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Brie's Corner

Supervillain book reviewer. Lover of secret pains and purple proses. I review over at Romance Around the Corner.

Hopeless (Hopeless, #1)

Hopeless - Colleen Hoover Originally posted at Romance Around the CornerWarning: Minor spoilers ahead.I enjoyed Slammed, Ms. Hoover first novel, but 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. Overall 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. So 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 and keep reading. 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 he not only does he remember her, 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, 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.