by Dru Hunsaker
As a general rule, I like to review books that I actually enjoyed and so inspire readers to pick them up and bask in their mildewy pages the same way that I did. However, the young adult genre seems prone to some serious clunkers that really just make me reassess what, exactly, such books are teaching the thirteen-through-eighteen year olds that are reading them. Of course, I’m sure that there are plenty of clunkers amidst the adult genre. I just generally don’t read them so I don’t really know. I know there are clunkers in the juvenile genre because been there, done that. What I’m getting at is simply this: there are some YA books that make me question the genre as a whole because I really don’t understand how they can be on the same plane of reading as the books that line my bedroom walls. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick is one of said books.
Now to be fair, the book was fairly well written. And, to qualify, I read three of the four books (the fourth was not yet published when I read the series). I have this ridiculous problem where I cannot put down a bad book unless it really just becomes appalling in some manner (writing, content, ridiculousness to a degree that you cannot even fathom, etc.). I kind of hate this about myself. Even as I cringe and wail and desperately wish the book would put me out of its misery, I still don’t want to put it down. I have this thing about stopping in the middle of a book. Sometimes I just skim to the end. Sometimes I actually finish it. And then read the next two in the series. Yeah, I know.
Hush, Hush is about Nora Grey, a super average sophomore whose life suddenly becomes worth living (I hate these kinds of books) at the appearance of Patch Cipriano, the ridiculously attractive (but apparently incredibly dumb because he keeps failing Biology) and mysterious bad boy who Nora feels drawn to despite all of her common sense (red flag!). Patch reciprocates her random feelings that are not at all based in reality and they begin the trite, obligatory YA “romance dance” where they ebb and flow like the stupid tide until they fall headlong into each other’s arms. A note to all authors everywhere: this dance should not take up 300 pages of a 350 page book (this is just an approximation). Seriously, I am not at all adverse to character development and shifting relationships and that whole shebang, but I am so sick of YA heroines whose entire lives revolve around mysterious boys whose existences threaten said lives. I’m just going to say it: it’s stupid and horrendously overused. Please give me a reason to like/understand your characters beyond their weird romance that doesn’t really make any sense to me! I get it: he’s good looking and she is self-deprecating and strangely alluring, but I’ve already read that story seventeen times.
Anyway, it turns out that Patch–I don’t understand his name, either. I know horses named Patch–is a fallen angel who was cast out of Heaven for… Any guesses? Yes, that’s right. Lust. He wanted some human girl so he gave up Heaven for her and then she died and he was cursed to roam the earth forever in corporeal form but without any ability to feel… blah, blah, you get the picture. Of course, the only way he can get a human body (I really don’t want to explain why this works the way is does but it was all a little deus ex machine if you catch my drift) is if he kills Nora. So that’s why he’s been borderline stalking her. And that’s why her instincts have been screaming at her to stay away. Go figure.
One night they are trapped together and Nora finally figures all of this out (in a way that is almost comedic) and she flips out but he insists that he’s in love with her and it’s all very ridiculous and just so Twilight I wanted to gag. It didn’t even get the points for originality. Anyway, Nora has no sense of self preservation, so they start this romance and then Patch’s ex jumps into the picture and some more stuff happens that I don’t even want to get into. If this is appealing to you in any way, you really shouldn’t feel bad. I read three of them. Sometimes we are weak.
I suppose I should mention that the book itself really isn’t all that bad. Honestly, as far as books go I have read far worse. The thing about Hush, Hush that I really hated was the message that I feel it sends to teenage girls. Nora Grey is just so flat. She has zero character depth. I’m not really sure what the author ever tells us about her besides the obligatory family drama and her bizarre relationship with Patch. Girls everywhere: there are things that you should focus on other than boys. And if one of them starts creepy stalking you, he is not in love with you! Call the police. I hate that YA romance tends to create these ridiculous relationships that are codependent and unhealthy. It is okay to craft a strong, interesting, dynamic female to play opposite the dreamy hero. Nora was so weak and helpless throughout this entire book. To be fair, she becomes a kind of plot-essential hero in the later books, but it was just so grating to have her completely devoid of redeemable qualities for most of this one. In the end she is noble and self-sacrificing and he gives up everything for her, but I just kept thinking that these people had known each other for only two weeks (it might’ve been longer than that but that is what it felt like).
If you read YA books solely for the romantic components (healthy or otherwise) this could be a good book for you. It is very romance-centric (which is not always a bad thing) and there is enough drama to keep you turning the pages. However, I was not a big fan of this book. If you decide that you do want to read it, I think it’s important to note that there are several parts of this books that are completely unrealistic (I’m not referring to the supernatural elements) and unhealthy. This book is not a good example of appropriate romance.