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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

New Adult/YA Bestsellers Fall Flat

I spent a ton of time reading over the break. I managed to read most all Kindle bestsellers in the Young Adult/New Adult category, as that's where the wind has been blowing me lately. For this post, I'm going to focus on Hopeless by Colleen Hoover (NYT best seller) and The Coincidence of Callie and Kayden by Jessica Sorensen (NYT and USA Today best seller).

Nice graphic there, eh? Did it myself. At any rate, consider yourself warned.

What struck me the most was the similarities of these two stories. Indeed, I feel sure that everyone who bought one must have bought the other. They have almost the exact same number of reviews (both over 1300).

Both deal with incredibly dense subject matter once you take away the heart-pounding romance elements. In Hopeless, the main character (Sky) is a victim of childhood sexual abuse. In The Coincidence, the heroine (Callie) is a victim of sexual abuse and has an eating disorder (more on this later), and the hero (Kayden) is a victim of severe physical abuse at the hands of his father.

Both had very good characterization development at the beginning, at least. I became invested in the stories, but this only served to throw my let down in sharp contrast. But there were some things done right, for sure.

As to what wasn't.

I'll start with Hopeless.

Sky has trouble with intimacy. She removes herself from the moment and goes into her head, a common problem with victims of sexual abuse. However, she doesn't remember the abuse, so thinks there is just something wrong with her. She's a virgin.

Enter Holder, the hunky ex-neighbor she doesn't remember who is the brother of her best friend (whom we later come to learn killed herself because she, too, was abused by Sky's dad). He knows who she is and also that she doesn't know. Sky conveniently starts having these recovered dreams to put the pieces together. She comes to understand that her "mother" abducted her to protect her from her father.

Once she remembers how her daddy would "turn the doorknob" and come into her room at night after her mother died, she decides to confront him. He's a law enforcement officer (some sort of statement there, I feel). Holder is there, and the book just slowly deteriorates.

Dad ends up copping to the truth, which includes a revelation that he abused the "little girl next door" after Sky left home (which devastates Holder, b/c now he knows why his sister committed suicide). Then, no joke, her dad kills himself in front of his daughter and Holder. Literally takes his gun and blows bits of his brain into Sky's hair. As if this isn't enough to traumatize someone for life, they go back to their hotel, take a shower together, pick out the brain matter, and then have sex for the first time?!? WHAT? We're so messed up that we need to get together. Totally unbelievable, very melodramatic, utterly disappointing.

Now on to The Coincidence. This one was the better of the two for me, but there were equally unbelievable aspects.

Callie has all the stereotypical outward characteristics of an anorexic/bulimic. She is skinny, wears baggy clothes, and all of a sudden, had a behavioral change in 6th grade where she went from "normal" to "freak" when she withdrew from everyone and everything (take a wild guess what happened to make this change).

But that's where this element of her characterization ends. Most people are dominated by their eating disorders to the point of physical unhealthiness. Callie just "dabbles" in it when she wants to. A trip to the bathroom to make herself feel better after getting too "close" to Kayden physically, to help her gain control. Purging is not an afterthought.

She interrupts Kayden's dad from killing him the night of graduation and they have a platonic moment before she leaves for college that summer. He joins her at the school during regular freshman orientation, during which Callie has undergone a tremendous change socially, at least. No identified reason for this change, but I suppose being away from her hometown and the bad things that happened to her at home helped?

She now has a best guy friend who is gay (major cliche, with his own issues due to his sexuality) who she now trusts when she has trusted no one before (likely because he has no interest in her sexually and the pressure is off). They have this list of things that she's supposed to do...basically to live a little, all of which thrust her into Kayden's path more and transform her physical appearance (getting rid of her trusted hoodie sweatshirt, wearing her hair down instead of in a ponytail, etc).

Kayden is physically abused by his father, who has major anger management issues. I think this is fairly true to life around the world, and abused guys are rarely featured in fiction, so I found that part refreshing. His family dynamics were well done, as well, given that Kayden was the youngest of three boys, and he was left to his dad's rage when his brothers skipped town.

He has emotional scars, just like Callie...and I suppose that is the coincidence of them getting together? Both are familiar with outward scars. Callie has to face her abuser (brother's friend) when he comes home during Christmas break during the same trip that Kayden's dad nearly kills him.

And then the book ends.

What can possibly be more frustrating than a non-ending? Now you have to read The Secret of Ella and Micha to finish Callie and Kayden's story. I suppose this could be a positive according to marketing and sales...but I have lost all faith in this author to produce a story from cover to cover. Just advertise it as half a book if that's what it is.

I suppose you can say that this is my rant, but hey...

It's my blog and I can rant if I want to, rant if I want to, rant if I want (might) rant to if it happened to you.

Let's Analyze

Have you read either of these two books? What were your thoughts?

It's not too late to enter my Writer's Guide to Breaking Stereotypes giveaway! Today is the last day to enter, so click here! Winner announced Thursday.