Sometimes discovering the truth can leave you more hopeless than believing the lies.In this #1 New York Times bestselling novel by Colleen Hoover, author of Slammed and Point of Retreat, Sky meets Dean Holder, a guy with a reputation that rivals her own. Holder has the ability to invoke feelings in Sky she’s never had before. In just one encounter he leaves her terrified yet captivated and something about him brings up a rush of memories from the past that she’s worked so hard to bury away.
Sky knows Holder is nothing but trouble and tries to keep him at a distance, but he is adamant about learning everything he can about her. Sky finally caves to his unwavering pursuit, but she soon finds out that Holder isn’t the person he’s been claiming to be. When the secrets he’s been keeping are finally revealed, every single facet of Sky’s life changes forever.
I confess I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction; in particular New Adult. I pretend that it’s because of many reasons. I say that I think it’s a cash cow simply adding sex to YA, the covers are just begging for me to snark at them and the formula is so ridiculous it can’t possibly be taken seriously; damaged girl + hot guy with a magic peen multiplied by a bucket load of issues divided by lots of hot sex = Happily Ever After. For the most part those reasons are fairly accurate but if I’m completely honest it’s because every now and then I’ll open an NA book, sniff and snark at it at first and then crumble to the floor as it rips my heart and stomach out until by the last page I’m crawling around blindly trying to put the pieces of my mind back together and usually failing miserably.
Hopeless by Colleen Hoover was such a book.
If I had to sum it up in one word: Brutal. There’s no denying this book is stellar, it hooked me from page one and it didn’t let go no matter how much I inwardly begged at times. My Goodreads status updates can attest to as much. It affected me more than I thought possible. I ranted, I cried, I scoffed, I even swooned. For the girl who prefers to step into the worlds of vampires, shadowhunters and fae, this book was an eye-opener to the quality of contemporary fiction out there that I continually deny myself, flicking past it on my kindle saying “for another time.”
Sky is almost eighteen. Adopted, she has been home-schooled all her life, living a technology free existence, escaping into a world of books. Her only friend, Six, lives next door and together they spend their time, eating ice-cream, watching movies and making out with boys. Sky can’t figure out why is it that when a boy touches her she goes numb, unfeeling, bored. No boy has ever made her stomach jump, her skin tingle or her heart flutter. When she finally persuades her mom to allow her to attend public school for her senior year her life is changed when she meets the mysterious Holder with whom she instantly feels a connection with. As Sky finds her emotions and body responding to this boy like never before, the mysteries of her past come flooding to the surface and together they must figure out who Sky really is and what she has buried deep within her soul.
Its 24 hours since I finished and my mind is still reeling from this book. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to truly comprehend the effect it has had on me. The words just flowed perfectly, I never felt like I was detached, an observer looking in. Hoover hooked me right into the pages and made me experience every unflinching moment of brilliance.
I won’t lie, this book messed with my head big time. The thing that bothers me the most about NA is that for every damaged girl there’s always this unbelievable guy who always says the right thing and is so open and honest with his feelings and let’s face it, no guy really talks like that, only guys written by women do and girls like Sky who experience such horrifying events in real life don’t get those happy endings. They won’t be saved but instead will have to save themselves, and it’s amazing and staggering to even try and comprehend their strength and ability to recover from that but why isn’t their story told?
Why aren’t those women getting attention? Why is it always some guy who comes along and magically sees into their soul that solves all the problems? Here is where I think NA fails women as it’s another form of the fairy tale that only serves to remind us that in RL there is no Knight on a White Horse. Why can’t women ever be their own white knight?
Despite that, I’m glad that in this book Sky does have Holder to support her through her trauma. It breaks my heart to think of her without him because I don’t think she could cope. However Sky was truly a heroine in her own right, her ability to keep going as the memories of her past came flooding back to her, her bravery in battling the urge to retreat back into herself and forcing herself to feel was staggering. She never once fell, she stayed standing, resolute. Her ability to forgive, to understand and to accept was truly admirable. I don’t know if I could find the strength. Holder; who at first appeared to be the typical NA brooding, growling hunk and that I eye rolled at more than once turned out to be sweet, charming, caring and brave as he too was forced to accept that his perception of the past and his reality were world’s apart.
There are moments in the book that really ripped my heart out, when Sky is lying on her bed, counting the stars on her ceiling, trying to escape the pain I went there with her and it enraged me because this is what’s happening every day. Sky uses her sexuality as a weapon. Not against anybody else, against her own pain. It’s the only way she can escape what has been done to her. When she joins public school she is called a slut and finds post-its on her locker with choice insults. While she brushes them off, it highlights another theme in popular fiction – Slut shaming. Why does this exist? And worse why are women the worst offenders? This year two trials in America have made international news as girls who were gang-raped and had their pictures shared on social media sites were treated like “sluts” and vilified by media and the public for “asking for it” because of their clothes, alcohol consumption, looks while the boys were treated with sympathy because such a terrible trial meant their promising futures were ruined. Why? Because Rape Culture has taught us that if the guy is good looking, well educated or comes from a “good” family then it’s impossible for them to be guilty of such a heinous crime because let’s face it – any girl would be lucky to have their attention…
Hoover while featuring slut-shaming thankfully for the most part treats the subject of abuse, sex and grief with the utmost respect and created a book that really challenges your perceptions and preconceptions on so many taboo subjects. She creates characters that you fall in love with, care so deeply for you feel they are your own friends and you would do anything to protect them. She doesn’t shy away from the hard issues writing scenes that were stomach churning and took your breath away. Her brutal honesty was admirable but hard to take at times. In one scene, Sky begs Holder to take her pain away by having sex, allowing her to retreat into herself so she could forget all that she had just been put through, and as I read the scene, one thought that struck me was how Holder could go through with it. The person he’s in love with is drowning in so much grief and trauma yet he’s able to get aroused? I couldn’t get my head around this at first, despite the knowledge we’re fed that men look at sex differently and are more capable of disassociating it from emotions it wasn’t until I realised that Hoover was probably right. It probably is realistic that in such a situation a person is able to let the physical nature of the act take over but I won’t lie it made me feel ill.
But in a weird way that’s precisely what I loved about this book. I have read so many books where a couple of days later I can’t tell you the name of the MC, what the plot was, who the author was. Hoover wrote a book that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. The characters, Sky and Holder, soul mates who took me on a journey of love, discovery, grief and recovery, two lost children stumbling through life until they found each other will always be remembered as they lie under the stars and hook their pinkies together in the most innocent display of pure love; the storyline that captivated me from the stunning prologue through reveal after reveal after reveal until the ending when I thought I finally had it all figured out and no way could she best me again when she took the knees out from under me and left me breathless, speechless but thankfully – not hopeless.