Title: Bad Romance
Author: Heather Demetrios
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Released: June 13th 2017
Content Warnings: Physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, parental, neglectful abuse, suicidal, suicide attempt and threats fatphobia, slut-shaming, emotional cheating
Representation: OCD, depression, Cuban, Lesbian
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.
Bad Romance pulled me into the riptide of memory, drowning me, and dumped me out at the last second, still gasping for breath.
This is the song and book that made me want to start including songs in my reviews because I discovered the song at the same time I was reading Bad Romance and it felt so right to pair them together.
“I love you, too.” I smile. “I mean, duh.”
That’s how the worst year of my life starts—in a Mustang with steamed-up windows, with a beautiful boy who cries.
Bad Romance is the story of Grace’s journey from one abusive situation to another and how she got the fuck out.
I’ve spoken on my blog before that I have been in abusive relationships. They’ve never been romantic ones, but even though all abuse is different, it’s all kind of the same.
Abusers use the same techniques. They’re always charming at first, making it hard for victims to speak out against them, and they all leave so much fucking damage in their wake.
A while ago I mentioned that I realised that the house I am currently living in is the first house I have ever lived in where I haven’t experienced some form of abuse.
I realised this after reading this book because it also made me realise that the person I had just removed from my life—someone who has been around for 15 years—was, in fact, abusive. I had never acknowledged it before, as if my brain couldn’t handle doing so until he already had his foot out the door.
Reading Bad Romance has helped me heal from those years, and from the other abusive experiences in my past.
It is the rawest and realistic portrayal of abuse I have ever read.
I knew going in that this was a book I would always be thankful for, I already knew it was a book I was going to identify with and would bring up all the old feelings I have tried to process and work through.
However, I don’t think I could have ever predicted just how accurate it would be and how many memories it would unlock along with all the red-flags I didn’t see or blatantly ignored.
Before I break up with you, I want to reflect. I want to go back through us piece by piece. I want to remember why I was so ooey-gooey crazy in love with you. I want to know why it’s taken me this long to figure out you’re poison.
🔖 If you would like a free phone wallpaper created by yours truly, stay till the end of this post where you’ll find a link to download TWO!
One of the things I really love about this book is that it is written as Grace writing to Gavin, her first love and her abuser—but not the first person to ever abuse her—after she has decided to break up with him.
Having the book written from this point of view brought all of the feelings of the story to the forefront, we also got to see the relationship from start to end through the eyes of the Grace who has already experienced it.
We get to see her picking up on things she had missed at the time, scrutinizing every choice, decision and feeling to see where it all went wrong. To pinpoint the moment that decided her fate.
This is a familiar process for those who have been in abusive relationships. You become desperate to find out how the fuck you fell for the sweet and beautiful veneer hiding the dangerous lies you have come to know.
You have to get it all out on the table and then pick it apart until you know every square inch of your own trauma because it’s so easy to forget—your brain wants you to forget—but forgetting means you could fall into the same trap in the future and you will do everything in your power to ensure that never happens again.
To untangle me from you would be like tearing out pieces of my flesh. I’d bleed everywhere. Mom would be furious. It’d be such a mess.
The author shows how easy it is the fall into an abusive relationship after having experienced one already, especially if that abuse was all you ever knew.
Grace’s mother and step-father are both abusive in their own way. There’s a lot of neglect going on there, her mother has developed OCD and inflicts her paranoia and anxiety onto her daughter, making it Grace’s problem.
What I mean is that Grace’s mother often makes her clean the entire house sometimes up to once a day, in painstaking detail to ease her anxiety over uncleanliness.
And from the sounds of it, the OCD is worsened by the abuse Grace’s mother receives from her husband. He weaponizes her mental illness, reminding her that she won’t win custody of their son if she leaves him.
He is verbally abusive to both his wife and step-daughter, he expects submission and service. And the two play the roles they’ve been assigned in order to survive.
I will come to realise my mom and I are both suckers, perpetually won over by male charm and our own loneliness. She and I, we dig our own graves. Then we lie down in them, cross our arms, and wait for boys to pour dirt over us.
