January 21, 2013

Review: Hopeless by Colleen Hoover


Warning: Minor spoilers ahead.

I enjoyed Slammed, Ms. Hoover's first novel, but I thought the sequel, Point of Retreat was a fan service mess. Yet she has an engaging voice, and I wanted to give her a second chance, because I figured that a new, original book wouldn’t be as bad.

I was wrong. 

Sky was adopted when she was five and has lived sheltered her whole life (this means home-schooled and without access to television, internet or phone). Her only link to the world outside her house is her best friend and neighbor, Six. They visit each other, have sleepovers and sneak boys into their rooms. But sky is immune to boys, and when they kiss and touch her she becomes detached and disconnected with her body and what’s going on. Other than that, she is fairly happy and has a good relationship with her adoptive mother.

Her life changes when she finally convinces her mother to let her attend high school for her senior year, but when she gets her wish, Six decides to go to Italy, thus Sky must face her first time in school with her bad reputation as only company. The first day people stare at her, call her a slut and ignore her, but at least she makes one friend, the token gay character.

On top of that, she meets brooding hunk, Holder, and for the first time in her life she actually feels sexually attracted to someone. The guy has a reputation of being a violent homophobe who went to juvie for a hate crime. But it’s all a lie, because he only beat up a guy who insulted his sister who recently committed suicide, and the guy being gay had nothing to do with it. Besides, his violent tendencies are sporadic and not a steady part of his personality. So they fall in love, dry-hump and cook (not necessarily in that order).

When Sky's memory slowly comes back, things get complicated and outrageous. 

The first half of the book was decent and entertaining enough to make me ignore some of its cheesiness. It starts out as the typical story of the good, awkward girl who falls for the good boy with the bad reputation. There was a lot of insta-love/insta-lust going on, and her magical attraction to the guy was slightly unbelievable and uncomfortable, but the story was engaging. 

Until everything went pear-shaped.

It’s fairly obvious that Sky was a victim of sexual abuse. Technically, this is a spoiler, but no one would accuse the book of being subtle, so it’s impossible not to guess what’s going on. The abuse is the reason why she checks out when boys touch her and why she freaks out the moment she tries to have sex with Holder. There are also a series of flashbacks whose characters aren’t identified, but again, it’s obvious that they are Sky, Holder and his sister. When we add Holder’s bizarre behavior and the flashbacks, we realize that not only does he remember Sky, but he's also somewhat obsessed with her; something he confesses later on in the story. But he’s so romantic, and invents words that mean more than "I care about you", but less than "I love you", so we’re going to label him as dreamy instead of calling the cops. Besides, the book has characters that are way worse, and no one calls the cops when they show up either, so it would be unfair. 

All of this would be fine if her emotional trauma and the abuse had been explored and dealt with in a serious way. But that is not the case. Instead, the rape --and boy, there is a lot of rape, child molestation and incest-- is nothing but an excuse to emotionally manipulate the reader and worse, make Holder look even more heroic, romantic and dreamy. There’s no attempt to take Sky to therapy or to deal with the situation in a logical, authentic way. Other important themes like suicide and bullying are used as plot devices, and never even addressed as serious concerns or integral aspects of the story. Not to mention that there’s no character development whatsoever; the Sky we meet when the book starts, is the same we say goodbye to at the end. Much like the serious themes, Sky and Holder are nothing but drafts of characters entirely defined by one trait or personal trauma. 

I love over the top, angsty stories, and I’m not immune to a good emotionally manipulative book. I wan't immune to this one. It's impossible not to feel strong emotions for someone who endures such terrible tragedy, but it also made me mad, because that tragedy was written with the only purpose of eliciting strong emotions. And at the end of the book there was no real connection to the characters, no message, and no feelings of hope, happiness or even sadness. I didn't learn or take away anything from Hopeless, and the plot became so wildly exaggerated and unbelievable, that not even the earlier emotions remained. 

Hopeless is offensive and uses gratuitous rape to manipulate the reader’s response, showcase how wonderful the male lead is and enhance his heroism. There are other interesting sources of conflict and angst that should be used in instances like this, when what’s needed is a convenient plot device. There’s nothing convenient about rape and child abuse.

There are some inside-jokes that kind of sound like a jab at reviewers who criticize poorly-edited self-published books. I may be wrong, but in case I’m right, I don’t think this is a good idea because editors do more than spell-check, and this book sure needed someone to help reign in the exaggeration. 

I’m not an expert, but the tone, characters, language, setting and audience, are YA. It has a mature content warning, but that doesn’t make it less YA. The sex, however, is graphic and there’s no reason why it should be. Her previous books didn’t have explicit sex -- didn’t have sex at all, but this one is clearly making up for the time lost. It’s not erotica-explicit, but there are descriptions of penetrations and orgasms. And every single sex scene is pointless. As Romance readers, we’re familiar with the magic peen that cures the heroine’s sexual traumas, and we know it’s a narrative shortcut that almost never works, and now that I’ve read this book, I can tell you that it doesn’t work in YA either.  

