The Backlash Against TikTok Darling Colleen Hoover
Walk into any bookstore anywhere across the country, and you won’t be able to escape it. Colleen Hoover’s books are all over the bestsellers shelves. And it’s not just one book or even two. In 2022, six of the year’s 10 bestselling books were Colleen Hoover novels. And people are thirsty for more. Book Riot has offered reader several recommendations for books you might like if you’ve already made your way through all of Colleen Hoover’s books.
Colleen Hoover’s rise to fame is due in no small part to her social media following, especially on her Facebook group Colleen Hoover’s CoHorts. And then there’s TikTok, which has singlehandedly launched her books — some of which have been out for nearly 10 years — into the zeitgeist (and the bestsellers lists). Hoover has endeared many fans to her through her TikTok presence.
But there is a flip side to Hoover’s sudden and surprising popularity. Whenever someone is in the public eye this much, they open themselves to criticism as well as praise. And Hoover has received her fair share of criticism and backlash.
In January 2023, Colleen Hoover announced on (where else?) social media that her wildly popular novel It Ends With Us would be made into a coloring book. Immediately, people took to TikTok to address their concerns about a coloring book version covering such controversial material. Some fans even declared that they would no longer be supporting Hoover’s work after such a thoughtless decision. After all, It Ends With Us is a story about domestic violence, and coloring scenes from a book about domestic violence…did not sit well with people.
Ultimately, the coloring book was pulled, and Colleen Hoover issued an apology:
“The coloring book was developed with Lily’s strength in mind, but I can absolutely see how this was tone-deaf. I hear you guys and I agree with you. No excuses. No finger pointing. I have contacted the publisher to let them know I would prefer we don’t move forward with it. Thank you for the respectful discourse and accountability. Nothing but love.”
For many people, however, the damage was already done. And Colleen Hoover’s coloring book is just one of the more recent waves of backlash against the popular author. Long before Hoover’s fans spoke out against the coloring book, many readers posted videos on BookTube questioning the problematic content in Hoover’s novels. The author’s romance stories feature abusive, harmful relationships that feel cringey at best and glamorize abuse and harmful relationships at worst.
The criticisms have gone beyond BookTube and BookTok. “The best way to describe a Colleen Hoover book is an adult romance novel filled with uncomfortable scenes, disappointing characters and corny lines that Hoover clearly wants to become popular quotes reposted on Pinterest,” Kelly Schwint wrote for the Observer.
Some reviewers have even noted Hoover’s popularity on TikTok as proof that BookTok reviews are not to be trusted. “Social media tends to put convenience and trendiness on a pedestal over quality,” wrote one reviewer on Distractify.
Aside from the content of her books, Colleen Hoover’s personal life has also become a focal point in recent criticisms. On February 12, 2022, a Twitter user by the name of @theonottlovebot shared on a thread about Colleen Hoover’s work: “her son also sexually harassed me and she aired me and blocked me when i spoke up about it to her.” In a second tweet, she elaborated, “Long story short, we were friends on [Snapchat]…when I was 16 and he was fully aware of how old I was cause I always talked about the fact I was still in school.”
Colleen Hoover has since addressed the allegations on her CoHorts Facebook page:
“Things being said about my son aren’t accurate. People are commenting that I blocked a girl for informing me that my son sexually assaulted her when she was sixteen. This absolutely did not happen, and this is not even initially what was said by this person… We discussed what happened, I apologized to her and thanked her for bringing this to my attention, and I offered to send her our home address and lawyer info should she want it. I held my son accountable for sending a message to her that was inappropriate. I addressed it directly with her and with my son.”
It seems like the more popular Colleen Hoover gets, the more people are questioning the legitimacy of that popularity. Is Hoover’s bestselling status deserved? And perhaps more importantly, is it responsible for Hoover to write books like this? Should there be restrictions on what authors can write about and/or how they can write about it? And would Colleen Hoover be forgiven for writing controversial material if she could at least, well, write it well?
When I started working on this essay, I thought I had my mind made up about Colleen Hoover. But the more I consider the reasons people love Colleen Hoover and the reasons people loathe her, I realize the issue is more nuanced than I first thought.
Sure, Colleen Hoover’s books have ridiculous storylines and her characters have even more ludicrous named (Lily Bloom, the main character in It Ends With Us, owns a flower shop? What?). And yes, she has written some lines that are cringe-worthy, especially when taken out of context; however, I think that’s part of the appeal for Colleen Hoover fans. And for those who worry about the books romanticizing abusive and problematic relationships, it seems like these wild details remove the books from reality to some extent.
Does anyone read Colleen Hoover and really think this is how relationships should work? Or want a romance like these? “We aren’t giving young women any credit,” Chels Upton wrote in a Slate article examining the Colleen Hoover hate. Many reviewers say they are concerned about what the depictions of abuse will do to impressionable young women readers. And yet there seems to be no evidence that Colleen Hoover readers are looking to replicate those stories in their own lives. Reviews that suggest they are imagine that these young women are unable to separate the world of Hoover’s books from reality.
While I do understand the Colleen Hoover defenders, those who critique her have valid points as well. For instance, this reviewer points out that Colleen Hoover books “promote terrible ideas for women and self-worth.” I have to agree that when I read Colleen Hoover books, I was stricken by what little regard Hoover seemed to have for her women characters. And I was also surprised by the lack of support these women have from other women in their lives. And like this Ms. Magazine reviewer, I was also concerned by Hoover’s portrayal of abuse and toxic masculinity. Even if readers aren’t actively looking to recreate these stories in real life, I’m concerned that so many people find these stories appealing. And I can see why it’s frustrating for many that Colleen Hoover is raking in the money while other authors, with stronger female characters and healthier depictions of relationships, struggle.
One thing is for sure, though. No matter how you personally feel about Colleen Hoover, she does have the internet talking. And both positive and negative articles about the authors continue to get people’s attention. So do you love Hoover, love to hate her, or just wish she would go away? And will this backlash ever lead to diminishing sales for the ever-popular author? Either way, whether you like it or not, for now, you’re part of the Colleen Hoover conversation.