My rating: 2 of 5 stars
If there’s one thing I can say about my impressions of reading “Hopeless”, my first read from Colleen Hoover, I make no qualms about saying that the woman can write well in considerations. Her narrative style is easy to go through, at times she knows how to tease with humor, with a distinct voice and flair for her stylistic that comes across as her own. Considering most of the New Adult reads I’ve picked up so far, this was a breath of fresh air in fair comparison. (Some of you might say it’s because I’ve been on a bad run. I felt sick after reading “Ten Tiny Breaths” and not for intentional reasons.)
But then you’re probably looking at me wondering “Rose, if you thought that was the case, why’d you give this only 2 stars?”
At one point, as I was reading the novel through, the intrigue became enough that I thought this would not only be the first “mainstream” New Adult novel I’d give four stars to, but I’d actually finally break my slump with respect to this “age group” read (I have to remember not to call it a genre). In the aftermath of finishing it, I gave myself a few days to consider it; the more I thought about this book, the more I realized there were too many things about it that didn’t sit well with me.
It wasn’t because of the tough subject matter, not in itself. I can usually handle reads that are a bit on the graphic side of things and delve into tough subjects. I read Lisa Kleypas’s “Blue Eyed Devil” and loved it (though that’s adult romance with a look at spousal abuse and recovery. Hardy Cates is a “bad boy” hero but he’s a very likable bad boy with flawed tendencies).
Looking at “Hopeless” – I had to remember that this primarily featured a 17 year old female as the protagonist (Sky), and an 18-year old male (Holder) as the love interest. Consider that factor as I’m going through this review, I will make mention of it several times.
The first thing we could consider about this narrative was whether it wanted to be a romantic read or a tough coming to terms story (or both). On the romantic side, I thought it failed. I’ll explain why in a little bit. The tough coming to terms, however? It had some decent moments in the scope. Still, that was only with many caveats to consider. Was it on the realistic side of things? Sometimes, but there were too many leaps of logic.
I’m going to passionately make the claim that the first chapter of this book did nothing for me at all – it wasn’t needed and could’ve been easily cut. There was an emotional disconnect. True, it features the protagonist freaking out over something we (readers) have yet to realize and that the book has yet to establish. However, it was over-saturated, overblown, and we didn’t gain anything about any of the characters from it – stakes or otherwise, because it was so vague, melodramatic. It was only in the second chapter that I found the flow of the novel. The first chapter (which is revisited in the narrative) actually worked better in the heart of the book when the revelation was handed down. I applauded it when it was used in that context, but not as the lead-in to the novel.
That said, let me recap the premise of this a bit. Sky is a young woman who really has a very limited social life. She lives with her adoptive mother Karen, who shuns technology (so much that Sky doesn’t know how to use a cellphone, email, etc.). Sky decides she wants to go to public school versus home school in order to feel normal but she’s the outside kid who doesn’t fit in and thinks other people think she’s a slut for the way she carries on with her relationships. (That sounds familiar in the scheme of NA, doesn’t it? *groans*)
Sky has a best friend, but said friend is traveling overseas when we meet her in the novel, so she doesn’t have a huge role. What little the friend did have, I liked. Sky befriends a gay, Mormon guy (who takes the time to remind Sky – and the reader – that he’s Mormon fifty billion times. I thought he was okay, but to be honest, his character was very cliched and didn’t feel that rounded).
Sky also has a boyfriend, but she’s really not that into him. His kisses give her an emotional numbness she craves. Sky claims she’s never had the regular reactions that people have to falling in love.
Enter Holder. *starts singing* “Ba-da-ba-ba, I’m an instalove machine, and I won’t work for nobody but yo-ou….” Emotional floodgate for Sky? Released.
On a serious note, Holder catches Sky’s attention in more reasons than one. Let’s not forget he’s the mysterious guy who lives on her street with stalker tendencies and a penchant for violent behavior. Case in point, when he asks her about having a resemblance to someone else, and she says no, leaving him behind, he punches the hood of a car.
Some of you probably know what I’m going to say to that. Why is this a “thing” in NA or YA or anything with respect to love interests? It’s not cute. People who have actually been stalked or witnessed this kind of violent behavior in person will tell you that it’s not funny, attractive, or endearing, it’s scary. I do think that Sky calls him out accordingly on knowing certain details about her that she never gave to him or actions he takes against her that are wrong. But it’s almost underscored by the fact that she’s either attracted to him or desires him in light of these things.
