I received an ARC of It Ends With Us from the publisher, but this in no way swayed my honest opinion about the book.
*This review is semi-spoiler free—meaning I won’t give away major events but I will be mentioning many facts pertaining to well beyond chapter one.
I feel as though I should start off by disclaiming that I’ve never read a book by Colleen Hoover. I’ve heard about her other novels, and how wonderfully painful they are, but contemporary just isn’t my type of genre to read. Often I will try to pick up a contemporary novel, but most of those times I wind up just setting it back down. This time, however, I was captivate from the first page until the very last. I finished It Ends With Us in less than four hours. Honestly, I wasn’t paying attention to anything else around me but this plot and these characters and how terrifyingly relatable their story was.
Lily recently graduated from college and moved to Boston where she began her own business. Her childhood was never easy, and she’d come to conclude that staying in Maine would never allow her to be free from those dark memories. One night while perched atop the roof of an apartment complex that isn’t her own, she meets Ryle—a neurosurgeon with a darker past than her own. They bond, tell each other naked truths, and begin a slowly burning flirtation that inflames to a deadly obsession.
However, Lily can’t seem to stay away from her old letters written about her missing friend, Atlas. Suddenly Lily begins to see a side of Ryle that she’d never noticed before, and it has nothing to do with the reappearance of Atlas…although he certainly doesn’t make things any less complicated.
“As I sit here with one foot on either side of the ledge, looking down from twelve stories above the streets of Boston, I can’t help but think about suicide. Not my own. I like my life enough to want to see it through. I’m more focused on other people, and how they ultimately come to the decision to just end their own loves.”
This book is about person growth and self respect, and it embodied those themes beautifully. A bit on the darker side in regards to the lethal relationships, It Ends With Us is so much more than I’d thought it to be.
Hoover’s writing is something I wasn’t accustomed to, but that didn’t hinder the experience in the slightest. She has such an easy flow to go along with, as well as a certain prolific voice. I finished this book in one sitting and I rarely ever read contemporary.
The plot wasn’t my usual cup of coffee (because there weren’t any mythical creatures, inanimate objects that speak, realms that are hard to pronounce, bloody wars etc), but there was certainly a type eerie peculiarity that I picked up on right away. We aren’t only reading about Lily, we are inside of her mind. When she’s happy, you’re happy. When she’s upset, you’re upset. When she’s in denial about the people most important to her, you’re…well, needless to say I might have thrown this book across the room a few times.
Perhaps it was just my personal experience with foul relationships that made me bias, but I couldn’t love Ryle ever. Not even once. Not even when he was meant to be the tragic lover who was better off as a dream than a reality—because Hoover wrote him to be a synonym for the phrase “ugly truth.” Which is ironic, considering a big motif between Ryle and Lily was there occasional confessions which they called “naked truths.” For starters, when Lily first met Ryle he was kicking the hell out of a metal chair because his anger had gotten the better of him. Their relationship is in line with Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, just without the psychopathic behavior on our protagonists part. However, the physical and mental abuse is 100% present in both books.
It’s all lilies (no really, there were actual lilies) and sunshine to cover up the scars and the naked truths that were more like screaming matches. All of the signs were there, right from the beginning. After their foreboding first meeting, he takes a photo of her without knowing her for more than an hour and blows it up to frame inside his house. Then he starts grabbing things from her, insisting upon things without asking, and the use of the word “shoving” to describe their sexual encounters sent many trigger warnings through my mind. Of course, this meant I wasn’t surprised when the physical abuse really became a definite thing that could no longer be overlooked by pretty dreams.
Lily is a strong protagonists, even when she might not think so herself. After watching her father abuse her mother, and hearing the horror that came from Atlas’s own background, she was wary of men from the beginning. While she falls in love with Ryle, she does notice his abusive behavior almost immediately after their first time together. And while the readers might think that she should leave him at the first sign of bad intentions, Lily doesn’t do this for two reasons:
1. she is truly in love with Ryle and wants to help him control his anger because she understands that he is compassionate but his compassion can never make up for his mistakes.
2. she wanted to love her father as a daughter should, but she couldn’t do so without wishing him dead. She doesn’t sympathize with her father, but she understands that he was a human and he made some very hideous mistakes.
Her benevolent nature is essentially what keeps her and Ryle together for so long. This doesn’t make her weak, it makes her bold and brave. She gives him chances, but when he messes up she lest him know he was wrong. In the end…well, I won’t say much because of spoilers but I will tell you that Lily makes the right choices.
Not only were these characters so complexly written, but their names were also carefully thought up, and I appreciate that small objective immensely. Lily Blossom Bloom is an obvious metaphor for something small and fragile that will eventually go through change and morph into something bold and beautiful. Atlas, Lily’s childhood friend, although not being in the picture for nine years, was a steady part of Lily’s life. Whenever she needed someone to tell her the harsh reality of her situation, or someone to protect her when she couldn’t see that she needed protection, Atlas was there. Atlas also happens to be the name of the Greek god who held up the universe upon his shoulders—and both men carried a great burden that often times wasn’t theres to withstand.
The meaning behind this title also happens to be a quote in one of the very last pages of the book. Who the “Us” is will have you sobbing your heart out. I didn’t expect that coming, and it was such a bittersweet moment for me because it truly hit home. I don’t cry a lot when reading, but I definitely cried while reading this book.
I’m certainly going to be reading more of Hoover’s books in the future.
Rating: 5 of 5