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It Starts with Us – Tik Tok’s most anticipated read of the year

EVIE TURNER has mixed feelings about Colleen Hoover’s sequel to the worldwide phenomenon It Ends with Us

Trigger Warning – domestic violence and abuse topics

If you’ve heard of Colleen Hoover, you know all about her latest antics in the romance world. The author, a mother from Texas, has already outsold The Bible by three-million copies of her latest stories. Hoover went from tending cows as a child to having close to 24 titles on The New York Times’s Bestsellers List! Now, she tells the story of our beloved characters from It Ends with Us(published in 2016), due to reader demand.

It Starts with... Tik Tok

The first book, It Ends with Us, was published by Simon and Schuster and made popular by Hoover’s adoring fans on social media. As Tik Tok rose in popularity, so did Colleen Hoover. Thestory of florist Lily and her teenage sweetheart Atlas (a 16-year-old homeless boy) tugged at our heartstrings. When Lily meets Ryle, the handsome neurosurgeon, we follow her on a journey of unexpected domestic abuse and manipulation, until the end of the book which sees Lily with an ever-lasting connection to her abuser - her new-born girl.

This sequel explores the reconnection of Lily and Atlas with Hoover relating their blossoming romance and the pitfalls of their connection to Ryle.

It Starts with Us, published on October 18th, has already been awarded WHSmith’s ‘Book of the Year 2022’, and broke publishing records by selling more than 800,000 copies on the day of release! I read the book in the same week of the release, and I have a few things to say, as does the rest of the reading community…

Warning, this may contain spoilers!

Three Little Words…. let me count the ways

Let’s begin with the characters, two of whom we have followed through both books, begging for their happy ending, which is promised here. Between our two protagonists, Atlas and Lily, there is only happiness. In some chapters, it is romantic and raw. In others, especially in the beginning and towards the end, the topics of conversation become repetitive and dull. The book is a continuous cycle of Atlas and Lily saying “I love you” in a hundred different ways, which could be nice for a novella, but not for a 400-page book!

Minor Conflict = Major Discomfort

The only sense of conflict is the dialogue exchange between Ryle and Lily (which a lot of fans weren’t happy about). Lily’s abusive ex, Ryle, makes a minor comeback, manipulating her into feeling guilty about her newfound love. Whilst his role is minimal, the anticipation holds the same ground as before. The same feelings of anxiety arise when Ryle makes an appearance, and the writing is a lot more personal when his character is integrated into a scene. It Ends With Us was written from Hoover’s own experiences of domestic violence, so we can expect a disconnect from the plot in this sequel. It is significant that the author was practically forced to write the book because of the demand from fans.

Side Plots and Sub Characters

It is the side characters that happen to be my favourites in the book. Theo, with his quick wit and intelligence, reminded me of my youngest sisters, always ready with a smart comeback. Josh, a lonely teenage boy, made me think about my own childhood and how lucky I was to grow up in a loving household. We learnt a lot more about the main protagonists through the side characters, and the subplots were arguably better than the main narrative.

The subplot with the biggest impact on me was the struggle of Ryle and Lily trying to co-parent. The exchanges were tense; there was a sense of danger which connected to the first book in many ways. If there weren’t any of these moments between the two, this would feel like a completely different book, with a different storyline than the first. Ryle, despite his horrific actions, had to be included to tell the real story of domestic violence victims and how they navigate life with their abusers still surrounding them.

It Ends with... Disappointment

Overall, this was a 3/5 for me. It took me so long to finish this book. Unbelievably long.

Almost a month! I had no interest continuing unless I finished reading in the middle of an argument or conflict, which was rare. I didn’t cry, which I was expecting to do due to the impact of the first book. The writing was cute, but at some points, it was overly sappy with no structure and backbone. The letters exchanged between Atlas and Lily were monotonous and boring, and I didn’t understand the time jumps from their six-month anniversary to their wedding. The beginning and ending werea tad lacklustre. Suddenly, it was their wedding and I had to skip back and make sure I didn’t miss a page or two. I felt very disconnected from the characters during these chapters.

The book is for the fans, and it may be what the fans wanted. It’s a simple love story between Atlas and Lily, so the sequel did fit the requirements of those that had asked for it. I only wish that Hoover had written this book for herself, as I feel the writing would have been much better, a lot like the first book.

I would recommend reading It Starts With Us if you enjoyed It Ends With Us. It gives closure to the story of Lily and Atlas and tells a quick and easy romance story. But don’t go into the book with high expectations or you may well be disappointed.

Written by Evie Turner

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