My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Initial reaction: Honestly, I’m feeling rather gutted and not in a constructive way with “Losing Hope”. Holder’s account, noted against Sky’s, does retread a lot of ground in the story to the point of where in places it feels repetitive (much like Jamie McGuire’s “Walking Disaster” did with Travis being in the primary seat versus Abby.).
I realize it’s a challenge to write a companion story that “flips the script” or tells a variant version of a same story, but usually the strength in being able to tell an alternate story is to offer new grounds of intrigue and insight specific to the character you’re writing the perspective point in. I’ll admit there was some potential with that considering Holder reflects on his sister’s death and has to deal with the rumors about his person and his own family issues, but I’ll admit in the whole time that I followed Holder in this, it was like reading someone’s account at arms length and the major measures that shaped him were only with respect to Les’s death and Hope’s disappearance. Not to mention that I don’t think there was anything that new added to the cast at large in this account – the characters had very little dimensions and connectivity, and the mystery was not so much compelling as the first account because you already know what happens in so many measures. Plus, there were some revelations given here that I had a very hard time believing, much like in the first book.
So, I’m torn. I don’t know whether to give this 1 star or 1.5 stars. I definitely do not think it was as strong as the first book in what it provided, but I need to think about what the experience gave me as to how I’ll rate it in the end. Suffice to say, I’m disappointed.
I’m going to start this review with some words on singular stories told from multiple vantage points. In a given scheme of events, despite similarities, no two people have the same interpretation or stakes in a given environment. It takes a level of complexity to be able to tell a similar story from multiple perspectives, plus give weight to the surrounding players who have stakes in that respective story, without repetition. You may have *some* repeating events, but when you repeat a given scenario, it’s to highlight details or call attention to things that may not have been seen before or give weight to the measure at hand (usually both). One of the movies I’ve seen in the past several years that I thought did it well was, aptly titled Vantage Point. And to make a reference of an anime series I also thought did the multi-perspective juggling well, one I’ve rewatched in recent weeks, was Durarara!!
Now you might tell me “Rose, those are completely different stories and scenarios versus the story that Colleen Hoover’s telling here,” and you would be correct, but there’s a reason why I point it out. Both of the examples I cited above tell a single story from multiple viewpoints in one expansion, or a collection of intersecting stories set in one environment but with shared experiences. This is very hard to pull off.
You would think if you gave one perspective character a story of their own and then attempt to tell the same story from a different character’s perspective in that same environment that it would be easier, because you have more wiggle room to develop them in a separate account, but it presents a similar problem in that you have to challenge yourself not to repeat information there, and carry the story based on that person’s account and their respective stakes and experiences. Not to mention, if you have shared characters between both stories, you have to develop them as well.
“Losing Hope” is a companion novel to Colleen Hoover’s “Hopeless”. I’m going to tell you straight off the bat that you cannot read this novel without reading the first one. It does not stand alone and quite frankly, it does not stand alone well. I said the same thing with another New Adult author this past year – Jamie McGuire, who wrote a companion novel to her book “Beautiful Disaster” called “Walking Disaster.” Both McGuire and Hoover suffer from the same problems with trying to retell their stories of romance by trying to “flip the script” and tell the same story from the hero’s perspective. But the thing needed to carry such stories is that you need a strong characters to carry the weight of the full narrative and you need to have variance in the story enough to where you’re not blindly rehashing events without good reason.
To give Hoover credit compared to McGuire’s narrative, at least there was an attempt to develop Holder’s character in this work, particularly with respect to the loss of his sister, the loss of his childhood best friend (Hope), and trying to fit himself back to sorts after his behavior lends to rumors that run every which way but loose.
I didn’t think Holder’s account was enough to carry this entire novel (maybe if it was a novella, but it would depend on the focal points), and you could tell where Hoover retraced details from the previous novel to the point where it was tediously trying to evoke the same emotions that were so potent from Sky’s perspective in the previous novel. Sadly, that wasn’t to be.
Holder starts the novel in a rough place just after losing his twin sister, and he lashes out in his grief. Some of it rubbed me the wrong way (i.e. sleeping with Les’s best friend shortly after she died, and then blaming it on Les). He keeps a journal in the book that belonged to his sister, and some of that was fine for summarizing details that were in the previous story alongside new details that fleshed out his childhood experiences, but at the same time, I didn’t understand why that couldn’t have been applied more to avoid some of the repetition that was in the narrative.
I had problems with how Holder preoccupied himself over both Hope and Les to the point that’s all his character really encompassed. When Sky comes into the picture, apart from the bargaining he does over her identity, it doesn’t provide much that’s new. Some of the conversations are verbatim except for supplementing his thoughts during those scenes, but not given enough weight or dimension to see significance there. It’s nothing that those who have already read the first novel don’t know apart from a few exceptions. The narrative isn’t as intimate character-wise as Sky’s account (and oddly, Holder still feels like he’s telling his grief in many points here instead of coming to terms with it gradually. He sounds a little more like he’s 18 here, but it’s still hard to find focus with.) It’s the same way with him telling of his love for Sky – I don’t feel it, I’m informed of it, many times. Mostly telling, not showing.
The larger cast of “Losing Hope” is underdeveloped and not given much scene time. I thought Sky’s presentation here was threadbare at best. And Breckin makes a brief appearance in the novel to serve as a bridge between Holder and Sky when they’re apart, but apart from his puppeteering as a “Gay Mormon” – he’s not really a functional character here. Worse, there’s one scene where it seems like he’s okay with a character making a homophobic statement to him – I didn’t understand that at all.
Towards the end of the novel, a revelation’s made where Holder finds out his mother knew who kidnapped Hope and withheld the information from him after she (along with Les) came across Hope and her aunt in a diner. That was a MAJOR hole in the story for events, because how would Hope not remember her aunt begging the other family not to tell anyone? It didn’t make sense and was hard to buy when Hope had no recollection of anything from her past and she would’ve been old enough to remember that encounter, even if she was ushered in the vehicle at the time. I don’t know, I had a hard time buying that among other details in the work.
The melodrama was as problematic in this novel as the former, but with notably weaker character resonance and little offering in the way of substantated story. In the end, I was disappointed with it.
Overall score: 1.5/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Atria Books.