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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.
ARC received for review purposes in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
If Bad Romance had been written by anyone other than Heather Demetrios, I would not have picked it up. I don’t handle tough books like Bad Romance well, and reading this reminded me why exactly I avoid them. Plain and simple, they stress me out. I’m very torn about my feelings towards this book. On the one hand, the book does a stunning job at showing the progression of a toxic romance – it’s going to beneficial to many many teens. On the other hand, I don’t know if I can say that I “enjoyed” the book because of how anxious it made me feel.
Bad Romance is not an easy book to read. Like I said, I felt very stressed reading it, but also I was just so blisteringly angry throughout the whole thing. Grace, the protagonist here, was surrounded by one shitty person after the other. She can’t catch a break with her emotionally abusive mom, her dick of a stepfather, then enter, Gavin, grade A manipulative asshole. I felt for this girl because no one deserves to be used and manipulated the way Grace was. Despite her heartbreaking home life, she remained optimistic that her future would be brighter. I don’t know how Grace managed to remain so strong throughout it all. Thankfully, Grace does have a fantastic support system in the form of her best friends, who were a bright spot in this otherwise dark story.
As readers, you get to see the abusive relationship slowly unfold before your eyes. At first glance, Gavin was charming, a sweet-talker, and a romantic guy, and he easily succeeded in sweeping Grace off her feet and provided her with the love and solace she couldn’t find at home. Demetrios did a great job at convincing readers that Gavin was the perfect guy for Grace initially. Throughout the story, we begin to see cracks in Gavin’s character, and eventually, we scrutinize every action of his. He goes from being charming to manipulative, often showing jealous tendencies, controlling who Grace hangs out with, and name-calling her. Every single time though, Grace forgives him because he promises never to do it again. It’s hard watching her constantly fall for his fake apologies and his declarations of love.
While the progression of the toxic relationship was excellent and thought-provoking, it was how and when Grace begins to take actions to get out of the relationship is where I started to find some issues. Grace saw all the red flags in her mother’s relationship with her step dad, and her friends and her sister warn her that she needs to break up with Gavin, and she doesn’t exactly heed them, and this was all understandable, because the cycle of abuse is one that’s hard to break. What I took issue with though is that it took another guy, Gideon, entering the picture for Grace to begin rethinking her relationship with Grace. I’m just not sure I liked the message that that sends out to teen readers at all.
I also was not a fan of this particular paragraph in the book:
“Gideon and his parents are what you’d call spiritual but not religious. I haven’t been to his house, but I can imagine incense burning next to a statue of Buddha, which sits against a wall with a cross on it. There’s probably a yoga mat on the floor and, I don’t know, Indian Hindu songs playing in the background.”
I don’t even know where to begin with how stereotypical of Buddhists and Indians this is with incense and yoga mats. First of all, Buddhism and Hinduism are very very different. Then there’s the whole “Indian Hindu songs” description which makes me shake my head. The word Demetrios is looking for here is Hindi. Hindi is a language. Hindu refers to a person who follows Hinduism. This is something that could have easily been fixed with a Google search. How did an editor not catch this? *shakes head* Anyways, this whole paragraph was so unnecessary. Just say his parents are spiritual and be done with it. The cliched depiction just annoys me.
As you can tell, I have conflicted feelings towards Bad Romance. I feel bad for not loving the full message of the book given this is a very personal story for Heather Demetrios, and while I don’t deny that this is the sort of book that might help lots of teens, I’m just not happy with how things resolved. I also wish we had more of a resolution when it comes to her relationship with her mom – and what happened to Sam, her brother? Bad Romance is thought-provoking, but it had some issues in my opinion.