Title: The Hating Game (2016)
Author: Sally Thorne
Read: 15th September 2017
Genre: contemporary; romance
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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.”
(Synopsis from publisher)
The Hating Game is fun, addicting, and utter trash, but surprisingly less problematic than I assumed it would be. I hate how much I loved this book – which I suppose is the entire point of it, as it plays with that age ol’ idea of just how similar the seemingly opposing feelings of love and hate can actually turn out to be. Of course we have our requisite couple who are destined to be together, for better or for worse, by the final chapter of the book – meet Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman. And, yes, I had to look up their names because I forgot them already – they’re rarely important in contemporaries, or are so commonplace that they fade into obscurity once you finish the book. In this book’s case I forgot Lucy’s name because she is referred to as Shortcake throughout the entire novel by Josh, something which she HATES so, obviously, he calls her it even more once he realises this. Likewise I heard Josh’s name as Josh-ew-ah, like Rachel from Friends over-pronounces her boyfriend’s name. But I digress…
“I type my password: IHATEJOSHUA4EV@. My previous passwords have all been variations on how much I hate Joshua.”
Meet Lucy Hutton – she’s annoying as hell, and we see everything in the book through her eyes. I couldn’t help but hate Lucy’s voice in the opening sections of this novel. She was supremely self-centred, obsessive, and borderline childish about the long-standing rivalry between her and fellow assistant, Josh. Her computer password is IHATEJOSHUA4EV@. Yes, that’s right, like the password a bratty ten-year old would choose if a boy at school had pushed her over in the playground that morning. However, it gets easier to bear. Don’t get me wrong, Lucy is still mildly annoying throughout – the fact she seems to scrutinise Josh’s every move, but stubbornly remains so dense as to why he might not want to attend his brother’s wedding was infuriating. Has this girl never seen a rom-com film before, or read some chick lit? So, aside from being annoyed at Lucy’s inner monologue, which is constantly LOATHING Josh (just in case you’d forgotten), I found myself taken aback by how much I enjoyed their repartee. Everyone loves a good love-hate relationship between a pair of characters – see, the seminal Pride and Prejudice – but this book managed to take that, by now hackneyed, trope and do something vaguely interesting with it.
” ‘Are you working on the forecasting figures for next quarter?’
He lifts both hands from his keyboard and stares at me. ‘No.’ I let out half a lungful of air and turn back to my desk. ‘I finished those two hours ago.’
He resumes typing. I look at my open spreadsheet and count to ten.”
Instinctively, I really liked Josh from the off – he’s unpleasant, snarky, and so casual about one-upping Lucy that it’s cackle-worthy when he does. I could have done without Lucy’s extremely biased and unnecessarily caustic view on the Bexley Books corporate types (of which she holds Josh as some kind of evil overlord) which invaded her friendly, idealistic, hippy-ish publishing house, Gamin Publishing, when they merged the two failing companies in what she refers to as an “arranged marriage”. The Bexleys brought along reports, spreadsheets, and clinical office décor and (god forbid) managed to keep an otherwise failing publishing house afloat. But even from the very beginning you can tell that Lucy doesn’t have the full-picture or enough distance to hold an objective view of the people who came on-board when the two companies merged, least of all her charming office companion, Joshua Templeman.
“It’s great that I’m fulfilling a childhood dream. But if I’m honest, at the moment the main reason I don’t get a new job is: I can’t let Joshua win this.”
In a book so focused around an inevitable coupling, it’s good to see a host of side-characters who help to bring a bit of variety to the otherwise insular interactions between Lucy and Josh in their shared office space. In particular, I adored Lucy’s boss, co-CEO Helene, who was so French it was delightful. Case in point: she turns up to a team-building company paintball game wearing white – she’s ace. Likewise, another excellent female character comes late to the game in the form of Josh’s mum – she is so welcoming to everyone but also point-blank refuses to put up with men’s bullshit (read: her husband’s bullshit) and that’s something that warms my little heart.
” ‘Shortcake, if we were flirting, you’d know about it.’
Our eyes catch and I feel a weird drop inside.”
Unsurprisingly, however, in such a dialogue heavy book, there are a few swings and misses, a few times that what is intended to be fun and flirty banter reads more like probable sexual harassment, but the characters are so obviously into each other that it kind of just slides? Although there are instances in which Lucy or Josh say the magic words “HR” to the other, implying that they’ve had many a meeting with the long-suffering Human Resources woman regarding their conduct towards each other at work. Clearly nothing sticks though – and if I’d had to read the word “horny” one more time, I was probably going to launch the book across the room, even though it was an ebook and it would have resulted in me launching my very new and very breakable iPad into a solid brick wall.
“I wish I could say he’s ugly. But he’s not. He’s pretty much the opposite.
More proof there’s no justice in this world.”
Pleasingly (and not to try to spoil anything here but, come on, you know the drill) actual sex between our two leads doesn’t happen until quite a way through the book, which was a very refreshing change of pacing compared to most of the chick lit I’ve previously read. It seems an inevitability, but this one at least vaguely caught me off-guard by being delayed and, for the characters themselves, long overdue, I’m sure. For me, that alone illustrates the beauty of this book – it takes the tropes you’d expect from a story of this type, it conforms to some, and it breaks others, which means it is sure to keep even the most seasoned of contemporary readers on their toes. Plus it’s always fun to guess at which specific moment both Lucy and Josh will realise that this “hating game” might turn out to be nothing of the sort after all.
I’m still upset we don’t get to find out what happened at the job interview for that promotion, though.
“I have a theory. Hating someone feels disturbingly similar to being in love with them. I’ve had a lot of time to compare love and hate, and these are my observations. Love and hate are visceral. Your stomach twists at the thought of that person.”