Colleen Hoover

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Example One: Romanticisation of abuse
Example Two: Content warnings

Example one: Romanticisation of abuse

This section will contain spoilers for the books ‘November 9’ and ‘It ends with us’

Colleens accused ‘romanticisation of abuse’ has been the topic of debate within the book community. The examples given on this page include direct quotes from the text, with thorough explanation and sources where available. Romanticisation is defined as to “deal with or describe in an idealized or unrealistic fashion; make (something) seem better or more appealing than it really is.” (LINK)

Books about various serious issues exist, and it is not the idea of including unhealthy relationships is Colleens books that are consdered a problem. It is how these relationships are portrayed within the texts. Depiction does not equal endorsement; but depiction without recognition of the issues or with justification is equal to endorsement. ‘It ends with us’ is the only one of Colleens many books that actively acknowledges that the relationship within is toxic or abusive; this book is the main example that will be used here. Certain people may have been helped by these books, but that does not excuse any harm they may cause.

After Ryle pushes Lily down the stairs, he tells her that when he was six years old he accidentally shot and killed his brother. Since then there are, in Ryles own words “things I can’t control. I get angry. I black out.” Ryle says he is in therapy. (Side note: This isn’t confirmed or mentioned at any other point in the book; and as a reader I don’t know if I believe him. He is working 18 hour shifts and spending all his spare time with Lily. He has lied to her plenty of times before, including when he pushed her down the stairs and insisted she fell.) Following this, Lily comforts him and “kisses his head.” Sympathy for abusers and their past is a very real thing, and is a very real issue in abusive relationships. It’s a part of what’s called ‘trauma bonding’ and this is a realistic look at the abuser-abusee dynamic (LINK).

Lily immediately mirrors his own words from the night that they met back at him “There is no such thing as bad people. We’re all just people who sometimes do bad things.” This is a popular quote, no one ever mentions that it’s spoken by the abuser after he has a violent outburst. Context is key, and Ryle is using this belief to jusify his bad behaviour-which as this point is just attacking a chair. Lily speaking this back to him is her way of justifying his behaviour in this moment. It’s presented as a romantic point where they decide to work on their relationship together, and she is expected to help him with his issues. Later in the book Lily does decide to end things with Ryle and does say “No excuses,” but it’s in a very passing moment, and is there’s no retrospection of her previous justifications.

Screenshot from the kindle e-book of 'It ends with us'. Ryle is talking to the POV character, Lily. The text reads ""I would never tell you this because I want it to excuse my behaviour." He pulls back and looks me firmly in the eyes. "You have to believe that. Allysa wanted me to tell you all of this because since that happebed, there are things I can't control. I get angry. I black out. I've been in therapy since I was six years old. But it is not my excuse. It is my reality,""
Screenshot from the kindle e-book of 'It ends with us'. The text reads "I open my eyes again and look up to the ceiing. It's our bedroom ceiling. "Finished with what?" My mouth hurts when I speak, so I bring my hand up and cover it. "You fell down the stairs," he says. "You're hurt."
Screenshot from the kindle e-book of 'It ends with us'. Ryle is talking to Lily. The text reads "There is no such thing as bad people. We're all just people who sometimes do bad things."

Towards the end of the book Lily has decided to end things with Ryle, but is expecting a daughter together. Following the rest of the book-including a sexual assault and 3 months of no contact-she allows him to be her primary caretaker whilst 9 months pregnant. She also allows him into the room whilst she gives birth. This, in itself, is a form of forgiveness. Being a parent is not a right. There is no right to being a parent; it is a privilege that the law will take away in cases of abuse. (Exact laws vary by country and state.) Providing him with this privilage is a from of forgiveness. She also decides she wants to name her daughter after his family-in hopes that it may be healing for him. This is a form of reward for him; it is an honour. He is still reaping rewards from relationship. He is being rewarded for his previous problematic behaviour.

