Fans of Beautiful Disaster know that Travis is volatile. Quick to anger and even quicker to react, he appears to be the type of boy about whom one would warn one’s daughter to steer clear. He is dangerous, playing fast and loose with his life as well as with the affections of the women he takes home. While fans already know how Abby changes all that for him, they do not know the path Travis takes to change or the fact that Travis is not necessarily the bad boy he appears to be.
In Walking Disaster, readers get to see Travis at his most vulnerable – at the side of his dying mother. It is a scene so poignant and beautifully simple that it underscores just how much of an impact it had on his life. Her final words to him change everything for him, which has direct consequences for relationships with women and especially with Abby. While readers may have questioned his actions towards Abby, or at least his motives, in the first novel, in the sequel, from the moment he meets her, no reader doubts the depths of his feelings for her. What follows is a crystal-clear picture of the cruel joke of poor timing and even poorer communication that besets them.
Surprisingly, Abby does not come across as completely innocent in Walking Disaster. In fact, one could make a compelling argument that Travis becomes so unhinged specifically because of her behavior towards him. Even with knowing how the story ends, some readers will still become upset at what she essentially puts him through while she tries to make up her mind about him even though they know the reasons why she does so. It’s a fantastic twist that explains so much about the first book and Travis’ crazy behavior.
One of the best explanations to come out of Walking Disaster is a better understanding of Travis’ behavior towards violence, gambling, woman, and alcohol. One sees his relationships with his brothers and father and realizes where those tendencies originate. One can neither approve or disapprove of behavior he learned from his family and may be the only way he knows. As for his rather uncouth behavior towards women, Ms. McGuire puts forth one of the most fascinating arguments supporting it. No longer is Travis the bad boy poster child but rather someone who verifies every lesson about self-respect and appearance that parents can ever teach their daughters.
Dan Bittner does a fantastic job channeling Travis and his intensity. Travis’ emotions are raw and passionate and could easily come across as melodramatic if performed incorrectly. Rather, Mr. Bittner uses that forcefulness to create a performance that is just as powerful and gut-wrenching than Abby’s version, if not more so. Travis’ devastation, his terror, his awe and overwhelming love for Abby are visceral in Mr. Bittner’s hands, something that makes certain scenes so difficult to experience. Still, it is an audiobook worth experiencing for the amazing nuances Mr. Bittner adds to Travis’ already complex voice.
Fans of Abby and Travis will absolutely adore the chance to watch their relationship unfold all over again. However, Walking Disaster is more than a rehash of their courtship but rather a touching story of growth as Travis learns that for which it is truly worth fighting. Ms. McGuire deftly balances key scenes and dialogue with fresh scenes, some of which come as a complete surprise to readers. There is never the sense of repetitiveness because the tone of the novel is completely different. The adorably charming epilogue ends his story with the perfect sense of closure, and the contentment readers feel upon finishing the story is proof positive that Walking Disaster is a damn good story, one that makes bad boy Travis Maddox just about ideal.