Unraveling the Colleen Hoover Controversy: A Deeper Look at the BookTok Phenomenon (2023)


The BookTok community, a niche enclave within TikTok dedicated to literature, has been a significant factor in propelling authors to fame. Colleen Hoover, a romance novelist, stands out prominently in this realm, making headlines for both her literary successes and the controversies surrounding her work.

Colleen Hoover's Rise to Literary Stardom

Colleen Hoover initially gained recognition in 2012 for her self-published novel, "Hopeless," a groundbreaking achievement that secured the top spot on the New York Times Best Seller list. Subsequently, Hoover inked a deal with Simon & Schuster, marking the beginning of a prolific career that has seen the publication of over 20 novels. In October 2022, an astonishing six of her titles dominated the Times Best Seller List, attesting to her unparalleled popularity within the BookTok community.

Unpacking the Criticisms

However, Hoover's success has not been without its fair share of criticism. Detractors argue that her narratives perpetuate problematic tropes, particularly in the portrayal of women. Critics, such as Jeanette McKellar and Liora Picker, point to the romanticization of toxic masculinity, unhealthy codependent relationships, and controlling behavior within Hoover's stories.

Examining Problematic Passages

The controversy deepens as specific passages from Hoover's novels come under scrutiny. Notably, a tweet from YouTuber Whitney Atkinson highlighted a disturbing scene from Hoover's book, "November 9," wherein a character contemplates using "physical force" and engages in emotionally manipulative tactics to control his love interest. The debate intensifies as critics argue that such depictions, if consumed by a younger audience, may contribute to distorted perceptions of consent and healthy relationships.

Impact on BookTok and Young Readers

The concern extends to the BookTok platform, where Hoover has cultivated a significant following, primarily comprising young readers. Critics, including Atkinson, assert that normalizing abusive behavior in romance novels may inadvertently convey a troubling message to readers, shaping their understanding of love and relationships.

The Levi Hoover Controversy

Compounding the criticisms is the involvement of Hoover's son, Levi, in a separate controversy. Accusations of Levi's inappropriate behavior, including alleged sexual harassment of a minor, further fueled the debate surrounding the author's work. Hoover addressed the allegations in a private Facebook group, acknowledging her son's inappropriate actions and taking accountability.

BookTok Community's Reaction

The BookTok community finds itself divided over the Colleen Hoover controversy. While some users vehemently criticize the problematic themes in Hoover's novels, others resort to symbolic gestures like turning the books around to shield the titles from view, reflecting a reluctance to confront the issues at hand.


In conclusion, Colleen Hoover's literary success on BookTok is inextricably linked with controversies surrounding the portrayal of problematic themes in her novels. The community's response underscores the complex dynamics between literary content, authorship, and social responsibility. As the debate rages on, it remains to be seen how these controversies will shape the future landscape of BookTok and its influence on young readers.

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