Cancel Colleen Hoover

The writer who took ‘BookTok’ by storm glorifies trauma in her romance novels


As an avid reader, I was instantly intrigued when I saw dozens of TikTokers praising the works of Colleen Hoover. However, I must confess that despite the weak writing, surface-level characters and trauma porn, I was hesitant to express my opinions and admit that, in contrast to praise I saw online, her books were terrible and actually quite problematic. 

When I initially picked up a Colleen Hoover book, I went along with the masses on TikTok, afraid to challenge anyone’s thoughts. My hesitancy wasn’t about the quantity of fans but the quality of them. Creators with hundreds of thousands of followers expressed their diehard love for these novels — how could I go against them? They must have some sort of credibility, right? With a bad taste in my mouth, I wasn’t sure what to think, and although I wish that I didn’t get entrenched in the opinions of strangers on social media, I sometimes do. 

If you’ve never read a Colleen Hoover book, I envy you. That probably means you don’t spend all of your time glued to your phone scrolling, as most of her readership has come from TikTok. Or maybe you saw the bright red flags from the beginning. Whatever your reason, congratulations— you’re better than me. 

The best way to describe a Colleen Hoover book is an adult romance novel filled with uncomfortable scenes, disappointing characters and corny lines that Hoover clearly wants to become popular quotes reposted on Pinterest. Fans praise Hoover for these “deep statements” that tend to only be reused quotes like “just keep swimming” from “Finding Nemo.” 

After one (“It Ends With Us”) and a half books of genuine confusion and twisting anxiety, I slammed “Ugly Love” shut mid-book, mid-page. With over 1.6 million Goodreads reviews averaging 4.38 stars, “It Ends With Us” looked like a good starting point. Yet, I was dismayed with the romanticization of homelessness and abuse. I was even more confused about the main character, Lily, who is 23 years old in the novel, writing diary entries to … Ellen DeGeneres? Something just wasn’t clicking. 

The discussion, or rather, romanticization, of trauma is not only triggering but can also be harmful to a potential reader who has experienced it. Although many adults have post-traumatic stress disorder caused by a traumatic event in their life, a lot do not receive proper treatment, whether due to the cost of therapy, lack of access to services or societal stigma. Regardless, the ones who receive treatment can experience a regression in their recovery when symptoms like codependency, control and a lack of boundaries are glorified in books. 

Hoover uses violence for its shock value, rather than addressing it with any real substance.

Although it can be educational to read about these subjects, using them as plot devices is not. Hoover uses violence for its shock value, rather than addressing it with any real substance. Not only does this invalidate people’s experiences, but it belittles them too. 

Sure, you could argue that victims should avoid reading books containing triggering subjects, but when there are no trigger warnings, how are they supposed to know? Let’s move past the victim blaming.

Regardless, it’s a moot point when millions of people obsess over fictional abusers on social media — platforms that are unavoidable if you want to keep up with all the latest trends, which we’re all expected to do. And when you’re not a carbon copy of everyone else on the internet, you feel left out, stuck in an endless cycle of misery and self-destruction. 

These principles remain true even in more corners of the internet like BookTok, the community for book lovers on TikTok. Although BookTok can be a safe space, sometimes community members can still be harmful— whether they intend to be or not. Some creators and viewers recall details from their favorite Colleen Hoover books, such as times throughout her books when the main character, usually a woman, experiences some sort of trauma, and her love interest, a man, saves her. This problematic trope perpetuates misogynistic stereotypes.

There is an unhealthy numbness around abuse and survivors. It’s interesting how the main appeal of Hoover’s work, utilizing violence for plot twists, is the exact reason why her books are inappropriate.

There is a moment in “It Ends With Us” where Lily writes in her diary (yes, to Ellen) about how her father beat her mom and then her. Moving on, Hoover begins to write about how Atlas, a homeless boy living in Lily’s backyard, comforted Lily even while he was freezing, saying, “I might have thought it was sweet if it wasn’t so sad.” Not only is this a specifically triggering scene to people who have faced abuse, but the fact that Hoover gives Atlas a savior complex throughout the story while Lily faces abuse is harmful. 

While many TikTok users applaud Hoover’s “honesty” in “insane situations,” many others, including myself, disagree with that claim. It’s a bit dismissive to chalk up real abusive circumstances to just an “insane situation.” 

Furthermore, readers using Hoover’s exploitation of mistreatment as “escapism” shows a lack of awareness about these sensitive topics. 

There is an unhealthy numbness around abuse and survivors. It’s interesting how the main appeal of Hoover’s work, utilizing violence for plot twists, is the exact reason why her books are inappropriate. 

I don’t say this to sound better than anyone, but I hope I never find enjoyment in glorified suffering. I also hope to never write about it. If all you take away from reading this is to reconsider the media you consume and have more sensitivity around trauma, that’s a win for me. 

Unfortunately, abuse in the real world won’t stop anytime soon, but we can at least stop glamorizing it. Meanwhile, ask yourself, why do you obsess over traumatized characters? Also, why do those characters love Ellen DeGeneres? You might not have immediate answers to these questions, but asking them is a good start.