For a novel that was recommended by 92% of Google users, I expected that “Ugly Love” by Colleen Hoover would absolutely blow me away. My efforts to get back into reading brought me to Barnes & Noble ambitiously searching for this novel that was recommended to me by the app TikTok.
Unfortunately, throughout the novel I was grasping at straws, trying to desperately paint a background for characters that were poorly set up. Although the story was told from two different first-hand perspectives, the plot lacked depth.
Tate is a college student, hoping to achieve her master’s degree in nursing. She recently moved in with her older and overprotective brother, Corbin, in San Francisco, California. Upon meeting her brother’s friend, Miles Archer, she is instantly infatuated and consumed by him.
The novel starts with Miles drunkenly sprawled outside Corbin’s, apartment, right as Tate is moving in for the first time. Even though Tate is terrified of the stranger, her brother expects her to help him because they are friends, as if moving to a new city isn’t intimidating enough. This scene is the first red flag in Miles’ character, but it is overlooked and the novel continues as if this night never happened. This scene is the first indicator that Tate’s feelings will go ignored throughout the novel.
When Miles goes home with Tate and her brother for Thanksgiving they share a kiss secretly late at night. Their connection only seems to be built off the fact that they are both conventionally attractive. Tate feels herself growing feelings for Miles at a rapid rate but he is unable to provide what she truly wants: a romantic relationship. They decide their relationship will be purely physical, but Miles sets two rules in place, which are never asking about his past and that she should not expect a future.
Nothing is inherently wrong with their arrangement until Miles starts breaking his “rules” but is angered at Tate for doing the same. A scene in the book involves Miles telling Tate something along the line of, “I couldn’t stop thinking about you at work,” and Tate responds with “So did you miss me?” Her response infuriates him and he yells at her for breaking the guidelines of their relationship.
To set rules for any situation and only enforce them on one person is a sign of emotional abuse that should not be labeled as “romance.” Throughout the novel, it is evident that Miles only values his own feelings and expects Tate to follow aimlessly. What Miles needed was a therapist, not a little fling where he dumps his baggage onto another person.
A major aspect of the novel is that Miles has experienced past trauma that keeps him from loving someone. Throughout the novel, he calls Tate his past lover’s name more than once. His past is very tragic and heartbreaking but Tate exists in the novel to purely fix him and excuse his belittling ways.
“Ugly Love” portrays the idea that having trauma is a valid excuse to hurt other people. Throughout the novel, Tate is complacent with his harsh behavior. She never receives an apology or explanation at the end of the novel either. Miles shows extreme jealousy when Tate is hanging out with another man. Although he consistently tells her he does not want a relationship, he tries to shut her out from other people too. Miles uses his power over Tate to control her.
Miles’ past was written very poorly. His perspective goes into his past life and why his character is currently closed off and traumatized. The way Hoover addresses certain topics about Miles’ past is quite strange and uncomfortable.
Although Miles had his past story laid out for the audience, little detail about Tate’s past was given. The author included that Corbin didn’t approve of her dating in the past. The novel focused on her passion for nursing which she was primarily focused on until Miles came into her life.
With “Ugly Love” taking place in San Francisco, there were so many opportunities to paint a beautiful background picture, but the novel lacked descriptive imagery. Such a beautiful setting went to waste with no descriptions of the city.
Even if Tate was just not that interesting, her character’s only prevailing trait of loving Miles felt like we were going back to the 1950s. It portrayed the wrong message to Hoover’s audience, due to the genre being labeled “romance.” Topics of emotional abuse should be written about but labeled as what they are.
Hoover is one of the largest authors at the moment having multiple New York Times Bestsellers. Her novels are growing in popularity every day thanks to social media and “Book-Tok.” Offering a second opinion to her novel will not stop its inevitable popularity, but critiquing “Ugly Love” is vital in offering a different perspective. As her readers become younger and younger (thanks to TikTok, not Hoover) it is important that the nuance of the toxicity of her novels does not go unaddressed or normalized.