DNF’d at 44% – I wouldn’t usually post a review when I am feeling this het up but ranting on Goodreads (something I also don’t often do), just wasn’t enough to put my feelings aside. If you want a ranty review, here is the place to be. If not, I understand, and hopefully, I’ll see you next post. 🙂
There will be spoilers ahead.
After finishing The Flatshare, I was desperate for something similar. I wanted funny, heartfelt, cute without being sappy, with characters I could root for and become a little bit too obsessed with. I was seeing Sally Thorne and The Hating Game a lot, people were loving Josh Templeman. I went in really excited, and, to be fair, with really high expectations.
The story follows Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman, forced together through a merger that neither of the publishing companies – the sweet and free-flowing Gamins or the uptight, tight-laced Bexleys – really wanted. There were moments when I was enjoying the experience, especially at the beginning. I enjoyed the tone and flew through the first 10% or so. But the further I got into the story, the less forgiving I could be. The pacing was really really weird, I was so surprised to find that I was left than halfway through when I left off. It felt very much as though I was maybe a chapter or two from the end. Whilst that did throw me off, I understand that a lot of books have a big ‘down’ after everything seems to come together, therefore creating a more significant conclusion.
My biggest pet-peeve, and what killed the story for me, were the characters. Lucy is the biggest cliche of a book-lover ever. Small, adorable and quirky, wearing colours and patterns which mortally offend the sensibilities of the predictable, male, parallel. It would have been nice to have read about a different type of female publishing employee, but I didn’t mind this too much. What I did mind was her 2D portrayal. She barely existed outside of her interactions with Joshua and any personality traits she did have played right back into those tropes, or didn’t have much of an explanation, or with explanations that seemed plucked out of thin air. Aside from Lucy’s short stature – which wasn’t much, or any below average – her biggest insecurity seemed to be her background. Her parents own a strawberry farm which seems really quite lovely to me but, apparently, everyone else she mentioned it to thought it was the most laughable thing on the planet. I haven’t been to New York, but this seems unlikely. I know this seems small, but it is brought up so often, it becomes a fairly major plot point.
She is a driven character, so we are told. Deciding after a school field trip at age 11 that she wanted to work in Publishing, she did everything she possibly could to make it happen. It’s a good thing that Thorne told us because judging by her actions in her job you wouldn’t think so. Neither her nor Josh seem to be genuinely invested in their careers, instead choosing to spend their time playing ‘games’. Their entire lives orientate around beating the other. Even the offer for a promotion – apart from one sentence wherein Lucy mentions having more scope to implement initiatives – becomes another game. There is no other consideration; even to the point that they decide that the losing party will quit.
Driven or not, she is utterly fatphobic, calling her boss ‘Fat Little Dick’ and saying that she wishes that Josh was a ‘short, fat troll’ as his good looks didn’t match his personality. Her boss is not a nice person, he is sexist and misogynistic, and clearly, Lucy doesn’t think Josh is a nice person either, this is lazy and damaging writing. Fat is not and should be used as a slur. There’s also a lot of very gendered writing. For example, when their respective desks are described. Lucy’s has pink post-it-notes, Josh: blue.
Eurgh Josh. Josh has moments of being kind and caring but they are fleeting and the majority of their relationship is based on put-downs, sarcasm, and fear. There is, genuinely an interaction where Lucy believes he wants and will strangle her. This is not healthy, at all. I never got to the conclusion of the story, but no explanation of his behaviour would expunge his behaviour enough. He’s superior and snooty, controlling and overbearing, taking every opportunity to put her down, to the point where she becomes worried about the consequences of showing vulnerability.
However, the worst bit for me, and the point where I returned the audiobook, was when they started to acknowledge their feelings – after making out in a cleaners cupboard – he dictates that she can only be with him after going on a date and kissing another person. I could not wrap my head around this. Furthermore, he is obviously supposed to be the ‘bad boy’; the other person, an ex-colleague, is portrayed as the ‘nice guy’. There’s a lot of derision towards ‘nice guys’ in this book. The characters/Sally Thorne have a lot of weird takes in this book.
Honestly, to wrap up my feelings, it is somewhat astounding to me that people find Twilight problematic (it is) but love this. I kinda feel like this is worse; at Twilight is fantasy. At the time of writing The Hating Game has an average rating of 4.2 on Goodreads with over 39,000 five-star reviews.
Have you read The Hating Game? What did you think?