If you are a reader who also exists on TikTok, then the chances are you have heard of Colleen Hoover. Hoover initially started her writing career as a self-publishing author, publishing her first novel titled “Slammed” in 2012. She however gained worldwide attention, including mine, especially on the social media platform, TikTok, from her novel “It Ends With Us” published in 2016. 4 million copies of this novel were sold as of December 2022. As a result of her popularity, Hoover now holds six of the top ten spots on the New York Times paperback fiction best seller list. Following “It Ends With Us,” she released a sequel: “It Starts With Us” in 2022, which also took TikTok by storm. Her books are sold at various locations including Walmart, Target, Amazon and many others.
“It Ends with Us” follows our protagonist Lily who meets Ryle one night on a rooftop. After a few encounters, they begin to get to know one another and fall in love. They had a picture-perfect relationship, but things take a turn when Ryle becomes abusive. Lily endures his abuse in hopes that he will change, until she finds out that she is pregnant. The book concluded at the hospital after she had given birth with a touching line, “It stops here. With me and you. It ends with us,” declaring her separation from Ryle, and her choice to break the cycle of abuse for the sake of her and her child to live a happy life. In contrast, “It Starts with Us” is about Lily’s second chance romance with her childhood lover, Atlas. We read through as they rekindle their love while navigating through coparenting with her abusive ex-husband.
“It Ends with Us” has probably left the most impact on me more than any other book I have read. Reading through this book was an emotional rollercoaster. There were times where I felt angry, sad, happy and giddy. Prior to reading it, I never considered how difficult it is to leave a domestic abuse relationship. A reviewer from a magazine expressed that the book, “romanticizes red flags and glorifies a charismatic-but-dangerous man,” but I interpreted it differently. I thought it was important for there to be romance between Lily and Ryle in the first half of the book to display how difficult it is to leave someone you love after they continuously hurt you. What I admire the most about this book is how they made us fall in love with the abuser the same way the protagonist did. I hate to admit it, but I found myself making excuses for the abuser’s behaviors, in addition to supporting the protagonist’s decision to keep staying with him after multiple incidents.
However, I did not feel the same about “It Starts with Us.” This book did not serve as much of a purpose as “It Ends with Us.” The focus of the sequel was supposed to be the second chance romance between Lily and Atlas, yet we saw too many scenes still focused on Ryle’s abusive behavior. I was hoping that Ryle would have some sort of character development, but his character only worsened since the previous book. In addition, I strongly disliked the mention of pop references in the book such as “gen z” and “pop socket.” This makes the book less timeless in my opinion. Overall, I just think this sequel was quite boring and disappointing. There were not any twists like most of her books have, and the writing felt rushed and did not read as well as her other books. This book felt like it was just written to monetize off the success that “It Ends with Us” received. Nonetheless, I’m glad that Lily got her happy ending. The vow at the epilogue is what kept me from completely disliking the book.
Although I was not a fan of the sequel, overall, I am glad that I was influenced by TikTok to read this novel. The writing in this novel differs from her writings in her other novels. This book is truly moving as many can learn from it, and many can relate to it from personal experiences, including the author herself. It personally gave me a new perspective on how I view abusive relationships. I gained understanding that it is not as easy as getting up and leaving the relationship, and there is a lot at stake in situations like that. I have developed more respect and sympathy for people who have been or are currently in an abusive relationship. I would recommend reading “It Ends with Us” to readers who want to gain some type of understanding about the complexity of domestic abuse relationships.