Study Guide

Hush, Hush Themes

  • Love

    Hush, Hush is the story of a teenage girl's first love, but don't bust out the tissues in anticipation of a mushy romance tale—Patch and Nora's romance is the dangerous, forbidden, bodice-ripper type, toned down a bit for teen audiences. For Nora, falling for Patch means being with a dude who once wanted to kill her and making herself vulnerable to the attacks of his enemy; for Patch, their relationship means adjusting his selfish, playboy ways and finally putting another before himself. Their interest in each other is intensely sexual, and they're both required to make life-altering sacrifices for the other. As the book ends, though, their future together remains to be seen.

    Questions About Love

    1. Is Hush, Hush the story of teenage infatuation, or is it a tale of true, deep, and ever-lasting love? Why? Prove your answer with evidence from the text.
    2. What does love mean in the story? How do characters express love for one another?
    3. Is Patch being selfish rather than loving? Should he let go of the idea of being with Nora rather than pursue her?

    Chew on This

    In Hush, Hush, true love changes you.

    Hush, Hush shows that giving up too much for love is dangerous.

  • Coming of Age

    In Hush, Hush, we get the death of a father, as absentee mother, new revelations about identity, first experiences with romance and sex, and the need to make very important decisions—all of which screams, "Coming-of-age novel coming through."

    Is Nora a total grown-up by the end of the book? Absolutely not. But remember that this is the first book in a series, so she has some time to finish the process yet. Given how much is on her plate in this first installment in the series, though, and how little adults do to help out, we'd say she's well on her way to adulthood herself. One thing's certain: She's definitely not a kid anymore.

    Questions About Coming of Age

    1. How is Nora different at the end of the book than she is at the start of the book? Does she seem more mature? Be specific about ways she's changed.
    2. Is Hush, Hush a coming of age story for Patch as well as for Nora?
    3. Does Nora lose anything or have to give anything up as she moves further from childhood and closer to adulthood? Conversely, does she gain anything?

    Chew on This

    Nora never settles into her own mature identity; she shifts from an identity dependent on school, family, and friends to one dependent on her boyfriend.

    Nora's relationship with Patch allows her to grow into a more mature understanding of herself.

  • Sex

    While we never see characters going beyond second-base kind of stuff in Hush, Hush, there is frequent mention of attraction, scintillating touches, and wrapping legs around bodies that suggest character imaginations may be going to home-base territory. While scenes like this abound, there are still several different views of sex presented in the book: There's the scientific view laid out in bio class, the casual view presented by Vee, the intensely lustful view Patch represents, the feminist view outlined by Dorothea, and the manipulative-sex-as-weapon view presented by Jules and Elliot.

    Nora is a pretty blank slate when it comes to sex. She hasn't had sex, and it doesn't really even seem like she's thought about it much based on her early conversations with Vee. However, sex is almost immediately on the brain when she meets Patch, though Nora feels the need to restrict herself around him and squelch her sexual desire. Good luck, girl.

    Questions About Sex

    1. In the book, is sexual attraction more of a biological impulse or a conscious choice?
    2. How does Nora's attitude toward sex change from the beginning of the book to the end? What factors impact the way her attitude changes?
    3. How do different characters interpret the significance of sex?
    4. Patch fell because of lust. How does knowing this impact the way you view sex in the story as well as sex as part of Patch's character? Why?

    Chew on This

    In Hush, Hush, sex is a powerful tool that can be used to dominate others.

    In Hush, Hush, sex is many things, but it's always transformative.

  • The Supernatural

    "Hey, Patch, did it hurt?"

    "Did what hurt?"

    "When you fell from heaven?"

    Ba-dum-ch. Okay, you might only get that joke if you're fluent in corny pick-up lines.

    But seriously, step aside witches, vampires, ghosts, and goblins, there's a new supernatural character in town. We're talking about angels—and particularly the fallen kind and the evil half-human, half-angel race of the Nephilim. Together, these supernatural creatures dominate the otherworldly representations in Hush, Hush.

