Long review: The Hating Game
Author: Sally Thorne, 2016
I posted a shorter review on my Instagram, @feminist_romance. But this is the full hairy take.
Have you ever been entirely put off something because so many people recommend it to you? It’s a perverse kind of hipster instinct that makes me rebel whenever too many people tell me to do something.
This happened to me with jeggings, GoT, iphones and — yes this is weird — popcorn.
These are all wonderful things, obviously (I mean, you know, you’re not a philistine).
I still kick myself when I think of how many years I missed sitting on the couch in my stretchy-ass leggings, eating popcorn. Now it’s just Sunday.
(^ This scene in Set It Up made me feel so goddamn seen).
Many, many people told me I ought to read The Hating Game.
But it was easy for me to put off.
I don’t really read contemporary that much, I find that the bar for good feminism in contemporary romance is much higher than it is in historical (I’ll do a whole blog about this at some point,) and many contemporaries fall short.
One day I got given a book voucher, so I bought the darn book.
Here’s how the Great Reluctant Reading of 2019 went down.
💡: Huh, this is a contemporary office romance? Bet the heroine is a personal assistant and she loves to bake.
💡: Bingo, she’s a PA. What else would a woman in an office do, and what other possible hobbies are their for unmarried girly girls. (I think I even did a little snide eyeroll here) FFS.
💡: Oh, she works in publishing? OF COURSE. Bet she’s secretly an ah-maaaaaazing writer who throughout the novel finally gets her big break because the hero sees behind her Girl Friday façade to the amazing talent she is.
Then, people will inexplicably drop all of their own personal goals and ambitions to help her realise HER dream. If there is a stereotypical gay bff in here who cares about literally nothing in the world except this girl’s love life, I will throw this book out the window.
💡: UGH, there’s a line about knowing which company someone worked for based on ‘his or her’ appearance. (My friends, this $29.99 collection of pages got VERY close to flying). This is why I don’t read contemporary!
Gender is a spectrum, there aren’t only two options! I do not like hearing the phrase ‘his or her’ in the 21st century, because I think it’s exclusionary and hurtful; and it reinforces the view that gender is a binary, which in 2019 we know is incorrect.
💡: No, the ‘r’ word has been used. I can’t even joke about throwing the book out the window now, that word is just so offensive. I’m so disappointed to read this in a book published this decade. It’s not 2008. This book is on it’s last chance.
💡: Snap, I do love Sally’s writing style though.
💡: Hey, the HERO is a PA!? That is cool! I love a boy PA! I hardly ever see them in real life because people still hold the internal bias that organising is women’s work.
💡: Wow, none of my terrible predictions about everyone giving up their dreams to help a wallflower succeed have come true. And Lucy is legitimately competent. I’m a competence p fan. I might have been … wrong?
💡: Hey, Lucy is calling out the people who call migraines “me-grains”! I hate me-graine people too!!! They’re the worst.
💡: Lucy makes this wonderful observation about CEO’s having schoolchild hours and suddenly it’s like Sally is standing next to me giving me a validation high five for every time I’ve frustratedly thought this. Yes, thank you Ms Thorne!
💡: OH SHIT, I LOVE THIS BOOK.
^^ And there you have it, that was my transformation journey. My spiritual awakening, if you will. My makeover in an early 2000’s rom com.
Sally writes like no one else I’ve ever read. Her style is gorgeous; equal parts quick wit and poetry. I particularly love that the shortcut sentences mimic organic speech.
Ie: “[hes wearing] off white stripes today.”
(What’s the technical term for this? A dropped participle? Clause? Gawd help me, I never know the right names for stuff even when i know what it is and how it works).
Anyway, there are some beautifully written flights of fancy, like “Ink stain eyes and smiles held to ransom in pockets.”
It was a masterclass in writing style.
My favourite thing is that it had a well-written unreliable narrator.
Lucy notes the movement or gesture in one sentence, and then in the next, adds her guess as to why it happened. It takes you a while to figure out that’s she’s mostly wrong, and tbh my main giveaway to that was the books genre. Tis a romance, after all.
All up, THG makes it onto the illustrious list of my favourite books, the romances I will re-read.
BUT, I still can’t excuse those problematic blips. The completely unforgivable use of the r word (I think this is actually used more than once) and the throwaway observation which ignores trans and gender non-binary people.
While these might seem minor to some, language really matters and the sooner we adjust our thinking in even the casual matters, the better. It’s the old harassment/bullying/erasure pyramid all over again: the little things feed the big things.
But with those things noted, addressed, and not disregarded; the rest of the book is really beautifully written and hysterically funny. Both Lucy and Josh are very likeable and no where close to perfect.
So don’t be like me, if you haven’t read this book yet, do yourself a favour, knock off the hipster nonsense and read it.
I think you’ll love it.