The interesting thing about reading this book was how my real-life relationship with it mirrored its content.
When I first picked this up, I got a few chapters through before I nearly threw it against a wall. I couldn't deal with the pho-hate, toxic, passionate thing that was occurring between these two characters. The messiness of their banter was clearly impacting their professionalism and the quality of their work. The staring contests happened on company time. And the clearly stereotypical framework of the corporate baddies versus the indie-publisher literariness made me lose patience.
I was sceptical at best, bored at worst. So I put the book down.
I was excited to hate the movie when it first premiered. My sister and I have a penchant for talking incessantly during episodes of tense onscreen drama, or babbling our way through inconsistencies in storylines while missing the actual dialogue that dictates plot. In fact, I'm surprised my partner, Brandon, hasn't yet lost his cool and exploded in a fit of arm-waving exasperation. Props to him and his coolness.
We were rubbing our hands together in front of the opening credits, sniggering as we thought about the terrible acting, plot holes and boredom we were surely about to be subjected to. But, about halfway through, we made eye contact and agreed: damn, we were unironically enjoying this.
The movie was good. It was fun. Sure, it wasn't a masterpiece, but I had such a good time watching it that I was willing to enjoy Lucy's smurf collection and her lipstick-blotting habit. I was actually really enraged in all the right places, horny in all the right ways, and generally feeling pretty entertained by the end.
All of this sounds really judgemental – I promise, I love rom coms! I think the problem might have been me picking up the book at the wrong place, wrong time, wrong mindset. I wasn't ready for the romantic clichés or conventions required by readers of the genre.
I finished The Hating Game within a few days, in the middle of a reading slump. That told me that I had assessed the book wrong originally, jumping to conclusions and not allowing the story and characters to simmer. I have a habit of pushing myself to read something I think I should be reading, instead of just enjoying the books that I'm in the mood for.
I think negative reviews can sometimes, for me, boil down to a really simple equation: my hatred for a book can often stem from reading it when I don't truly want to in that moment. Bearing this in mind might change the way I think about reviews and books in general – reading really is a subjective experience, and we should all remember that when throwing shade at art.
A Kindle with The Hating Game loaded onto the screen sits on a floral notebook on Maddy's desk. Image: Madeleine Corbel, 2023.
The writing was really beautiful in some places: some of the reflections on homesickness and life trajectory were pretty insightful and moving. The career insecurities that are experienced by Josh made me feel things – and the ultimate encounter with his family left me fist-pumping the air.
The strawberry farm was a cute touch, and the office environment was quite believable. It made me feel motivated to work hard as Lucy did, and it made me understand her obsession with her work in a new light as her loneliness became more apparent.
All in all, I got what I needed from this book: a really good, sexy, romantic, emotional romp. And the pages flipped by so quickly. Just please – oh please – stop calling him 'Joshua Templeton'.
As always, thanks a bunch for reading with me.