    While people often think of angels as, well, angelic, Hush, Hush focuses on their capacity for evil, generally disassociating angels from their religious origins. To this end, there are only passing references to heaven; it's mentioned so casually it may as well be Cincinnati or Des Moines. There's also no talk of what God or the devil are like. The book thus brings angel lore into secular fantasy, stripping them of their connection to salvation and letting them run amuck amongst humans.

    Questions About The Supernatural

    1. Could the angels in this book be replaced with different supernatural creatures (like, say, werewolves)? Why or why not? What would change?
    2. Does it matter that Nora is part-Nephilim? Why or why not?
    3. What role does free will play in the supernatural characters? How much are their personalities determined by the type of angel they are and how much are they masters of their own destinies?

    Chew on This

    The angels in Hush, Hush could easily be replaced with any other type of supernatural character without affecting the novel's meaning.

    It is absolutely essential to the story that the supernatural creatures are angels—the whole book changes in key thematic ways otherwise.

  • Gender

    Since sex and love are important themes in Hush, Hush (more on those topics elsewhere in this section), it makes sense that gender is in the mix, too. In some ways, the book works with extremely conventional stereotypes of gender: Patch is a by-the-book bad boy, a stereotypical macho man through and through, while Nora, despite indications that she's brainy and independent, is an anemia-weakened pawn and sex object who knows less information about her own life than the guys interfering in it do.

    Adding to this stereotypical strong-man, weak-woman dynamic is the fact that Patch doesn't invite Nora out for coffee dates and stimulating conversation; he feels her up in hotel rooms and shows up uninvited on the regular. This sort of boy-is-strong-and-powerful-and-girl-is-weak-and-needs-protection dynamic isn't totally cool with 21st-century views of gender.

    We have Susan B. Anthony and Simone de Beauvoir on standby, but before we release them for a full condemnation of the book, it's worth noting that at the end, Nora defeats Jules, and she has a strong enough effect on Patch that she changes him from the selfish playboy he once was into someone willing to sacrifice his own wants to save another… though the person he saves is Nora. Hey, we didn't say Hush, Hush shatters gender stereotype molds, now did we?

    Questions About Gender

    1. What female stereotypes do you see at play in this book? Don't just consider Nora. How about male stereotypes? How do secondary and minor characters like Vee, Dabria, Elliot, and Rixon reinforce or diverge from gender stereotypes? Be specific, yo.
    2. Are Nora and Patch equals in their relationship? Why or why not?
    3. How does Nora's brand of female power compare to that of other female protagonists in contemporary YA literature? (Having a hard time thinking of other leading ladies? You might consider Katniss, Tris, or Bella.)

    Chew on This

    Hush, Hush reinforces cultural stereotypes that women are sex objects and weaker than men.

    Hush, Hush subverts traditional gender stereotypes by giving the central female character the ability to destroy and transform powerful male characters.

  • Sacrifice

    We have sacrifice in two senses of the word going on in Hush, Hush: human sacrifice to obtain some goal or purpose, and sacrifice in the sense of giving up something valuable for someone else. As far as the first type of sacrifice goes, Patch reads in The Book of Enoch that he needs to sacrifice his Nephil vassal's female descendant in order to get the human body he's wanted for ages. Since Nora fits the bill as a female descendent of Patch's vassal, he makes plans to sacrifice her.

    As far as that second type of sacrifice goes, giving something up for another is presented as an act of love in the book. It's also the mark of a person who is selfless and at least somewhat mature as opposed to someone who is self-involved and sophomoric (there's a word for your rolodex of impressive vocab). Nora and Patch both make dramatic gestures of their willingness to sacrifice for one another, but there are also a few examples that come in subtler form, for instance, Nora's rescue of Vee and the choices Nora's mom makes for her daughter.

    Questions About Sacrifice

    1. How does the movie The Sacrifice set us up for this theme? Trace the references to the movie throughout the book to develop your answer.
    2. How does Nora learn about sacrifice from her mom?
    3. Why is Nora willing to sacrifice her life for Patch? Why is Patch willing to sacrifice his desire to become human for Nora? What similarieis and differences do you notice between their two sacrifices?

    Chew on This

    Nora and Patch's sacrifices are the ultimate demonstration of love.

    Nora and Patch's sacrifices give off the troubling message that you lose yourself in relationships.

