The Hating Game, by Sally Thorne

28 May

…or how I DNFed a book most everyone else seemed to love.

The Hating Game, by Sally Thorne

For months, I heard everyone and their pet poodle praise this book, so I snagged it at some point when it was on sale.

I don’t know how it was that I didn’t realize it’s written in first person present tense–which I do not like. As far as I’m concerned, first person is incredibly difficult to do well, and present tense can be gimmicky. I have enjoyed first person present tense before (Ann Aguirre’s Grimspace books, for example), but it’s very rare.

One of the reasons first person is tricky is that it’s harder to read for the other characters, when you don’t connect with the main character.

I also didn’t realize this is the author’s debut until I looked up the blurb; the writing does not read like a first effort.

The first few pages are smooth and engaging, and I felt myself being pulled into the story. Among the pulls is the fact that the story is set is the offices of two ailing publishing houses merged into one, still failing, company.


Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.

                       2) A person’s undoing

                       3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

Like I said, the beginning was promising. As long as Lucy was talking about the setup, the impersonal stuff, I was interested. However, as soon as she started going on (and on, and on, and on!!!) about her irrational feud with Joshua, I became increasingly annoyed.

Lucy is self aware enough of just how childish the whole set up is, presumably to encourage the reader to make some allowances, but I’m not sure I am that forgiving. There is a lot of self indulgence on the author’s part, when it comes to Lucy’s childish thought processes. Sadly, my memories of my tween years and middle school are miserable enough not to need a trip back, and the stupid ‘games’ that both Lucy and Joshua indulge in, at work, day after day after day, are excruciatingly infantile.

The thing is, infantile is not necessarily harmless. I work with someone who rejoiced when she thought a female co-worker, who works a late shift alone, had misplaced her car keys. This person rejoiced thinking that our co-worker  would find herself stranded, alone in an empty building, late at night. This person even crowed to me that ‘that would teach her!’ (something or other).

Lucy’s antics made me fear that’s where we are heading all through the first four chapters.

Then it got worse, from my (unpopular) point of view.

I am not sure how to articulate this, but here goes nothing: there’s an undercurrent of ‘poor little me’ to Lucy’s thoughts that made it increasingly uncomfortable for me to read more than a handful of pages at a time.

She’s ashamed of her parents–but she loves them–but why would her mother give up her career for a man?–but she loves them–but she lies to them because ashamed–but she loves them–but they don’t actually listen to her/know her–but she loves them, so she doesn’t bust their bubble–but she pities them–but she loves them.

On the work front, Lucy spends the lion share of her time monitoring Joshua, plotting how to undermine him, and both have actually filed multiple complaints with Human Resources over (supposed/perceived/real/who the fuck knows?) harassment.

And then, just after it’s been announced that she’s in direct competition with him for a fairly important promotion–not just money, but the ability to actually do something good for the company–things got worse (for me).

For the past however many pages, Lucy has lavishly recounted how she spends a shit ton of time musing ways to get one over him, how to make him miserable, if not get him fired (see HR harassment complaints, for fucks’ sake!), and then…then! she has sex dreams about him? seriously?

You know how there used to be all these literary anecdotes of young boys throwing rocks at, or putting snakes on the desks, of girls they liked? Am I supposed to pretend filing HR harassment complaints is these two supposedly-adult-people’s version of that mythical, sexist, petty, absurd, immature, thing?

I can’t.

I’ve lived through enough harassment, sexual, gendered, ethnic, and otherwise, at work–let alone the passive aggressive bullshit–to know I’m well past a point where even an author whose voice resonates with me can make this plot work.

Sadly, because I know and respect many readers who adored this book, Ms Thorne’s voice no only doesn’t resonate, it grates on my nerves.

At a few pages into chapter 5, and only 17% in (which is something like 65 to 70 pages  in a 380+ pages book), I’m throwing in the towel.

The Hating Game is a DNF for me.

However, because I know this is a case of “it’s me, not the book,” let me point you to three other, much more positive, reviews: Vasiliki’s and Keira’s, both in English, and Bona’s, in Spanish. Added bonus: they all read the whole thing.

10 Responses to “The Hating Game, by Sally Thorne”

  1. Valancy 28/05/2017 at 7:21 AM #

    For the record – I read the whole thing and I REALLY did not like it. URGHH. I just couldn’t reconcile behaviour, actions and feelings. My copy is rather battered because I repeatedly threw it against the wall.

    I thought the whole thing was petty and terrible…but I have issues with office spaces, HR and harassment….
    The writing though, was GOOD. I would read another book by Thorne – fingers crossed it’s not another office horror..?

  2. shallowreader 28/05/2017 at 8:07 PM #

    It’s funny what stays with you a year after reading a book. At the time, I was swooning (not over the hero/heroine or their dysfunctional relationship) over the lyrical writing. Yet, I now don’t remember the writing as much, but I do remember the horrible way these two treated each other.

    • azteclady 28/05/2017 at 8:12 PM #

      I really liked the writing in the first few pages, where the merged companies setup is explained. It’s so polished I was very surprised to learn this is Ms Thorne’s debut.

  3. Helen R-S 29/05/2017 at 9:45 AM #

    I did finish it, but I don’t understand all the rave reviews either. They were petty and childish to start and it was off-putting. I’m not generally a fan of the hate-love dynamic. I was glad I borrowed it from the library and didn’t spend money on it.

    • azteclady 29/05/2017 at 10:30 AM #

      Oh, yes, so petty!

      However, it’s interesting. I would have said that I generally enjoy enemies to lovers stories, but after this one, I’m not sure I actually do.

  4. SuperWendy 31/05/2017 at 6:10 PM #

    I can’t even go there enough to try it. I adore office romances (I love the boss/secretary trope even as I recognize it’s incredibly problematic for a score of Real Life reasons….), but the whole Enemies To Lovers thing is such a tightrope for an author to walk. It tends to only work for me in category romance (hello, Harlequin Presents) and I think that’s because the tight word count means the author has to redeem the couple fairly quickly in order to pull the HEA off. And, you know, sometimes they don’t. Which is usually when the HP hits the wall for me.

    But in a full-length single title and with too many readers I know who have brought up the “petty” thing – I just can’t. Too many books, too little time. I suspect I’d want to spend the whole book wanting to shake the characters until their teeth rattled and Wendy…she does not like to read angry.

    • azteclady 31/05/2017 at 6:30 PM #

      Exactly; too little reading mojo as it is, why waste it hate reading? (Besides, there’s the news for that)

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