Grace’s home life is pretty terrible. Her stepfather uses fear to control everyone, and her mother’s got her own demons to fight. Grace wants to escape desperately, wants to leave California for the streets of New York. When Gavin starts to show interest in her, she can hardly believe it. The two start an intense romance that quickly threatens to swallow Grace whole. As he becomes more and more controlling, Grace realizes she’s in another situation she needs to escape–desperately.
Told in first person and directed at “you” (the you being Gavin, of course), Heather Demetrios’s latest offering is a frank look at abusive relationships. Unafraid to present the ugly realities of these relationships, Demetrios’s book is strongest when it allows Grace to fully be present under the ever-tightening control of Gavin, and it is weakest when it flips between present and past, because knowing where Grace is at in the present moment lessens any tension the narrative has built. The result is a mixed bag.
The beginning is very melodramatic, but readers who stick with the writing will find that the stream-of-consciousness gives way to a more fully realized story with pretty realistic characters. Unlike other YA titles that attempt to tackle this subject, Demetrios’s book never feels overly-didactic, and much of what happens feels like natural progression rather than the author pushes pieces around on a chessboard. It’s easy to see how Grace falls for Gavin and how swept away she gets by the romance, even though friends are warning her of the danger signs.
Definitely a strong offering for readers looking for realistic fiction about abusive relationships. Hand this one to teens instead of stuff like But I Love Him. Compelling stuff here, for sure.
Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios. Holt: 2017. Library copy.