Lily and Ryle are young and beautiful and totally driven by their respective careers. Lily has fulfilled a childhood dream of opening her own florist shop, and Ryle is on the fast-track to becoming a world-renowned neurosurgeon. Ryle doesn’t date; he’s not a relationship guy, and he makes that clear to Lily from the first time they meet. But then he changes his tune, and the two begin a whirlwind romance that has Lily reeling. When her first love–Atlas–resurfaces from her past, she starts to question everything about her seemingly perfect life and realizes that her relationship with Ryle might be more fragile than she realized.
It’s hard to be critical of something that is clearly not only a labor of love for an author but also a deeply personal book–the author’s note at the end helps expand on this–but the fact of the matter is, there are more problems here than good things, which made for a frustrating and uneven reading experience. Fans of Hoover’s other works might devour this one and forgive its faults, but as a first-time reader of Hoover, there were too many things I couldn’t get past.
One of the book’s major weaknesses are its characters, who feel underdeveloped and often don’t speak like actual human beings. More than once, I stumbled over something a character said because it just didn’t feel authentic in any way. But what’s also surprising is that for a book that is largely character-driven, there’s very little investment in creating characters with fully-realized personalities. It’s not just the secondary characters, either: it’s the main stars. Lily isn’t developed. Ryle never comes off as anything other than an arrogant garbage monster, and that’s before his darker secrets are even revealed.
There’s also a lot going on in the novel, and it often feels like a bit too much. It tries to tackle a variety of serious, complex issues, and while some of the ruminations on the cycle of abuse are fairly well done, much of it feels half-baked. Maybe more editing would have helped; it’s certainly long enough.
And yet? I couldn’t stop reading, even though I knew where much of the narrative was headed. I felt compelled to finish it, even as it filled me with frustration. It’s not the character’s actions that felt frustrating: it’s the fact that in a stronger writer’s hands, this could have been something truly great.
Best for fans of Hoover’s other works, but this is not nearly as good as it could have been.
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. Atria: 2016. Library copy.