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Is Colleen Hoover the new Chetan Bhagat?

If you are someone who is into bookstagram or booktube, then Colleen Hoover is no new name for you. She has been writing novels for a decade, but it’s only in the past few months that her books have taken the book-reading community by storm, dominating the US best-seller list. Why has she suddenly become a hot topic among readers, leading to debates like ‘Is Colleen Hoover and her books worth the hype?’

Colleen Hoover is a 42-year-old author based in Texas, United States. She mostly writes young adult fiction and new adult fiction. She debuted back in 2012 with the ‘Slammed’ series and is now best known for her 2016 novel ‘It Ends With Us’.

Credits: Getty Images

It all started with Tiktok, which blew up after a 17-year-old girl posted a video of her reading ‘It Ends With Us’ showcasing her range of emotions, heavy sighs, body shaking, and tearful face, along with the caption, “This is how it feels to read Colleen Hoover’s novel, It Ends With Us”. The video gained millions of views, which made every reader go through that particular book by Colleen. Eventually, her simple yet captivating writing style caught on and skyrocketed her popularity, especially among teenagers.

Now it’s all over the book community, with people making videos and writing reviews on her books under various hashtags. This hype of CoHo books (which her fans prefer to say) has made her win the ‘Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Romance,’ and five of her books, namely “It Ends With Us,” “Verity,” “Ugly Love,” “Reminders of Him,” and “November 9“, entered the “Print Bestsellers” list issued for January-June 2022.

However, the popularity that Colleen has enjoyed in recent times is not without controversy. The days seem to be slipping away when it was all good, rosy, and fame for her. But the table is turning to a side where a number of readers and critics are smashinImagesg her works, questioning and highlighting the problematic aspects of her novels, especially when it comes to the way she portrays romance. Among the people speaking up, YouTuber Whitney Atkinson tweeted a photo, a passage from one of Hoover’s books, November 9, where the male protagonist uses “physical force” to prevent his love interest from exiting a vehicle and, in further scenes, manipulates her emotionally into staying with him. Atkinson captioned it, “This is a real line in a ROMANCE novel by Colleen Hoover.” A similar trope follows yet again in her most read, ‘It Ends With Us’. Although this book comes off as her strongest and best work, it is autobiographical, and there’s so much more to the story than love, which goes completely unnoticed just because some teenage girl hyped it up as the best romance she ever read!

Credits: Amazon

This is where things go south; fiction is a genre that is widely read by younger audiences and can have large effects on how they perceive topics like healthy relationships and consent. Hoover illustrates women in her novels as passive objects, their lives just being created to drag those of their male counterparts. The use of “romanticization of toxic masculinity, abusive, controlling, and unhealthy relationships” because they have high entertainment value and a higher success rate for the author is just where I would love to draw parallels between Colleen and Chetan.

Chetan Bhagat, one of the best-selling authors in India, has put into words in interviews how he churns out “masala” in his books. The “masala” that the young Indian readers once worshipped, holding a copy of his book everywhere, is the same now when I see one in five girls carrying a copy of ‘It Ends With Us.’

Comparing the two, it’s necessary to align how both of these writers rose to a height of being much loved and fell from there, that is, from being loved to being hated. Indeed, they chose a simple writing style that could reach and reciprocate with the masses; the themes being repetitive and problematic is what became their reason for defamation.

On the one hand, authors such as Colleen and Chetan promise to stir sparks of emotion in common people’s lives through their narrative of unhinged characters, be it Ryle or Krish; on the other hand, it’s pure mockery to promote books or stories that promote normalising stereotypes and toxic environments. The major concern again goes for the teenagers, who easily become the targets of such writings in the name of trends and idolise whatever the author presents to them, which seems like all fantasies while reading but is problematic in the real world. Now in this ‘real’ world, we cannot escape either Bhagat or Hoover, who are already a part of the talking town. It’s up to one to love Colleen, hate her, or simply walk away. Will the backlash that she is now receiving affect her marketing strategy as much as it did for Bhagat? Will she let herself become a subject to long-running trolls and memes like Bhagat? Either way, she has entered the popularity chart, and with mixed opinions, she and Chetan still cater to the public’s interest and attention!

Sania Parween is a student pursuing English Hons. From Jamia Millia Islamia.

Edited by: Moneera Aiman

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Written by Sania Parween

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