51 pages 1 hour read

Colleen Hoover

Losing Hope

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2013

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Losing Hope (2013) by Colleen Hoover is a contemporary Young Adult romance novel in the Hopeless series, a set of four books that revolve around a group of high school friends in Texas as they each heal from their individual traumas and search for true love. The second book in the series, Losing Hope, focuses on the experiences of 17-year-old Dean Holder a year after his twin sister’s death by suicide as he falls for the new girl at school, Sky Davis. Dean—who goes by Holder—is initially suspicious of Sky because she seems to be in a relationship with his dead sister’s cheating ex-boyfriend. Sky, in turn, resents Holder’s impertinent questions about her love life. Despite these initial tensions between them, sparks quickly fly and they move from enemies to lovers within a few days of knowing one another. Their relationship grows complicated, however, when Holder begins to suspect that she’s his childhood neighbor who was kidnapped from her driveway as he watched from his yard. The book tells the story of how both Holder and Sky come to terms with their painful pasts and help one another heal.

Since self-publishing her first novel in 2011 so that her grandmother could read the book on her Kindle, Colleen Hoover has sold over 24 million books and made Time’s list of 100 most influential people in 2022. Known for her loyal fanbase and robust social media following, especially on BookTok (a subcommunity on the TikTok app), Hoover is one the most prolific and bestselling authors of the 21st century. Losing Hope is the follow-up to her number one bestselling novel in the same series, Hopeless, which was told from Sky’s point of view. In Losing Hope, Holder’s side of the story is revealed.

This study guide uses the 2013 paperback edition self-published by Hoover, then republished by Atria Books.

Content Warning: The source material contains depictions of suicide, incest, sexual abuse of children and minors, anti-gay violence, and alcohol abuse.

Plot Summary

Dean Holder, who has gone by Holder since his best friend, Hope, went missing when they were children, attends a high school party and sees his twin sister’s boyfriend making out with another girl. Holder sometimes struggles with keeping his emotions in check, and he fights the urge to fight Grayson, the cheating boyfriend. Determined to protect his sister, Les, from being hurt again, he forces Grayson to call his sister and break up with her. After Grayson makes the phone call, he tells Holder that Les’s heart is broken and that it’s Holder’s fault. In response, unable to control himself any longer, Holder punches Grayson. At home, he comforts a hurt and angry Les.

After a run the next evening, Holder finds his sister on her bed, dead from an intentional overdose of sleeping pills. A few days later, before the funeral, he begins writing letters to Les inside a leatherbound notebook that he finds on her floor. These letters allow Holder to express his grief to Les about her death and to tell her about what’s going on in his life in her absence.

Holder returns to school two weeks later amid rumors about Les’s death. He overhears other students discussing her mental health, making light of her death by suicide, and blaming him for her death. His best friend, Daniel, admonishes the students in the lunchroom, but he’s not present a few minutes later when Holder overhears a male student calling Les “pathetic” for killing herself. Holder loses all control, attacks the student, and is arrested for assault. Holder’s mother and the judge agree that Holder needs a break from his surroundings, so he moves in with his father in Austin a few hours away. Though his parents want him to stay in Austin, Holder turns 18 and decides to return to his mom’s house and his old high school for his senior year.

Shortly after this, Holder is at the grocery store and sees a girl in the parking lot who looks like a grown-up Hope, who was kidnapped from her driveway 13 years earlier. The girl’s name is Sky, however. She doesn’t seem to recognize Holder and finds his intrusive questions a little creepy. He wonders if he’s seeing Hope in this stranger because he’s become too obsessed with her since his sister died. The trauma of Les’s death has brought back the memories of Hope. To clear his head, he goes on a run in the neighborhood and once again comes across Sky, who is also a runner. He offers to run with her on her way home so that she won’t be alone, and she agrees. When they arrive, Sky faints, and Holder carries her into her home. He makes a deal with her and her mom to be her running buddy in case she faints again. He is smitten with her, and she seems smitten with him, but he can’t let go of the feeling that she might be Hope. To complicate matters further, Grayson—who also wants to date Sky—has been feeding her lies about Holder.

