Layla Lacks Heart
Layla by Colleen Hoover. Montlake, 2020
**This review contains soft spoilers**
This is my first Colleen Hoover read and it may be my last.
Don't get me wrong, the story isn't horrible. It isn't even bad. However, I think it's misrepresented (Willow is not a guest at the B & B), and I can't excuse the gaslighting, the glib nature in which mental illness is treated, or the fact that Leeds is a repulsive human being that I really couldn't stand for the entirety of the book. Add to that the fact that the narrative is mostly tell, there is an overuse of pronouns, and unnecessary repetition of words and phrases, and this becomes what will likely be my least favorite read of 2021.
In my opinion, there was a missed opportunity to really flesh out the story and the characters, to make them likable people I could root for in a situation that I could be invested in. It would likely have served the story better to cut the first three chapters and begin after the inciting incident. It might've helped build tension, especially after the twist is revealed. Instead, the narrative begins at the beginning, telling the reader everything about Leeds and Layla's relationship, from the moment they meet until the event that puts them in the present where everything has gone horribly wrong. Told in Leeds's POV, the first few chapters are him going on and on about how Layla isn't like any girl he's ever met, how all he wants to do is stare at her, touch her, kiss her, and have sex with her. I mean, he thinks an Aspirin is LSD because he is that enamored with her for crying out loud. Then "the event" happens and things aren't the same, so Leeds has the idea to take Layla back to the place where they met, a mansion in Kansas that used to be a B & B and is now up for sale. When they arrive, strange things begin to happen: Layla punches a mirror, unexplainable things happen in the kitchen, Leeds's computer closes on him without anyone else in the room, etc. It's through these strange occurrences that he meets Willow, a displaced spirit he becomes obsessed with to the detriment of his relationship with Layla. It's after he begins communicating with Willow that I developed a seething dislike for Leeds that lasted for the entire book, thus ruining how I should have felt about him in the end. It wasn't his interest in Willow that made me despise Leeds, however, but his continuous gaslighting of Layla in the name of "love". This is not okay. Layla is a woman with a brain injury and Leeds uses it against her, making her believe she's going crazy so that he doesn't have to leave Willow, rather than just being honest with her. I do not like Leeds.
Perhaps, as mentioned earlier, if the narrative hadn't been so heavy on the telling, and if the characters had been fleshed out more, I might've been able to understand Leeds motivations better and I might even have been pulling for him and Layla, but instead, I found myself frustrated by the tediousness of the narrative, the lack of dimensions with the characters, and - most of all - the gaslighting of a fragile woman.
Layla earns just 3 stars from me.