Title: Bad Romance
Author: Heather Demetrios
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: June 13, 2017
Genre: YA Contemporary
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.
**Thank you MacMillan International for providing me an ARC. This, by any means, did not affect my review.**
T/CW: toxic relationship, depression, suicide, cheating, eating disorder (not on page), PTSD, physical, verbal and emotional abuse, gaslighting, OCD, sexual assault, rape
This is not a novel.
This is a love letter dressed like a novel.
A love letter all the dark, the sad, the happy, the surprising truths of Grace and Gavin’s relationship were told.
TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS, MANIPULATION, OBSSESSION, DEPRESSION, SUICIDE… HERE IS THE TRUTH
“Fuck you for telling me this, for putting a gun to your head and telling me it’s my finger on the trigger.”
Bad Romance was… unexpectedly too personal. I didn’t expect I’ll see myself in Grace… and Gavin. The one who can’t break out from the chains, and the one whose holding the chains but acts as if he’s the one in those chains.
Demetrios showed a CAREFUL EXPLORATION OF HAVING A MENTAL HEALTH ILLNESS AND BEING WITH SOMEONE WHO HAS MENTAL HEALTH ILLNESS. From someone who have also been there, for someone who has a mental health issue since who knows when, suffered through depression and fell in love all at once, I deeply understood Gavin. And I’m here to say that that shit happens. I cannot justify it. Because I know it’s wrong. But when you are still healing from the wounds of giving in so close to suicide, and you’ve seen a tiny prickling of light, you’ll cling into that. And you’ll cling so tight. Because you’ll be afraid to fall into the darkness again. Sometimes you can get blind, you can poison the one you love most without clearly understanding what you are doing. I hate that I saw myself in Gavin. Because it reminded me, it slammed into my face what I was.
And for someone who had fell so hard in love, who made a person became her world, this book traveled me back to the past. All the highs, the lows, the excitement, the adrenaline rush, the thrill, the risks, the sacrifices, I relived my past. It was hard, but knowing that I have these people – from the book and the author, Heather Demetrios backing me, it toughened me up. Sometimes, you just gotta look back and appreciate where you currently are. What Grace felt, those are the same emotions I also felt. What their relationship ended up being was also close to what our relationship ended up being. I was just fortunate that I still had things a lot easier than Grace.
EVERY LINE WAS A PUNCH TO THE GUT. It all felt as if this had been written solely for me. The author understood what it’s like. What it’s like to be in an unhealthy relationship, to manipulate and be manipulated, to be obsessed and possessive, to love so hard you’ll give everything you’ve got, to fall into depression, to think that suicide is the only option and to claw your way out from all of these things.
I’ll end this here: Reading Bad Romance was reliving that chapter in my life but it also gives a realization that it didn’t happen just to me. And I was not alone in this battle.
DEEP AND THOUGHTFUL EXPLORATION OF BROKEN FAMILY, GASLIGHTING, AND EMOTIONAL, VERBAL, AND PHYSICAL ABUSE
A lot of important topics were further squeezed into its pages. This book has a lot of heavy things to carry. And all of those topics were handled thoughtfully and truthfully.
Bad Romance shows how PTSD can affect a man’s relationship to himself and others – especially his family, how a broken family can affect each members of the family in different ways, how being unable to be strong for yourself and for your children could break a lot of hearts and break a home. It also portrays different forms of abuse from emotional, to verbal, to physical Grace had to deal with. And shows how gaslighting works and what is it like to be a victim of it.
I came from a broken family too. And how difficult that can be, was shown in this book too.
IMPECCABLE WRITING AND COMPELLING STORYTELLING
Bad Romance was told in 1st and 2nd POVs. Heather Demetrios gave us an impeccable narrative. The writing grabbed my attention right from the very start and never let me go. I was engrossed and immersed so quickly. It provided me a new experience. It literally felt like I was reading a love letter due to the tone of Grace’s voice. A love letter for an ex, whom you loved so much but had to let go for the sake of the both of you. And a love letter for Grace’s old self she had to move on from. The writing gave me right away the impression that this will be a killer. A stabber of the heart. And I was right.
