Lost in Translation

Unpacking Colleen Hoover’s controversial novel, It Ends With Us.


Nenad Stojkovic

15 of Colleen Hoover’s books are ranked on the best-sellers list, including It Ends With Us.

With TikTok’s chokehold on our generation, through enthralling videos in a quick, easy-to-digest format, its sheer impact on today’s popular trends is not shocking. The social media app harbors many unique communities of specific interests ranging from fashion and makeup to cooking to video games to books. The latter’s audience is categorized into #BookTok. Videos under that hashtag offer content including reviews, suggestions, to-be-read lists, and virtually anything else a book reader would enjoy or find relevant.

Book reviews are bountiful on TikTok and unsurprisingly, it permits authors previously unknown to hold a top spot in book sales worldwide for weeks. A prime example of this phenomenon would be Colleen Hoover and her best-selling book It Ends With Us that was published in 2016. According to the New York Times, she has sold more books than Dr. Seuss, author of a plethora of beloved children’s books known for whimsical rhymes bolstering vibrant plots. Hoover has sold more books than James Patterson and John Grisham combined. She has managed to beat Patterson whose paperbound presence is inescapable from even the most niche airport book stands with a whopping 200 novels in his repertoire.

Hoover’s most popular book to date, It Ends With Us, tells a painful story about domestic abuse. With its popularity, however, comes the polarization it brings to the BookTok community. Users have taken two distinct sides when it comes to Hoover’s controversial novel.

Many have condemned the author for romanticizing abuse and domestic violence through the main character Lily Bloom’s relationship with aspiring surgeon Ryle. Defenders of Hoover argue that the relationship described in the book is based on the author’s own mother and her struggle with an abusive partner, which is mentioned in the acknowledgements.

Still, many members of the BookTok community attack Hoover’s writing skills, claiming that her juvenile prose belongs on Wattpad, a popular fan fiction site.

Wattpad’s inclusivity and accessibility allows anyone to post their writing, making it a hotspot for young writers. However, jabs at Hoover’s writing does not undermine the fact that she reigns on best-selling lists with unparalleled success.

So, are Hoover’s writing skills to blame for the skewed message about domestic abuse in It Ends With Us, or have readers misunderstood that author’s intent.

Maybe the fault lies on both sides, but an author should not need her acknowledgements to get the point across. If the recurring issue appears to be the idealization of abusive relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault in books largely characterized by women in somewhat forbidden relationships with a disturbing power imbalance, how hard is it truly for the audience to be only slightly confused?

However, confusion may be Hoover’s exact purpose. Fans of the book who voice their conflict over the abusive partner, despite all his horrendous actions, mirror the mindset of victims in an abusive relationship. Some argue that Hoover thoroughly paints the war within victims’ minds which is why she makes the man so irresistible and terrible all at once–to make the reader feel the main character’s pain by falling in love with him all while experiencing the same suffering. Her fictional relationship becomes very real when it shows exactly how hard it is to leave an abusive relationship.

Considering all of this, Hoover does not claim to write a blueprint on how to leave abusive relationships. In an interview for BookCon 2012 Hoover said, “I hope readers take away [from the book] that people deserve respect in relationships. . . .Not just women, but everyone.”

Does a book touted as breaking the cycle of domestic violence with a message that is only apparent past the last page raise concerns? Perhaps. But in the end, we are reading a book based on the author’s own experiences. If the book leads to productive dialogue about domestic abuse, there is value in that. We should not judge Hoover’s reality. All stories deserve to be told.