Why CoHo has got to go: A critique of BookTok sensation Colleen Hoover

Rebecca Warber, Contributing Writer

Shock rang through the BookTok community when author Colleen Hoover announced casting decisions for the “It Ends With Us” screen adaptation. Blake Lively and Justin Baldoni are currently set to play two of the novel’s main characters, choices that elicited mixed reactions from fans. Various videos and posts indicate that the casting decisions are almost as controversial as Hoover herself. Since releasing her first book in 2012, Hoover has made headlines both because of her questionable content and her immense popularity despite it. Many of her books center on extremely concerning romantic relationships that tend to idealize toxic behavior. Her writing is also extremely formulaic—both in respect to the plots of her 24 books and the style with which she writes them. However, few readers seem bothered by any of the flaws with Hoover’s writing. Forbes magazine reports that last year, six of the 10 New York Times bestsellers were written by her, a reflection of readers’ poor tastes that requires immediate correction lest this writing becomes even more common. 

Hoover’s books, according to her website, are one of two genres: contemporary romance or psychological thriller. “It Ends With Us” is advertised as a romance novel, focused on the main character’s choice between her first love and current boyfriend. The book is focused on the main character’s experiences with abuse and includes chapters detailing her relationship with an abusive father and years later with an abusive husband. The title itself is a reference to the main character’s choice to end the cycle of abuse, yet the book omits concrete warnings of these dark themes and is replaced by promises of a cliche love triangle. This may seem inconsequential, but including scenes with physical abuse and sexual assault in what is supposed to be a romance novel makes it easier for readers to associate romance with these inexcusable acts. Readers may walk away with potentially distorted perceptions of what relationships should look like. 

Hoover’s “November 9” is not much better. A copy remains on my own bookshelf, unread. After reading a synopsis of the book, I was grateful I didn’t waste time reading it. “November 9” is not unlike “It Ends With Us” in that it features a toxic love interest who burned the main character’s house while she was inside. Of course, once the main character learned that he only intended to set the family’s car on fire, she forgave him and they lived happily ever after. Hidden behind a bright cover, are strangely dark themes that seem to glorify every possible red flag a partner can exhibit.

Quality men are not the only thing Hoover’s books appear to be lacking. There is also an overwhelming lack of diversity—both in respect to race and sexual orientation—among virtually all of Hoover’s characters. It is not only with her main characters that this is apparent, but with her side characters as well. This is both unrealistic given just how many characters Hoover has included in her 24 books, and unacceptable as well, considering that she’s a renowned author with a fanbase just as diverse as her books are not. 

A final problem with Hoover’s books is the writing itself. Her books are infamous for signature plot twists likely intended to distance her books from others in the romance genre whose plots are, admittedly, quite predictable. However, in doing so, she has made her books nearly identical. Commonalities include virtually identical main characters, love interests with a plethora of negative traits and unconventional paths to love that make your stomach churn rather than swarm with butterflies. Hoover’s prose is no better than her ability to conjure a new, non-recycled, book idea. Her style is rather basic, lacking any compelling voice for her already lackluster plots. She also includes some strange phrases and dialogue that make me further question her popularity. Possibly one of the worst lines in Hoover’s book is found in “Ugly Love” which garnered some negative attention when pictures of the text circulated on social media. After a particularly unconventional conversation between two main characters, Hoover writes, “We both laugh at our son’s big balls.” Someone notify the Nobel Prize organization. 

While Hoover fans are growing excited about “It Ends With Us” movie announcements, let’s not forget that around this time last year, Hoover was making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Hoover’s then-21-year-old son was accused of sexually assaulting a minor—a minor who allegedly reached out to Hoover asking for help. The author reportedly blocked the girl, though later on Facebook claimed that she had simply not read the message immediately, and contacted her once she realized what it was about. The overall situation is strange and raises questions about how seriously Hoover takes the themes she writes about if she is potentially ignoring allegations raised by her own son. Of course, Hoover could be completely innocent, but given the controversy surrounding her writing, the situation is worth noting.

According to NPD BookScan, Hoover sold more books in 2022 than copies of the Bible. She was even featured on Time’s list of most influential people of the year, a particularly concerning addition to her list of accolades. Her books contain consistently concerning relationships that blur the line between healthy and toxic relationships, which can be particularly dangerous for impressionable readers. Her writing leaves much to be desired in terms of content and stylistically, yet she is obviously quite successful. This reflects poorly on readers who, in buying her books, enable her to continue romanticizing extremely serious and sensitive topics. Hoover’s books possess few, if any, redeeming qualities, and to avoid unnecessarily troublesome books filling shelves, she should become an author of BookTok’s past.