During the height of Twilight fever, we saw a lot of criticism for the abusive subtext of its central romance. However, Edward Cullen and Bella Swan are nothing compared to the YA fantasy romance novel Hush, Hush, which was accused of romanticizing stalking and rape culture.
Now, in the midst of the Me Too era, Hush, Hush is getting a movie adaptation.
Published in 2009 from author Becca Fitzpatrick, Hush, Hush feels like a relic of the late-2000s craze for YA paranormal romance. The story follows a teen called Nora Grey, who is drawn to a mysterious senior in her biology class, Patch Cipriano. He turns out to be a fallen angel, but that’s really a side-note in the overall controversy over this book. Summarized in this Twitter thread from Vox writer Aja Romano (full disclosure: Romano used to be a staffer at the Daily Dot) the love story between Patch and Nora literally involves him stalking and planning to kill her, and a teacher sexually harassing her instead of helping when she accuses Patch of stalking.
Hush, Hush was a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into 35 languages, but the critical response was mixed. While readers praised the book on Goodreads, feminist reviewers had more negative feedback. Here’s what the popular blog Book Smugglers had to say in 2009.
I have yet to see a worst TSTL (Too Stupid to Live ) heroine. Let me count the ways: Nora is attacked or followed or stalked. Over and over again. Yet it never occurs to her to call the police, talk to the school principal, talk to her mother until it is too late. She talks with suspect number one instead. She is afraid of Patch for most of the book and keeps changing her mind about him every two seconds.
The general gist of their review is that Hush, Hush’s romance isn’t just riddled with sexist tropes, it doesn’t even make sense.
According to today’s announcement in Variety, the Hush, Hush movie will be directed by Kellie Cyrus (The Vampire Diaries), with a script by Peter Hutchings. If successful, this could turn into a Twilight-esque franchise with movies based on Hush, Hush‘s three sequels.
It will be interesting to see how this project unfolds in the public eye. If you look up Hush, Hush on social media today, most of the posts are from fans expressing excitement about their favorite book getting a movie adaptation. This is likely to change when the film reaches a wider audience.
In 2018, the whole concept behind Hush, Hush feels antithetical to the current climate in Hollywood. Sexual harassment is a hot-button issue, and films aimed at women—especially young, internet-savvy women—face particular scrutiny from their target audience. People are much more aware of sexist tropes that seem to normalize rape culture. So while there’s still plenty of interest in the paranormal romance genre, it’s hard to imagine a story like Hush, Hush being adapted without extensive backlash.