Wow. I just loved this review so much. I don’t know what else to say about it. Thank you, Cody Brocious, for sharing your thoughts on Ugly Love. And thank you for letting me share them with everyone else.
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVE NOT READ UGLY LOVE YET, I STRONGLY RECOMMEND YOU LEAVE. LIKE RIGHT NOW. GO AWAY.
A Review of Ugly Love by Cody Brocious
I was introduced to Colleen Hoover’s works around Christmas time last year. It’s been all of 9 months, but it feels like a decade; I’ve read, re-read, and re-re-read all 8 of her books more times than I can count in those 9 months. Saying I’m a fan of her works is much like saying that I quite like to breathe or eat (and I really like to eat). So, I went into reading it with high expectations, to put it mildly.
Colleen sent me a copy of the book a while ago, asking for a male perspective. She said “don’t worry, take your time, no rush.” And I didn’t worry … I just sat in my chair and read for hours. I got up to pee at one point, and I think I may have made a sandwich, but that was about it. I was transfixed. I needed to finish. I needed to know what it was about Miles that made him such a complete douchecanoe (to use the technical term) at times, and the perfect ‘boyfriend’ in others. I needed to know the ugly side of love. And boy, did I get it by the truckload.
It took me a while — and a couple re-reads — to *really* know what I thought of Ugly Love. It jumped into a battle for my all-time favorite book slot; that much was certain (though I don’t think I’ll ever decide which is my favorite — the other book will remain unnamed). But my feelings on Miles and Tate were so mixed.
So here’s my male perspective on the book, having read it cover to cover and highlighted until my Kindle staged an intervention:
It’s easy to see Tate as a coward, a doormat, an object. It’s also easy to see myself in her, being very much at the end of the spectrum where sex without feelings is impossible, but having been in her shoes. Were I her friend, I would’ve given her the “giiiirl, you gotta dump that boy and get yoself a man *fingersnap*” talk. But if I were Tate? I would’ve done exactly what she did. It’s easy to look at a character from the outside and play Monday-morning quarterback on his or her life; it’s harder to put yourself into their shoes and really admit that if you were there, you would’ve made the same mistakes.
Likewise, it’s easy to see Miles as painfully distant. He doesn’t just want no relationship with Tate; he wants an anti-relationship with her. Relationships are one of those things that tend to not be able to stay stationary — they always want to move in one direction or another — and if he hadn’t been actively pushing her away, it would’ve been effectively pulling her closer, which would’ve broken the rules. I had a much harder time relating to Miles than to Tate, not being a parent myself, and particularly not being a parent who’s lost a child (something I sincerely hope will always be true). But even if I couldn’t relate to him, I could understand where he came from.
Both characters were — to speak frankly — broken. Tate less so than Miles, obviously, but I tend to think that everyone comes pre-broken, at least to some extent, and the right person is the one that has your special brand of glue to put you together; the Ikea theory of relationships, you might say. Their imperfections worked with each other, once they were able to communicate. That’s what defines great characters, in my opinion.
Now, I know a lot of people found it odd that a high school boy would speak/think in such flowery, romantic prose. To an extent, this is a reasonable criticism, but having been a high school boy in my time, I don’t really think it holds much water. For me, that was the time when I was most after the romantic ideal, and I wrote (very, very bad) poetry about that subject *very* extensively. So relating to young Miles and his way of “talking” came very naturally to me.
Now that I’ve covered characters and the writing, let’s talk story. The story was not full of plot twists that left me guessing the whole time; it was, in fact, pretty straight-forward. That, to me, was the biggest plot twist of all. I kept expecting something else to happen, and nothing ever did — but it didn’t need to! It was once said that to make the perfect elephant statue, you simply take a block of marble and chip away everything that isn’t an elephant; this book is an example of how a very direct path (albeit from two points of view spanning nearly a decade) can give you a fulfilling, realistic story.
And having written that, I realized what made me really love this book: it didn’t feel like fiction. It wasn’t full of dramatic twists and turns, it wasn’t full of gimmicks, it was just a well-written, natural relationship between two messed up people; is there anything closer to real life? And my god, it’s so eloquent. I’ve read everything from the lowest of fan fiction (of which I have contributed my share of drivel) to the supposed height of literature. Colleen’s writing sits in a happy place where it’s exceptionally well-phrased and flowing, but not to the point where it can be construed as pretentious; it’s very down-to-earth, which I find to be important — anything more and it very well could’ve been exhausting to read.
So, that’s it. Those are my rambling thoughts on Ugly Love. It was a hard read, but I couldn’t stop myself from going on; and I’m glad I didn’t.
Closing note: If I had come into it expecting a romance novel, I think I would’ve been disappointed. To me, Ugly Love is not romance; it’s just life. This underscores the importance of going into new things with an open mind, and not trying to fit things into boxes.
Miles Davis, upon releasing his very ‘odd’ album “Sketches Of Spain” was asked if he thought the album was jazz. He responded, “It’s music, and I like it.” Ugly Love is a story, and I love it.