I Have Conflicted Feelings: Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios

I Have Conflicted Feelings: Bad Romance by Heather DemetriosBad Romance
by Heather Demetrios
Release Date: June 13th 2017
Published by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Genres: Contemporary, Dark, YA
Format: eARC
Pages: 368
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three-stars
Source: ARC received for review purposes

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.


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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.

What are your thoughts on tough-issue books? Do you like reading them? Have you read this one yet?
Let me know in the comments below!

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Nick
  • Everyone seems to have been loving this book, but I think I will have the same types of feelings that you had while reading this. Reading books about this type of subject really stresses me out and makes me super anxious. I will probably keep avoiding this one. Great honest review!

    • It really is stressful. I like my books on the fluffier side.

  • Nick, I have a hard tie with tough reads like this as well. There’re compelling in one sense yet repelling in another due to the toxic you witness as a bystander. Having two daughter, this would be so tough – maybe eye opening though. Also, that paragraph. Yikes. Um, a cross, incense, Buddha, yoga mat and “Hindu songs” could have been done much better. Great review! Have a great weekend. (:

    • Yeah, they are hard, but also important. I think teen girls will benefit, but I would also be cautious recommending it.
      Thanks!

  • Sadly, those who grow up surrounded by toxic influences often feel that is what love it, even when they shout not me.

    • Yeah it’s sad.

  • I hadn’t heard of this book before but reading your review made me remember how I felt reading It Ends with Us by CoHo. I had the same conflicted feelings.
    And that paragraph is just RUDE. Why would someone write something like that!? Its ironic that the author said they were “spiritual” but then made references to actual religions!

    • OMG that CoHo book annoyed me so much.
      It is so unnecessary. Literally nothing would have been different if it hadn’t been included other than less word count and no offensive passages.

  • Hmmm’

    But the cover is cool

    • It sure is cool!

  • A Novel Glimpse

    I haven’t read this one, but it’s been on my TBR. You have some valid complaints here. I get what you’re saying about the whole Grace ending things with Gavin when Gideon comes into the picture. (Wow, that’s a lot of G names!) I can understand why that could be detrimental to young adults, but then I also think there is some truth in it. Growing up my friend had a borderline abusive relationship. It took her meeting a really nice guy who started out as her friend to realize that her relationship wasn’t one she should be in, that not all guys were so jealous and controlling. Maybe it’s a positive in that Gavin isn’t the only person who would love Grace? Like I said, haven’t read it so I don’t know for sure.
    Oh, and that whole spiritual/religion thing is sad. I get what the author was trying to do, but sometimes it’s better not to have examples if they’re not going to be correct. Anyways. Great review! It made me think!

    • Just to be clear, she doesn’t end things with Gavin when Gideon enters the picture, but that’s when she even begins to start thinking about it. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.
      And yes, I understand that, but she also had all these great friends that really did love her? I guess my concerns are really more to do with the intended audience of the book.

  • Ugh…. that whole paragraph was a turn off. I just gives the whole book an unnecessary tarnish. I know I am in the minority, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of her last contemp, too much angst, and this one sounds even more so. I am sure it is an eye opening read, and I do appreciate that it touches on a sensitive topic, but I am going to pass.

    • It really does. Oh I’m sorry you didn’t like her last book. Yeah, you’re better off not picking it up.

  • This is one of the reasons why I didn’t pick up the book! I don’t usually go for tough issues books and Bad Romance clearly shone with that aspect. I do like the fact that Demetrios handles the toxic romance progression well, but I agree with you – the arrival of a guy making Grace rethink her relationship shouldn’t have been the catalyst. Also, I’m so sorry about that passage!! It’s only a paragraph but I agree with you, nothing a simple Google wouldn’t have fixed. Oh but I still need to read her fantasy trilogy one day!

    – Aila @ One Way Or An Author

    • Yeah the book would have been more powerful if it had not been because of a guy.
      I can’t believe an editor didn’t catch it!

  • Yeah I have mixed feelings about what I feel about this book, I didn’t pick it up because I knew I wouldn’t enjoy it that much and it would be way to stressful for me to read. I understand the reasoning behind the book, and it does offer some thought provoking moments, but not for me.

    • Yeah, I’m sure readers will find it thought-provoking, but it’s not for everyone and I understand that.

  • You know I saw you mention this on twitter and was majorly rolling my eyes and I’m still annoyed about it. Heather Demetrios is an author whose books I will always consider and I still plan to read this eventually but I do have a few doubts. It’s annoying it is a new guy in her life which makes Grace rethink her relationship. WHy couldn’t it be a friend or something? I mean, this book is highlighting toxic relationships which is totally a topic teens (and really everyone) needs to see in books because they are so easy to get caught in! I hate that the message of toxic relationships might be dulled down by a guy solving things.

    I won’t judge until I read but I know to temper my expectations.

    • I would be curious to hear your thoughts on this one, Becky. Right? It just would have made for a stronger book imo if it had been from a friend.

  • This does sound like it would be a stressful read. I read something that reminds me of this: Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes, but the story was a thriller and when we’re introduced to the heroine she’s free from the nut job and trying to get on with her life. So not so frustrating because she wasn’t ignoring friends advice about getting away or anything like that. And she didn’t need another man to break free.

    It’s upsetting when religion or heritage is misrepresented in books or movies. I know the feeling, Nick. Sorry to hear you didn’t love this as much you’d hoped. Wonderful review and thoughts! 🙂

    • Eva recommended that book to me. I’ll have to give it a try. Yeah, it’s especially frustrating here because it could have been fixed quite easily with a quick Google search.
      Thanks, Rachel.