TITLE: It Ends With Us
AUTHOR: Colleen Hoover
PUBLISHER: Simon & Schuster UK
RELEASE DATE: August 2, 2016
GENRE: Contemporary Adult Fiction
PAGE COUNT: 376
It Ends With Us is a powerfully moving novel about domestic abuse. It educates readers on the self-delusions and self-blame that perpetuate the abusive cycle, as well as the financial and family factors that sometimes make separation impossible. For a book with such a light and accessible tone, It Ends With Us took me on a dark emotional journey that resonated long after reading. This is a necessary book that makes difficult discussions accessible to our generation.
Fifteen seconds. That’s all it takes to completely change everything about a person – page 186
25-year-old Lily Bloom is living her dream – not only is she the proud owner of a flower shop, but her chemistry with sexy and hotheaded neurosurgeon, Ryle, is beginning to look a lot like love. After her father’s funeral, Lily is glad to bury the memories of his violence towards her mother. However, when Ryle’s actions shatter their perfect bubble, she finds herself in a position she swore she would never be.
Characters & Plot
At first I was put off by the chirpy, cheesy characters and the relatively basic writing style. Not to mention, Ryle ticks all the boxes of a Mills & Boon love interest. My first impressions and quick assumptions were an obstacle I needed to get over before I warmed up to the characters.
However, my relationship with the characters changed dramatically as I read. Despite my first impressions, I surprised myself by growing extremely invested in Lily as the plot heated up. Although I initially stereotyped her as a shallow character, her reactions to relationship conflict were authentic and rang true to me personally. I got lost in her inner monologue, empathising with her mental reasoning. Lily bloomed as a character. As her emotions grow more complicated and layered, I could easily imagine myself in her place – a scary wakeup call.
Despite my emotional connection to Lily, the secondary characters are straight-up clichés: Ryle, the arrogant but irresistible career man; Allysa, Lily’s rich yet selfless best friend; Atlas, Lily’s first love who reappears at the worst (or best?) time. Lily’s complicated history with Atlas is gradually explored via diary entries 15-year-old Lily addressed to her celebrity role model, Ellen Degeneres. Although this cheesiness made me cringe, I enjoyed seeing the puzzle pieces fall into place. Despite myself, I ultimately became too engrossed in the story to be bothered by shallow characters and plot devices.
Representing Domestic Violence Survivors
It Ends With Us sank its teeth in me and didn’t let go. Whenever I put the book down, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I or one of my friends was living Lily’s pain. As someone who has experienced emotional abuse, many aspects of Lily’s story were triggering. I wore a heavy shroud of dread and empathy going about my daily life, and cried at several points when confronted by my own painful memories. For this reason, I encourage you to be mindful of your own mental and emotional wellbeing while reading this book.
While its immersive power makes it an incredible tool for expanding awareness of domestic violence survivors, It Ends With Us is potentially triggering for some readers. I’m aware there is a fine line between validating people’s painful experiences and forcing them to revisit their trauma. Despite or maybe because of my painful emotional reaction to It Ends With Us, I support it as a timely book that I hope will lead many people on a journey to compassion.
I took away one crucial message: regardless of intent, acting judgmentally or patronisingly towards someone in an abusive relationship is narrow-minded and harmful – no matter what you think you know about a person, you can never truly fathom the endless personal details that weigh in on their decision to stay. Their choice may be built on years of complicated history, the wellbeing and financial security of their family, and of course the complex emotions of being gaslighted by their loved ones into self-blaming and justifying the abuser’s actions. While the situation may appear black and white to outsiders, the experience is in fact countless shades of grey. It Ends With Us tries to portray as many of these shades as possible, revealing truths I’ve never considered before.
She’ll pity me. She’ll wonder why I never left him. She’ll wonder how I let myself get to this point. She’ll wonder all the same things I used to wonder about my own mother when I saw her in my same situation. People spend so much time wondering why the women don’t leave. Where are all the people who wonder why the men are even abusive? Isn’t that where the only blame should be placed? – page 274
While Colleen Hoover acknowledges It Ends With Us cannot possibly cover every angle to the issue of domestic violence, I believe this book is as inclusive and accessible as possible given the limitations of a single representation. In her author’s note, Hoover discusses her powerful personal connection to the story, and talks through even more factors that can impact domestic violence survivors’ mental and physical health.
I’m grateful for the impact Hoover’s writing had on my perspective. She reminded me of storytelling’s power to put me into another person’s mind and open up painful taboos for discussion. Please proceed mindfully, and seek support if the confronting content reopens wounds.