Review: Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios

When you’re a stupid girl in love, it’s almost impossible to see the red flags. It’s so easy to pretend they’re not there, to pretend that everything is perfect.

You ever read a book that takes you back to your past and absolutely guts you? That’s how this book was for me. I read it over a year ago and have been thinking about it since. I’ve started this review a dozen times, but it was impossible to untangle this book from the pain of my own past.

So I won’t.

Bad Romance is about a girl named Grace who falls for a boy at school, Gavin, who changes her entire world — but for better or for worse? The book is about the abusive relationship that she finds herself in, and I’ve never read anything more true and painfully honest.

Grace is full of brightness and imagination. She’s fueled by dreams and passion that her precarious home life could never contain. Her stepfather and her mother are verbally abusive and she wants nothing more than to go far away to New York City and live the life she knows she’s destined for.

And then she meets Gavin.

Gavin, who is charming. Gavin, who is funny and understanding. Gavin, who has big emotions of his own. Grace is taken immediately. When they begin their relationship, she knows someone finally understands her. But it doesn’t take long for her to feel the squeeze of his controlling nature around her heart.

I’ll be frank. I saw so much of myself and my first relationship in this novel and that made it incredibly difficult to read at times. From the home life where Grace seemingly could do nothing right to the ways Gavin cut her down with the tiniest of remarks. But especially in Grace’s starry-eyed disposition that we see slowly dying out the longer the relationship went on. Right around the time that I’d read this novel, I found an old photo of myself just after I’d left the relationship this book was reminiscent of. I was struck by how small I looked. How delicate. How innocent. Why had I been so cruel to myself? I could see the weariness in my eyes, no doubt the result of the last few months of the relationship where I’d been told that I was worthless and that my partner should and would cheat on me.

I didn’t realize how much she’d cut me down over time.

Looking at pictures of myself at the beginning of high school compared to that moment just over a year later really reminded me how quickly and how easily our hearts can be broken without us even realizing it. Grace’s descent into pain and insecurity was all-too familiar to me. She’d gotten so caught up in Gavin that by the time she realized she was suffocating, she was trapped in Gavin’s misery.

You’re a maze, all high hedges and endless loops. I can’t find a way out, can’t see where I’ve been. It’s all running, lost in the dark of you. Trapped. Everywhere I turn is a dead end. I keep winding up back where I’ve started. 

It’s so hard when the person we care for is in pain, but even worse when you think you’re the cause of it. I truly thought I was responsible for her moods, for her anger, for her own insecurities. I was nothing more than a pawn in her game, and she adored playing. Because that’s what these relationships are about, at the end of the day: power. Gavin has survived a suicide attempt and this knowledge looms over Grace’s head when the relationship begins to turn sour. I have no doubt that Gavin did indeed suffer from depression, but I also know that he used his sadness to manipulate Grace into staying with him and doing what he wanted.

The novel is written between Grace’s accounts of the past and direct responses to Gavin as the relationship nears its end. It was so refreshing to see this format, because you’re given little snippets of Grace’s own power during her times of most pain. It’s like a reminder while reading that this is not the end. I thought it was a great way to keep the reader invested in the story while still giving the reader little breaks after being so wrapped up in Grace’s hurt.

The only complaint I had was that it seemed to go on for a bit longer than I would have liked. I understand that this is a precarious situation and things can’t be rushed, but I felt like I was in an endless cycle near the ending. On the other hand, this is also such an accurate representation of how tiring it can be when you’re trying to get out of something so horrible and are met with obstacle after obstacle.

This book was so gripping, emotional, and empowering. I found myself shaking at times and holding my breath at others. Even if you’ve never found yourself in a relationship like this one, I think Bad Romance is essential reading to understand the horrible intricacies that bring a person to their knees in the name of a blinding love. And if you have been in Grace’s shoes, I want you to know that you are worthy, and always will be, of so much more.

**Please be aware of content warnings for abuse, suicidal thoughts, and attempted suicide**

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