Becca Fitzpatrick’s YA novel from 2010 was deeply loved by many, myself included, though let’s face it most of us were fairly young and just in love with the idea of a big, dark, fallen angel. There is nothing wrong with that, I’m an adult now and I wouldn’t say I would be opposed to the idea. But I had the genius thought to reread it now in 2021, seven years later from when I first did so, to just see what I would find. Here is my review of Hush, Hush from the mind of an adult in University and no longer a teenager in highschool.
Before I start I should say this review will not be spoiler free, but if you wish to read it you can buy the book here.
I think most of us who enjoy YA novels are very aware of how weirdly problematic older 2000’s books seem to be, mostly just as a product of their time. We can say the same for tv shows and most forms of media. The awkward and cringe things that have not aged well at all. Some YA has definitely aged better than others, but Hush, Hush – wow.
Nora Grey, our protagonist, who is depicted as the “average” teenage girl with brunette hair and an “average” figure. She doesn’t care for makeup besides mascara and lipgloss. Her grades are the only thing that really matter to her besides her best friend Vee Sky. Vee is the comedic, gullible, boy obsessed side character who also just happens to be plus size which is really her only personality trait. These girls live a so-called normal life of attending school, thinking of college and shopping, until Patch Cipriano is paired to work with Nora on an assignment. Patch is the mysterious, motorcycle riding, dark boy who no one knows anything about, yet we all know exactly who he is for he is nothing different to every other bad boy. Of course there can’t be one love interest though and this is where Elliot Sanders comes in, a new school transfer and is a little too forward and his only friend Jules who is a little too quiet. Both of them ultimately are evil of course.
While I don’t have too much criticism of the plot, for it was still something enjoyable to read and have fun with, it by no means is anything astonishingly mind blowing. I didn’t expect it to be though, for Hush, Hush was pretty overshadowed by larger YA for the time and fell through the cracks and I don’t think has ever reemerged. I can see why.
What did stand out to me was the treatment of the only plus size character, the blunt slut shaming and misogyny from women, the gross and borderline dangerous concept of attraction, and frankly rude unnecessary content. I was expecting this to a degree of course, I can name many novels that use all this too and yet I was uncomfortable. I was kind of shocked at the amount of tabs I used when rereading to highlight these moments and not ones of “oh my god, I remember and love this.”
“Something about him wasn’t normal. Something wasn’t…safe.” (page 25), is used to describe Patch at one point when Nora is alone with him. By itself there isn’t anything wrong with this statement, in fact he is exactly that. However, the context of it is used to describe Nora’s surprising and undescribable attraction, the way she is drawn to Patch. By no means is this book the only one to do so, however it is pushing the idea that its attraction to feel scared and unsafe around men. Not to mention the way this idea is marketed towards young, impressionable teenagers.
“She’s green-eyed, minky blond, and a few pounds over curvy.” (page 9). “Vee was on the colour-wheel fruit diet.” (page 44). Vee is written to be overly confident, the type to wear heels but for attention and eat because besides that and boy’s she has no other traits. Throughout the book she makes comments on her body or her diet as a comedic clutch, and if it isn’t Vee herself it’s her supposed best friend. Nora mocks her for her diets, for the way she eats constantly. Now i’m not saying I like Vee, for she was kind of irritating, but the way she was portrayed was uncomfortable to read and disappointing. It also made me uncomfortable to read from their perspective of Vee’s “best friend” and to think this is how you would think of your bestie constantly.
2000’s – 2010’s YA was filled with internalised misogyny, but Hush, Hush is a very pointed example of how bad some people never left the “I’m not like other girls” phase. “…Marcie Millar…her strawberry blond hair was combed into low pigtails, and like always, her skin was concealed under half a bottle of foundation…there was three-quarters of an inch between the hem of her skirt and the start of her underwear…if she was wearing any.” (page 45). Marcie is of course the highschool bully, but why does our main character hate her? Oh, she’s femine and pretty. Marcie too makes comments on Vee’s size, but so does Nora, so how is she any better? “He rubbed lip gloss between his thumb and forefinger. ‘You’d look better without it.'” (page 76). Of course Nora hardly wears make up as it is, but clearly even that is a too much. Dont forget kids, if you wear makeup then you’re fake! “She said she did it for herself, but what women get’s boobs for herself?” (page 92). This right here irks me so much! Because plenty of women do so, and no one has a right to say you didn’t. “There’s nothing wrong with sacrificing a little pride for the sake of intelligence.” (page 176). In this scene Nora is dressed up – so heels and makeup and a dress – in order to flirt for information. That’s not the issue I have though, the issue is how dressing up is sacrificing some kind of purity and pride. “‘Skank,’ I said. ‘Geek.’ ‘Slut.’ ‘Freak.’ ‘Anorexic pig.’ ‘Wow,’ said Marcie…” (page 212). I think this one explains itself. “I knew girls like Marcie when I went to school. They ask for it, don’t they?” (pages 226-227). This is towards the end of the novel and when I tell you I was stunned to read it as an adult. To think this is a woman writing this too. No one asks for any kind of assault! The way someone dresses, wears their hair or expresses themself, especially femininely, is not asking for it.
Too think I was in year seven, around the ages 11-13, when I first picked up this book upsets me deeply. While I did love it then, and truthfully will always have a little place in my heart, I am disgusted that I never found any of this uncomfortable or even disagreed. I was a kid yeah, impressionable and taking in new ideas like this from a range of fiction and that’s what really is upsetting. I was part of the target audience and I defiently was influenced by the fatphobia, blunt suicide comments, the depiction of dangerous men and fear equals attraction, and of course the extensive misogyny. I took all of this on without realising it just from exposure from numerous ranges of media.
Hush, Hush isn’t quirky, it’s misogynistic and it’s uncomfortable. Putting down other women to uplift your “average” description isn’t quirky, and honestly Nora is the true villain of this book. I’m just pointing out some flaws that as an adult I now see. Maybe it was a product of its time, maybe if it were to be written today things would be different. At the end of the day I’m not going to say it’s a bad novel, that you aren’t allowed to like it or anything. In fact that would be hypocritical of me considering I do still enjoy the dark and twisted fallen angel fictional piece myself. I just think it’s important to criticize even the thing’s you enjoy.