Title: The Hating Game
Author: Sally Thorne
Target Age Group: Adult
*Review contains spoilers
I love him so much it’s like a thread piercing me. Punching holes. Dragging through. Stitching love into me. I’ll neve robe able to untangle myself from this feeling. The color of love is surely this robin’s-egg blue.
-Sally Thorne, The Hating Game
I know this book has generally high ratings. The average rating on Goodreads is 4.22. I picked up this book based off the recommendation of my good Booktuber friend, Zoe from Readerbee. She raved about it and thought I would love it too. After reading it, I have come to the conclusion that Zoe and I have different taste in books (and thats ok, I still love you Zoe haha).
As a disclaimer, I want to acknowledge that my review is solely based off my own tastes. I can understand why people love this book. It is definitely written for a specific type of reader and I may just not be the target audience. That doesn’t make the book bad,it just makes it not for me.
The Hating Game is told through the perspective of a mid twenty year old woman named Lucinda “Lucy” Hutton. She works for a publishing house that has merged with an other publishing house. This merger has forced her to work along side with Joshua Templeman. They have an intense passive aggressive relationship. They seem to be opposites and tempers flair when they are up for the same job promotion. Through out the story, they get to know each other better through a series of events which leaves each of them questioning the relationship they’ve cultivated and if things really are as they seem.
Plot and Setting
We jump into the story pretty quick with Lucy explaining her turmoil relationship with Josh. We don’t get many examples as to why their relationship is strained besides the fact that Josh is very professional and not warm and fuzzy. She takes this character trait as him hating her. She interprets everything he does as a slight against her.
The reader sees that Lucy is very committed to her job and that her life pretty much revolves around pleasing her boss and pissing Josh off. Then, a promotion comes up that Josh and her both want. This gives their feud even more fuel. The plot is pretty obvious by the title and the book summary. I usually love “hate to love” tropes but I don’t feel this one was done well because it also has the “does s/he, doesn’t s/he” trope in which both characters struggle with how the other really feels about them. The entire book goes through Josh and Lucy having interactions that are supposed to convince the reader that Josh is an asshole and Lucy is just reacting to his mean ways. For me, it was slow paced and predictable with some plot holes.
Another central theme of this story is the fact that Lucy is little and petite and Josh is tall and fit. It is not merely a character description. No, there is extreme emphasis put on this fact to the point that I almost think that the size difference is being fetishized. I cannot count how many times Lucy mentions her and Josh’s build.
This book is billed as a romance novel because it revolves entirely around a relationship developing. But I was under the impression that the “romance” part (ahem, aka sex) would make up for the boring and predictable plot. I was wrong. There are a lot of teasing scenes where there is intense heavy petting and flirting but nothing that made me think “oh this is HOT writing.” Josh and Lucy don’t even have sex until we get 90% into the book. Even then, the writing of the sex scenes was “meh.” That is why I give it 2 stars on the smut scale. The book wasn’t ALL about sex but when it did finally get there, I was let down.
Their interactions just do not line up with the plot. At one point, Josh is making out with her randomly in the elevator, and Lucy thinks its part of their “game.” Then, he helps nurse her back to health when she gets terribly sick, and yet she still thinks he hates her. As a reader, I do not believe this relationship at all. It is abundantly clear that Josh likes Lucy but she has invented this imaginary Hating Game in her head for no other reason besides her obsession with one upping her coworker.
To repay Josh for taking care of her when she was ill, she agrees to be his date to his brother’s wedding. When the time to travel to the wedding has arrived, she is a complete asshole to him about her commitment to go. Josh is clearly nervous about the wedding and she can’t figure out why. When people start staring at them at the wedding and making side comments, she still can’t figure it out. It is revealed that Josh’s brother is marrying Josh’s ex girlfriend. I don’t know if this was a “twist” but it was glaringly obvious. Also, Lucy’s reaction was absolutely dramatic and immature. But they quickly make up and finally do the deed.
The book ends how you think it will end. Josh and Lucy finally realize that they don’t actually hate each other and they have loved each other all this time. Josh was just misunderstood and Lucy had to break down his walls. Bleh.
Lets start with Lucy. I find her to be more like a 19-20 year old rather than a 26 year old. She seems extremely immature with how she obsesses with how Josh perceives her. Lucy is a trope in of itself because she thinks she is homely and plain but is actually by society standards, beautiful. I understand all people have insecurities but it is clear that she is not bad on the eyes despite her constantly talking about how awful it is that she is short and small.
She hates Josh but we don’t really have any indication as to why besides that he came from a different company during a merger. As I mentioned before, he is professional and does his job well. Lucy is nosey and seems to want to antagonize Josh on purpose.
I will say that Lucy can have some funny quips every so often but overall I find her annoying and obtuse.
Josh is described as clean cut, incredibly handsome, and frustratingly good at his job. Which apparently is enough to warrant Lucy hating him. Josh of course, can sense her feelings toward him, so is very off standish toward Lucy.
Through out the book, the author tries to paint Josh as a complex man with inner demons. It was eye roll worthy because his problems are so mundane. At one point he complains that women always just want him for his body and nothing more which gives him the sads. His other problem is that he has daddy issues and his father never accepted him while favoring his brother in every way. This is supposed to explain why he’s an “asshole.” But again, we don’t ever get to see him being this dick that Lucy thinks he is.
Overall the pacing wasn’t bad. But since I found the plot boring, I wasn’t overly excited to continue the book. It moved at a normal speed but it was just…meh. I did finish it and I am glad I did because I wanted to give it a fair and thorough review.
I would recommend this book to people who love contemporary romances and light reads. I have read some contemporary romances that I have loved but this one is not it. TLDR; characters were annoying and the plot was predictable.