Growing up, I was always such a big book nerd. I would pore over pages for hours and enjoy being able to jump into new shoes in a new land. But like many things in life, as we grow older, we have to learn to balance our passions with our priorities. It made me sad to see my love for curling up with a good book dissipate as I got busier.
One of the only highlights of the ongoing pandemic was the abundance of time I was afforded. So what did I do with that time?
I read. A lot.
In particular, I read a lot of novels by Colleen Hoover… 11 to be exact. And lucky for me, that is not even half of the novels in her extensive collection of published works. Hoover is known for her ability to write compelling characters that rip your heartstrings out then tie them in a neat little bow afterwards. She can be classified as a romance writer, but I, along with her proclaimed gaggle of book nerd fans called CoHorts, see her work as so much more.
For this National Read a Book Day on September 6, which I have reaffirmed should be every day, I will review and rank Hoover’s books in the order I read them.
#1. Without Merit: This standalone book focuses on Merit Voss, her big family and even bigger secrets. Their mother, who is sick with breast cancer, lives in the basement of the church-turned-home as her husband canoodles with his ex-wife’s cancer nurse. Merit’s sister, Honor, has a thing for starting relationships with chronically-ill boys. Her other siblings are either annoyingly perfect or incredibly lovable with Merit stuck in the middle. Looking for a way to stand out, she begins to fit in her sister’s boyfriend which only raises more issues.
Review: It’s a story that knits the web of characters together very well! It has moments of extreme sadness and uproarious laughter. It made me more introspective into the ways I conduct relationships—whether familial or romantic—and how to be my best self in all of them. Most importantly, this book introduced me to the sheer talent Hoover has and made me addicted to her writing. Rank: 8/10
#2. November 9: Fallon’s whole life is changed the fateful night she gets stuck in a house fire at her dad’s place. She goes from an aspiring actress to someone who can only act like she’s not full of rage at her father for forgetting his only daughter inside the blaze. The only thing that burns brighter is the love with aspiring writer Ben. They meet on the first anniversary of the fire, November 9 and vow to meet the same day each year for five years so Fallon will have her priorities straight, per her mom’s request not to date before age 22. However, a lot changes during each 364 days Fallon and Ben aren’t together.
Review: The way this story twists and turns is absolutely insane. While reading, it felt like I had made the painstaking display of patience to not reunite with my tall, dark and handsome lover. Ben and Fallon etched their lives into my heart… not to mention the steamy parts of the book made my cheeks go up in flames. Not only did I read this in one sitting, I then had to sit and collect my sniveling self off the floor for what seemed like forever. Rank: 9.5/10
#3-5. Slammed series (Slammed, Point of Retreat, This Girl): As Layken and family, including her impossibly cute younger brother Kel, move from Texas to Michigan after the loss of her dad, she’s looking for a way to fit in. Luckily for her, she has a very cute neighbor across the street named Will with an equally cute younger brother that is Kel’s age named Caulder. Immediately, Lake is drawn to Will and a fairytale love begins until she’s thrust into her new school with none other than Will as her teacher. In the midst of all the madness, the writing and performing of slam poetry brings the couple together during the many moments that threaten to tear them apart, like deceit, death and doubts on their love.
Review: I am not kidding when I say this book series is the best I’ve read. It unequivocally provided me with so much heartbreak and happiness, and I’m sad I’ll never have the same experience of reading it for the first time again. Although, that won’t stop me from rereading again and again… and again. Not only are the actual narratives in the series incredible, the slams also perfectly complement everything going on. I was so consumed by my need to know how the lover’s story ended that a mere minutes after finishing book two, I grabbed book three and read that immediately. I cried myself to sleep and still get misty-eyed reminiscing about the fictional love these two have, including the current moment that I’m writing this. Rank: 11/10
#6-8. Maybe Someday series (Maybe Someday, Maybe Not, Maybe Now): Sydney finds out on her 21st birthday that her best friend and boyfriend have been in a relationship behind her back. With nowhere to live, she turns to the hunky musician across the courtyard, Ridge. However, Sydney didn’t expect to fall in love with a deaf boy. Ridge rediscovers his muse in Sydney, but at some point, they must face the music of their past to find happiness in the maybe now.
Review: This series was absolutely immaculate. Hoover also paired up with a musician and wrote the songs featured in the series, so you can listen along to the playlist in the book. Are you kidding?! I cried after every song. Maybe Not is actually a novella that tells the kooky love story of Ridge and Sydney’s roommates, Warren and Bridgette, which isn’t necessary to finish the series but is worth the 120 pages. The series gave me so much to think about in terms of communicating love without speaking words; their love was physical in the most innocent sense, although there were also parts to make your ears redden too. I still listen to the soundtrack and reflect fondly on the books. Rank: 9.5/10
#9. Regretting You: Morgan and Clara are thrust into grief after Chris, Morgan’s husband, and Jenny, Morgan’s sister die in a car crash. This leaves both women to sort through their emotions in the tangled web of new love and old secrets.
Review: The twist in the novel made me want to punch a wall and then pour up some shots to numb the pain. I loved her ability to make the main characters lovable in the midst of them doing very unlikable things, because it highlights the impracticality of human beings and the human experience. The way Hoover writes the walls Morgan and Clara need to demolish to find love and closure is painstakingly perfect. It was easily one of my favorite novels by her. Rank: 8.5/10
#10. Confess: Still battling the grief of losing her first love nearly seven years ago, Auburn moves to Texas and finds herself down on her luck. Owen, on the other hand, counts his lucky stars as a chance encounter brings him back together with Auburn, despite her not knowing where the connection lies between the two. In a charming and compassionate tale, the two become entangled in their work together at Owen’s art gallery where all his works are inspired by anonymous confessions. Now the only thing left to figure out is when Owen’s own confession will bubble to the surface and whether Auburn will consider him a piece of work or give him a piece of her own he(art).
Review: The confessions used to create the art came from Hoover’s fans, which is so incredibly cool and the artwork is included in the book as well. The suspense behind Owen confessing his own secrets to Auburn makes this a very charged book to read, and again, it was so beautiful and powerful. Rank: 9/10
#11. Hopeless series (Hopeless, Losing Hope, Finding Cinderella): Two neighboring houses, three kids: Hope, Lesslie and Holder. They form an unbreakable bond… that is, until Hope is taken one day and the other two never see her again. Many years later, Holder finds himself face-to-face with someone he thought he’d never see again. Except for the fact that her name is no longer Hope. Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery and the unresolved feelings at the bottom of his heart, Holder commits himself to the girl and gets wrapped up in a tragic tale of love and loss.
Review: I am still currently reading Finding Cinderella, but this series is by far the one that has gutted me the hardest. The storytelling from an adolescent bond to a heartbreaking reconnection is enough to satisfy any hopeless romantic. All I can say is read these immediately. Rank: 10/10
I hope reading these reviews of my new favorite author Colleen Hoover inspired you to go nose deep in a new novel, just in time for National Read a Book Day. Happy reading!