Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios
Publication Date: June 13th, 2017
Genre: YA Contemporary
Pages: 368 pages
Format: eGalley (Netgalley)
Rating: ★★★★ (4 Stars)
*Trigger Warning: Domestic Violence, Mental/physical/verbal abuse, attempted suicide, and rape
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.
MY FIRST IMPRESSIONS ON GOODREADS…
Bad Romance is one of those books that will remain within me for years to come as a reminder of what could’ve been had I continued in my own toxic relationship. This book resonated with me for personal reasons but also stood out amongst all the Young Adult Contemporaries I’ve read so far in 2017. This isn’t a easy fluffy summer time read however, it is a much needed one. Bad Romance can be used as a conversation starter within the Young Adult community & help bridge gaps between Young Adults and their parents. Demetrios gives us Grace who is 17 going on 18 in High School with BIG dreams of one day living an artsy bohemian life in New York City. She lives with her mother, step-father, and baby brother from her mothers re-marriage. Life isn’t at all easy for Grace who doesn’t live a typical teenage life. She lives in a abusive home where toxic behaviors are what she’s come to view as normal. Told in second person POV, Grace is observing the changes in her relationship with her mother as her mother slowly becomes unhinged. See, Grace’s mother herself is the victim of verbal, mental, and physical abuse (implied) at the hands of her husband. Demtrios shows us a mother trying to keep her new family together while she teeters on the verge of a mental breakdown. Grace on the other hand has just caught the attention of the most popular guy in school who she knows comes with his own baggage. From the 1st compliment to the 1st date & what eventually leads to a volatile relationship, we the reader are taken on the slow progression that is Grace & Gavin’s own toxic relationship. Gavin knows just what to say at all times & just how to get his way. From afar he seems like the perfect boyfriend but when we start this story, it is with the knowledge Grace has already learned the hard way. She shows us how easy it was to fall for someone who was already broken when all you’ve known all your life is abuse…
Center stage we have Grace & Gavin but this is a story where the supporting character roles are all equally as important. The Grace we meet on page 1 already knows how everything unfolds since it’s told in second person POV. We get to see her regrets and the view she gives us can best be described as removing the rose colored glasses. Grace is just trying to get to graduation so that she can start her new life as a college student far away from her toxic home life. This means she’s learned how to deal with her mothers OCD as best she could & has learned to be submissive to avoid confrontation. Her relationship with her mother plays out on the pages giving you perspective on the cycle of abuse Grace is caught in through no fault of her own. We meet the step dad & he’s no easy pill to swallow which makes your heart break even more so for Grace’s mom.
Somehow, In the past five years, that mom disappeared. Little by little, she floated away, a leaf on the breeze. Now, the air between us is heavy; it’s been too long since we’ve laughed together, talked. How do you relearn love?
Gavin almost seems like a savior when Grace first meets him. She is aware of his troubled past & his failed suicide attempt yet that doesn’t keep her away, it actually serves to lure her in. She admires his resolve and rocker lifestyle but most of all it’s the attention he provides her with that she holds on to. For a girl like Grace who already feels invisible at home except for when she’s needed to scrub the floors or babysit, this new attention became a drug. Gavin himself suffers with depression, anxiety, and paranoia. There isn’t a moment that goes by that he isn’t thinking, living, breathing Grace.
We also meet Nat & Lys who are best friends with Grace, these girls are the true definition of friendship. They know their girl is in a toxic abusive relationship and encourage her to leave that behind every chance they get. They don’t ever leave her side but they also don’t sugar coat anything & didn’t enable her to continue on with Gavin. This friendship was the sunshine in Graces’ very dark, turbulent, and abusive life. I kept hope alive for all of these characters & found myself relating to Grace but ultimately accepting that just like my own toxic relationship with my mother, some things are left unresolved. These characters are heavily flawed & rough around the edges, their pain often times jumping off the pages.
I’ve never read a book like Bad Romance and I was absolutely caught off guard, this book brought back memories of a past life. I can’t help but think that if this book had been written back then, that maybe I would have found solace in its pages. I was that young adult in a toxic relationship trying to escape my real issues at home with my own mother. This won’t be an easy read & that’s why I decided to include trigger warnings in this review. Emotionally draining, heartbreaking, and flinchingly honest, Demetrios gives you the ugly raw insides of abusive relationships. Inspired by the authors personal experience, Bad Romance is as real as it gets. Demtrios tackles topics that are more often than not kept hidden in shame & suffered alone. As tough as it was to read this book, I can’t deny that it was because I saw myself in these pages. I’ll be looking out for more from this author and others, especially writing that exposes the ugly in order to start the healing. This is not a story with a happy ending, this is a story with hope & a message for those who may or may not be ready to receive it…
In the Authors Note, Demtrios provided some helpful organizations & I’ve decided to also include them in my review:
*HUGE thanks to Macmillan/Henry Holt & Co., Netgalley & Heather Demetrios for the eGalley copy of Bad Romance, all opinions are my own.