First things first, this book inspired my previous post ‘The Story Can Always Change Midway’, so I think it’s safe to say the journey to the last page was not quite smooth-sailing. I try my best not to judge books by their cover, but it’s impossible not to do when that cover is plastered on every corner of social media, and when it seems everyone and their mum are raving about it. Whilst the hype is no true indication of whether it will appeal to me anyway, I admit curiosity naturally arose, and when I added it to my wish list at the start of the year, I’m sure I did so instinctively at that point. Regardless of the fact that the pink flowery cover was all over my feed, as I like to do, I dived into the pages of this book knowing absolutely nothing about the storyline. I had also never read anything by its author either so it was a real blind test in many ways.
Before I get into my – many – thoughts about It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover, a good place to start would be with the summary of the plot of the book.
The rooftop of an apartment Boston building is where we meet our protagonist Lily Bloom. Yes, her name is Lily. Bloom. I digress. She sits by herself whilst caught up in her thoughts as she mourns the recent death of her father. The same father, who caused emotional and physical scars to both herself and her mother that are not quite healed yet. As Lily wrestles with her complex feelings, Ryle Kincaid makes a rather noticeable entrance as he storms in frustrated and angry.
The two hit it off almost immediately and share ‘naked truths’ with each other – things they may hesitate to share even with their closest loved ones, not to mention, a stranger.
She learns he’s an ambitious tall and handsome neurosurgeon who doesn’t do relationships. He learns about her abusive father and her dream to open a flower shop one day. The encounter on the rooftop gives way to what becomes Lily’s second life-changing love story as events in her present force her to confront her past.
In parts of the book, Lily travels down memory lane as she reads through the secret diaries she kept as a teenager. This allows the reader to catch glimpses of her dark past as she often witnesses her father’s violent behaviour towards her mother. Through the diaries, we also meet Lily’s first love, Atlas Corrigan, who left a mark on her life that she couldn’t get rid of easily, like the heart-shaped tattoo on her neck…
When she’s not reading her diaries, Lily is doing what she can to make her dreams of becoming a florist a reality or fully enjoying her budding romance with Ryle which thanks to fate did not end after they went their separate ways on that rooftop. Just when it seems like everything in Lily’s life couldn’t possibly get any better, things take a swift turn as the ghosts from her past begin to haunt her in ways she didn’t see coming.
I really wish I could sort my thoughts out into two categories because even right now as I write this review, I can’t help but admit I’m still very much conflicted on whether I liked it or not. Perhaps, it’s because I also had mixed feelings whilst flipping through its page and really became in sync with Collen Hoover only halfway through the book.
When you step into Lily’s world, It Ends With Us it has a lot of resemblance to every romance novel out there, and whilst ordinarily, I’m a sucker for the usual overdone tropes of the genre, I couldn’t shake a weird feeling I had whilst I read through the pages. Halfway through the book, things turn unexpectedly nasty and serious. The tone becomes heartbreaking, heavy and thought-provoking, and I wouldn’t be quick to class it as a basic romance novel because it was definitely much – much – more than that.
I found an appreciation for the book right in the middle spot when it began exploring the complex emotions and psychology of victims of abuse. Lily who never could comprehend her mother’s decision to stay in an abusive relationship now finds traces of her father in Ryle and has to choose what to do when the man she loves deeply is the one who hurts her deeply. She swore she’d never be like her mother, but now as an adult in the same shoes, nothing seems so clear cut anymore.
Colleen Hoover’s depiction of domestic abuse is grounded in reality and did not come across as far fetched at all. She was able to tell the story in a way that was ambiguous, and its resolution did not seem forced and I think that’s where It Ends With Us is absolutely brilliant. If depth was all that mattered to me in a book, I’d rate the book really highly, to be frank. However, there were other things that did not allow me to fully enjoy my reading experience.
My major gripe with this book is I really struggled to like most of the characters I came to know. Aside from Alyssa, maybe, who made me smile often, I felt neither cold nor hot towards almost everyone else presented in the book. I wish I disliked them at least because I feel neutrality is far worse and did not inspire a desire in me to pick up the book. The fact that I did not feel a connection with the characters also meant I had little patience or interest in watching the story develop, and especially in the first half of the book, it was a painful experience.
Lily was fun, vibrant and interesting, in a way she was an easy character to root for and I feel telling the story through her lens definitely made for a more pleasurable experience. I did not like Ryle from the very beginning. He gave me bad vibes if I’m honest and I found none of the things he did to be particularly romantic in any way even before – you know – the shoe dropped.
When things turned for the worst, I found myself feeling less shocked but as though the puzzle was starting to fit together. Then I felt anger towards him that I could not get rid of till the very last page.
Atlas was naturally charming I feel in a way that didn’t come off as trying too hard. Whilst his struggles with homelessness as a teenager were saddening, it was wonderful to see him evolve and succeed. He was a perfect example that no matter the card you’ve been dealt in life, you can always choose a different path.
There were also a lot of time jumps in this book which I wasn’t a huge fan of. It pulled me out of the story’s timeline too often which made me feel like I was playing catch up or like we were rushing to get somewhere else. In hindsight, I guess we were.
I guess my naked truth which I’ve already exposed throughout my review is that despite the fact that the messaging of this book is very important, I did not find it to be much of an enjoyable read. Although tackling sensitive subjects can be difficult to do, I think Colleen Hoover did a great job. The lessons learned and the insight gained will not be one I’ll forget anytime soon.
The plot was easy to follow. The writing style conversational, idiomatic and direct. The ending was predictable but satisfactory.
There are many reasons to read this book, but I didn’t find many to like it. I know Colleen Hoover has a strong fanbase and many will disagree with my review of It Ends With Us but for me, this turned out to not match the hype. Unfortunately, I did not find it to be the five-star read I assumed it would be, but I’m happy I read it. It was an imperfect read and I’m completely okay with that.
Your restless romantic roamer