Author: Colleen Hoover
Genres: Romance, Fiction
Pub date: Jul. 2018 (read Oct. 2018)
Colleen Hoover is pretty hit or miss for me and it confuses me how sometimes she gets it so right, and other times so wrong. I loved It Ends With Us and thought it did a great job in helping people empathize with women who are victims of domestic violence and why it is sometimes hard for them to leave abusive relationships. In contrast, I hated Without Merit and thought it had some extremely problematic elements, so much so that I kind of decided Hoover might not be for me.
I had no intentions of reading this one, but of course it came up in the goodreads choice awards under romance and I got curious and checked out what some other readers had to say. Once I discovered what the book was about, I totally changed my mind and decided to give it a chance because it addresses a topic that I haven’t seen discussed in many novels. I’m going to discuss that topic because it’s not really a spoiler, it comes up early in the book, but I know some people like to go into Hoover’s book totally blind, so if that is you, stop reading my review here. Just know that this book did surprise me in a good way. The rest of you, let’s get into it.
This book is about infertility and it is what drew me into it since I’m not a big lover of romance novels. Infertility is something a lot of people struggle with and it really is an invisible grief. Society doesn’t talk about infertility, miscarriage, or people who just plain don’t want children. For some reason, a lot of people seem to think that a women’s reproductive decisions are a fair topic in any conversation, and it’s not uncommon to ask women if and when they want to have children. Lots of people aren’t bothered by it, but I think we need to quit asking this question outside of close personal relationships because it can be extremely uncomfortable, even painful, to some people.
I know women who aren’t planning to have kids at all and find this question uncomfortable because they don’t like telling strangers and acquaintances they don’t want kids because it’s not really the acceptable answer in our society and is generally followed up with some flippant comment about how they’ll regret not having kids or change their mind. I know fewer women who have struggled with infertility, but this is likely a by-product of me still being in my 20’s and the fact that unless it happened to a really good friend, most people don’t talk about struggles with infertility. Even the stats are unclear, a quick search on miscarriage rates in Canada reveals that somewhere between 15 and 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and 12 to 16% of Canadian couples have infertility. So I was inspired to pick this up and see how Hoover would address some of these uncomfortable topics.
Overall I thought she did a pretty good job. All Your Perfects basically tells the story of a couple, Quinn and Graham, and how they meet, fall in love, and then start to fall apart in the wake of Quinn’s infertility and desire for them to be parents. It’s an extremely emotional read and I would definitely give a trigger warning for those who have experienced infertility. I do want to applaud Hoover for this book because she addresses a wide range of symptoms of infertility, such as how Quinn struggles to answer questions about when she’ll have children and how she had to leave social media because she couldn’t take all the posts about other people’s children because they just continuously reminded her of what she considered her failure as a woman. But Hoover also address how heartbreaking and damaging infertility can be to a marriage when you discover all the hopes and dreams you had for yourselves might be out of reach. The story broke my heart, but I had a huge amount of empathy for Quinn and understood how this one thing could become so monumental in her relationship and how difficult it could be to come back from that.
Like I said, the story focuses not just on Graham and Quinn’s infertility, but also on how they meet and fall in love. It’s told in an alternating time line, switching back and forth between the first time they met and their current struggle to become parents and the effect it has on their marriage. I thought this was a great way to break up the story because even though I was more interested in the infertility story, it was so sad that I think it would have been emotionally overwhelming to only tell that story. It was nice to get a break every chapter to go back to the excitement of when Quinn and Graham are falling in love and discover what it is they love about each other.
This is still ultimately a romance novel, but I like that it’s a romance novel with substance. It’s not all sunshine and roses in a marriage and Hoover’s not afraid to get into the nitty gritty of it. The only thing I have to say though it that as sweet as Graham was, I still had some problems with his character, or more specifically, how Hoover writes his character. Graham was definitely a sweet guy like 90% of the time, but he had some problematic behaviours that I’m almost certain Hoover doesn’t recognize as problematic. What I mostly had a problem with is that Graham actually had some questionably abusive behaviours that were sometimes passed off as romantic. The most concerning to me was how he would punch and hit things when he was upset. Just because he’s never physically violent against people, when you hit things it still conveys a message of the violent feelings you have for a person, even if you don’t take them out directly on that person. I don’t find violent expressions of rage attractive ever and I’m not going to be impressed just because you never actually hit people. Plus Graham comes on really strong in the beginning of the novel and I thought it was just too much and he needed to respect Quinn’s space and her relationships. That was my main beef with the book, because we’re obviously meant to like Graham, but he was never going to totally win me over because of some of these behaviours.
That said, I just have to say that Colleen Hoover is the MASTER of first chapters. This is my third CoHo book and as much as I disliked Without Merit, all three chapters have had dynamite beginnings. You wouldn’t think that romance books would be capable of totally hauling you into a plot in the first chapter, but Hoover has first chapters on lock.
So overall, still not the biggest fan of how Colleen writes romance, but really into how she’s not afraid to tackle important women’s issues in her books. I do like a good romance novel every now and then and I like that this is more than just a romance book and that it has a plot that I’m sure will mean a lot to many women who share this pain, but have never seen it written to paper.