Book Review: It Ends with Us
“Shouldn’t there be more distaste in our mouths for the abusers than for those who continue to love the abusers?”
It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover provides a look into the hefty topic of domestic abuse and its vicious cycle that is incredibly hard to break out of. The author released the novel on August 2nd of 2016, noting that these 367 pages were grueling to write as it was a homage to single mothers and abused significant others: an ordeal that hits too close to home for the renowned New Adult (NA) genre author. This well-known novel received a Goodreads Choice Award for the Romance category in its year of publication. It has also managed to rise to the top of New York Times’ Best Sellers years after its initial publication, remaining there for more than half a year already. Hoover’s most personal novel has captivated young readers with the way it heavily develops from what seems to be your typical NA Romance to a touching and sentimental reflection of a tale that plenty of women know all too well.
The narrative starts off with Lily Bloom—a business major from Plethora, Maine who moved to Boston—clearing her mind by sitting on a building rooftop after the death of her abusive father. On the same night and under the same starry sky, she has a sensual and chemistry-filled first encounter with Ryle Kincaid, a charming neurosurgeon. Unfortunately, their outlook and goals with regards to romantic relationships did not line up. As the story progressed and the pair kept meeting, things were going smoothly with Ryle as he agreed to meet a compromise for the supposed girl of his dreams. Soon, Lily’s self-named newfound contemporary flower shop business was booming. All aspects of our main heroine’s life seemed too good to be true; this is until we are occasionally met with the reality of her past experiences with an abusive father and the unfinished story of the first love of her life, a homeless boy named Atlas Corrigan, through the accounts found within her old teenage journal entries. This simultaneously shakes her current foundation with Ryle up as she slowly comes to uncover his true self, and unfortunately, this meant that his shoes fit way too snug and familiar with the trauma she has dealt with all her life.
As the digital age came about, consuming fast-paced content became convenient and addicting. Applications such as Tiktok became much preferred over sitting down and committing oneself to a lengthy novel, but with the help of curated online spaces created within one of the most-used social networking services, the hashtag #BookTok has rekindled the love and discussion for reading among the youth during the ongoing pandemic. This has driven people to seek all forms of entertainment, bringing attention to novels such as They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, and of course, It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover. “You know at first, I didn’t really know what was going on and even my publishers were like, why are we seeing an uptick in sales?” is what Hoover exclaimed when she first bore witness to the uproar her then 5-year-old book caused.
People on BookTok were keen on showing how emotionally provoking and captivating this book was; it’s quite easy to pique one’s interest and read it for oneself to see if it was really as investing as the general public claimed it to be. The plot builds itself up on three significant men in the protagonist’s life—two of which are romantically linked to Lily. Those two provide a significant attachment to the reader, reeling them in with flowery words and actions in an attempt to swoon both the audience and the protagonist, which is a regular occurrence for NA novels. Along with its characters, It Ends with Us prides itself on memorable and profound lines found and felt throughout the story. For example, a simple question such as, “Where did you get that magnet from?” is able to disturb a whole population of readers with the context the novel has provided. The book’s strength relied on the reader’s ability to put themselves in the main character’s shoes and resonate with the story from thereon.
Being a potentially disturbing novel, it manages to unpack heavy yet important topics, mostly focusing on domestic violence and the internal hatred victims harbor from the grasp of its experience. The book also manages to feature a bit of commentary on the homelessness situation in America and the prejudice that comes with it. Lily’s mom stated that you grow more and more tolerant of abuse as time goes on despite the capacity you establish, for the decision becomes too dependent on the several factors present within one’s life, such as finance, family, and most importantly, love since, “Preventing your heart from forgiving someone you love is actually a hell of a lot harder than simply forgiving them.” Atlas slowly crept back into Lily’s life whilst her relationship with Ryle slowly tore apart at the seams when a single incident of violence transpired and brought the heroine back to her traumatic paternal roots. It became sorry after sorry after sorry until three strikes and Ryle was out—after all, “it’s not the best days they remember, it’s the worst.” His trauma was presented front and center when things got out of hand, but with the disclaimer, “It’s not an excuse for my behavior. It’s my reality,” which only came to show that trauma is a cycle which can hinder the formation of healthy relationships. There is plenty to pick up and learn about the characters and their experiences, and you won’t miss it with how direct Hoover’s writing is.
The popular and deeply personal novel ends with a line that serves as an echo to its title, “It stops here. With me and you. It ends with us.” as Lily Bloom finally withdraws herself and her daughter out of a cycle of love that may indeed be true and unadulterated, yet laced with violence that they did not deserve to bear furthermore: a painfully mature decision that ends the inveterate cycle at its core. Despite the heavy and valuable lessons found within the book, janky and predictable cliches and archetypes found in NA novels still drive It Ends with Us’ plot, which may definitely turn off readers who don’t look for the self-insert experience and aren’t prone to falling in love with seemingly perfect romantic interests. Though this novel may feature nothing new for avid readers whose tastes may not align with typical NA novel plots, it is still a genuine and heartfelt piece of work based on uncovering a deep-seated facet of the author’s life. It does its job with simple and straightforward domestic abuse anecdotes found within Lily’s story, and by connection, Hoover’s story, which makes it a beautiful and worthwhile read nonetheless.