In sum, Hopeless is an offensive mess that's selling like crazy, so I'm sure one of the big publishers will acquire it. At least this one won't need an uncensored version

Review by Brie
Grade: 1
Sensuality: McSexy
Purchase (or not!): Hopeless

Synopsis:

Sometimes discovering the truth can leave you more hopeless than believing the lies…
That’s what seventeen-year-old Sky realizes after she meets Dean Holder. A guy with a reputation that rivals her own and an uncanny ability to invoke feelings in her she’s never had before. He terrifies her and captivates her all in the span of just one encounter, and something about the way he makes her feel sparks buried memories from a past that she wishes could just stay buried.
Sky struggles to keep him at a distance knowing he’s nothing but trouble, but Holder insists on learning everything about her. After finally caving to his unwavering pursuit, Sky soon finds that Holder isn’t at all who he’s been claiming to be. When the secrets he’s been keeping are finally revealed, every single facet of Sky’s life will change forever.

Colleen Hoover. December 27, 2012.

18 comments:

  1. Wow- this just sounds....awful. Like..really, really awful. Thanks author for manipulating us with such a serious issue.

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    1. And I deleted the spoilery list with more plot details including all the rape, abuse and suicide. It had seven items in it. Seven!

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  2. Meh, it doesn't sound really good. I didn't read your whole review because just the recap of book was enough for me to disconnect ^_^; Too bad about it. Also, why would someone be called Six?! I think authors really have to be careful when choosing characters' names. I understand some of them wants to be original, but come on...

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    1. Her real name is Seven, but she wants people to call her Six because she's a maverick ;-)

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    2. Well of course, that makes it all better!! ^_^;

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  3. Wow. Definitely not the book for me. Just removed this book from my wishlist. Thanks for your honest review!

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    1. I think it's a waste of money and time, but If you're curious I can lend it.

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    2. I appreciate the offer but I'll pass :)

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  4. I read Hopeless as well and definitely understand a lot of your points. I didn't even review it because I couldn't decide how the hell to even feel after finishing... Thanks so much for such an honest review!

    ~Megan

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    1. I understand having mixed feelings about it and even liking it. As I said, it's an emotional read and quite engaging, so I'm not surprised it's getting so many positive reviews.

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  5. Thanks for taking one for the team Brie. I bought Slammed on audio today - I thought the poetry might be fun on audio but I'm not planning on reading Point of Retreat or this one either. :)

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    1. Let me know how you like it. The dialogue is so cheesy that I'm almost tempted to try the audiobook. Almost.

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  6. Wow, this sounds like a hot mess. I'll be steering clear. Thanks for the review.

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  7. Ughhh! Sounds like a whole lot of depressing situations thrown in for the sake of eliciting strong feeling from the readers. I HATE when authors do that. BIG OLE PASS for me. Thanks for your Candor.

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  8. I'm so glad I read this. I'm so sorry I read HOPELESS!

    Much as you did, I enjoyed the beginning. And after finishing I continue to feel angrier and angrier. From the crazy plot, the manipulation, the worthlessness of the story... but even more seriously, because I think thousands of young women will read this and be either 1) delighted that hot sexy sweaty boys can cure them of deep trauma or 2) horrified and traumatized by the happenings in the book. I was sexually abused (in a manner way less egregious than in this book, but something I still deal with as an adult) and this story just trashed the reality of such an experience -- and exploited it for entertainment purposes.

    I hope parents don't think this is some sweet teen romance. But because so many kids read electronically now, and no one can see titles, I doubt parents will even know WHAT they're reading. I would never ban a book, but I would strongly encourage adults with kids to be aware of the shocking events in this story and avoid it.

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    1. I'm sorry, Patrice. You're right about the book exploiting such a terrible situation for entertainment purposes and to sell a twisted, romanticized version of dealing and recovering from such trauma entails.

      Have you read Raw Blue by Kristy Eagar? It's another YA that features a heroine dealing with rape, but it's all about her journey to recovery. There's a love interest, but he doesn't save her, she saves herself. The ending isn't perfect, more like a hopeful/happy-for-now ending, which I think was very fitting. Perhaps this is a subject you wish to avoid, but if you ever feel like reading a story that treats it with respect, I highly recommend Raw Blue.

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  9. Thank you for writing this intelligent and savvy review. All the hype had me confused. I don't find mental illness sexy or the abuse of children either. I am glad to avoid the horrors of these serious issues being treated do casually. I am grateful. Keep up the great work.

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    1. You're welcome, Christa! Thank you for stopping by ;-)

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