Also by this author: It Ends with Us
on October 3rd 2017
Genres: Coming of Age, Contemporary, Family, Young Adult
Pages: 384 •Format: E-Book •Source: Overdrive
Not every mistake deserves a consequence. Sometimes the only thing it deserves is forgiveness.
The Voss family is anything but normal. They live in a repurposed church, newly baptized Dollar Voss. The once cancer-stricken mother lives in the basement, the father is married to the mother’s former nurse, the little half-brother isn’t allowed to do or eat anything fun, and the eldest siblings are irritatingly perfect. Then, there’s Merit.
Merit Voss collects trophies she hasn’t earned and secrets her family forces her to keep. While browsing the local antiques shop for her next trophy, she finds Sagan. His wit and unapologetic idealism disarm and spark renewed life into her—until she discovers that he’s completely unavailable. Merit retreats deeper into herself, watching her family from the sidelines when she learns a secret that no trophy in the world can fix.
Fed up with the lies, Merit decides to shatter the happy family illusion that she’s never been a part of before leaving them behind for good. When her escape plan fails, Merit is forced to deal with the staggering consequences of telling the truth and losing the one boy she loves.
My first and only experience with a Colleen Hoover book so far has been It Ends With Us which was a solid five star, highly emotional read, so I went into Without Merit equal parts excited + anxious, because I had such high expectations. However, Without Merit bore little to no resemblance to IEWU…in fact, it was pretty much unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and I’m not completely sure if that’s a positive or a negative thing.
While reading Without Merit, I sort of felt like I was reading a satire or absurdist novel. The novel focuses on a super unconventional family (with names like Merit, Honor, Utah and Moby…) living in a remodeled church complete with the marquee sign out front and an 8-foot Jesus Christ statue in the main living area (since no one’s been able to remove it). All of the characters felt like caricatures but it was so crazy with such twisted family dynamics that I was never bored and always intrigued to see what kind of turn the story would take next. The novel follows Merit, a seventeen year old identical twin who’s managed to become the sullen, black sheep in the family of all black sheep, and her bitterness and exasperation coupled with her habit of keeping to herself made her an interesting narrator who’s living among all the chaos but seems removed from it at the same time. Despite Merit’s flaws and issues, I actually really enjoyed her as a protagonist.
Now, despite the fact that I was constantly entertained while reading this book, it was also a bit of a hot mess and honestly completely all over the place, which I think stems from Hoover trying to tackle/integrate too many issues in the novel. There’s everything including (but not limited to): mental illness, terminal illness, attempted suicide, assault, adultery, the Syrian refugee crisis, etc. At first it was manageable and made sense with the story (since the family was so large, it was understandable that there would be multiple issues), but by the end of the story I was literally rolling my eyes when yet ANOTHER “issue” was introduced- there just wasn’t enough time/storytelling to do enough justice to all of them.
I think despite all of the above, I was still able to enjoy the book in all its bizarre glory because I viewed all of the characters as caricatures with their quirkiness levels turned up to 8000%. There was a romance that was ok, a big family secret revelation toward the end (gotta love those), and honestly more than one scene that was uncomfortable to read (mostly involving Luck- yes, Luck is a character name along with Moby, Utah, and Honor). It definitely has that “older YA feel” which I’ve been craving when it comes to high school settings (I’ve outgrown a lot of YA that takes place in high school). However after the emotional depth that’s prevalent in the only other Colleen Hoover book I’ve read, It Ends With Us, this book was a bit of a letdown.
Overall: While this book was definitely unique and bizarre enough to hold my attention, it was such a departure from what I was expecting it to be. I don’t regret reading it, however I don’t know if I’d recommend it to anyone either.