Bad Romance — Heather Demetrios

Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios

 

TITLE: Bad Romance

AUTHOR: Heather Demetrios

RELEASED: June 13th, 2017; Henry Holt and Company

GENRE: Contemporary

AGE RANGE: YA

SYNOPSIS: 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.

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First of all, this is one hell of a heavy book, so I want to start off by saying that the book (and this review) come with trigger warnings for abuse (in every possible way: mental, emotional, verbal, physical, sexual, and parental), attempted suicide, and many suicidal thoughts.

With that said, let me be candid: this is the most authentic, honest, and true-to-life portrayal of an abusive relationship that I have ever seen in a book. I have never wished so badly not to relate to a story, but if you changed a few names and faces, you would find a younger me between these pages. And if you, too, can find yourself mirrored here, please proceed with the utmost self-care, because Grace’s story is a tough one to read, but it’s even tougher to remember in your own experiences.

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Maybe the only way you really know you love someone is if they can break you with a single sentence.

Bad Romance’s depiction of abuse is one that many survivors know too well: a relationship that starts off beautifully and carefree. If there are red flags (and let’s be honest—there almost always are), they’re quiet ones, easy enough to ignore or explain away. Have you ever heard the story of the frog in boiling water? If you drop the frog right in, it will jump out immediately—but if you put him in while the water is lukewarm, and slowly up the temperature, the poor thing will never know the danger it’s in until it’s too late and the damage points have started racking up. That’s this story.

I don’t realize now, but this is the moment. The moment when the rest of my life in high school—the rest of my whole life—will change. The moment when I begin to lose a part of myself I’ll have to fight like hell to get back.

What makes Bad Romance unique, besides its pull-no-punches attitude and the authenticity that could come only from the heart of someone who’s been there (and sadly, Heather Demetrios has), is the format that it’s written in. It’s a mixture of first and second persons, and it reads almost like a long letter from Grace to Gavin, set after she has gotten out of the situation. While its time frame makes it hopeful, as you always know that there will be an “after”, the phrasing directed right at her abuser gives it a spurned, angry edge that’s practically tangible. I feel that it’s a brilliant writing decision for the story at hand; while it wouldn’t work for every contemporary novel, it magnifies the impact of this one tenfold.

The sad swims through your veins, dives right into the middle of your chest with no help at all from me.

There’s also a lot of chatter about suicide in this book: before the relationship forms, Gavin has survived one suicide attempt already, and throughout the book, his endless, looming threat to try again acts as a heavy-handed and disgusting manipulation tactic in the relationship. That said, I appreciated that I never felt as though depression or suicidal ideation was being demonized in any way; Heather Demetrios makes it clear that these issues are related to his manipulative and abusive tendencies, not just his depression or anxiety.

Now I look at that girl who adores you, who thinks she’s safe with you, and I want to scream at her to jump out of that car and run like hell. Because you won’t be her happy place for long.

There’s also something to be said for the fact that Grace is living in an abusive home, where she faces constant neglect, harassment, and assault from both her mother and step-father. There’s a lot of psychology to unpack behind the fact that many individuals who miss or overlook the early red flags in abusive relationships do so because terrible behaviors have already been normalized in their lives (hence “generational curses” and cycles of the like). My only complaint is that I do feel like Grace’s mother is let off the hook rather easily near the end of the book, but I feel that it’s important to remember that abuse victims can still abuse others, too, and there’s no excuse or justification for that.

This is something else I will learn while I am with you—not now, but later: there are so many ways to drown.

There’s a lot more I could tell you about this book, like the ways it made me recognize behaviors in my past relationships that I hadn’t faced yet, or the passages that helped me reevaluate my own past and recognize the healing I’m still working towards. I could tell you that certain aspects of this story paralleled the end of my worst relationship like a perfect mirror, and how much I appreciated the way Heather Demetrios doesn’t shy away from pointing out the problems in some of those coping mechanisms, too. I could tell you that, on a happier note, there’s an underlying current throughout the story of musicals and theatre and plays, and there’s girl-on-girl friendship and loyalty for days.

But honestly, at the end of the day, all I want to tell you is that this book is incredible and cathartic and honest and brutal and bold. And I want to tell you that if you, too, have been in Grace’s shoes, it can be so much better than that. If you need help or healing, please seek it, because you deserve the stars.

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE
National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD
Love is Respect: 1-866-331-9474, loveisrespect.org, or text “love is” to 22522

5flowers


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Just a 25-year-old trying to juggle motherhood, grad school, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

22 thoughts on “Bad Romance — Heather Demetrios

  1. I’ve heard so many praises about this book and how authentic the feeling is, yet this book is also can get pretty heavy and dark. I really want to pick this up as it is an important story and I really can’t wait to read it. Amazing review Destiny!

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  2. I so badly want to read this book but I don’t think I will be able too. The abuse I went through wasn’t physical but it still left quite a scar on me and I haven’t worked out those issues yet.
    This was a really good review! ❤

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      1. Thank you, Destiny! Everything is loads better. I have a guy that completely understands me and is the opposite of my ex in every way! ❤ I hope things are the same for you as well!

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  3. Amazing review Destiny! I loved this book and feel that it’s so, so important but I haven’t been able to write a coherent review for it yet! There’s so much I want to say about it and putting words to it is difficult but you did a fantastic job! 🙂

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  4. I swear we have the exact same TBRs some days.

    Another truly fantastic review that, while I haven’t read the book yet, I really think speaks volumes about this book and its content. I also want to say that I very much appreciate the TW/CW and hotline info you’ve provided within this review.

    Like

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