Review: Hopeless… Yep, Sounds About Right.
Author: Colleen Hoover
Published: December 2012
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
I had high hopes for Hoover’s Young Adult novel… I really did. I picked it as an easy summer beach read and it genuinely started that way. Sweet, something simple and entertaining; a little silly and effectively dealing with teenage relationships and personal/social relationships: boy, was I ever wrong. This novel has so many problems with it that I would hazard saying that it is precisely what is “wrong” with Young Adult novels: it is exactly why people disparage YA as trivial, ridiculous dribble. The vast majority of the story revolves around completely unrealistic two-dimensional characters. There are truly only two problems with this novel… the problem is that they are the plot and the characters.
You know when you read Wuthering Heights and you have to stop for a moment to collect your understanding of their family tree because all the names are so similar? This is like that but without the benefit of a phenomenal storyline and incredible character development. I’m just overwhelmed and genuinely angry at the plot holes, stereotypical characters, and all the inauthentic relationships and timelines Hoover creates.
Heads Up! There are spoilers below. Big ones. And lots of ’em.
Let’s start out with the easily dealt with problems: the relationship created between Holder and Sky is a carbon copy all those completely unhealthy, misunderstood bad boy-turned-wonderful boyfriend relationships that we need to stop writing. Being an attractive boy does not—EVER—give you a free pass to be exorbitantly creepy.
Chasing someone out to a parking lot because you have to be near them: creepy.
Knowing details of someone’s life without them telling you and then telling them that you know said details: creepy.
Climbing into their window after you’ve had a fight broken up with them just so you can feel them: creepy.
Not telling your girlfriend that you recognize them as the neighbor-girl that was abducted as a child: creepy.
Sky literally faints at the sight of Holder. Really? This is exactly the kind of crap that needs to be taken out of books and beaten with a stick. People do not faint because they’re so attractive. Please stop making characters that are ridiculous in every sense of the word. Unique is important. Blatantly crap ruins what could have been a truly effecting book.
I like issue-novels: they open dialogue and are an effective and—typically—safe way to combat contemporary problems, but in this case the trauma and dramatics are so over-the-top that they bridge into melodrama territory. I want to applaud Hoover for trying to broach such a difficult subject: discussions of incest, assault, and rape are incredibly difficult to articulate and creating believable storylines with characters even more so. It was a valiant effort, but fell short.
It would be bad enough that Sky was raped by her father, but Hoover goes even further: Sky was raped as a child, abducted by her aunt—who raises her as her own daughter—who was also raped by Sky’s father, as was Sky’s best friend—Lesslie—after Sky was taken, but it also turns out that Lesslie is Sky’s boyfriend’s twin sister who committed suicide as a result of her childhood rape. Whaaaaat?? Could it be more unnecessarily complicated?
Further, there are intensely mixed messages around Sky and her sexuality. Yes, as a teen, her sexuality is developing and that can cause understandable ambiguity in writing or changes throughout the novel, but the way Sky develops into her sexual relationship with Holder is mind-boggling atrocious. First—before she’s even had consensual sex with an appropriate partner—she is slut shamed. No one knows about her childhood so they have no cause to utilize that as ammunition in their ‘you’re a whore’ gun (not that anyone should or would). Instead, because her best friend Six is openly sexual, she too is painted as a slut. Aaand I couldn’t care less about Six.
Then, after remembering her past abuse—and I don’t mean a while later, I mean within a couple hours—Sky decides that this is the time to really make love with her creepy, obsessive boyfriend. Are you kidding? It is immensely implausible that anyone, having just realized they suppressed memories of their own childhood sexual abuse, would have sex with their boyfriend whose sister was also sexually abused by the same man. Also, what partner is going to want to do that?
When you’re dealing with such impactful and sensitive subject you had better be damn sure to respond in an authentic and effective way. The entirety of Sky’s adventure into her past and the development of her relationship with Holder are incredibly rushed and feel completely inaccurately forged. As much as I wanted to care about Sky, her abduction, sexual abuse, and coming of age story where she reclaimed her sexuality, I can’t. That is that main problem with Hopeless; not just that it borders on melodrama or that the characters are exceptionally stereotypical, but that, as I reader, I couldn’t care less about the outcome for Sky, Holder, or any of the other characters.