I kind of feel like everyone has loved and reviewed The Hating Game already, and I’m coming in at the end like a bucket of cold water. Which isn’t completely the case, since I did like The Hating Game, but I didn’t like it as much as Act Like It, which is the other 2016 bookend for clever enemies-to-lovers romance.
I don’t feel the need to do any plot recap here, so I’ll just cut the b.s. and get to bitchin’.
I talked about this on Facebook, so it will be familiar to some of you, but I did not respond well to the way that the gaping height difference was emphasized in this book. I am tall, and I like being tall. While I am happy with any person of any height who winds up with any other person of any height, regardless of how dissimilar the two are, I bristle a bit at the whiff of fetishization of women being able to fit in the pockets of their male partners. I don’t think that tall women are stigmatized, exactly, and certainly not the way that shorter men are, but I find that there is a conflation of cuteness, shortness, and femininity that often leaves taller women feeling awkward, gangly, and somewhat outside of the scope of conventional date-ability. That this book not only noted on multiple occasions how tiny Lucy is, but also went out of its way to mention that Joshua’s previous unsuccessful relationships were all with taller women, made me uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s my personal feelings getting the better of me, but there it is.
The way the height difference was played also put me on my guard in more broad way, which is that women, being on average smaller than men, are frequently at a disadvantage physically and thus can easily feel intimidated or unsafe around unfamiliar or adversarial men. Even as a taller women, I experience these feelings of discomfort. In The Hating Game, Sally Thorne plays with this idea. While the two are “enemies,” Lucy is impressed by Joshua’s height, but is also constantly trying not to be cowed by it. In their pivotal first elevator scene, Lucy jokes (at least I think she’s joking), as Joshua is towering over her, that he is so upset that he has his “serial killer eyes” on and might finish her off right there. Call me uptight, but playing on that fear for laughs just… did not work for me. As a result, that steamy first kiss was not romantic for me, at all. Imagining myself in that situation, I am not sure that an unexpected kiss would have been welcome.
That issue aside, I liked the book. Really, I did. I love enemies-to-lovers, and this did it very well. I also loved that they were coworkers competing for the same promotion, which made their relationship seem even more forbidden. I liked that Thorne did all of this without manufacturing extra drama, and keeping the conflict relate-able and the tension believe-able. I do tend to have a higher standard for contemporary romances in this respect because it’s harder to suspend disbelief in situations that could be so close to real life, and The Hating Game performed admirably.
I think it’s obvious that this book pushed a personal button for me, but nonetheless, it is a successful romance that’s worth reading.