Colleen Hoover’s ‘Verity’: A great book, or masterful manipulation?

We interrupt our regularly scheduled program of Science Fiction and (mostly) Fantasy reviews to truly step into the weird and talk about a . . . thriller?

Yup. Apparently if there is enough hype around something, I’ll read it no matter what it is.

And this book I just could not seem to escape. The waitress at a local brewery recommended it to me. I saw it on the shelf at a friend’s house who suggested I give it a shot. Even one of my employees recommended it (bold move haha).

A quick google told me it had originally come out in 2018 and considering I don’t normally read a lot of thrillers, I wasn’t surprised that I hadn’t heard of it, but it did seem odd that all of the sudden, it seemed to be on everyone’s radar. Maybe it was a sign from God.

Or maybe it was Tik Tok. Specifically, it was making a resurgence on #booktok. Since I’m still a Tik Tok newb (I literally only got the app yesterday), I can’t begin to imagine what caused its resurgence, or try to trace the path it followed once it started picking up steam on the app, but pretty much everyone I’ve talked to said that they heard about it there.

But when I asked about what made it so good, everyone seemed to make a bit of a face and then tell me to just read it. When this is the type of review I get from people regarding a book, I tend to get suspicious quickly. I’ve often felt that sometimes books somehow manage a critical mass of hype, and the quality of what’s on the pages no longer matters, it’s just the cool thing to have read, and nobody wants to admit they read a bad book because it was ‘cool’. Nobody wants to feel manipulated like that.

Of course some books deserve all the praise they get, and so the only way to find out which kind of book Verity is, was to read it myself.

So, when I saw it on sale at target, I thought “Why not?” and swept it into my cart. Now, probably about a month later (I was in the middle of another book when I picked this up plus I did not have a ton of time to read due to life things you’ll eventually get to read about in my newsletter), I think I understand what all those raised eyebrows, and suggestions to “just read it” were about.

Did it Meet the Hype?

In a weird way, yes. Some books will hook readers with a sense of awe or wonder, while others may hook them with a mystifying question that is just begging to be answered. Verity seems to approach its hook by making sure that every detail, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is shocking and more than a little fucked up.

In one of the early scenes of the book, a five year old boy tries to manipulate the main character into giving him soda after he’s been forbidden the drink by his father. In many ways, this really sets the tone for the rest of the read. There is no innocence, not really. Every character seems to act selfishly then tries to justify their own behavior, even as we get farther and farther away from anything resembling ‘right’ when compared to ‘wrong’.

Then of course there is all the sex. It’s not coy, and some of the acts were obviously, and deliberately written to also invoke a sense a shock (should probably mention here that, as far as I could tell, it was all consensual). I thought it a funny bit of lampshading when the main character, reading a manuscript herself, begins skimming over all the sex scenes.

Finally, I was definitely impressed with the sense of foreboding and tension that the author was able to keep up, pretty much through the whole story. Of course the twist at the end is probably what has everyone ‘tok’-ing (is that a word people use?) about it. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who has yet to read the book, but suffice to say, it is quite ambiguous. If you’re ok with such endings, you’ll probably enjoy the book for what it is, a wild and rollicking ride, but if you need to have a definite answer, this might be a bit of a hard one to take.

My only gripe with the book was that sometimes the author seems to beat the reader over the head with what they want them to take away from an interaction or scene or chapter. Sometimes this leads to some abrupt stops in the narrative. For instance, if a character who is just being introduced has a previous relationship with the MC, you get that whole history in summary just after witnessing a character action by which we can infer they have a history, and the moment is awkward. This was most noticeable in the beginning, but after things get rolling it seems to lessen.

So . . . Just Read It?

Ultimately, I would say yes, go ahead and read this one. The quality of writing (in terms of technique) sometimes flagged for me, but I felt the content of the story was certainly surprising and riveting at almost every turn. It sucked me right in.

The title of this review talks about a ‘masterful manipulation’ and is a reference to the end of the book in which a character considers the events of the story, what she knows and what she thinks she knows, and admits that the truth has been manipulated (in some ways by each character although the end is referencing only one). She questions which manipulation is correct.

I think Colleen Hoover’s Verity does manipulate its readers, but not into endlessly hyping the book senselessly whether it is a quality story or not. I think instead it manipulates its readers through shock, and the subversion of expectations. But shouldn’t all fiction accomplish this goal? Perhaps that is why it has such a following . . .

That’s all I have for this one! Have any of you read it yet? What were your thoughts? Are you going to try to read the 2nd ending that appears to have been recently released? What were your favorite moments? Does it live up to the hype? Let me know in the comments, and here are some of the funny tiktoks I found about the book. SPOILERS AHEAD —–

— How I wish my review had been written:
— Definitely my reaction EVERY time Verity talked about her children:
— Ok. So I actually thought this book had one of the worst opening lines but I was misremembering it with a line that comes later (there’s a comparison of a man’s head exploding with a wine cork being popped. Eww and oh no). I supposed this isn’t terrible:
— Probably what my face looked like reading this book:
— This just made me laugh:

See you next time!!

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