1. Aren’t cute and 2. Not in style for the time period they’re writing the book.
✗ SO. MANY. LOOSE. ENDS + THE NEVERENDING STORY
For a story that had so many fucking loose ends, it really did drag. There are so many points of this book that are just brought up and dropped or simply just not explored despite the fact they seemed as if they’d be important to the plot. This book was also incredibly long for a contemporary. Something, which I see both sides for, as in I see why it was so long but I also think it could have cut 100 pages off and still, delivered the same punch to the audience. There were just so many useless scenes and considering so many scenes were glossed over it just seems they could have done that for a few more.
Overall, Bad Romance isn’t a bad novel. It was just long and had a lot of flaws. Which, I guess is what makes it so successful in representing what it is like to be in an abusive relationship. If you are in an abusive relationship – whether it be physical or emotional – get out please, friends. It’s not worth your life. You can do so many things without a useless partner holding you back. On top of that, you are loved. So loved. Don’t let anyone make you think you aren’t worth anything because you are.
I also want to briefly mention how important the final message is. Throughout Bad Romance Grace constantly has to choose between Gavin and other people. It’s how she really begins to lose herself. The final message of choosing you. Is so important to young boys and girls. In your life, you should always be number one and always be selfish when it comes to yourself.
Happy reading everyone!
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