BAD ROMANCE by HEATHER DEMETRIOS (2017)
A REVIEW by ALEXA DUNCAN
Bad Romance, like the Lady Gaga song, is a story about an all-consuming relationship that destroys everything in its path. Our main character, Grace, just wants to get out of her troubled household and go to college at NYU. Her mother is passive and compliant and her step-father is loud and borderline abusive. Musical theatre is Grace’s sole escape. That is, until she meets Gavin. Gavin is a rock star in every sense of the word. He’s in a band, stars in school productions, writes his own music. He and Grace fall hard and fast for one another and the two of them begin a romance that not only destroys Grace’s life, but her future as well.
(CONTENT WARNING FOR DOMESTIC ABUSE)
Let me start off by saying that Bad Romance is not an easy read. Not because the writing style is hard to manage, but because the subject matter is extremely difficult to power through. Demetrios utilizes second person points of view in the narrative to make the reader feel like they’re in Gavin’s shoes. It’s a horrible feeling, because Gavin is awful. He’s what makes this bad romance so very awful.
The one thing you should know about Grace and Gavin’s relationship from the very start is that it isn’t necessarily physically abusive. There are scenes of him pushing her and intimidating her, all of which are terrible, but the core of the abuse is emotional and mental. Gavin often tells Grace how he can’t live without her and that he’d do something drastic if she ever tried to leave him. He uses the fact that he once attempted suicide to manipulate her into feeling how she wants him to feel. His anger is explosive, then apologetic. It isn’t hard to see why Grace would go back to him. The cycle of abuse is not easy to break, especially when your partner doesn’t necessarily hurt you physically.
Over the course of the novel, Grace’s best friends try to tell her to break up with Gavin. She refuses, saying that he needs her, that his life would be over if she ever left him. The longer they date, the more abuse Grace endures. It’s heart-wrenching and written so beautifully that I cried on more than one occasion. What Bad Romance does best, however, is give readers a different view of domestic abuse that what one might typically think of. Gavin doesn’t look like your “typical abuser.” He doesn’t hit Grace, which he often points out to make her feel bad for getting angry with him. He is another breed of abuser, an insidious one that isn’t often found in young adult novels.
There is a light at the end of this very dark tunnel, if you were wondering. Eventually, the cycle of abuse ends and Grace is able to escape from Gideon with the help of her friends. She has to work to rebuild her life from the shattered pieces Gavin left behind, and is much happier and healthier for it. Bad Romance isn’t an easy read, but it’s an important one. Written with sensitivity and rawness by Demetrios, who has experienced a relationship like the one Grace and Gavin have, it tells a story that needs to be told. A story that isn’t told near as often as it should be. You can pick up a copy of Bad Romance at the Argenta Library today.