Confess by Colleen Hoover
“There are people you meet that you get to know, and then there are people you meet that you already know.”
The third CoHo book I have read, Confess is an intricately unique novel that I could not put down. Colleen Hoover has a gift for contemporary romance and I love to immerse myself in her stories, over and over again.
Confess follows Auburn Reed, a twenty-one year old hairdresser who uproots her life and moves to Dallas, determined to get her life back on track. She can’t afford to make mistakes and she certainly can’t allow herself to be swayed from her path. But all that changes when she walks into an art studio in search of a new job and meets Owen Gentry, the enigmatic artist and owner. Auburn can’t deny an intense physical attraction to Owen and decides, for one in her life, that she is going to give into her feelings, but she soon discovers that Owen is keeping secrets. The more lies Owen tells, the more Auburn believes she should walk away before she loses everything she has worked so hard to achieve. But Owen won’t let her – he knows they are perfect for each other, but other forces are at play and keeping them apart. The only thing Owen must do to save their relationship is confess, but the confession might just be the very thing that will tear them apart for good.
(Mild spoilers below)
I was absolutely floored by this novel, particularly the way it had been structured. Hoover reached out to her fans and asked them to submit short confessions, something they had never told anyone else their entire lives. These confessions were utilised by Hoover within the novel through Owen’s artwork. In Confess, strangers left anonymous confessions for Owen in his mailbox which then inspired him to create his artwork. Hoover also featured a small collection of Owen’s artwork in the centre of the novel. This entire idea was so distinctive and breathtaking. I was blown away by the scale of what Hoover successfully accomplished. Many of the confessions were heartbreaking; some were funny, and some caused me to gasp aloud when I read them.
Here is a few of them:
Every day I’m grateful that my husband and his brother look exactly alike. It means there’s less of a chance that my husband will find out his son isn’t his.
Sometimes I wonder if being dead would be easier than being his mother.
I hate animals. Sometimes when my husband brings home a new puppy for our children, I’ll wait a few days and then drop it off miles from our house. Then I pretend it ran away.
Every time I go out to eat, I secretly pay for someone’s meal. I can’t afford it, but I do it because it makes me feel good to imagine what that moment must be like for them, to know a complete stranger just did something nice for them with no expectations in return.
Every night after my son falls asleep, I hide a brand-new toy in his room. Every morning when he wakes up and finds it, I pretend not to know how it got there. Because Christmas should come every day and I never want my son to stop believing in magic.
These confessions made the novel in my opinion. I looked forward to reading them; I only wish there was a way Hoover could have included more of them in the text.
Many of Hoover’s novels feature insta-love, but the trope is written in a realistic manner which I sorely appreciate. There is nothing worse than having the protagonists fall in love too quickly – that can really break a book for me. In Confess, we get a variation of insta-love, which I expected to be subverted as it usually is. In a manner of speaking, the trope was subverted, at least on Owen’s part, but Auburn’s affections grew far too quickly for my liking. Owen had been in love with Auburn for years, although she did not know him or ever talk to him. Owen’s feelings for Auburn were realistic because he had always loved her, but Auburn’s feelings gave me a classic insta-love vibe. The novel spanned less than four weeks, and at one point, Auburn had only known Owen for maybe 2-3 days before she considered spending the entire weekend with him. I wouldn’t have had a problem with that, except her reasoning behind her decision was too implausible: “I’m not scared because it’s you, Owen. I’m considering it because it’s you.” I feel at this point in the relationship, Auburn didn’t know enough about Owen to be making this kind of a judgment call. She cannot trust a man after knowing him for only a few days, especially when her entire reason for moving to Dallas is later revealed. Once we find out this crucial piece of information, I found myself analysing Auburn’s romantic and trusting feelings and found them lacking. Auburn’s affections for Owen reflected the feelings one has when they have been in a long-term, stable relationship as compared to a quick fling.
Despite Auburn’s inconsistent affections, Owen’s feelings for Auburn developed naturally and were narrated in a genuine manner. He had known Auburn since she was fifteen and had remained infatuated with her ever since. I really enjoyed Owen’s remarks that he deserved Auburn and she deserved him. In many YA novels, there is that annoying trope where one of the love interests laments over the fact that his/her potential lover is too good for them, which continually grates on my nerves. I’m so glad Hoover didn’t succumb to that and instead acknowledged that everyone is worthy of love.
“I’m scared I’ll never feel this again with anyone else,” I whisper.
He squeezes my hands. “I’m scared you will.”
I found myself bonding with Owen as he is so different from the other male protagonists from the few CoHo novels I have read before (It Ends With Us and Ugly Love). Owen was an artistic soul and a little bit of a hipster. I really enjoyed this change of pace from the traditionally male characters Hoover writes, the ones who are so powerful and strong all the women swoon over them immediately. Owen’s personal life with his family was quite fascinating and my eyes were glued to the page during Owen’s interactions with his father. Owen was a very selfless and thoughtful character. He was the highlight of Confess.
I had a love/hate relationship with Auburn. I really connected with her determination and strong-willed personality. Auburn was willing to sacrifice so much for someone she loved which pulled on my heartstrings and definitely heightened my appreciation for her. However, there were many moments were she irritated me, primarily the many instances where she slut-shamed women.
“What the hell am I doing? I don’t do this kind of thing. I don’t invite guys into my home.
Texas is turning me into a whore.”
What on earth? How does a woman having casual sex equate whore? Why did she censure herself for behaving like any other liked-minded twenty-one year old, regardless of whether they are male or female? Unfortunately, this was only one of many occasions where Auburn slut-shamed other women and it really bothered me. I also had an issue with Auburn’s supposed naïveté and innocence as compared to Owen’s, mainly when it comes to sexual relations. Owen had dozens of relationships while Auburn had only ever had sex once in her life. Normally, this wouldn’t necessarily be an issue but I think I have reached the point where I am thoroughly sick of YA female protagonists, across many genres, being constrained and fit into the same category: the bland and innocent good girl who is, more often than not, cast as a victim. This female trope is something I have noticed across the three CoHo novels I have read, and I really hope it is not something that will be featured in her other books. There is only so much I can take.
Despite these issues that personally affronted me, Confess had a captivating plot. Like all Hoover novels, the synopsis only provides the bare outline of the plot. To fully understand what makes a CoHo novel so amazing, and why Hoover is considered the frontrunner of contemporary romance, you need to read her novels. While I must admit, Hoover’s books feature an abundant amount of clichés and tropes, they are subverted and presented in a refreshing manner. Colleen Hoover makes the unrealistic and the impossible seem probable.
Confess was a wonderful novel, with a few minor hiccups. I was captivated the entire time I read this book and I undeniably adored the paintings and the heartbreaking confessions. This book was everything I expected in a Hoover novel: heartbreak, romance, tragedy and hope.
“I’ll love you forever. Even when I can’t.