Colleen Hoover writes bad books



A large faction of BookTok is dedicated solely to Hoover and her novels, as well as defending them and perpetuating the idea that they’re anywhere near the idea of good.


BookTok has brought emerging themes of emotional, physical and mental abuse to young teenage girls

This article contains spoilers for “November 9.”

Colleen Hoover is no stranger to critical acclaim. One of her more popular books, It Ends With Us, sold 768,700 copies and climbed to the coveted #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list. This fanfare occurred almost five years after the book was originally published. So, what happened? The short answer is BookTok, a community on TikTok that raves about their current favorite books and provides niche recommendations to each other. Her books have received widespread praise, leading many to believe that they’re genuinely good romance stories. But, upon further reflection, they prove to do the exact opposite. 

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when “November 9”, “Ugly Love”, and “It Ends With Us” began trending on TikTok, but soon enough, everyone was talking about it, reading it or suggesting it. When you have an overwhelming amount of people telling you something is good, a reasonable assumption would be that it’s probably good. With “November 9,” that proved to be incredibly wrong. “November 9” follows the story of Fallon, the main protagonist, and Ben, her love interest. They have many cute interactions, but throughout the book, you can slowly see their ‘love’ turn into something out of a horror movie. One of the main plot points in the book is tha Fallon is disfigured due to a house fire that almost took her life. Towards the end of the book, it’s revealed that Ben, her love interest, is the one who set the fire. On top of that, Ben proves to be an overall toxic love interest. He’s incredibly self centered and makes very weird and creepy observations about Fallon’s body after only an hour of meeting her. After only about thirty pages in, every single action or comment he made should have had any reader screaming “Run!” Unfortunately, many of the actions have been romanticized by communities such as BookTok. There are multiple times within the book where Fallon is attempting to leave and Ben physically holds her back, or makes comments saying that he wishes he could ‘hold her down’. Towards the middle of the book, there are scenes where Fallon is asking Ben explicitly to stop touching her and he refuses. Overall, “November” 9 does not depict a healthy relationship in any way, shape, or form. In reality, Ben is obsessive and controlling to the point where it damages Fallon, physically, emotionally and mentally. 

November 9” isn’t the only book written by Hoover that depicts emotional abuse and portays it as a romantic fantasy. In “It Ends With Us”, a character similar to Ben from “November 9”, Ryle, commits acts of physical violence against the main character Lily. Throughout the entire book, Ryle’s actions are romanticized and seen as ‘mistakes’ that are worthy of forgiveness. Hoover doesn’t make mistakes with her writing, either. This repetitive behavior demonstrates that she knows exactly what she’s writing and who she’s writing for. But, this behavior pulls women who are already infatuated with the idea of the horrible men she’s created in even further. This kind of writing isn’t something to aspire to or something to applaud. Her audience is mainly teenage girls and young adult women. Are these really the relationships that we should be marketing towards that demographic?

Of course, there’s the notion that what Hoover writes is works of fiction, which makes sense. 

She isn’t depicting a ‘real’ relationship, so it must be acceptable. On the other hand, media consumption within certain demographics have certain affects on those demographics, regardless of it being passed off as works of fiction or not. This can be proven true through the cultural phenomenon Jaws, directed by Steven Spielberg. Since the release of the movie in 1975, shark populations have fallen continuously every year, reaching losses into the hundreds of millions. Jaws is a work of fiction based on a book that was also labeled a work of fiction. Media producers such as authors, directors and musicians cannot simply pass off art as ‘works of fiction’ without considering the consequences, which is exactly what Hoover does in publishing her books. Her books are aimed at younger girls who are most likely entering their first relationships. If the relationships they idolize in books reflect abusive behaviors, Hoover inevitably ends up leading her fans into relationships that could potentially inflict harm on them. 

Beyond the fact that her books depict an abusive fantasy, Hoover has been openly criticized by several prominent book reviewers in the recent past. Her ‘response’ to these criticisms have not been kind. These responses include immediate blockings across social media platforms and a flimsy statement on Instagram denoting valid criticism as ‘online hate’ from ‘people who know nothing about writing’. This simply isn’t an appropriate way for an author to be responding to criticism, especially considering what the criticism is surrounding. Many of Hoover’s fans also jump to her defense at the notion of negativity towards her books. The saddest part about that is that Hoover isn’t portraying situations that her audience should ever be near, yet this audience is romanticizing those situations because of Hoover, and she refuses to take accountability for it. Of course, this isn’t to say that domestic violence can’t be portrayed in books. It can, but there’s a right way to do it. In “Normal People ” by Sally Rooney, Marianne is show in an abusive situation, but automatically removed by her friends and main love interest, Connell, the second they find out. On the other hand, Hoover depicts her characters as staying in these relationships and discouraging their family or friends from getting involved. There’s a stark difference between the two depictions, which leads to two different effects on readers. 

Hoover isn’t entirely to blame for this phenomenon. While she is the source, a larger issue is the community that surrounds these books. 

This is in large part due to the romanticization of the male characters Hoover writes. Whatever small redeeming qualities a male love interest may have, many young female readers cling to that to prove that a certain character ‘just made a mistake’, or in some instances, blatantly disregarding the abusive actions altogether. In an era of staunch feminism, it’s completely lost on many how such novels could slip through the cracks to become fan favorites. There are plenty of books on the market and on BookTok in particular that depict healthy relationships that also suffer through conflict, as real relationships do. These are the books that should be pushed to the forefront of literature, not trashy novels that depict women in abusive relationships, romanticizing it, and then staying. 

There is a lot of accountability that Hoover should take for the effects her novels have, and the potential damage she could do with them. Whether or not that will be received is still a question for a later date. Until then, many of her books that romanticize abusive situations remain at solid four out of five stars on sites like Goodreads. We will remain in a cycle that teaches young girls to accept abuse if it’s from a man they desire until those that help perpetuate that cycle take accountability for their roles and end their participation in it.