Opinion: Let’s Leave Colleen Hoover Behind in the New Year

Hello 2023! In honor of the new year, it’s about time we ditch our bad bookish habits, so let’s start off strong by moving on from Colleen Hoover.

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Colleen Hoover and some of her most popular books

The Queen of BookTok has held her reign for far too long. While Colleen Hoover gained massive success over the past few years due to feverish fans online, Hoover’s stories aren’t as promising as we once thought. In actuality, Hoover’s writing is problematic and her stories are something out of the early 2000s, but not in a good way.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on why we raised this author to stardom and the reality behind her influencing words. If you want to know why we should be leaving Colleen Hoover back in 2022, keep reading! We’ve got some startling information as to why her books might do more harm than good. 

Content Warning: Descriptions of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault

BookTok’s Superstar

Author Colleen Hoover in a black shirt.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, many past and present bookworms were looking for any new material they could get their hands on with the increase in free time. While BookTok uplifted many great authors that hadn’t gotten the recognition they deserved, they also unknowingly put problematic authors on a pedestal without any crosschecking into their literary past. At the top of that platform stood Colleen Hoover. Hoover had been publishing her novels since 2012, but it wasn’t until 2020-2022 that she became a household name for book lovers across the country. 

With little to no background on the new author, Colleen Hoover’s novels began earning traction; gaining notoriety on the New York Times Best-Seller list over and over again. In 2022, fans were anxiously waiting for her new book It Starts With Us, the sequel to It Ends With Us. It seemed like nothing could go wrong for Hoover until the other shoe finally dropped.

Content Controversy

As fans of Hoover couldn’t wait to get their hands on It Starts With Us, some diligent readers took the time to examine the book that started it all, It Ends With Us. What they found was disturbing, to say the least. Colleen Hoover has marketed herself as being a romance writer, but her stories are far from romantic.

Colleen Hoover 'It Ends With Us" book cover with a smashed pink flower.

The novel that faces the most criticism out of her oeuvre is, unfortunately, her most popular. The plot of It Ends With Us surrounds the “love story” of Lily and Ryle. Lily is looking for a new start in Boston, but when she meets Ryle, her entire life turns upside down. Early on in the book, Ryle begins to showcase possessiveness over Lily, hating the fact that an old lover of Lily’s is in town. In addition to his fragile ego, Ryle tries to control what she says and who she’s friends with, definitely NOT boyfriend material. 

And if the first half of the book was bad, the second half takes a darker turn. In each chapter, Ryle becomes more aggressive, verbally and physically abusing Lily to the point where he pushes her down a flight of stairs, but that’s not even the worst of it. After finding a refrigerator magnet that her high school boyfriend gave to her, Ryle sexually assaults Lily. 

In graphic detail, Hoover displays a rape fantasy for readers of all ages to see. This novel is filled with toxic masculinity, rape culture, and grotesque depictions of women being men’s playtoys. Ryle’s decision was premeditated, cruel, and criminal. But the more damning conclusion is that Hoover’s novels romanticize abusive relationships for young readers. 

Her Messages Aren’t Hidden

Colleen Hoover tells you exactly who she is without even opening the book. On the back cover for It Ends With Us, the tagline is eerily concerning on so many levels.

Back cover of Colleen Hoover's book, "It Ends With Us." The Tagline says, "Sometimes the one who loves you is the one who hurts you the most."

The idea that abuse equals love has been a tired trope for years now, but it seems to be making a comeback. Hoover only doubles down on this idea at the end of the novel. While Ryle and Lily end up getting a divorce, the last chapters of the book are spent giving Ryle a redemption arc. The two are functioning co-parents, and Lily has seemingly forgiven the traumatizing actions Ryle put her through. 

But deep down, Lily knows that Ryle is still dangerous:

“What kind of mother would I be if a small part of me doesn’t have concern in regard to your temper?”

“Despite what has happened between us in the past, he’s still this baby’s father. He has the legal right to be a father, no matter how I feel about it.”

It Ends With Us, Colleen Hoover

This hasn’t been the only instance where abuse and manipulation were brushed under the rug in fiction. With characters like Edward Cullen and Christian Grey it’s not surprising that the train of unhealthy fictional relationships would continue, we just never saw it leading to this extreme. If this was a true romance novel, consent and respect would be at the forefront of every intimate scene, but instead, first-time readers are exposed to violence and hate.

Not the First Time, nor the Last

If you thought the controversy stopped with It Ends With Us, you’d be wrong. Colleen Hoover has only continued her work in creating problematic men in her writing, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Colleen Hoover "Ugly Love" book cover with bubbles underwater.

In her 2014 novel, Ugly Love, readers are introduced to the unequal relationship between Miles and Tate. As their relationship becomes intimate, Miles informs Tate of all the rules she must follow for him to be a reliable partner. She cannot question his current or past decisions, he discourages emotional intimacy, and Tate cannot expect to have a future with him. And somehow, we’re supposed to believe that this is the pinnacle of romance?

Colleen Hoover "November 9" book cover with pink chalk coming off of a pink flower.

The bad relationships just keep coming in her book, November 9. The descriptions of abuse and controlling behavior depicted in the relationship between Ben and Fallon had many of Hoover’s critics rushing online to voice their concerns.

TWEET VIA @whittynovels
TWEET VIA @whittynovels

Is the Writing Really That Great?

If the negative portrayal of relationships wasn’t enough to leave the author back in 2022, Colleen Hoover’s writing is subpar at best when you look at it in detail. There’s one example that stands out amongst the rest, and the worst part is, the conversation is between step-siblings.

TWEET VIA @wheeindiamond

From an editorial point of view, Hoover’s dialog is awkward, her exposition cliche, and plot twists are only used to save the novel right at the end. If her past works have all surrounded heartless and abusive relationships, I can only imagine what stories are coming next. 

While many readers may want to continue enjoying Hoover’s work, I implore them to look at the bigger impact of Colleen’s writing. Not only is it lackluster, but her characterization of relationships is downright dangerous. Hoover has curated an audience of young, impressionable minds, and the last thing they need to learn is that abusive relationships are okay and to be expected. Let’s leave these outdated tropes and authors where they belong, back in the past. 

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