As mentioned in my review of Paper Butterflies, abuse, as a trope, requires proper handling for me to read and respect. If placed in less capable hands, I throw the book into the torture porn (Allegedly), which I dislike. Abuse earns itself as a plot device never to be used irresponsibly.
Thus, as I approached Heather Demetrios’ Bad Romance, I prepared to roll my eyes until they popped. Thankfully, the book proved me wrong. This story promised to break your heart and caution anyone into reading abusive signs in their loved ones. Demetrios’ offered no sugarcoating of domestic violence. Frankness abounded each page, providing the real drama some deal with daily. This book saddened, angered, and upset me. But, it would not be a good tale, if it did not.
Meet Grace. Typical theater nerd. High school student. She dreamed of leaving her central California life to make her dreams come true in New York City. She hoped to visit Paris, Prague, Italy – all in the desire to live a fascinating life. With her two friends, Nat and Lys, she led the typical teenage life. Adding to her world, her sister adored her.
Yet, her mother and stepfather swathed her in mental and (sometime) physical abuse, along with emotional manipulation daily. Her mother’s trapped in an abusive marriage to “The Giant” (real name: Roy – but who cares?), and instead of finding the courage to leave, her daughter bears her rage. Cycle begins.
She met Gavin. Supposed heartbreaker. Rock star wannabe. Manipulative bastard-stalker. He swooped Grace off her feet with attention, care, and romance – all grooming techniques used by abusers. Despite a red light above Grace’s head – his previous suicide attempt after a breakup with another girl – she carries on a relationship.
Come hither, right?
Wrong. Months of obsession, control, and unhealthy behavior follow. Frequent name-calling. Guilt trips (e.g. He insists on feigning suicide to keep her in his clutches). Checking her phone. These signs never signal romance. GET OUT SAFELY!
Tormented at home. Walking on eggshells in the arms of her boyfriend. Grace suffers throughout the story.
Thankfully, her friends surround her with love and support. But, they’re not enough…not until she realized her path to happiness and peace mattered more than pain.
Demetrios illustrated her homework as she painted Grace’s home life (Falling prey to abusive lovers becomes easily, if the abused stemmed from an abusive home). Throughout this story, I knew Gavin picked her because she was easy prey. Demetrios nailed almost every behavior girls (and guys) need to know, if their relationship feels wrong.
Also, she never talked down to her readers. The teens in this book sound and act their age (Granted I could do with less pop culture references), but they felt real. Grace’s confusion felt right. She’s torn between love and hate. She loves her mother, but hates her manipulation. She loves Gavin, but needs to breathe and explore healthy option (e.g. Gideon – no love triangle worries, though).
Furthermore, she gave Grace real friends. I adored whenever Nat and Lys came into play. No girl hate. No animosity (except for Gavin). Genuine love and support. They gave her space to speak her truth. ALWAYS SPEAK YOUR TRUTH NO MATTER HOW BAD IT HURTS.
More so, the adults angered me. “The Giant”, her mother, and Gavin’s parents. They lived blind to their own needs and not what suited their children. Listen to them. Children and teens can not grow in agony.
(Sorry for the yelling. It took me years to gain my own voice in such matters)
While the ending’s abrupt, Demetrios’ wrote an epilogue (Read it, please) to give perspective in Grace’s future. Also, the other issue, as aforementioned, were the constant pop cultural references. Demetrios, you’re cool. We’re good.
Those issues docked a star, but still the book received a high recommendation from me.
Verdict: 4/5 Pepsi Freezes
*This book sits happily on my bookshelf*