‘Hopeless’ by ‘Coleen Hoover’—A Critical Analysis

My readers recommended that I read ‘Hopeless’ by ‘Coleen Hoover’ because the book’s theme is similar to mine—sexual abuse. I am glad that the author tackles a challenging topic in her novel; however, I feel the author could have handled the theme of sexual abuse and the consequent trauma much better. Please note this is my personal opinion.

Warning: This review has heavy spoilers.

  1. The abuse survivor complains that the rapist took away her first time.

Sky, the main protagonist, loses her traumatic memories of sexual abuse by her father for thirteen years. However, when she meets her childhood friend and boyfriend, Holder, she remembers everything. The first thought that comes to her mind is not how morally wrong it was of her father to commit the heinous crime but that he took away her first time. No survivor feels that way. Often, survivors are shamed by society for being victims and no longer being virgins, but survivors don’t think about the ‘first time.’ They feel guilty, remorseful, disgusted, and hurt. In this case, the author does not mention the abuse survivor’s wounds or pain even once.

  1. The abuse survivor apologizes to her boyfriend that he is not her first time.

This part appalled me. Here’s a person who just remembered the most traumatic incident in her life. She feels sorry that Holder is not her first time—that’s just messed up, particularly in the current age where it’s normal for people to have more than one relationship in their lifetime. I would have understood if she told her boyfriend that she’s sorry she won’t feel anything during her first time. But this apology was regressive and unnecessary. And her boyfriend makes a cheesy declaration that she is his forever, and it does not matter if she is not his first instead of admonishing her for her uncalled-for statement.

  1. The protagonists have sex for the first time after a disturbing incident.

When Sky confronts her rapist father, he confesses to the crime and admits he sexually abused Holder’s sister. Following this, the criminal shoots himself in front of the two protagonists. Immediately after this gruesome incident, the first thing they do is have sex. This is far fetched even if the author argues that they were having ‘upset-sex’ because Sky is a sexual abuse survivor who just met the abuser. There is no way she would harbor sexual thoughts. If anything, she would be haunted by traumatic memories. The most disturbing thing is that she screams that she wants Holder inside her because she wants to forget the rapist—that’s unhealthy and must not be encouraged.

  1. The pedophile justifies his crime and is unbelievably remorseful.

When someone commits a vicious crime in a fiction novel, readers expect them to pay for what they did. In this book, the rapist blames his actions on alcohol, apologizes, admits to committing additional crimes, and kills himself. Does the author expect us to feel sorry for him? Which criminal who has repeatedly sexually assaulted multiple people would be remorseful within minutes of being confronted? This is the same person who brushed a previous victim’s complaint under the carpet because he had the power as a police officer. This was just bizarre and unreal.

  1. The abuse survivor tells herself it’s okay to love her rapist father.

When Sky tells herself it’s okay to love her father for his ‘good’ qualities and hate him for the ‘bad’ qualities, I disagreed completely. The author’s message should be that it is not okay for anyone to abuse a minor. It’s particularly unforgivable if it is a biological parent. A parent is supposed to be nurturing and caring, not commit a crime against their own blood. It felt as if the author was trying to convey that criminal acts are forgivable in the name of love. That is unacceptable.

  1. The survivor’s boyfriend tries to be her therapist.

Sky’s boyfriend, Holder, who has his own issues, acts as her therapist. He asks Sky to imagine that she’s gone back in time and consoled her younger self. Both protagonists are not mentally healthy and need therapy. It was dangerous for Holder to pose as Sky’s psychologist without understanding the extent of her trauma. The author should have approached this scene more sensitively. Holder could have suggested they see a therapist and that it was okay to seek help.

  1. The survivor’s adoptive mother is too lenient, being a survivor herself.

I found it illogical that the survivor’s adoptive mother, Karen, was too lenient with Sky. Karen is Sky’s biological aunt, who rescued her from the rapist father when she was a child. Karen knew about the abuser because she was a victim herself. Given this history, isn’t it logical that Karen would fix a window in Sky’s room that she uses to sneak boys inside? Would a survivor be so careless about their survivor daughter’s safety?

In conclusion, though Hopeless attempts to portray to readers the trauma of abuse survivors, it fails to convey a clear message. I would have liked it if the author had focused on a healthier method for her protagonists to deal with the trauma of sexual abuse.

4 thoughts on “‘Hopeless’ by ‘Coleen Hoover’—A Critical Analysis

  1. I remember having read this novel when I was 15/16 years old, and something about this book just sat wrong with me, and I honestly couldn’t figure out what did, but as a survivor myself I just knew this was not the way I should be dealing with my own trauma. When I returned to this book some years later, after lots of therapy and more maturity in my arsenal, all I remember feeling was the horror at how such a serious issue had been dealt with like a plot device to bring the protagonists together and read by so many young people who would be looking for ways to deal with their own trauma. I remember thinking when they’d slept together after the father killed himself, that I should probably be cheering for them, but all I went in my head was a huge NO, and you’ve just summarized all the problems with this book so perfectly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. I agree that this novel is triggering for survivors. That’s why I wrote this post. Like you said, books should promote therapy and support groups for such serious issues and not romance. I wish authors stopped using abuse as a mere trope in romance novels.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I mean honestly, these kind of romances with their themes when they’re mishandled by the author in the hands of a kid trying to heal is just a recipe for disaster. I think my complete incapability to feel attracted to most people probably saved me from falling into the whole “using other people to get rid of the memory of abuse” thing that romance novels promote. Not saying that I did not have my own unhealthy coping mechanisms, but this is just bad research work *sigh*

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I can’t agree more. Authors need to either stop using abuse as a trope in romance books or treat it with sensitivity. Either authors need to write from experience or empathize with survivors through proper research. I’m baffled that the concept of consent is not even mentioned in such books. These books wrongly impact young impressionable minds. Sigh.


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