Regardless, Holder and Sky grow closer over the next few days of running together. They don’t kiss because Holder wants to wait until the right moment, though both are strongly attracted to one another. He’s enjoying their time together so much, and is falling for her so strongly, that he convinces himself that Sky is not Hope despite their similarities and the holes in Sky’s history. That changes one day at school when Holder meets Sky and her friend, Breckin, in the lunchroom. She’s wearing a silver bracelet with a heart charm that Holder recognizes because his sister and Hope had the same handmade bracelet. This convinces Holder that Sky is truly Hope. Not knowing how to tell Sky that her life since childhood has been a lie, he refuses to speak to her for two weeks, hoping that she will forget about him.

Despite wanting to see Sky, Holder stays strong, avoiding her. However, one night as he writes to Les in the notebook, he realizes that Les has written a letter to him at the back of the book explaining her death by suicide. He throws the notebook across the room and runs to Sky’s house, sneaking into her bedroom window past midnight. Once inside, he curls up next to her in bed and gives her a partial explanation for his tattoo, which reads “Hopeless.” Because of his past traumas, he has ruined every relationship he's ever been in and tells her that he didn’t want to end up hurting her. Holder realizes that he has been in love with Sky—really Hope—since they were children.

A few days later, Holder cooks dinner for Sky at his house. They begin to kiss and come close to having sex, but just as they begin, Sky panics, then seems to dissociate, coming out of this state a few minutes later to ask whether or not they had sex. She cries, then Holder cries, confused as to what is happening. She heads to the bathroom upstairs to clean her face up and Holder finds her a few minutes later sitting on Les’s bed. She notices a framed photograph of Holder and his sister as children and recognizes the house that they’re in as a house she knew as a child. Sky is confused as her childhood memories come back to her. She wants to know about Hope, a name that Holder has accidentally used for her in the past few weeks.

They go on a drive and Holder tells her what he remembers: that she was kidnapped from her driveway, that they looked for years, that her father was heartbroken. Sky wants to go home, but Holder doesn’t want to leave her alone, so he stays in her room that night. Sky then wakes from a nightmare, saying that Karen, her adoptive mother, is the woman who stole her 13 years earlier, which explains why Karen won’t let Sky have a phone or any online or social media presence. She doesn’t want Sky to be found. Holder and Sky confront Karen as they leave the house. She threatens to call the police, but when Holder dares her to, she backs down, knowing that she can go to jail for Sky’s kidnapping.

Sky asks Holder to take her to her childhood home in Austin. Once there, she breaks into the house and goes to her bedroom, which triggers memories of her childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her father. Holder tries to comfort her and takes her back to their hotel, where Sky begs him to have sex with her so that her father isn’t the only one to have done that to her. Holder tries to give her what she wants but is unable to follow through with it.

The next morning, Sky wants to go back to the house one more time. There, they encounter her father, a police chief, who recognizes her. She confronts her father with accusations of his sexual abuse, and he apologizes, trying to explain his grief over the loss of his wife and blaming his alcohol use disorder. She tells him that she won’t go to the police if he promises to leave her alone and stays out of her life. Sky asks if he hurt any other young girls, and he reveals that he also abused Holder’s sister, Les. Then, he radios police headquarters to say that an officer is down and shoots himself in front of Sky and Holder.

Back at the hotel, Holder and Sky get in the shower as he helps her to wash her dead father’s blood off of her body. They begin to kiss and Holder realizes that she is the only one who understands his pain, and he is the only one to understand hers. They have sex for the first time.

At home a few days later, Holder finally reads the letter that Les left for him in the notebook. In it, she tells him that the sexual abuse at the hands of Hope’s father was too much for her to handle even after years of therapy. The letter also reveals that she and their mother knew that Hope was still alive and had been taken by Karen, Hope’s aunt, to protect her from her father’s abuse. She tells Holder that he is not to blame for her death by suicide and that he had saved her so many times, but she had run out of any will to live.

Holder’s last letter to his sister, and the final chapter, discusses his and Sky’s move to college together and hopes for a bright happy future. He is no longer “hopeless” but finds hope in the form of his life with Sky every day and night.

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