American author Colleen Hoover has made her mark in the young adult fiction and new-adult fiction scene.
With multiple novels and novellas under her belt, Hoover quickly became a New York Times bestselling author, and It Ends With Us is just one book in her arsenal that’s caused quite a stir – in the best way.
If you’re thinking of giving this story a place on your bookshelf, allow us to walk you through our complete, in-depth review of this riveting and emotional tale that’s bound to leave you feeling sad, elated, and hungry for more, all at once.
It Ends With Us: Synopsis
Colleen Hoover’s novel It Ends With Us tells the story of protagonist Lily Bloom, a college student who moves to Boston after her graduation to pursue her own flower business.
Soon after she moves, Lily falls in love with accomplished surgeon Ryle Kincaid, who initially doesn’t appear as keen to explore the relationship as Lily is.
Ryle lives up to every preconception we have of surgeons – equally charming and arrogant and of course, pretty damn rich. In Ryle, Lily finds someone she sees a future with; however, navigating their relationship isn’t easy.
Their dynamic throws up memories of Lily’s first love, Atlas; when they first met, Atlas was going through a tumultuous series of events, and Lily was his rock and confidant.
As the memories resurface, Atlas also decides to reappear in Lily’s life – suddenly, her certainty about her feelings for Ryle is bought into question, as she finds herself torn between the two.
It Ends With Us: Key Themes
However, this contemporary romance novel is far more complex than its synopsis reveals.
While It Ends With Us is all things you’d expect from a heart-wrenching romance novel (bold, assertive, personal, and sometimes overwhelming), it also explores far more than love, betrayal, and confusion.
It Ends With Us is a fragmented, damaged love story that will love you feeling raw and ripped open.
Hoover explores subject areas like emotional abuse and domestic violence – while these can be notoriously tricky areas to write about, Hoover manages to pull it off with respect and care.
Hoover has her own personal history with these themes, which may be why It Ends With Us feels, at points, painfully personal.
She’s also confessed that it was the hardest book she’s ever written, and when you explore the depth and passion of these complex matters, it’s easy to see why.
Although she’s had her own personal experiences with these themes, It Ends With Us is by no means autobiographical or filled with personal anecdotes.
Although Hoover has had her own tricky past, this is a relief – her characters go through a real whirlwind of events that, I think we can all agree, no one should have to endure.
Heart-Wrenching In The Best Way
When purchasing this book, many young adults who were already familiar with the synopsis felt pretty nervous.
It Ends With Us gained plenty of popularity on Tiktok and Instagram when it was released, with thousands of users flocking to the platforms to share their thoughts.
It was a mixture of excitement and sadness, but one overwhelming emotion underpinned them all: heart-wrenching, in the best way.
Although this novel is a bit of a slow-burn, our protagonist Lily Bloom (aged 23), will relate to young women in this novel’s target audience.
Sure, her life experiences may not resonate with everyone, but at some point or another, we have all seen the world through Lily’s lens of confusion, love, and pain.
For readers who have lived through manipulation or emotional abuse, even if not at the hands of a partner, Lily’s experiences are even more profound.
With such dark themes running seamlessly through the novel, it’s safe to say that no reader should go into this expecting a romance novel.
Sure, Lily falls in love, and ‘love’ is discussed throughout the book, but in this portrayal, love is toxic, suffocating, and all-consuming.
It’s a multi-dimensional experience of elation and heartache that concludes in a gut-wrenching but very necessary way.
The Exploration Of Domestic Violence (And Spoilers)
Hoover’s exploration of domestic violence is one thing that made this novel so popular. Let’s be clear – this was NOT because this novel romanticized abuse.
Instead, it approached it with care, respect, and a realistic outlook that undoubtedly struck a chord with domestic abuse survivors.
We;re going to touch briefly on how Hoover explored domestic violence in her novel, but this will require discussing a few spoilers. If you haven’t finished the book, look away now…
We’ve already alluded to Ryle’s problematic and frankly disturbing behavior throughout this book. Not only does Ryle seem completely averse to commitment (huge red flag), but as the novel progresses, he becomes more and more abusive to Lily.
Although this starts off with emotional abuse, it quickly turns physical – and Lily isn’t the only one who suffers.
Lily and Ryle quickly become embedded in each other’s lives, but Ryle quickly turns toxic. After a steady stream of manipulation and emotional abuse, Ryle starts to physically assault. At first, Lily defends Ryle against Atlas.
This is heartbreaking to witness, especially because we know that Lily’s father used to be abusive to her mother. Lily appears destined to fall into the same fate as her mother, and readers are left aching for her.
We also witness more abuse as the novel progresses, including Lily being pushed down the stairs.
Later in the novel, Lily gives birth to a baby girl, but she soon decides that an abusive home is no environment for her child.
Lily finds the courage to leave Ryle and break the cycle of abuse that has dominated her life in a bold and empowering move that left us feeling emotional and inspired.
It Ends With Us Explores The Realities Of Abuse
One of the reasons that It Ends With Us struck a chord with so many readers is because it explores the realities of abuse. For many victims, domestic abuse is a repeating pattern throughout life that begins in childhood, just as it did for Lily.
Witnessing abuse as a child can leave its victims, including children caught in the crossfire, with a complex array of emotions to process. Children often mature far beyond their years, which we see with Lily as they fight to hold their families together.
As turbulent childhoods move into adulthood, the pattern of abuse often continues, usually with romantic partners. Lily and Ryles’ romance is a hesitant one, and from the outset, he displays some questionable behaviors.
However, on a mission to be loved (and perhaps a little bit of naivety, which is no fault of her own), Lily overlooks these behaviors – an unfortunate story that many readers will resonate with.
Although the intrigue between the two is a huge appeal for many readers, those with their own experiences of abuse will experience this in a wildly different way. As the abuse starts to escalate, Hoover works had to portray both Lily and Ryle’s characters with a remarkable realness that can only be applauded.
Ryle’s character is also incredibly complex, and his methods of abuse (both emotional and physical) will feel all too real for many readers.
Of course, Lily’s immediate reaction to defend him and stick her head in the sand is also true for many victims of abuse, who are being manipulated, and may be too afraid to seek help.
As a reader, you may often ask yourself, “why doesn’t she leave him?”. Of course, this is also a question that many people will ask in the real world.
The reasons why victims stay in their relationships can be complex, but by the end of the novel, you’ll come away with a more in-depth understanding of the challenges that victims face and how love (or the illusion of it) can be so powerful that we’re forced to overlook even the most problematic of behaviors.
The Verdict And Final Thoughts
Although all of the characters are complex and exceptional in their own right, Lily’s character development is the highlight of the book.
It brings into perspective the depth of the abuse we witness in this novel, and it will leave readers feeling empowered by her bravery. Her courage to leave and fight for both her and her child is no small feat, and it’s an honor to witness it.
Hoover is a flawless writer who effortlessly portrayed love at its most complex and toxic. Hoover ditches the traditional butterflies’ approach to love and opts for a more complex deep dive into an abusive reality that is, unfortunately, all too common.
With so many big themes at play, It Ends With Us is not a light read. However, it balances these heart-wrenching themes with an exploration of bravery and self-love that makes for a bittersweet ending.
It Ends With Us will make an emotional mess of you (in the best way).