Book Review: “Verity” delivers on thrills but lacks originality

“Verity” is a book that I love to hate.
Written by New York Times best-selling author, Colleen Hoover, “Verity” is one of over one million ebooks available for free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers.
The book has garnered over three thousand five-star reviews since its release and was an Amazon Top 100 Bestseller in 2019, but perhaps most interesting is its genre classification. “Verity” is marketed as a “romantic thriller” and is a serious change of pace for Hoover, who made her name writing “emotional love stories,” as she describes them in her author’s note at the end of “Verity.”
If books could be rated purely for their ability to captivate a reader and keep their eyes glued to the page — or, in this case, the screen — then “Verity” would definitely be a five-star read. However, the book does have some serious technical issues that keep it from being a perfect reading experience.
“Verity” is impossible to put down in the same way that a car accident is impossible to look away from — readers and onlookers alike feel compelled to keep watching, to see what happens next. That might have been Hoover’s intention.
“Verity” tells the story of Lowen, a struggling author who lands the job offer of a lifetime when she is contracted to finish a book series started by well-known author Verity Crawford. There are just a few problems. For one thing, Lowen is still recovering from spending years watching her mother lose a long battle against cancer. For another, Verity was recently involved in a car accident that left her brain dead and unresponsive. And finally, Lowen can’t escape the guilt she feels over her growing attraction to Verity’s husband, Jeremy.
While going through Verity’s office, Lowen discovers the author’s unpublished autobiography. The manuscript contains bone-chilling revelations of Verity’s darkest thoughts and deepest secrets — including her account of the deaths of her twin daughters. As Lowen continues to read confession after confession, she realizes no one knew just how twisted Verity really was.
The book definitely delivers on thrills. The audience, like Lowen, is captivated by the mysterious author and her secret life. Like Lowen, we can’t help but feel compelled to keep turning pages until we reach the next gruesome discovery.
Unfortunately, the book fails to deliver on several other fronts. The dual perspectives (Lowen’s and Verity’s) read very similarly, which may lead to confusion over whose head we’re in during any given chapter.
Lowen is problematic all on her own: as a protagonist, she just isn’t likeable. Her unsympathetic nature doesn’t really give readers anyone to root for. The book would have been more compelling — and more original — if it had been written from the perspective of Jeremy, who is a much more sympathetic character.
The plot of “Verity” will be familiar to any experienced thriller fan. The big, third act plot twist is fairly predictable, and observant readers will likely see it coming within the first few chapters. To give credit where it is due, Hoover does add on a second, much more original twist, but this doesn’t negate the fact that the plot as a whole has largely been done before.
The book’s dark themes, while one of its most compelling elements, present their own issues. “Verity” deals with many mature themes including but not limited to: child abuse, graphic violence, drug use and explicit sexual content. Some of these darker themes are crucial to the plot and do move the story along, but some elements feel like they were added in for pointless shock value.
My final issue with “Verity” is that a lot of it just doesn’t feel believable. This story is set in a world where life is glamorous and exciting, even for a self-described starving artist and agoraphobic like Lowen. In some places, the story simply doesn’t feel grounded.
All that being said, “Verity” does what it sets out to do: provides a thrilling, scandalous story that is short enough to read in a single weekend. The final plot twist does genuinely leave readers guessing, and the bumpy road to get there almost adds to the book’s charm.
For an easy, exciting read to kill some time during social distancing, look no further.

Rating: 3/5 Stars