Published by Henry Holt and Company (BYR) on June 13th 2017
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Social Themes, Physical & Emotional Abuse, Dating & Sex, Friendship
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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.
Bad Romance by Lady Gaga is probably my favourite Lady Gaga song, although I love Telephone and A Million Reasons (and others, duh) and it’s apt that Bad Romance is basically the theme tune to this book. It’s the kind of book you read and hope it isn’t going to be all bad, but then Grace says right at the start that this isn’t a good relationship, that this will not end well and it kinda blows all of your feelings out the water, like you’re waiting for a car crash to happen so you can stand and watch and see it all go to absolute pot. The worst part is the knowing. If you go into a book and it goes bad, maybe it’s a surprise, but somehow it’s worse knowing it right from the off. However I also think it’s quite clever, because this book could be triggering to some people.
While reading this book – it took me a week to complete it, I had to keep putting it down after a few chapters, because it was so hard to read Grace’s perspective. She has a pretty poor life – her mom and step-dad make her do chores constantly and they scream at her for no reason and have all these crazy rules and ground her on a moment’s notice for little things other parents would brush off, so when Gavin, a guy she’s been admiring for three (!) years, starts to notice her and they start dating, it kinda feels like a release. Like something good has finally come for Grace. You feel hopeful that this is the start of something amazing, that these two are destined to be together forever and you really feel it. Or I did. I believed in Gavin and Grace, not as long as Grace did, but for a really long time, and it was like a gut punch every time something happened. Every time Gavin did an about-turn and his mood just changed abruptly before doing a 180 again and he was the sweet, kind Gavin. It make me feel physically sick, because I knew where the book was going, I knew what kind of bad romance this was, and it just hurt me for Grace because she just goes through so much and it just really, really wound me up.
The absolute worst thing is that I understood exactly why Grace was attracted to Gavin, why she would make excuses because it got her away from her home life and to think that that really happens for girls makes me incredibly sad. All of my notes while reading this book were sad thoughts. The way Gavin could manipulate Grace hurt me. Because I wanted more for her, I wanted her to see Gavin for who he really was, and each time it seemed like she saw the truth, she’d make more excuses and it was too much. This was such an unsettling read. You feel like a voyeur reading the book, you know it’s going to go wrong and yet it’s so compelling you can’t stop reading. But it did affect me, I did have to put the book down multiple times. I would say to myself I was going to finish the book that evening (something I can easily do with books) and yet I would read five or six chapters and just have to do something else, anything else.
Heather Demetrios writes at the end that she’s had personal experience of what Grace goes through with Gavin and you can tell, is that a stupid thing to say? I don’t think so, but I mean it’s all on point, I was terrified for Grace so much of the time and I also got annoyed at her for not just breaking up with him but then I understood why she didn’t and I know from what I read on the news and magazines that when you’re in a relationship like that, it’s so hard to get away. I couldn’t write a book like this, because I haven’t been through anything like that, no amount of research can make a book so utterly believable, the emotions so real. Bad Romance was just an incredible read on all levels. It’s unsettling, and please be aware of the triggers before you read this book, I don’t see myself as having triggers whilst reading or watching TV, but it affected me, too. It’s an important read, though. If you can read Bad Romance you should. It’s good to see that in YA it isn’t all sweetness and light (I *love* sweetness and light, but it’s important to show both sides of relationships, that it isn’t all being in love forever at that young age, that it can be a bad relationship).