This book shows how painful it can be as a child watching a parent being abused and having to also face the consequences of that. How it can feel like you’re being punished for your parent’s entrapment.
Because the abuse Grace’s mother is experiencing isn’t just affecting her, it’s affecting her kids too.
It’s really fucking hard to leave an abusive relationship as an adult. It’s fucking near impossible to leave as a child when the abusers are your parents.
In 2018, I was having to ask myself the question “Where the fuck can I go???” because I wasn’t sure I could survive in my house with my mum and step-father anymore because of the abuse I was experiencing and the toxic environment my home had become.
And there was nowhere for me to go because anywhere I could go I would just be swapping one set of problems for another. I couldn’t afford to live on my own, I could barely afford to live with my parents. And that’s as an adult, not a child.
Imagine being a child, a teenager and having no options except to just survive. You pin all your hopes and dreams on a future that feels so fucking far away you don’t even know if you should let yourself think about it.
This story shows how fucking easy it is to find yourself in another abusive relationship when that is all you’ve ever known. Grace’s parent’s relationship serves as a stark mirror to Grace’s own relationship. She compares the two—while in the relationship with Gavin—as if they are worlds apart when really they’re just two sides of the same coin.
They hug me so that I’m sandwiched between them and I am so in love with my best friends. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe they’d try to rescue me from a burning car, too.
And then I realize: you’re the burning car.
I loved the relationship Grace had with her friends Lys and Nat.
It was clear that the girls loved her but just because you know someone loves you, doesn’t necessarily mean you feel like you can go to them.
When you’re being abused it isolates you, abusers will find ways of cutting you off from those that care about you most.
Grace’s parents do this by restricting her time, telling her she can’t go to work, can’t go out and socialise, punishing her constantly.
Gavin does it by forbidding her from having friendships with guys, getting jealous when she spends times with her friends, demanding her attention and absolutely losing it when he doesn’t get what he wants.
But in the end, Lys and Nat really show up for Grace, they prove that she can depend on them, that she doesn’t have to go through traumatic shit on her own. They help her to heal.
“Thank you,” you say, your voice soft. “Your letter, it kinda . . . saved me.”
I blush, pleasure blooming in my chest. I don’t know it now, but there will be a garden inside me soon. And it’ll grow thorns.
If I haven’t already made it clear, this book was so deeply personal for me. It was incredibly cathartic. While reading it I was sobbing and even while writing this review I find myself tearing up.
It was painful, it hurt to read but I am so thankful that books like this exist. It’s one of those books I wish I had read as a teenager. To have had it to warn me of what to look out for so I could avoid so much fucking pain, but I’m glad it is out there and will hopefully help someone else escape abuse.
All that want of the past few weeks washes over us, drenching. This is something else I will learn while I am with you—not now, but later, there are so many ways to drown.
Where To Buy
*Taken from Goodreads.
**If you would like me to include links to purchase books from a specific store in my reviews please let me know!
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I read this book as part of my 2018 Library Love binge, where I read as many library books as possible to take advantage of my great local library network!
To follow my binge reading adventure just visit my 2018 Library Love shelf.
Or I’ll also be updating my 2018 Library Love Blog Post as I go!
Grey Recommends – YA Trauma Narratives in Books
🍃 Girls of Paper and Fire, fantasy fiction: This book is about what happens when demons and humans occupy the same space. It’s about two girls who fall in love. It’s about a kingdom on the brink of war. It’s about rebellion.
🍃 The Nowhere Girls, contemporary fiction: The Nowhere Girls centres on a high school in a small town where the girls are sick and tired of keeping quiet. After new girl, Grace, moves into the house of a girl who cried rape and left town, she wants to know what happened.
🍃 Girl Made of Stars, contemporary fiction: Girl Made of Stars follows Mara as her friend Hannah accuses Mara’s twin brother of rape. Mara must discover the truth of what happened that night at the party while remembering what happened in a classroom years ago.
I am wrecked.
🔖 If you would like a FREE Phone Wallpaper that I created with quotes from this book you can find two here.
Have you read Bad Romance?
What’s a book that is deeply personal for you?
What’s is an abuse narrative you recommend I read?