55 pages 1 hour read

Colleen Hoover


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2013

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Summary and Study Guide


In Colleen Hoover’s young adult novel Hopeless (2012), the bright and beautiful Sky Davis, after years of homeschooling, enrolls in the local high school for her senior year, determined to experience that complex world before going off to college. On the first day in school, Sky sees the handsome Dean Holder, a bad boy with unruly hair, a fit body, a tattoo, and a real attitude. The two discover the rush of first love and, quickly thereafter, the heady pull of first lust. But this conventional premise implodes as Sky and Holder discover they met years before as kids when they were neighbors. Slowly, Sky must confront painful memories of her father, who sexually assaulted her for many dark and horrific years.

Hoover is among the most prolific and successful romance novelists of the new millennium; she has become a fixture on both The New York Times and Amazon bestseller lists since her debut in 2011. Hopeless, her third novel, became Hoover’s first #1 bestseller and the first volume in what would become Hoover’s Finding Hope series, a tetralogy of novels in which characters find hope despite difficult emotional experiences. Hopeless, in addition to affirming The Power of Hope, explores themes of The Impact of Sexual Abuse, The Corrosive Effects of Secrets, and The Dynamics of First Love.

This study guide uses the 2013 paperback edition from Atria Books.

Content Warning: The novel contains depictions of incest, sexual abuse, alcohol abuse, and death by suicide.

Plot Summary

Sky Davis, homeschooled by her adoptive mother, Karen, prepares to begin her senior year; she is determined to experience “real” high school. Initially, she is treated as a curiosity by the students, who subject her to the typical social ostracism reserved for new kids. But raised to be self-empowered, Sky ignores the treatment. She is, however, fascinated by a solitary boy she happens to meet when she looks into joining the track club: the tattooed Dean Holder who Sky hears is only now returning to school after a stint in juvenile detention for beating up a gay student. Sky also learns about Dean’s sister, Les, who died the year before from an overdose of sleeping pills.

Sky is infatuated with Holder, and the two strike up a friendship during Sky’s first weeks at the school. However, Sky sees evidence of Holder’s dual personality; for example, the smallest things trigger disproportionate fits of anger and hostility in him. When Sky’s adoptive mother heads off for a weekend to sell her homeopathic medicines at a flea market, Sky and Holder spend most of the weekend together and share elements of their pasts; Sky talks about her estranged father, a police chief, and Holder opens up about his sister. As they talk, Sky comes to understand she is attracted to Holder. Holder resists kissing Sky, telling her that their first kiss will be special and that they both will know when it is the right time.

One day, Sky wears a bracelet that she has kept since before she was adopted; it was a gift, she thinks, from some kid she met in the foster care system. In response to the bracelet, Holder implodes. The two do not talk for weeks until, when Karen leaves again for another flea market, Holder sneaks into Sky’s home and, without saying anything, holds her. Because of his unpredictable behavior, Sky suspects Holder of experimenting with drugs; however, [SK1] the weekend reignites their passion. Holder explains the meaning behind his elaborate tattoo: the single word “Hopeless.” He fears getting involved with Sky because all of his relationships have ended with him hurting people. Yet he is drawn to Sky; he cannot stop thinking about her.

Everything works between them until, out of the blue, a kid tries to pick a fight with Holder, and only Sky’s intervention stops the encounter from escalating. Holder tells her the boy is the brother of the kid he beat up, not because he was gay (as rumor has it) but because the kid insinuated that Holder’s sister died by suicide because she was a coward. Stirred by the confession, Holder departs and returns slightly buzzed on alcohol. He tells a shocked Sky he loves her—but he calls her “Hope.”

A few days later, Holder invites Sky to his home. Just when the two begin to make love, Sky panics. She heads to the refuge of Les’s bedroom and sees a framed photo of Holder and his sister as kids. Sky is shocked to recognize the house in the background of the photo. Holder admits that they were all neighbors 13 years ago in Austin, that her name then was Hope, and that Les gave Sky the bracelet because Sky always seemed so unhappy. He tells Sky that he and his sister were out in the yard when a car drove up, and Sky got into the car with a woman. Since then, Sky has been considered kidnapped.

Sky wants to know who she is. She and Holder head to Austin to visit their old neighborhood. She finds her house and insists on going in. When she visits her bedroom, memories of her father sexually abusing her at night flood back. She and Holder return the next day to retrieve her mother’s belongings but instead run into her father. The father, carrying his police sidearm, breaks down and admits what he did but blames the death of Sky’s mother on his alcoholism. He also admits to sexually abusing Holder’s sister and his own sister years before. Before an angry Holder can move against him, the father radios for the police to report an officer down and then shoots himself with his sidearm.

Sky returns home and confronts her adoptive mother, who is actually her aunt: the sister her father raped. Karen did not kidnap Sky but rather rescued her. Sky refuses to press charges. The book ends with Sky/Hope and Holder affirming their love and commitment to begin a life together.

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