Hopeless - Colleen Hoover image
I am conducting what I'm shelving as a "New Adult (NA) Experiment". I'm going to work my way through some of the popular New Adult books and see if I can weed out the crap and hopefully find some surprising gems. Here's hoping!

When I started this experiment with the New Adult genre, I knew I was going to have to face a lot of things that I wouldn't like. This genre has become known, during it's short lifetime, for its sexism, its slut-shaming, its poor writing, its eyeroll worthy characters and its creepy portrayal of young male/female relationships. But I think [b:Hopeless|15717943|Hopeless (Hopeless, #1)|Colleen Hoover|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1353489892s/15717943.jpg|21389085] disappointed me a lot more because it started well and it could have been good. Yes, it goes with the usual "girl with issues" plotline and the "reformed bad boy" love interest, but Hoover writes in a way that's engaging, she weaves humour into every conversation to make you warm to the story and characters almost instantly. And then she ruins it.

Let's meet Sky Davis. She has all these issues to tell you about. She's never attracted to guys. Never gets butterflies. Never feels swept off her feet by emotions. She makes out with all these guys because she enjoys the numb feeling she experiences during the makeout sessions.The boys sneak in her window, make out with her, then she kicks them out without feeling a single thing. She doesn't sleep with them, though, because that would validate the rumours that she's a slut. And she is NOT A SLUT.
Please bear with me while I try to care.

There is a confusing mix of messages being sent out here about being a "slut", what that means, and how we're supposed to react to it. I get the feeling that the author wanted to treat us to an atypical protagonist who is somewhat sexually promiscuous, as opposed to the usual blushing virgin (well done! mix it up a bit, I say) but she seems afraid of her reader's inability to like a "slut", so she had to make up for it by getting the heroine to frequently and adamantly state "I am not a slut" and simultaneously drew parallels between a mean personality and revealing clothing on other girls. If the author had just been brave enough to challenge the stereotype, to steer clear of the assumed negative correlation between sexuality and morality, then this could have been a very different and a much better book.

Another thing that bothers me is the shallow obsession with looks in this novel. Everything is excused, every act of violence and stalkery forgotten because the love interest is a glowing ball of hotness. Litchick addressed this issue wonderfully. Dean Holder is a creep. If he looked any different, Sky would have not believed his behaviour to be remotely okay, she would have ran screaming in the opposite direction. He sees her ID for two seconds and then suddenly remembers her full name, home address, date of birth, height and donor status. He knows detailed information about her that she never told him. Sky pauses for all of five seconds to think it's weird that he knows these things, but then she gets distracted by his beautiful eyes or perfect muscles.

No, literally, she faints. She faints because he's so hot.

More than that, Sky is immediately cured of her numb, lack-of-butterflies affliction as soon as she sees Mr Beautiful. I'm calling it instalove, you can call it what you will, but whatever it is... it's fucking weird. She is immune to all guys except Dean Holder, and why? Because he is perfectly beautifully gorgeous. No other reason. He's a violent, creepy stalker but: "He's beautiful. Not too big, not too small. Not too rough, not too perfect." And they are such empty, shallow adjectives that say nothing. He could be a chocolate eclair based on that description.

I'm genuinely worried about what these books are teaching young women about relationships with men. They say everything is okay as long as he has a pretty face. Stalking? Of course. Violence? Perfectly natural. Grabbing your chin the second time you meet him? A small price to pay for that level of hotness on your arm. No. No. And also NO. Who does that? For one, who grabs your face the second time they meet you? For another, who stands there and thinks that's okay? Why are these books telling you to ignore your basic instincts of self-preservation. Like this quote:

"My instinct is telling me to run and scream, but my body wants to wrap itself around his glistening, sweaty arms." Stupid.

And also:

"Normally I wouldn't take water from strangers. I would especially not take water from people I know are bad news, but I'm thirsty." And stupid.

This book tells girls and women to ignore the valuable advice their parents gave them when they were young about what to do if approached by a strange man who offers you a drink and appears to know everything about your life, including where you live. It tells them to ignore all of this because he has a pretty face. Well, I've got two words for you to google: "Ted Bundy". Or "Young Stalin".