This review contains spoilers.
Content Warning: This review contains mentions of sexual assault and domestic abuse.
The romance novel “It Ends With Us” has become a must-read this year. The popular novel by New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover has been seen in many Tiktok, Instagram and Goodreads recommendations, with some dubbing her the “queen of BookTok.”. The novel, which is about Lily Bloom’s complicated love triangle with Ryle Kincaid and childhood lover Atlas Corrigan left many fans, including myself, hoping for more. On Oct. 18, the sequel “It Starts With Us” was published, and it is alre
ady the top-selling book on the New York Times Best Seller List.
The first novel ends when Lily decides to divorce Ryle because of his physical abuse. This ending left many fans eager to know more. What happens next in Lily’s life? Is she still friends with Atlas? Does she still keep in contact with Ryle? This sequel answers all the questions about what happens in Lily’s next chapter in life.
“It Starts With Us” focuses on the stories of Lily and Atlas after her divorce, when her life is far from perfect. She has trouble trusting Ryle with her child Emerson due to his poor anger management. Additionally, Lily falls in love with Atlas again but struggles to decide because of her worries about her relationship with Ryle. As Ryle is still a part of her life, Lily fears a new relationship, especially with Atlas, because of Ryle’s temper and jealousy. However, throughout the novel, Lily becomes more confident in her decision to begin a new relationship with Atlas’s support.
While the series has become a big hit, it has faced some criticism. Some readers said they believed the portrayal of Ryle reveals toxic masculinity, but came up with excuses for it each time. . Instead of addressing it as a problem, they said the book romanticizes his behaviors, which are clearly red flags, like throwing patio chairs around due to his anger the first night they met and sexually assaulting Lily later on in their relationship. Others expressed disappointment and said the novel was overhyped by its promotion on Tiktok and said the story was unrealistic and lacked complex characters.
Unlike the first novel, “It Starts With Us” is a much lighter read. Having witnessed Lily’s trauma in the previous novel, I thought it was comforting to see her have a better life. Although she continues to go through the healing process from her past abuse, she has Atlas by her side, someone who understands and loves her more than anyone. The second novel also goes more into detail about Atlas. I thought learning about his past and more about him as a character was essential and something the first novel missed.
Overall, I thought the two novels from the series are different from cheesy basic romance novels. There is a deeper message Hoover sends out to the readers through the story of Lily, Ryle and Atlas. Lily and Ryle’s love story shows the importance of choosing yourself and what is best for yourself despite your love for someone else. The novel also reveals what women may go through in an unhealthy toxic relationship. The character relationships and stories are much more complex than those happily ever after love stories. While the stories show happy and loving moments, it also reveals the realistic side where everything and everyone is not perfect.
“It Starts With Us” shows readers that there is still the possibility of a happy life, despite past trauma. Hoover was able to balance the serious problem of abuse and trauma with the process of healing, growing and moving on.