Not your usual romance novelColleen Hoover’s wildly successful book is a contemporary romance story that illustrates the devastations of domestic abuse and the strength of the survivors.
If you fall in the age group of 15 to 24 or regularly interact with people from the age demographic, chances are you have heard of Colleen Hoover’s novel ‘It Ends With Us’. Even though the book was launched in 2016, it was only in early 2022 that it became incredibly popular after it started trending on TikTok.
In Nepal, the book started flying off the shelves of bookstores early this year. According to Radha Sharma Rai, senior sales manager of Ekta Bookstore, the book has been in high demand for almost a year, and at one point in time, the novel completely sold out, and buyers had to wait for the store to restock it.
Colleen Hoover, also known as CoHo on social media, has a strong fanbase among the younger generation of readers, who call themselves CoHorts. The reason can also be Hoover’s consistent presence in the literary community on both Instagram and YouTube.
At its core, ‘It Ends With Us’ is a romance novel. To be specific, the story explores a love triangle between Lily Bloom, Ryle Kincaid, and Atlas Corrigan. The story opens with Bloom alone on a rooftop, coming to terms with the death of her abusive father, and there she meets Kincaid, a neurosurgeon. They fall in love with each other and get married. It is all smooth sailing until Corrigan, Bloom’s ex-boyfriend enters the story, and things start getting complicated between Bloom and Kincaid. That’s when Hoover reveals a completely different side of Kincaid, who is short-tempered and quick to get physically abusive and violent. After each and every episode of physical abuse, Kincaid apologises to Bloom and promises never to repeat it, only to fail every time and continue the cycle of abuse.
In the first half of the novel, Bloom, who grew up seeing her father abuse her mother, repeatedly says that she would never get in an abusive relationship, but when she finds herself in one, she desperately tries to find reasons to justify her husband’s acts.
After one such episode of physical abuse, Bloom tells herself, “All humans make mistakes … everyone deserves another chance.” The domestic abuse in the book is romanticised in such a way that it makes the readers believe that if they love their partner, they should also accept their abuse.
Another thing that I found problematic is how Hoover presents Kincaid as an extremely attractive, charming, and successful person with this other side that surfaces every once in a while. And in doing so, Hoover appears to dissolve the fine line between normalising Kincaid’s violent and abusive behaviour and glorifying toxic masculinity. Since the novel features several graphic scenes of rape and physical abuse, it’s hard to understand the logic behind not including any trigger warnings.
After I finished reading the book, one of the first thoughts that came to mind was what the novel’s many young and impressionable readers would take away from the story.
Tashi Gurung, a counselling psychologist, agrees that some aspects of the book are problematic, but he also believes that some of the topics the book explores will go a long way in making young readers aware.
“Keeping in mind the age demographic of the readers, I think the book plays the crucial role of making readers aware of mental health issues and the cycle of domestic abuse”, says Gurung. “The story also makes readers realise how early childhood experiences make us unconsciously follow the behavioural patterns of our parents.”
Pragya Joshi, a 21-year-old reader, agrees with Gurung and says that reading the book made her realise what abusive relationships and victim manipulation look like.
“But there’s no denying that the book is problematic. One particular aspect that I have strong reservations about is how the story manipulates readers to root for Atlas, who has sex with a minor, by portraying him as the perfect hero,” says Joshi.
‘It Ends With Us’ would be a good choice for someone who wants a light yet emotional read. The tale doesn’t end here. The book got so popular on TikTok, that the author released a sequel titled ‘It Starts With Us’, on October 18, 2022. The second novel revolves around the story of Lily Bloom and Atlas Corrigan.
While some readers argue how the novel can impact young readers negatively, others just enjoy reading this work of fiction.
Name of the book: ‘It Ends With Us’
Characters: Ryle Kincaid, Atlas Corrigan, Lily Bloom
Published date: August 2, 2016,
Price: Rs 800