The color of love is surely this robin’s egg blue.
Sally Thorne, The Hating Game
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this workplace contemporary romance. Was it a romance, was it rom com, or was it something else? Released in 2016, Kristin Higgins said at the time, “A brilliant, biting, hilarious new voice. The Hating Game will take the rom-com world by storm. One of the best I’ve read, ever.” That’s quite a glowing recommendation from an author I admire.
It turned out above all else this book was relatable, the worst of all book traits because it forces us to reflect on ourselves while we read.
Lucy Hutton suffers from imposter syndrome, something that in my own profession, I suffer from a lot. Lucy’s case of it keeps her from going home for more than a year. Work destroyed her personal relationships (how many times are you guilty of bringing work home?) and she allows her insecurities to color her relationships with others.
Hence, the hating game.
The Set Up
Lucy is pitted in a silent (and sometimes not) battle with her co-worker, Joshua Templeman. Forced to work together for co-CEOs after the merger of their publishing companies, the pair have ample time to dissect the other in a space described by its mirrored surfaces. Between the two main characters literally facing each other and the mirrored space in which they work, self reflection is a big theme in this story, and the hating game is the author’s suggestion of what can happen with too much self analyzation. Just like Narcissus at the river.
It was this hard set up at the very beginning that had me stumbling between Lucy and Joshua in order to figure out where to put my feet. Again, this is reminiscent of how critical we can be when self analyzing and how traitorous the footing can be if we lock ourselves in a sphere of self criticism.
I wasn’t sure how to feel about Joshua Templeman from the get go. He’s hard around the edges and downright rude, but he also makes Lucy see the real truth. How wonderful and capable and beautiful she is. Without the enigma of Josh, we’d never get clarity for Lucy. It’s a complex opposition.
The hating game itself personifies this juxtaposition. It’s not about hate at all but a tool Lucy and Josh have used to keep themselves from loving each other. By constructing little games of hate, they can keep themselves from admitting their true feelings of love.
I was also struck by how visceral the characters were to each other. Their arguments often grew heated and made me feel sometimes uncomfortable. But again, understanding the truth about oneself can be uncomfortable, and this flowed right with the theme of self reflection. More than that, for all that Josh gave, Lucy fired right back at him. What made me uncomfortable as a reader made Lucy come alive as a character. Josh almost acted as the catalyst to allow Lucy to take the lid off of her truth. So while it made me uncomfortable, I don’t think it could have worked any other way with these two characters.
The story wraps up quickly at the end, and I wanted more exposition, but it’s really fine as it finished. I selfishly wanted to see what would happen at the big scary event at the end. But what happened plot-wise there doesn’t really matter. Lucy already uncovered her truth by that point, and another plot point was unnecessary.
The Hating Game is a great read for lovers of workplace contemporary romance and Kristan Higgins or Susan Elizabeth Philips in particular. As of May 2019, it was announced The Hating Game will be made into a movie starring Lucy Hale and Robbie Amell. Sally Thorne, an Australia-based author, released her second book, 99 Percent Mine, in January 2019.