By: Nicole Chedraoui
Trigger warning: Colleen Hoover
Never in my 6 semesters on the Herald newspaper staff have I ever made a claim so controversial to the entire internet, especially to a large group of high-schoolers, but as you may have gathered from the plethora of articles being published this week, it’s “Unpopular Opinion Week” at the Herald! I feel I should preface this by making a collective apology to the BookTokers who have already clicked on, while I’m normally a “treat people with kindness” kinda gal, we can all agree sometimes bullying is warranted. Today is one of those times.
Colleen Hoover. Typing those mere two words, 13 letters, makes me viscerally ill. That middle-aged, 43 year-old woman from Sulphur Springs, Texas makes me feel putrid at my very core. I have never been and will never be someone who makes such bold claims for no valid reason, but today I assure you, my reasons for actively gagging at her name are entirely justified.
Things never used to be this way. In fact, you may be shocked to know that I, personally, have physically purchased FOUR of her books. Yes, that’s right. I spent 75 of my hard-earned dollars on what I can only solely describe as atrocious, dumpster-fire garbage. I, myself, have never been immune to the influence the media has over our cognition, behavior, and spending. In fact, I would dare to say I am the most easily-influenced person I know. So you can imagine in the summer of 2020 when the entirety of my “For You Page” on TikTok was RAVING about the life-changing pages of CoHo. I was intrigued, nay, I was ECSTATIC to crack open one of her books. Not to brag, but I consider myself a pretty avid reader. I clocked in roughly 90 books read last year, and a vast majority of them were indeed in the romance category. What can I say, I’m a sappy romantic! When I heard all the 14 year-old gals losing their everloving marbles over It Ends With Us or Ugly Love, you can bet your behind my butt was running like it was on fire to Barnes and Noble.
For four months of 2020, the internet told me Colleen Hoover was the greatest romance/mystery author since Shakespare– a modern-day Jane Austen (I’m literally not kidding, someone said that to me SIDE EYE). Users on what can be referred to as “BookTok” (that’s a whole other separate article) posted themselves sobbing into their pillowcase at Hoover’s storytelling abilities, swooning into the wall over her “master descriptive imagery.” The last Colleen Hoover book I read was titled Ugly Love, and I meticulously finished the book cover-to-cover in the span of approximately 3.5 hours. Have you ever heard the saying “It’s like a car wreck, you really shouldn’t ever look, but truly it’s so bad you can’t look away?” That is the best way to describe the Colleen Hoover appeal. Flabbergasted. Astounded. As I closed the book, I found myself having a true, full-on dissociative episode, pondering nothingness. In those 210 minutes I spent looking at this lifeless atrocity, I could’ve, I don’t know, gone to the gym, done my math homework, started researching the cure to cancer, but no. I wasted 210 minutes of my precious time on Earth reading Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover.
If you were to ask a successful author the most important qualities to a book, they would probably say, characterization, plot development, key symbolism, meaningful takeaways, a piece of literature that changes your perspective on everything. A good book possesses the capability to move thousands (whether it be by joy, sadness, fear, etc). The only two things I could say I felt while reading Colleen Hoover was A) Horror B) Concern. If Colleen Hoover was trying to romanticize a male protagonist in desperate need of therapy and his manipulative tendencies toward women, bravo CoHo, you’ve done it girly! In my opinion, one of the most dangerous things an author can do is target a book toward a demographic of young girls and then simultaneously demonstrate in said-book that domestic abuse and psychologically abusive tendencies are not only ok, but they’re HOT.
Warning: Brief Mention of SA please skip if you feel this content could be triggering for you (end time will be marked at paragraphs end)
It would be one thing if Colleen Hoover perhaps wrote one novel with a morally gray, toxic, abusive male love interest, but I regret to inform you that a prominent premise in the majority of her books has, in some way, romanticized the degradation of women. While Ugly Love does not depict physical abuse, Hoover’s most popular book, and her most problematic, It Ends WIth Us, absolutely does. In the novel, Colleen tells the story of Lily Bloom, the owner of a flower shop (no I’m not kidding that’s her actual name), and her tragic love story with male love interest Ryle, who does “romantic” things like push Lily down a flight of stairs. While I HOPE CoHo did not have ill-intent while writing this novel, she sure does do a damn good job at making the reader fall in love with her abuser. Many argue this is her way of demonstrating the many complexities of domestic abuse (and CoHo even says Ryle was inspired by her mothers real-life experiences with domestic abuse) and while I have sympathy for CoHo and her experience, this representation was sincerely nothing but harmful to put out to young, impressionable teenage girls. And before you disagree and use the ending of Lily leaving Ryle for Atlas as proof, it’s safe to say this is not exactly a healthy, fun, light read.