I LOVED how the writing allowed me to know Grace. I lived inside her mind. It felt like I knew every bits of her and I love how it became a process – a process of knowing a real actual person. And this is how I love it to get done.
A WOW TO THE PLOT AND THE CHARACTERS
Both the plot and the characters earned Heather Demetrios more respect and admiration from me. The plot is excellent. It brought us from the very beginning – the rainbow, and then one step at a time, lead us to the storm. I love how it showed us everything. It walked us from when the center of Grace’s universe was Gavin – when she still loves him, until things changed.
Grace is such a strong character. She might not know it, but she is. She felt like a real life person more than a fictional character. From her dad to her mom to her stepdad to her boyfriend, they all have a mental illness or personality issues of their own. And it makes me super sad that she has to deal with all that. It was a drowning experience but she was able emerge from it. Her character development was also hella on point. She ain’t perfect but I loved her for everything she is.
Gavin, oh boy. He’s the boy your mama warns you about. He’s almost perfect. The cool, handsome, popular band boy whose also in theater that everyone loves. From the very beginning, I knew what he’ll become. But the thing is, no matter how much I hate what he had become – even after loving him so much which made everything conflicting, I understood him. I understood him suddenly feeling like he had fallen in love with Grace. I understood him not wanting to let go of Grace. I understood him being scared of being alone in the dark again. I understood the anger, the frustration, the jealousy. Those aren’t right – they can never be. But I understood.
All characters were fleshed out and contributed a lot to the whole story from Grace’s friends to her family, to Gavin’s friends and his family. And I know for sure that Grace and Gavin was a perfect representation of real life teenagers who had and are still experiencing the same things they did.
BUT THE AUTHOR SADLY GOT ONE THING WRONG
He does research on his phone for hostels and we discover that in Asia, it’d actually be cheaper to share a room at a guesthouse, since they don’t really have hostels there.
As an Asian myself, this actually kinda set me off. I don’t know how the author did say it but if she had done research, she clearly should have done more. In Asia, you cannot just see hostels, there are also motels, hotels, appartels, just like what you have there in the West. Because in my country, in the Philippines, there are. Or if they are talking about a specific country in Asia, since it’s a continent, they should have specified it. It may sound like a small thing but I just really wish the author had done more research about this because it is a wrong information. And I am sick of Westerners writing wrong things about Asia in their books.
I still think that the excellent things Bad Romance has overshadows the one thing it got wrong, however it pissed me off. One might expect for me to lower my rating. If this is just some other book, I DEFINITELY will. However, this book really hits home and speaks to me in volumes and I just cannot give this any rating lower than this. When it comes to the main issues this book tackles about, as someone who have also been there, I must say that the representation is good. In fact, it was perfect. Everything was just right. And the fact that this is an Own Voices book further attest to that.
Bad Romance is an honest to God novel exposing all the truths of how it really is to fall so hard in love and slowly, miserably, end up in a toxic relationship – especially as a teenager, and how hard it is to get out of that thorny poisonous prison. It also gives heavy focus to mental health issues including depression, PTSD and OCD. Further, it provides an avenue for those victims of abuse, gaslighting, and toxic relationships to be heard and be understood and for people who does not understand these matters, be open to this kind of reality and be more mindful and understanding.
Bad Romance is a masterpiece that came from the heart.
Heather Demetrios is a critically acclaimed author of young adult contemporary and fantasy novels. When she isn’t spending time in imaginary places, you’ll find her traipsing around the world with her husband, writer Zach Fehst. Heather has an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is a recipient of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award for her debut novel, Something Real. Her novels include I’ll Meet You There, Bad Romance, as well as the Dark Caravan fantasy series: Exquisite Captive, Blood Passage, and Freedom’s Slave. She’s the editor of Dear Heartbreak: YA Authors and Teens on the Dark Side of Love and the author of Codename Badass, an upcoming feminist pop biography about WWII lady spy, Virginia Hall. Her honors include books that have been named Bank Street Best Children’s Books, YALSA Best Fiction For Young Adults selections, a Goodreads Choice Nominee, a Kirkus Best Book, and a Barnes and Noble Best Book.
Have you read Bad Romance? How was it? Have you read a book that hits close to home? What are your favorite books about mental health? Share your thoughts below!