The Hating Game by Talli Roland
At the beginning of the month, author Talli Roland organised a Take on Amazon Web Splash for the launch of the ebook of her debut novel, The Hating Game.
On December 1st, the day of the WebSplash, I followed progress on Twitter and it was fantastic to see how many people took part, tweeting and blogging about Talli’s book, and exhausting to see how hard Talli worked to thank people and keep us all updated!
The Hating Game reached number 24 on amazon.co.uk’s Kindle Store Top 100 Bestseller rankings, which are updated hourly, and number 460 on amazon.com’s. And, at one point during the day, Talli’s book was Number One on amazon.co.uk’s Kindle Store Movers and Shakers. How brilliant is that? It was thrilling to see an independent author propel her book into the amazon bestseller charts and prove the positive power of social networking, when harnassed to spread the word about books.
While the Web Splash was an extremely innovative way to boost ebook sales on publication day, maintaining their momentum is partly down to word-of-mouth recommendations from readers who’ve enjoyed the book, so here’s mine:
When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she’s confident she’ll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she’s perfected from years of her love ‘em and leave ‘em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £200,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it’s revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?
From the original quirky purple and pink cover (which has since changed for the ebook at least) and the title and blurb of Talli Roland’s debut novel, The Hating Game, I knew that this was no cosy, formulaic boy-meets-girl chick-lit romance and I was looking forward to reading it all the more because of that. I wanted a feisty heroine who wouldn’t melt into a puddle within metres of her dream man. I wanted a strong voice and some of the sharp wit I’d come to know from Talli’s tweets and blog posts and I wanted a great story in an unusual situation or setting with its own set of highs and lows, featuring characters that seemed more like real people than characters in a book. Talli delivers on all counts.
Talli has set her debut novel in the murky world of reality TV shows, programmes that, with the exception of Dancing on Ice, I generally avoid watching and would never consider taking part in. Well, I say never, but I’m sure Mattie Johns felt the same way before she found herself in such a precarious financial position with no other means of quickly making the money she needs in order to save her business. So, um, never say never, but I really, really hope I never ever have to go on a reality TV show. I think the fact that Mattie finds herself in this predicament made me warm to her early on, perhaps earlier than Talli intended. But I got a real sense for how cornered and desperate Mattie feels and I started rooting for her, while not altogether buying that she was as tough as she’d have us believe. There has to be an explanation for the way she treats the people in her life, and especially for the way she burns through men. When we’re told what this is, it does justify things to a certain extent but it’s one area where the book falls a little short. I felt there could have been more backstory without it affecting the story’s development or pace any.
Where The Hating Game comes into its own is in Talli’s creation of a believable world populated with an interesting mix of fleshed-out characters who seem more familiar and real than characters in a book. Not only do we get a look at the world of reality TV from Mattie’s perspective as a contestant but we also get to peek behind the scenes at the puppet masters, the unscrupulous individuals manipulating those working on the show, its format and the contestants themselves. This made fascinating reading for me and confirmed all my suspicions about the lengths people will go to in order to make a profitable car-crash TV show. The characters involved with the show are quite brilliant: there’s a sausage-chomping, reptilian managing director of the TV production company; a naïve first-time executive producer whose idea the show was and whose heart is in the right place but who finds himself increasingly being asked to compromise his ideals and idea to stay in the game; the sleazy womanizing producer drafted in to work alongside the rookie executive producer and ensure that the only winner is the production company and its ratings; the pathetically inappropriate doctor who does the pre-show psychological assessments; the camp hair stylist/girl’s best friend and the rough diamond cameraman.
These characters find their counterpoint in the ‘civilians’: chiefly, Mattie, who is smart, sassy, and, until recently, has run a successful business; her best friend, Jess, who is supportive but largely misguided in her attempts to help Mattie; a journalist initially out for a sensational story whatever the cost to those involved; and, of course, the four ex-boyfriends, without whom there would be no Hating Game. I liked that Talli took pains to make them all distinct, rounded characters in their own right and chose not to skimp on detail for those who were going to fall by the wayside. This all helped me to build a better picture of Mattie and how her dating experiences had shaped her, as well as her exes.
Talli Roland’s debut novel The Hating Game is a quirky, fun and entertaining trip of a book which takes a knowing, arch look at the world of reality TV shows. It’s pacy, cleverly-written contemporary fiction for readers who want something a little different and unconventional in their rom-com/chick-lit/women’s fiction by a talented new writer who is not afraid of shaking things up a bit and putting her own inimitable fresh spin on it.
The Hating Game is currently available to download from