‘It Starts With Us’ Fails To Represent Abusive Relationships


Atria Books

Colleen Hoover’s sequel fails to measure up to ‘It Starts With Us.’

Sarah Lockley

On October 18, 2022, Colleen Hoover released her latest book, “It Starts With Us”— a sequel to her ever popular novel, “It Ends With Us,” released in 2016. 

“It Ends With Us” tells the story of Lily Bloom and her problematic relationship with Ryle Kincaid as she learns how to navigate various forms of abuse and love. Although Lily and Ryle’s relationship starts out picture-perfect, Ryle’s truly toxic tendencies are quickly revealed after they get married. Lily must then make vital decisions regarding how to deal with his behavior.

“It Starts With Us,” however, merely focuses on the progression of Lily’s newest relationship. The majority of the plot revolves around her going on a date or two, all the while ensuring that Ryle does not find out and grow jealous.

Colleen Hoover wrote these books with the intent of expressing the struggles of an abusive relationship, and, to an extent, she accomplished this with her initial novel. It is easy for readers to understand the struggle that Lily endures when it comes to her relationship with Ryle; however, in an attempt to maintain romantic tones within her book, Hoover tries to write Ryle’s character in a way that makes his maltreatment excusable.

 While Ryle abuses Lily multiple times throughout the book, he does not remember doing so due to traumas from his past. Hoover specifically wrote his character to be the ideally “perfect” man, and she reduced any abusive tendencies he had to be something that he was not entirely accountable for. Readers were left trying to find a way to excuse his battery for the sake of romance when they should have been experiencing the full effects of abuse with Lily.

Now, this isn’t to say that Hoover completely failed at representing an abusive relationship— they come in many shapes and sizes, and one type of abuse is not made to be worse than another. That being said, it is clear that Hoover was more concerned about flooding her book with romance than revealing the true pain of domestic violence to her audience. 

With the release of “It Starts With Us,” Colleen Hoover completely disregarded any ounce of acknowledgement towards abusive relationships she had previously made. The only thing Lily is concerned about throughout the entire book is preventing Ryle from becoming jealous as she dates someone new. Hoover had ample opportunities to reveal how difficult it is for people to recover from abusive relationships, but instead painted a story about a love triangle, nearly erasing any trace of pain and abuse she had written about prior.

Overall, Hoover’s sequel failed to uphold any themes of abuse that she had managed to portray within “It Ends With Us.” Readers who lean toward an easy-yet-long read might enjoy these novels, but if they’re looking for a story to represent traumas endured from abusive relationships, they’re out of luck.