Imagine an alternate universe where Pam and Jim hated each other on first sight and saved all of the particularly inspired and nasty pranks reserved for Dwight for each other, instead. That's what you get with THE HATING GAME.
Doesn't that sound awesome?
Lucy and Josh are executive assistants to two very different CEOs squashed together because of a merger between their two independent book companies. Their hatred is mutual and highly ritualized. HR is in a tizzy because of their spats, and their animosity is infamous around the office. Things get even more intense when an opportunity for a promotion appears, and both Lucy and Josh want in on it...but they might want each other more.
Like ME BEFORE YOU, I wasn't expecting to like THE HATING GAME. Contemporary romance just hasn't been my cup of tea for the last ten years. Part of what makes THE HATING GAME so charming is that it feels like it's a throwback to the chicklit/chick flick plots of the 90s and early 2000s, with heroes who are gruff and manly but also, well, nice and not emotionally manipulative. I kept having flashbacks to BRIDGET JONES and 10 Things I Hate About You, two of my favorite contemporary romance story lines ever.
Their pettiness can feel a bit juvenile and twee sometimes, like The Office, but their banter could be hilarious and, later on, steamy. I found myself giggling a few times, which I rarely do with books like these. I also felt that their backstories felt real. Josh's was especially touching, because what he experienced is something that I think a lot of people have dealt with. It was nice to see a "damaged" hero with a believable backstory, and not something contrived to add emotional tension. The only reason this gets four stars instead of five is because of how it gets a little too sappy at the end. I know, I'm the Grinch of romance novels with a heart two sizes too small, blah, blah, blah. Sorry.
I hope this becomes popular enough to become a movie, because I could see it being very cute. It really is just like The Office in some ways, except instead of a paper company, they're a publishing company, which is better (for us mad book-addicts, anyway). I really think anyone who enjoys 90s chicklit should swoop this up, because it's cute and sweet and funny and charming in all the best ways.
My casting? Emilia Clarke and Liam Hemsworth, obviously.
4 to 4.5 out of 5 stars.