By Sofia Reynoso | February 19, 2023
Truthfully, I avoided purchasing “It Ends With Us” for quite a while due to its increasing popularity on TikTok and Instagram. Because of the mixed reviews and hype, I felt that if I bought the novel it would only be to hop on the bandwagon. But clearly, I bought it, and I read it. Fully. More than once, actually. This is a genuine review of not only the plot line, but also the writing itself.
Photo Credit: @thekneadtoread on Instagram
Warning: Trigger Warnings/SPOILERS AHEAD!
Main character Lily Bloom is 23 years old, a recent college graduate who has just lost her father. While we might expect this to be a sad start to the book, we quickly learn that Lily’s father was far from a good man. He is shown to be an abusive husband, physically, sexually, and emotionally to Lily’s mother, but he had never put his hands on his daughter.
After her fathers funeral, Lily finds herself on a rooftop gathering her thoughts and feelings about his death, when she comes across Ryle Kincaid, a 30 year old resident surgeon who has just finished a long surgery and is also looking for a place to clear his mind. The two immediately display some sort of chemistry, and I, as the reader, felt a bit off while reading and getting to know his character as I knew the story was going to be devastating. Ryle proceeds to say that he isn’t looking for much serious, and he only wants a purely sexual fling.
It doesn’t take much for Lily to decide that isn’t what she wants right after her fathers death, so they part ways. Six months later however, Lily hires Ryle’s sister named Alyssa to help her with the opening of a new flower shop she has opened. Lily and Ryle’s attraction intensifies over time with a mutual connection, and Ryle decides to explore his relationship with Lily despite his past reluctance. Here is where the story really starts to pick up.
At this point, I found myself becoming increasingly relieved since I found the beginning to be slow, with a lack of action. Seeking some sort of closure from her abusive fathers death, Lily turns to reading old journals from her time as a fifteen year old high schooler. Using the form of actually allowing the reader to delve into her journal entries, we get to see the mind of an adolescent Lily. These entries narrate her time with an 18-year-old boy named Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy who she becomes close with. At 15, Lily decided to help him when she noticed he was homeless with no family, and in turn, he grants her an emotional support she lacks with others in her life.
While reading I found myself analyzing the relationship Atlas had with Lily as a teenager, and the relationship Lily and Ryle had together nine years later. Atlas provided Lily with emotional support that she needed to cope with her abusive father and traumatic childhood. Their relationship is comfortable and pure, with innocent love for each other due to their need to have someone to speak to. This turns into a physical relationship, but not one that is purely based on intimacy. They use intimacy to build their connection deeper.
The difference I noticed between Lily and Ryle was their emotional relationship that started with physical and sexual attraction to each other. The relationship with Ryle and Lily advances and they decide to have dinner with Ryle’s mother. During this dinner, Lily runs into Atlas, who happens to own the restaurant. Lily finds herself hurt with how distant they seemed to have been, even though they are both happy with their own lives. She considers this meeting as closure, and they go home together as normal.
Up until this point, I found myself wondering if I was crazy to be rooting for Atlas and Lily so much more than Ryle and Lily. Their emotional connection seemed so clear and deep when we read the journal entries from Lily’s teenage years.
While at times Colleen Hoover’s writing can seem like a Wattpad fanfiction, she describes Lily “throwing her hair in a messy bun” several times, it is clear that the emotions she intended to convey with that relationship were successfully portrayed.
Around this point in the book, I asked myself why Ryle was so perfect. I liked him, he was charming, treated Lily well, and seemed to have good morals. But it didn’t feel the same as her previous romance with Atlas.
Well, my question was eventually answered. During an evening Lily and Ryle spend drinking and making dinner, Ryle mistakenly removes a hot tray from an oven without gloves, causing a tipsy Lily to laugh when he burns himself. In response, Ryle drops the casserole dish and breaks it. Lily continues to laugh, which causes Ryle to lash out and angrily shove Lily.
From this point on, the story does a complete 180. Ryle begins to show a side of him that is completely different from the man we see throughout the first quarter of the book. He becomes immature, jealous, and displays an aggressive side nobody expected.
This is where I began to understand the beauty of Hoover’s writing. At first, it was a bit hard to catch on to the appeal of it. But once I moved past this part, I understood. Throughout the entire novel, we are Lily. We the readers are going through the experiences of her relationship with Ryle at the same pace she is. Hoover does an excellent job of making readers fall in love with Ryle and his character despite the feelings they may have about Atlas, only to rip it away and leave us confused once he changes into a more violent, narcissistic person.
While this is disappointing for the readers who liked him, it is supposed to be: it is supposed to make us feel angry and hurt, because that is what it is like when you are in an abusive relationship. At first, it is beautiful and everything seems to be working so perfectly that you can be blind. The person you are with feels flawless, and the relationship itself feels magical because the connection between you is unmatchable. Then, when you least expect it, your partner starts to control you, or in this case, shoves you on the ground then starts to control you.
Hoover does a fantastic job of putting us in Lily’s position, being just as shocked when Ryle shows his true colors. Hoover takes an emotional and psychological perspective to make it clear that it is not easy to leave someone who is abusive. She does this by introducing many more conflicts Lily has to face after that point in the story when he shoves her. Their relationship becomes violent, emotionally and physically, so much so Lily fears doing the simplest of tasks.
“It Ends With Us” is indeed a heart wrenching read. I would advise people who may be triggered to avoid reading the story. It does have a message that I believe is important for everyone to hear: women, men, and teenagers. It has been a long time since I have read a book like this, especially one that can teach so many people something. When Lily eventually leaves Ryle, we are hit with a massive plot twist. She is pregnant. Usually, the pregnancy trope is looked down upon. But regardless, this trope is used to further prove the point that leaving your abusive partner regardless of what the situation is never easy, but most of the time is needed to keep yourself and those around you safe. That message is important for everyone to understand. If you find yourself in this situation, you deserve better. It is valid to feel alone and to not know how to fix it. But you can do it- for yourself and for those who may be involved as well.
Here are some final thoughts for fellow readers.
Read if you like:
Mental health representation
Friends to lovers
Themes of grief, forgiveness and healing
I gave this book:
Naked truth: This book changed my life.