By Julie Sinclair
TW: R*pe, Sexual Assault & Domestic Abuse
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover: the viral and devastating book that has gripped many readers this past year continues to spark an online conversation on platforms such as TikTok and Instagram for its difficult and traumatic storyline.
Initially presenting itself as a romance book, It Ends With Us contains copious unpredictable twists and turns that tricks its readers into falling into the same trap as our protagonist: smitten for the wrong man.
The novel introduces leading women Lily Bloom, a young business graduate living in Boston, following her dreams by opening her own flower shop in the city. We are informed about Lily’s history: growing up in an abusive household; her estranged love story with a homeless boy; and most recently the death of her violent father – which leads her to reflect upon her past.
The story begins with Lily meeting her new love interest of the book: dreamy and charming, Ryle Kincaid. Hoover depicts Ryle to be the perfect man; holding down his dream job of a neurosurgeon, being strikingly confident and utterly romantic. We as readers can empathise with Lily as she becomes captivated by this seemingly perfect man.
However, as many situations like these go, he may just be too good to be true. Ryle’s strong aversion to commitment is subsequently introduced, which ultimately makes us question his intentions and his reasoning for wanting distance. Why would a man not want a relationship with a woman who he is obsessed with?
As the book progresses, Ryle gradually displays some worrying behaviour, and both Lily and the readers begin to lower their rose-tinted glasses to see his actions for what they truly are: clear red flags.
Ryle exhibits some toxic and abusive behaviour: fighting with Lily’s past partner, fits of rage resulting in the beating of Lily, which all ultimately lead to her rape. Some chapters include content that may be distressing or triggering for some readers, as Hoover depicts harrowing images that enable us to be there alongside Lily.
Hoover cleverly trickles clues of Ryle’s nature into the book, and makes readers empathise with Lily and other survivors of domestic abuse, whilst additionally enabling them to understand why it is so difficult for survivors to leave a damaging relationship. As displayed in the book, abusive actions in relationships can be masked by good or loving behaviour, creating lots of confusion for survivors. Abusers can try to make up for their actions by pleading with their partner, promising to never act in this way again, and displaying their love for them in an effort to win them back.
Furthermore, through Hoover’s writing she skilfully places the reader in Lily’s position. From the beginning of the novel, we are given information that feeds into our attraction for Ryle, which amazingly makes the reader feel conflicted about the situation, just as Lily did. As I was reading this book, I felt both shocked and horrified by this feeling – how could I be masking his damaging behaviour with his good features? However, this made me appreciate the utterly fantastic writing of Colleen Hoover, and how this had the ability to make me feel this way. She has the ability to place the audience in the exact same position as Lily. I don’t think I have ever had a better understanding of a character through the author’s writing as I did with Lily.
Ultimately, I will not ruin the ending of the book. However, I will say that Hoover creates a meaningful and emotional ending to the novel, and she will leave you hanging on to every last word. In my eyes, this gripping and heart wrenching book deserves all of the attention it has been receiving, and is definitely a must read.
The importance of book like this is additionally something that is not to be looked over: domestic abuse is an issue that may be difficult to speak about, yet Hoover has written the book in such a manner that comes with the perfect amount of sensitivity, but has a great shock factor and emotional pull that causes interest between readers, which is turn creates a much needed discussion around the discourse of domestic abuse.
This book teaches us an important lesson in being mindful and respectful of others' decisions. Navigating abusive relationships is extremely difficult, and everyone reacts differently.