Book Review: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
Product details linked at the end of the post (chair is sold out but I found something similar), but here is a link to the floral arrangement photographed above.
Quick disclaimer: Before you write off It Ends With Us as "chick lit" or a "brain break," let me be the first to tell you, this book is far from either of these bookish stereotypes that I have come to abhor. Yes, I am guilty of using these terms to describe books in the past, but I have tried to move away from these generalizations entirely.
This book isn't just for women. This book is for everyone—everyone who seeks to understand the weight of spousal abuse and why it's much more difficult to leave abusive relationships than you may think.
The synopsis is not marketed the way it should be. If you read the back of the book, you think you're getting a story that centers on a love triangle—the tried and true story of a woman who fights her way to success and tops it off with none other than a smoldering, charismatic neurosurgeon. But wait! Her first love comes back into the picture at the most inopportune moment, setting off a wave of uncertainty just when she thinks she has it all figured out. What a lucky woman we have here!
Have I lost you? Stay with me.
Let me start by introducing some characters so you know who I am talking about throughout this review. The main character is Lily (last name Bloom—I promise, you'll find out why and agree that it works later), her neurosurgeon hunk is Ryle, and her first love is Atlas. That name is kind of strange, but I like to think of it as a metaphor. If you've read the book, maybe you catch my drift.
What the synopsis does not tell the reader is that you're going to ride on a rollercoaster of emotions as Hoover thoughtfully and authentically explores theme topics such as abuse (both emotional and physical), sexual assault, teen homelessness, and familial relationships. You didn't get any of that from the synopsis, did you? I think that is a huge loss, but I'm choosing to believe it was purposefully done. (Maybe? Still convincing myself.)
When an author explores difficult topics, I worry about the development of the protagonist. However, Lily was incredibly likable, strong, and relatable. There was never a moment I disliked her, and even when the foreshadowing was strong, I empathized with her; I wasn't annoyed by her. That is a well-developed character, my friends.
If I had to pinpoint my favorite aspect of this book, I'd have to say it was the way Hoover destroys misconceptions about abuse and why people decide to stay in abusive relationships. It's not as clear-cut and black and white as we'd like to believe, and if you're lucky enough to have never been the victim of an abusive relationship, it can be difficult to truly understand the why. Why don't they just leave? Hoover will get you pretty close to an answer without actually walking in the shoes of a victim.
Before you pick up this brilliant piece of literature, you should know that there are some heavy elements (as mentioned above). I did find myself needing to stop to scroll mindlessly through my phone, but it didn't take long for me to want to dive right back in. This book is the definition of a page-turner.
And I will say, I probably would not have picked this book up just based on the synopsis, so thank you to Katie Ann of The Holly Tree for your raving recommendation. I am so thankful you shared it with me!
**STOP READING THIS NOW IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE BOOK. SPOILERS, STRAIGHT AHEAD.**
SERIOUSLY. TURN AROUND. READ THE BOOK, AND THEN COME BACK.
At some points throughout the book, I found myself questioning the development of Ryle's character. I didn't like him at first. I had a sinking suspicion that he was bad news, ever since his first encounter with Lily on the rooftop. I even thought to myself, I don't like him, but I don't think I'm supposed to like him.
But then he started to grow on me. I found him to be super intense and I remember thinking there's no way I would ever find myself attracted to someone like him, but his relationship with Lily was totally believable, and that's all I needed to root for them, even though I'm a sucker for Atlas and wanted her to be with him throughout the entirety of the novel.
I STILL rooted for Lily + Ryle after the incident in the kitchen. I believed Ryle's sincerity. I believed his apology.
And then, when the incident on the stairs came around, I thought, Wow. Now I can kind of see what it might be like to be in an abusive relationship. That is the power of Hoover's writing.
Hoover had me, the reader, empathizing with Ryle and giving him the benefit of the doubt, believing that he wasn't like Lily's father. If that's how I, a third-party observer, felt, of course Lily is going to feel the same way. When I read the author's note and learned Hoover almost went back to reshape Ryle's character because even she was falling in love with him, it all clicked—there isn't a cut-and-paste reason as to why women (people) choose to stay in abusive relationships, and there isn't an equation you can work out to decide whether or not a relationship constitutes "abusive."
For the purposes of this character and this situation, and the personal story Hoover emulates through this fictitious story, setting up Ryle as a likable character was paramount. I'm glad she didn't go back and change this aspect of his character, because as readers, it is important for us to see that our idea of what an abuser looks like isn't always as easy to identify as we may think.
Additionally, I absolutely loved Hoover's technique in using the journal entries to Ellen DeGeneres to give the reader the Atlas backstory, as well as her parents' story. Sometimes you see authors do this through character flashbacks or alternating time periods, but I think this was a good way to keep the reader in the present while giving them the information they need to fully understand the gravity of the character's situation.
Oh, and one more thing: I love Atlas.
If you've read It Ends With Us, what did you think? Do you have anything to add to my review? (Avoid spoilers, please!)
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