Realistically, it’s been about three years since I first properly started to get involved in watching book related content online – BookTok made me impulse buy way more books than I’d been previously buying and bookstagram was a lovely way for me to combine my love of reading with my love of writing and expressing my opinions with words.
All that to say, I’ve been aware of Colleen Hoover’s work for a very long time – I saw ‘It Ends With Us’ everywhere and then I’d see shelves and shelves of her books and wonder how she could possibly write and release so many books so quickly. But I didn’t rush to pick any of them up – I don’t know if it was the unconscious hipster within me that didn’t want to love what everyone else loved (despite adoring many, many booktok famous stories…) or if I genuinely didn’t want to read the books. Now, in writing this, that I’m thinking about it, I think it might be that I think her cover designs are below average and didn’t appeal to me in the slightest (it’s definitely that one).
But when I found myself in possession of my first ever CoHo book after my wedding (instead of a gift registry we asked our guests for a copy of their favourite books and my darling friend from uni couldn’t pick an all time favourite, so picked a 2022 favourite) I decided that our honeymoon was the time to read ‘It Ends With Us’. I picked up the sequel ‘It Starts With Us’ in the Waterstones half price hardback sale in January so I bought that along too!
And I am so grateful that I did.
I’m grateful to my friend to giving me my first CoHo book, I’m grateful to past me who thought it would be a good holiday book and I’m grateful to Waterstones for having a sale that incentivised me to buy the sequel because I am obsessed.
I’d seen controversy around ‘It Ends With Us’ about how it ‘trivialises’ domestic violence so I went into it with an open mind – personally, I don’t understand the controversy. I found the presentation raw and harrowing in a way that I haven’t seen anywhere before. I felt emotionally connected to the characters from the beginning – to Lily’s honest authenticity, to Ryle’s professional dedication, to Alyssa’s somewhat whimsical, carefree approach to life against all odds, and to the flashbacks of the most thoughtful boy who faced so much more than he ever should have to.
It was weighty – covering heavy topics in what I felt to be a very realistic way (though I am privileged to be in a position where I can’t fully understand) and beautifully balancing it with moments that made me laugh out loud, moments of beautiful character development (shoutout to Lily’s mum) and moments of adoring romance.
The pacing was fantastic and every time I started to think I knew where the story was going, it would take a turn I couldn’t predict – I don’t want to spoil anything, but the chapter before the epilogue really took me by surprise.
I gave ‘It Ends With Us’ 4 stars in the end – not because I didn’t very much enjoy it, but because it was very heavy and it’s not one that I will rush to reread; I need to make sure I’m in the right headspace to experience a story like that again.
‘It Starts With Us’ on the other hand was a very easy 5 stars – full marks, it deserves the hype, give it all of the awards.
Picking up right where the first book left off, ‘It Starts With Us’ claims to be a lighter, more romantic book and whilst in part I agree, there were parts that made me feel like an elephant was sitting on my chest.
I can’t explain much of why I loved it so much without spoiling the first book (though at this point, I might be the last person on the planet who hasn’t read it), but the way Hoover approached navigating parenthood with split custody, parents with addiction who control the narrative to paint themselves as the victim and being a young teenage boy in the 2020s was beautiful. It would have been so easy to take the main characters and make everything easy, but that’s not what the world is like – no one can drop everything when they think they’ve found love, we have jobs and responsibilities and bills and we care what people think despite knowing that we shouldn’t.
I loved ‘It Starts With Us’ with my entire heart – it made me laugh (literally, out loud), it made me swoon, it made me angry (my husband can vouch, I was grumbling into my book by the pool) and it felt so real, I feel like I’ve been sitting with the characters in the days since I started reading their stories. They felt so authentic to me.
Each book took me less than 36 hours to read – maybe it’s because I’m on holiday and I’m relaxed and I have no other plans, but I haven’t devoured a story like that in a while. The narrative style felt like reading a letter from a friend and I adored it.
Now, what I need to find out is whether Colleen Hoover’s other books have similar vibes, or if they’re all completely different. I’ve had ‘Verity’ on my want to read shelf for a while because I think it sounds interesting, but I need to know if I need to drop everything else and commit to reading her entire collection.
Thank you for reading,