It is safe to say that I was not prepared for what Colleen Hoover would give me when I picked up this book.
Final Review: 3.5 out of 5 ★★★☆☆
I am having a tough time rating this. On the one hand, I enjoyed it. Definitely worth the 4 stars, but I wasn’t IN LOVE WITH IT. But on the other hand, there were some definite over-cliched troupes involved and while I bawled (I’ll get to that later), I wasn’t fully satisfied. So maybe I’d actually rate this 3.75 out of 5? Can I do that?
Anyway, I do think Hoover was successful in some things. For starters, this is the first book that has made me cry–and I’m talking ugly cry, sobbing, maybe going to throw up it hurts so much type of crying–in a long ass time. I was thoroughly upset pretty much at the halfway point through the rest. So clearly, Hoover is excellent at building characters that you just cannot help but feel something for. I wasn’t even aware that I had latched on to Lily and was feeling personally victimized for her until it was already happening. In fact, I was worried I wouldn’t feel anything because it had been a while since I read a Nicolas Sparks-esque book and I thought there wouldn’t be much depth. Boy, was I wrong.
Lily is both a flat and a deep character at the same time. What I mean by this is she is exactly what you would expect of a woman in this type of novel; she is charming but also broken; she is working on making her own life better while running away from demons of her past. Her background is pretty self-explanatory and to be expected, and while I accept and agree with this, there is still something about her I can’t put my finger on that marks her as special. You really are rooting for her to win because maybe you see a little bit of yourself in her, perhaps not her whole story, but just a large-enough snippet that you feel yourself going through similar emotions and tribulations.
This is also what Hoover is successful at making her characters, setting, plot all seem real. For some reason, and I’ve only read a few, the Nicolas Sparks books seem to have a slight air of ridiculousness, not necessarily in a bad way, but in order to captivate the reader, there are a lot of poetic justices being made. I was expected some of the same in Hoover’s writing, and while some of it is there, for the most part, I felt like Lily could be my friend or next door neighbor, and I was almost witnessing her pain as a present bystander. Some of her development is a little silly: Lily Bloom being her full name is just too much, the fact that her first employee is not only a bored millionaire house-wife but also Ryle’s sister. These things are definitely over-the-top and fringing on ridiculous coincidences that I cannot actually see happening. But other than that, her life is touching: she is more caring than her parents combined, she is a child of an abusive home, she also finds herself in a similar situation to her mother–these things could and do happen.
Now for some spoilers so if you want to remain innocent, avert your eyes.
I think what is stopping me from giving this book a full 5 (or even a full 4 stars if we’re going with the 3.75 stars) is two things. The first: Lily’s pregnancy.
What can I say about this? First, I didn’t see it coming so bravo Hoover on that, but once it happened I realized “duh, of course this would happen. This is that type of book.” Which is fine! But I think that for a book that so far had been so empowering (standing up for yourself, the honest struggles of a physically abusive relationship, etc.) could have gone one step further and Lily could have had an abortion. She didn’t even think about it. When she finds out she’s pregnant with Ryle’s baby, she has already forced him out of her home for abusing her (go Lily!) and yet, it being near the end of 2016 when this book comes out, I would have thought–or at least liked to see–Lily have the serious conversation with herself about motherhood. I think even just discussing the option of an abortion already shows her being even more empowering–even if she decides against it. She finally gets her shit together enough to kick Ryle out, but there is no question about having his baby? She just accepts fate? That doesn’t seem so empowering anymore. Of course, I don’t know anything about Hoover and whether or not she is pro-choice, but I am and I want to see more of that displayed in these female-empowered books. If she really wants her readers–young women like myself who could or have been going through the same situations–present them with all the same options. Even if your character does not opt for the surgery, at least have her mention it as an idea. She lives in Boston! It’s not Utah.
Secondly, I wasn’t satisfied guys. Maybe that’s the point; as the onlooker I want Lily and Atlas to end up together and *spoiler* they kind of do. I’m saying “kind of” here because we don’t really know since the novel ends soon after they are reunited–again–after the birth of Lily and Ryle’s kid, but it all seems… rushed. After Lily has dropped over her child with Ryle, she runs back to meet Atlas who she has just passed on the street a second prior. They chat for a few seconds and then dive right into the tough questions (Does Atlas donate to charity and want kids?) and then they’re off. They finally get together and are awarded barely a page? I would have loved to see what happened in the epilogue happen in the last chapter, and then have the epilogue be a time jump to when we could actually see Atlas and Lily finally together, maybe they have a child together already and Ryle is happy and their daughter is happy. I get that this is probably for effect: it would be unlike her (at least to my understanding since this is the first book I’ve read by her) to tie everything up cleanly and nicely at the end. But can’t a girl dream?
“In the future…if by some miracle you ever find yourself in the position to fall in love again… fall in love with me.” (Atlas to Lily, 309)
Overall, if you are a fan of a book that makes you sob and want to throw it but that could also easily be read in a day, then go ahead and grab the tissues. I do have another Hoover book on my list, Without Merit, but I don’t think it’s going to be one I pick up right away. I need to wait these emotions out for a second.