  • Mortality

    Before we even meet her in Hush, Hush, death has impacted Nora's life in a major way since her father was murdered. For much of the book, she tries to sweep all discussion of his death under the rug, shutting down questions whenever they arise. Nevertheless, brushes with death continue to creep into the story, and by the end, Nora is forced to contemplate her own death. She doesn't want to die, but when the time comes, she accepts her fate and takes her death into her own hands, throwing herself from the rafters. In this moment, she confronts and accepts mortality.

    Also important in the mortality theme is the fact that Patch, an immortal, wants to become a mortal human. Unlike, say, Voldemort, Patch finds mortality more attractive. Poor dude never gets his wish, though. Instead of becoming human, he morphs into Nora's guardian angel, a job which includes staving off death. In an interesting twist, then, once Nora accepts her mortality, she no longer has to worry about dying because she has her own personal guardian angel to keep death away from her.

    Questions About Mortality

    1. How do you interpret Nora's many near misses with death? How do her repeated interactions with death shape her character and your understanding of her character? Why?
    2. Why isn't more time spent on Nora's father's murder? What does it mean that his murder hangs out in the background of the story?
    3. Why does Patch want to become human? What is the appeal of a mortal human life over an immortal life?
    4. What does Patch's immortality versus Nora's mortality mean for their relationship?

    Chew on This

    As Patch's desire to become human suggests, being mortal is better than being immortal.

    Death itself isn't frightening; only violent and unexpected death is.

  • Good vs. Evil

    We like to think of angels as benevolent beings, lolling about in their white robes and halos, occasionally intervening on behalf of us mere mortals when we need a helping hand. That pretty picture could not be further from the storyline of Hush, Hush, though, which gives us a slew of angels and half-angels susceptible to evil. Evil gets more attention than good with characters representing three of the seven deadly sins: Patch is lustful, Jules is angry, and Dabria is jealous.

    The book examines how characters succumb to sin and embrace their evil sides, but it also explores how characters can move from evil to good. The pull between good and evil is especially prevalent in Patch's character, and much of the book is about whether he is good or bad. We don't know about you, but the verdict's still out on that one for us.

    Questions About Good vs. Evil

    1. Is it Chauncey's fault that he's evil or is that just part of his biological makeup? How does Patch complicate or support your understanding of Chauncey?
    2. Does the book show evil in varying forms and varying degrees through multiple characters? For instance, do characters such as Vee, Elliot, Dabria, Jules, and Patch all show different versions of evil?
    3. Is Nora evil at all? Why or why not? Are there any characters that display absolute and unwavering goodness?

    Chew on This

    By the end of the book, Patch abandons his evil ways and turns to the good.

    Patch's interest in Nora is just another version of the lust that caused him to fall in the first place.

  • Rules and Order

    The teen years are often considered a time for challenging authority, rebelling, and testing rules. Nora starts off Hush, Hush as a pretty by-the-book girl, whose worst offenses are mild shenanigans thought up by Vee. But as the story goes on, Nora finds herself more deeply involved in the world of an ultimate bad boy. Patch fell from heaven because he chose to pursue his lust rather than stay put and obey the rules, and these days he's determined to flout the rules again in order to find a way to become human.

    As Nora gains more exposure to Patch's murky world where good and bad are fluid concepts, traditionally authoritative figures and institutions such as parents, school, and law enforcement are presented as flawed or ineffective. With traditional authority proving to be useless, it's up to the characters to make decisions and choose their actions on their own rather than under the direction of authority.

    Questions About Rules and Order

    1. With so much else going on, why does Nora so frequently worry that she will get in trouble with her mom?
    2. Are there times when it is more dangerous to follow the rules than break them? If there are, identify them in the book and explain your reasoning. If there aren't, explain what these means about all the rule breaking that happens.
    3. Are there different kinds of rule breaking in the book? Is Vee's style of rule breaking different than Patch's, for example? What similarities and differences do you notice?

    Chew on This

    In Hush, Hush, rule breaking is an essential part of exploring identity.

    In Hush, Hush, rule breaking is more often associated with bad characters than with good characters, which illustrates that it has more negative consequences than positive outcomes.