Also by this author: Without Merit
Published by Atria Books on August 2nd 2016
Pages: 384 •Goodreads
Sometimes it is the one who loves you who hurts you the most.
Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up—she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.
Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.
As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan—her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.
With this bold and deeply personal novel, Colleen Hoover delivers a heart-wrenching story that breaks exciting new ground for her as a writer. Combining a captivating romance with a cast of all-too-human characters, It Ends With Us is an unforgettable tale of love that comes at the ultimate price.
“It stops here. With me and you. It ends with us.”
Please note that this review will contain spoilers. Major plot spoilers. This book is too important to talk about without them.
I’ve had my fair share of book hangovers. Books that have been sad, books that I’ve swooned over, books that I’ve been obsessed with and can’t stop rereading. However, I think It Ends With Us is the first book that I’ve read that gave me a hangover because I so completely crawled inside of it, lived it, cried and feared with it. I’m not hungover, I’m haunted.
I went into this book completely blind. I had barely read the synopsis when I ordered it, as I succumbed to the beauty of the cover and the hype that surrounds Colleen Hoover’s name. While sometimes I regret impulse buying books that I haven’t researched before, I cannot have been happier that my reading experience was so untainted by the opinions, reviews, or voices of others. It Ends With Us is best read with no prior knowledge or expectation to receive the whole impact of the story.
It Ends With Us starts in a place where I personally love new adult books to start: following a recent college grad trying to figure out how to adult. It’s such a transitional time in someone’s life, and one that I’ve recently gone through myself, and seeing that situation mirrored in Hoover’s protagonist, Lily Bloom, instantly gave me a connection to the story. Soon after meeting Lily, it becomes apparent that she has a budding romantic tension with super handsome and swoon-worthy Ryle Kincaid, yet still carriers significant feelings for Atlas, a boy integral to her past.
This much is all easy enough to pick up from the blurb on the back of the book. However, what quickly could spiral into the perfect plot foundation for a love triangle takes on a much, much darker twist. Colleen Hoover gains your trust, makes you swoon, makes you generally fall in love with Ryle despite the uneasy feeling that may be lurking in the pit of your stomach. She takes you on Lily’s journey through her first person narrative not just to watch, but to live the horror of realizing you are trapped in a cycle of abuse with the person in the world you love the most.
About a quarter of the way through the book I started picking up on what was inevitably going to happen. Not because I pride myself on picking up on plot clues in books like this, but because I took a Sociology of Marriage and Family course in college where we learned the warning signs of an abusive partner: possessive, too-perfect behavior, extravagant gifts/gestures, constant contact, etc. I wanted to cover my eyes and pretend Hoover wasn’t going to take the story in the direction she did, but all of my illusions were shattered when Ryle had that totally creepy picture of Lily in his apartment, that he framed without ever telling her, before he even really knew her. Warning bells started going off, and I read the rest of the novel with my heart in my throat, waiting for the inevitable.
Yes, this story is about domestic abuse. It’s about the patterns that permeate families, that draw the children of unfortunate circumstance into abusive cycles and patterns of their own, forced to repeat the tragic events of history decade after decade. Yet what’s special about this book is it allows you to crawl into the mind of a character who should be the one to defy the odds, someone smart and confident and self-aware, and see how the cycle of abuse still manifests and continues even when one or both parties can acknowledge that it’s wrong. As frustrated as I became with Lily for staying with Ryle as long as she did, I felt her fear and despair and hope, the ups and downs of her anger and her justifications, because Hoover ensures that the reader falls in love with all of Ryle’s positives: his intelligence, his spontaneity, his genuine enthusiasm and passion for his marriage. Yet this careful constructing of Lily and Ryle’s relationship serves to target the reader so specifically until they live and breathe Lily’s situation, and start to see how she might rationalize staying, and how situations get to that point. Hoover’s novel resonates because she doesn’t have you cheering when Lily finally breaks the cycle, because your relief is so weighed down by the pain and loss of everything that happens, so nuanced and complex yet clear at the same time. Loving someone and hurting someone aren’t mutually exclusive.
There are two passages in this book that will stay with me for a very long time. The first is when Lily is finally able to make Ryle comprehend the extreme atrocity of his violent behavior while he’s holding the most precious and vulnerable thing in the world to him, View Spoiler »their new born daughter. « Hide Spoiler The second is the author’s note, which is raw and real and resonated to me so powerfully when Hoover said she wanted to change the ending, change Ryle, so badly because she too had truly come to understand the mindset of the victim of abuse, had empathized so thoroughly from writing through Lily’s perspective. The fact that she chooses to have Lily make the choice she does in the end is all the more impactful because I honestly could not tell how she was going to end it, and I think that uncertainty and apprehension stems from Hoover’s own immersion in her story and empathy for her protagonist.
Overall: On the front of this book, Kami Garcia is quoted saying that everyone who has a heartbeat should read it. Her statement is not an exaggeration. It Ends With Us is a hard story to read, one that will emotionally drain you and leave you reeling for days afterwards. But it is also one of the most important stories I have come across in a long time, as it shows readers the true complexities, manipulations, and nuances of domestic abuse. For anyone who thinks the issue of abuse is a simple issue easily judged and a situation one can easily extract themselves from, please read this book. It will show you all of the shades of grey that lie between safety and fear, right and wrong, and will have you rethinking victim blaming for a long time to come.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Must Read in 2016 Challenge
- Rock My TBR 2016