And this may actually not be my biggest qualm with Mrs. Hoover, no, no. The offensive media is one thing, but let me tell you, I’m about to make this story 10 times worse. Colleen Hoover is a woman who saw domestic abuse in her very own household growing up, and unfortunately it came to the public’s attention that one of Colleen Hoover’s 3 sons, a 21-year-old man, sexually harassed a 16-year-old minor. The proof is absolutely in the puddin’, for the sexually aggressive DMs were leaked by the survivor who claimed Hoover’s son explicitly asked for her age before continuing with his inappropriate behavior, and still knowingly, willingly, assaulted the young teen. Obviously, we cannot fault Colleen for her son’s actions, but what we CAN fault her for is trying to COVER UP her son’s assault. That’s right. Colleen did everything in her power to shut up that 16-year-old victim, and even went as far as blocking the victim on social media when she reached out to her, exposing her trauma and pleading for justice. It was only several months later when the victim brought the situation to the media that Colleen came forward to stage her “apology.” Colleen Hoover writes stories that demean women and invalidate domestic abuse. She is not the radical feminist she pretends to be, and BookTok giving her a platform was one of the most dangerous things they could have done for teenage girls.
As if all of this isn’t horrible enough, Colleen did not stop there, for capitalism has no limits. After becoming a millionaire and basking in her wealth from writing destructive literature and signing a movie deal for her biggest hit, she wanted more. How else can I profit from these young teenage BookTokers? That’s it! A coloring book….. where girls can color in domestic abuse….I’m literally not kidding. Colleen Hoover made a coloring book of Lily Bloom being domestically abused. Colleen Hoover thought giving young girls a coloring book of Lily Bloom being backhanded was a cool idea. Colleen Hoover does not understand “women’s trauma,” she’s perpetuating harmful stereotypes and normalizing violent behavior in romantic relationships– and she doesn’t care until she gets called out for it. Upon the media’s outrage, she quickly declined the publication of the coloring book and formally apologized–if you can even call it that. With all this in mind, I think it’s safe to say, three strikes and you’re out CoHo.
SA Warning End
I can confidently say Colleen Hoover’s literature lacks substance, character development, depth, any thorough backstory, or strong plot points. She’s sold over 20 million copies of her literature only because she knows how to profit off of notorious Wattpad tropes. I know there has to be a 13-year-old girl out there somewhere who wrote a more comprehensive One Direction fanfic than It Ends With Us. Putting aside the offensive, outrageous depictions of “romance” that CoHo presents, the writing in itself, at best, lacks literally every element of an engaging piece. The sole thing driving me to finish Ugly Love was the need to understand what everyone was talking about. I kept telling myself to keep reading, it will get “life changing” like everyone said it would. I can confidently say it never did and am proud to announce you can now find my CoHo books at the local Wake Forest Goodwill.
Women receive enough hate as it is in finding joy in the literary category of romance, and “books” such as CoHo’s only perpetuate the “trashy teen romance” phenomenon, and honestly put BookTok as a whole on the top of the Laughing-Stock List. As a reformed CoHo supporter, I’m going to tell each and every one of you there are SO MANY romance authors who create beautiful stories, that showcase healthy relationships with heartfelt connections, and truly leave an impact on your soul. Go out there and find those authors, keep searching, keep browsing, I promise better stories await you. Make 2023 the year we de-platform Colleen Hoover; it’s for the betterment of society.
BONUS CONTENT: Instead of reading Colleen Hoover Romance, Check out these authors!
- Mia Sheridan
- Lucy Score
- Sally Rooney
- Mariana Zapata
- Abby Jiminez
- Tahereh Mafi