I had a hard time liking Holder through this novel, if at all. He pretty much ruined the romantic angle in this book for me despite some redeeming factors he makes in certain turns of the story. He also has some nice romantic lines, but some of them come across either as cheese, or overexpound. I think that’s a flaw in Hoover’s narrative in some points. While she’s detailed and delves in the emotions of the perspective character she draws very well, Hoover sometimes overindulges in the narrative and the prose doesn’t streamline as well as it could. I still liked parts of the actual writing, but I did get thrown off when it came to the cheese factors. It had me rolling my eyes more than not.
Brief tangent aside, Holder doesn’t sound like an 18 year old guy to me. I’m sorry. He toggles the part between damaged bad boy and therapist, and it’s too much given his respective age. He has his own issues, true. He has some sweet lines, but at the same time, I did not like the fact that when Sky’s issues are revealed as the novel goes on, he tries to “heal” her and takes so many stretches (some of which did throw me out of the narrative) in caring for her. Holder sounds more like a wish-fulfillment love interest than he does a genuine 18-year old boy who would probably have a damned hard time taking all of this in, especially with respect to what he learns about his sister, considering the strife he goes through with revelations surrounding her.
The age issue also rears its head when recalling memories of things that happened in his youth with Sky (considering it’s revealed, progressively, how he knows her and why). I know have some very vivid memories when I was five or six years old, and I don’t doubt if they have impact on someone, that some of the things that happened to Sky and Holder would hold the same value. However, the level of complexity with which they consider events doesn’t add up to what a five/six year old would think.
Sky ends up questioning everything she knows about her identity, her family, among other dimensions of her life when Holder reveals a number of factors to her. It sends her world in a tailspin. I’ll admit I felt for Sky and her respective grief. That was one of the strongest aspects of the book. The way Hoover portrays it is what makes me give the narrative regard. Even the explanation that Karen gives to Sky for her role in events is palpable and full of resonance. But then there are several things that don’t add up.
A police officer who commits suicide would not simply be dismissed. That notation dropped a huge implausibility bomb on this story because you can bet when an actual officer is killed – whether by suicide or homicide or what have you, the men on the force will find out who did it and not simply dismiss the case. And not all police organizations are full of corrupt cover-ups and efforts to sequester when a man on duty does something like what Sky’s father did. That factor made me rage.
Holder probably would not have been able to hold himself together that well considering during the suicide they witnessed, Sky got blood and other body bits in her hair. He’s not much older than Sky in age, and I expected those revelations to hit him harder than what they did. I also don’t think he would’ve been so quick to push himself to be strong after finding out what his sister had gone through. That was messed up, and even shook me as I read it.
While I think it’s realistic that Holder and Sky might’ve had “upset sex” or came close to it after realizing the truth of things, the fact that Holder would demand that she get birth control and dictate the ways he would “fuck” her knowing that she was a victim of rape and given the factors in that, I hated Holder after that point.Don’t care what sweet things he had to say to Sky before or after that point, that REALLY turned me off. No guy worth his salt would EVER do that. It’s not romantic, it’s really insensitive, annoying and pretty darned offensive.
Here’s the bottom line of what I have to say about this story – I’m not going to say it isn’t well written or didn’t have it’s amusing moments because it drew me in, and I actually liked the emotional investment in parts of this novel. The narrative voice was also a plus in the more humored parts, though within problematic thematics. Yet, I think I really need to read another book of Hoover’s to really judge how she appeals to me. The beginning of the novel was decent with caveats in the form of cliches and aspects I didn’t care for. The middle of the novel where it insinuated that Sky had been kidnapped and her psychological trauma with finding out the truth and Holder’s role in it was excellent. But the last part of the novel really fell apart on the level of implausibilities and really emotionally contrived situations, though if we considered Sky’s coming to terms with the truth – that part was okay, but it could’ve been more resonant with Sky’s own coming to terms, rather than it hinging quite a bit on Holder.
At least this was a better read than most NA stories I’ve perused, but in retrospect, I think it still could’ve been more.
Overall score: 2/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Atria Books.