Initial reaction: I think it's safe to say I've outgrown Hoover's formula for writing books. Long review to come explaining why this narrative absolutely did not work for me.
This is the kind of review I was hoping not to write because for a little while, I thought this book had parts of it that were okay, and I think that was what ultimately made me decide to keep it at about 1.5 stars. A bit on the side of cheese, in spurts, but I could get behind the characters enough to see where the story would go utlimately. Though in the back of my head, I honestly hoped it wouldn't go the route I thought it would go because I thought that would be the biggest disservice, i felt, for the story portrayed.
Unfortunately, it went that way.
Here's something that I don't like about some titles in the New Adult category, and I have probably said this time and time again for the 200+ titles I've pursued in this - You cannot expect me to believe your story if you're going to throw all of the drama/issues/conflicts at the end of the book for the sake of shipping a specific relationship or ideal, because for me, it feels emotionally manipulative and it shortchanges the other very heavy topics that the narrative chooses to show in that vein. It may seem twisty and emotionally gutting and vetting, but it's a very hard sell in some measures depending on how you do it. And you have to be able to carry the weight of those issues with enough time to digest if it's to be meaningful, at least to me.
"November 9" by Colleen Hoover started off with showing the tense relationship between Fallon and her father. She's an audiobook narrator who used to be a child actress, but after a horrific accident, she's left with permanent scars. Fallon and her father do not get along as he has his own expectations of her (he's a famous actor).
In walks in Ben, whose profession is in writing and communications, who pretends to be her "fake boyfriend" and tries to settle the tense situation between Fallon and her father (at least by vexing Fallon's father, whom I said could win the award for most horrible father of the century, understatement). It comes with mixed results, but the two of them - Fallon and Ben - end up deciding to have a relationship on one day of the year since Fallon's moving to New York. Ben decides to write a novel on how their relationship transpires as far as having the ultimate love story penned.
It's somewhat similar to the concept of the film "One Day" featuring Anne Hathaway (which gets a brief mention in the book).
For a while, despite some of the familiar (and somewhat offensive) cliches this book carried in the vein of its genre, I figured I'd run with it, and for a while, eventually, I did believe in Ben's and Fallon's complicated relationships for a time, even in their times of grief. As much as I didn't like the fact that (view spoiler)[Ben carried on a relationship with his deceased brother's wife (hide spoiler)], I could understand Fallon's reaction to that as well as Ben's recognition that he hurt Fallon. And there's some back and forth rockiness to their relationship that's palpable.
But in the back of my mind, I kept thinking, and this is a MAJOR SPOILER: (view spoiler)[I bet Ben had something to do with setting the fire that hurt Fallon and that he's stalking her in his guilt for some sort of retribution of a relationship in order to heal her. (hide spoiler)]
And it turns out I was 100% correct in that. :(
How the fresh heck can I get behind a relationship that was completely made upon false pretenses by the hero? And while I can say that Fallon had moments where she was unfair in her judgment and actions toward Ben, it isn't really a comparison to the way he led her on for several levels. If you think about it, the book is a cruel parallel to how Ben eases himself into a "fake" relationship with Fallon because - from the get-go - he knew every single thing he did to hurt her and yet he was claiming he was trying to make up for that and he didn't tell her a damned thing. I think Fallon was right to get a restraining order against him, and if things had been more realistic, it would've/should've stayed that way. But no, in all aspects of insta-forgiveness and a happy ending, it didn't pan out that way.
It reminds me too much of K.A. Tucker's "Ten Tiny Breaths" and while the book tries to justify why Ben did what he did, I felt like it was a mish-mash of melodrama just to get you to feel sorry for him and her both. I couldn't buy that. And this narrative tries to throw in heavy topics of suicide, cancer diagnosis, grief over long periods of time in a very short window but ultimately doesn't really give it the time or the weight it deserved. It's cruel coincidence for certain things, sure, but it almost seems silly and puerile the way it was portrayed.
I just couldn't believe in it.
I'm not saying this is the last of Hoover's works I'll pick up, but I do notice that the storylines are starting to run together for me and it feels like she's writing to a formula where twisty scenarios are a requirement and the emotions and drama are shoved so much at you that it's hard to take them seriously. And the twists don't feel like genuine revelations, not to me anymore. I've seen it too many times in her previous work and in other NA stories where the heavy matters aren't dealt with well for the sake of the purported love story.
So, despite how much I respect Hoover's writing in some areas and the ideas behind her narratives, I can't say I'm forgiving of the way this story chose to expand on its narrative and how too familiar of a coloring it is. Hopefully the next narrative pans out better, but I honestly don't know at this point. I really don't. It just didn't feel genuine or real to me.
Overall score: 1.5/5 stars.