Thursday, 2 January 2014

Review: Hopeless by Colleen Hoover

Hopeless is the first instalment in a two part series by Colleen Hover, whose novel Slammed was a surprise hit a little while back. Hopeless belongs firmly in that genre of books about love at first sight and passionate, intense romances between young people ... or does it?

Hopeless tells the story of Sky, a young woman who has lived a very sheltered life, thanks to the watchful gaze of her adoptive mother, Karen. Denied television, the internet or a mobile phone and home schooled she would almost be cut off from society entirely, if it were not for the (slightly evil but ultimately good,) influence of her quirky best friend and neighbour, Six. Almost eighteen, Sky insists on enrolling at a public high school for her senior year, as she thinks this will assist her with her college applications. Karen is hesitant but allows it. Once at school, Sky meets Holder, a boy with a bad reputation and who pursues her with an almost frightening intensity. A passionate affair between the two develop, and then, it turns out that Holder knows a thing or two about Sky's past and some dark family secrets are revealed ...

A bit of direction and a solid backstory stop this novel from falling into familiar territory. Yes, the hero of the story Dean Holder is a bit too intense for my liking and Sky falls into the trap of the heroine who is besotted with her first love against all reason, but the author does offer a new and interesting twist on the theme. Yes, there is a reason for the bond between Sky and Holder, and there is something much deeper going on than the pair simply spotting one another after school at a supermarket. That said, I have all the usual quibbles that come up when I review books like this--in real life, controlling someone is not evidence that you care, its evidence that you are a control freak and that you have trust issues. Or that you are Christian Grey. I know it's an appealing concept in fiction, particularly popular fiction, and that the majority of the human race are not idiotic enough to think that relationships work this way in real life (or at least not the ones you should keep,) but there is always a part of me that cries, anyway. Maybe it's my inner Germaine Greer coming out to play. But, as I said, a bit of direction and a solid backstory stop this novel from falling in to a familiar cliche.

Both Karen and Holder are quite controlling of Sky, and so too can be Six. Sky comes across quite weak at times, though this may be explained in part by her forgotten history, and the way that she suffered at the hands of her police officer father, before her 'adoption'. Holder meanwhile is shown to have suffered too--through not being able to help Sky when they were children and living next door to one another. Karen, of course, has her own issues and reasons. So at least we get to see what motivates the characters. Motivation and justification are two different things, mind you. Karen's actions--that she abducted her niece as she feared that she was being sexually abused by her single father is her motivation. The fact that Sky was, in fact, being abused and was spared further abuse thanks to Karen's intervention is perfect justification. It is difficult to justify any of Holders actions throughout the novel, though easy enough to understand his motivations. Which makes for a good story and, at times, a romantic one, but a poor example of the right way to treat your girlfriend. 

I guess, as a reader I would have liked to have seen Sky stand up for herself a bit more. Even if she had to struggle a bit internally in order to do so.

But maybe setting examples wasn't Hoover's motivation for writing the novel in the first place. Hoover is a talented author who knows her target audience well. I liked the jokey dynamic that existed between Sky and Six, and later, Sky and her gay best friend Breckin, and this dynamic reminded me a lot of some teenagers that I know in real life. And, of course, young love is always a popular theme in fiction. It's no surprise that this one topped the New York Times Bestseller list.

It's hard to say whether I loved the novel or hated it. There were parts I loved and parts I hated. Equally it's difficult to say what genre it belongs to--it seems a bit more what you might get if you threw Jodi Picoult and Fifty Shades of Grey into a blender and then fined tuned it for a YA/NA audience. Then again, to say that might suggest that the novel has nothing original to offer, when the truth is, it does.

This is, ultimately, a page turner, a romance and a family story with darker themes. Hopeless is followed by Losing Hope, which is told from Holder's perspective and Finding Cinderella, a novella set in the same universe which is currently available to download free from Amazon.