In the epilogue, a year later, she is dropping their daughter at Ryle’s house for his time. Despite all of lily’s introspection that she wants to leave the relationship because she wants what’s best for her child, it’s highly recommended in law that where physical or sexual violence has occurred between parents, any form of unsupervised visitation or custody with the abusive parent is considered against the childs best interests. (LINK) She is knowingly putting her daughter in danger. She still has a friendly co-parenting relationship with Ryle, and says that “parents have to work through their differences and bring a level of maturity into a situation in order to do what’s best for their child.” Lily and Ryle did not have differences-he physically and sexually abused her. By showing their relationship as positive in the end of the novel, and by allowing Ryle to have a normal relationship with his daughter, he has faced no consequences for his abusive actions. They are all shown as a happy co-parenting family, where Lily is considered “mature” for standing by the man that abused her. This perpetuates the idea that Ryle wouldn’t abuse her just because they’re no longer in a romantic relationship, despite the fact they still see each other regulary. Ryle was offered a redemtion arc without ever addressing the harm he caused, or may continue to cause in the future.

Screenshot from the kindle e-book of 'It ends with us'. The text reads "We become a sobbing mess of tears and broken hearts and shattered dreams. We hold each other. We hold our daughter. And as hard as this choice is, we break the pattern before the pattern breaks us. He hands her back to me and wipes his eyes. He stands up, still crying. Still trying to catch his breath. In the last fifteen minutes, he lost the love of his life. In the last fifteen minutes, he became a father to a beautiful girl."
Screenshot from the kindle e-book of 'It ends with us'.  Lily is talking to Ryle after giving birth to their daughter. The text reads ""I'd like to name her after your sister," I say, glancing at him "Or maybe your brother?" I'm not sure what he thinks of that. I personally think naming out daughter after his brother could be somewhat healing for him, but he may not see it that way,"

In early 2023, Hoover planned to release a colouring book based on “It ends with us.” The description for the books states that “As you colour these thirty beautifully rendered illustrations, you will experience this phenomenal novel’s most iconic scenes and settings” (LINK) The novels ‘most iconic scenes’ all centre around abuse-it is a novel about abuse, with the pivitol scene involving the main character being pushed down the stairs. The book was cancelled only after extreme public backlash. In a statement on her instagram Collen wrote “The coloring book was developed with Lily’s strength in mind, but I can absolutely see how this was tone-deaf, I hear you guys and I agree with you. No excuses. No finger pointing” She did not, however, apologise nor acknowledge the implications behind creating a colouring book themed on domestic violence.

An image taken from Colleen Hoovers instagram account, A Pink coloring book on a pink background surrounded by coloured pencils pointing at it. The colouring book cover says "The official it ends with us coloring book." and features the outlines of a baking bowl with whisk, a stethoscope and some flowers with falling petals. A few of the petals are coloured pink colour.
A screenshot from Colleen Hoovers instagram story. A black background that reads "The coloring book was developed with Lily’s strength in mind, but I can absolutely see how this was tone-deaf, I hear you guys and I agree with you. No excuses. No finger pointing. I have contacted the publisher to let them know I would prefer we don't move forward with it. Thank you for the respectful discourse and accountability. Nothing but love." followed by three red heart emoticons.

In another of her books, November 9, the main love interest is also abusive. Ben assaults the main character, Fallon, on their first meeting. Assault can be any form of inappropriate touching-and inappropriate touching can be sexual or non-secual depending on the circumstances (LINK) “”Sorry I’m late babe.” he says, wrapping his arm around my shoulders…I stiffen beneath the guy’s arm when I feel his lips against the side of my head. “Damn L.A traffic” he mutters. Random dude just put his lips in my hair.” In this quote, they have never spoken or met before. Fallon is clearly uncomfortable, but this moment is painted as romantic. He later assaults her again, in a more serious way. She asks him to stop touching her, he refuses to, and then cuts off any further protests by forcing himself on her. See the following quote:

“”Stop” I tell him, my voice louder than it’s been all night thanks to the distance from the music. His hand is right back where it was before…grazing the edge of my panties…forcing my eyes shut like it would even make a difference in here,
“I’m trying” he whispers, threadinf the hand that isn’t up my skirt through the strands of my hair. He grips the naoe of my neck “Ask me again.” I open my mouth to say it again, but I’m met wuth heat and tongue and lips that know just how to make it all work together.”

