Colleen Hover‘s novel “Hope Forever” I discovered while searching for exciting titles in the “New Adult” genre. It’s a genre that has only begun to be overshadowed by “Twilight saga“by Stephenie Meyer and his fan fiction “50 Shades of Grey” by E. L. James became possible at all: Books for the age group of 18 – 30, in which the step from home into the world is thematized as well as the first deep love relationships. And in which sex – due to the age group – is given much more importance than is possible and necessary in “Young Adult”.
Maybe I wouldn’t have noticed Hover’s novel at all had it not made it to the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list. That’s roughly the American equivalent of the Spiegel bestseller list. Such a stroke of genius usually only succeeds if the book appeals to many people beyond its actual target audience. Reason enough to get curious.
I found it funny how Colleen Hover handles the “Twelve Stages of Physical Intimacy” I wrote about yesterday. Of course, in the novel “Hope Forever” the first sizing up through glances between Sky and Holder, the first eye contact, and the first dialogues.
But then things get unconventional. And I think this is one of the reasons why “Hope Forever” such has climbed the American bestseller lists. The Saliva Swap number pulls it off very skillfully: Sky jogs every morning and happens to land in front of Holder’s house on her run. The summer sun beats down mercilessly and Holder offers Sky his water bottle. She drinks, then he takes the bottle again and puts it on as well – without wiping the opening first, she registers. From the way Colleen Hover describes the situation, it’s clear that this is a stage of intimacy, long before the first kiss:
He puts the bottle to his lips without having wiped the opening first and keeps his eyes fixed steadfastly on me as he finishes the rest; I can’t help but watch his lips enclose the neck of the bottle that just seconds ago my lips were touching. Am I crazy, or is this almost like we’re kissing each other on a time delay?
Hover also clearly prefers touching bare skin, and just as symbolically, in the same scene: Sky wears gym shorts and a short top to jog. As Holder takes back the water bottle, a finger slides over Sky’s bare belly as if by accident. Again, Sky is fully aware of the situation.
“If you give me your water bottle, I can quickly fill it up for you.” As he takes it from my hand without waiting for my answer, his fingers unintentionally brush across my bare stomach. I freeze.
The next step of the undogmatic ladder is the first night together in a bed. No kissing, no touching, all in full innocence. Sky reads Holder from a romance novel that a friend lent her. She falls asleep over it herself. Holder stays with her.
Only later does the first hug and kiss occur, on the temple. A few innocent kisses follow before he explores her face with his lips and tongue, her neck, down to the base of her breasts. And all this before the first kiss on the mouth. Eventually, they end up in bed; he lies down on top of her and begins to rub against her with his whole body. To his naked torso, both are fully dressed. Nothing more happens that evening either.
I can’t help but think of the phrase, good literature would defy readers’ expectations and surprise them time and time again. Colleen Hover does just that with her novel. She just doesn’t follow the 12 stages of intimacy, but rather jumbles them up, plays with them. Another rule comes to mind: Good writers should know the rules – only to break them immediately afterwards.
Have fun with this