He wants to control what she wears depsit her insisting she does not want to wear the outfit he picked, and he threatens to leave her alone if she doesn’t comply. This is played off as a cute moment, but is a serious sign of domestic abuse (LINK):

“I shove the dress back at him. “I don’t want to wear that, I want to wear this one.”
“No” he says “I’m paying for dinner, so I get to choose what to stare at whilst we eat.”
“Then I’ll pay for dinner and wear the dress I want to wear.”
“The I’ll stand up and got o Chipotle.””

The twist of the books ends up being that Ben set Fallons fathers house on fire when they were both younger, something that up until now Fallon had thought was an accident. The fire left her physically scarred and with severe mental health issues. He has gaslit her throughout all of their contact, pretending to know nothing about the fire even happening in the first place, when he always knew it was his fault. After she finds this out and reads what he wrote about it, they still end up togethe and Ben faces no consequences. Fallon implies that his actions require no apology, and that he’s done nothing wrong. She says “You’ve carried so much guilt for what you did, and for so long. You can’t ask for my forgiveness because there’s nothing to forgive.” At the end of the book they end up together, and get their “happy ever after.” None of Bens behaviour is ever brought up or mentioned, and instead he’s written as if all of this is normal and not negative-he’s ‘her dream boy and the best partner she could have.’

Ben, along with other boys from Hoovers books, appears on Colleens official merchandise (LINK). There isnt an official definition of book boyfriend, but the general definition is a romantically desirable fictional character. Urban dictionary defines a book boyfriend as ‘the hero Male character in the romance you’re currently reading; because real men suck at romance, the book boyfriend exists to fill the void.’ (LINK) and the most simple collective definition is ‘the fictional boy (or girl) you wish could be your real-life love’ (LINK). These defintions all have clear positive connotations.

In putting Ben on this shirt Colleen is presenting a boy that is an abuser; someone who assaulted the girl on their first meeting, lied to her constantly, emotionally manipulated and literally set her fathers house on fire causing her life-long disability, as an ideal boyfriend and romantically desirable.

Photot of offical Colleen Hoover Merchandise. A black Tshirt that says "Atlas & Ben & Miles & Will & Dean & Ledger & Ridge" with a line break after each ampersand.

Example two: Content warnings

Once asked about the lack of content warnings in her book, Colleen wrote on her blog “As a fellow reader with my fair share of past experiences, I understand that there are issues some people do not want to read about. But as a writer, there are many things I don’t want revealed in the blurbs of my books.” (LINK, LINK) The post was origianlly archived, but has since been deleted (LINK)

No one wants content warnings for everything, as many people seem to think. It’s impossible to warn for all content that people may be affected by, but commonly known triggering content should be considered. By warning your readers about sensitive topics it makes sure that people with mental health issues don’t come to harm by confronting their trauma with no warning. They also allow for readers who don’t want to read about these subjects, whether or not they actively need content warnings, to make informed decsions about what they’re reading. (LINK)

With her response, Colleen implies that she cares about her readers getting spoiled for her plot more than she cares about their possible trauma or choice in reading. All of colleens books are actively marketed and described as romance, and in many cases are catergorised as being YA-even on Goodreads.(LINK) See example one on this page if you need context as to why that’s incorrect. The marketing of all of her books, even the one with recognised abuse as a main plot point, never mentions anything that would make possible readers believe it’s anything but a normal, happy love story. In YA circles, children will be exposed to the ideas within these books without warning. Without content warnings, she is misleading her readers and taking away their informed reading choices.



UK book blogger, 25 , Enby and disabled. Contact me for ARC/review requests. Independent bookstore and diverse books advocate.

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