One scroll through the book side of TikTok, coined “BookTok,” will leave you with several recommendations of young adult romance novels from the author Colleen Hoover. She is best known for her novel It Ends With Us, and her other popular books Ugly Love, Verity, and November 9. It is estimated that she has sold over 20 million books.
The casting for the movie adaptation of It Ends With Us was just revealed, which has fans of the books divided. Blake Lively, best known for her role in Gossip Girl, was cast as the main lead Lily, while Justin Baldoni, known for his role in Jane the Virgin, will play Ryle.
The age of the actors seems to be the main reason for backlash, as one fan wrote on Twitter, “Blake Lively being cast as lily blooms in it ends with us is confusing because the character is 23 in the book and Blake is 12 years older ??? like could they not have got someone age appropriate.”
While another wrote, “All this discourse about the book that Blake Lively is gonna star in the movie for is dumb bc people are saying she’s 40 and the character should be 20 but she’s an actress she’ll play whatever age she needs to??? in what show or movie is the actor the actual age of the character.”
So, what is the book about?
It Ends With Us, written in 2016, gained traction for its themes of romance and domestic violence. It is also surrounded by a lot of controversies as to how it handles dark themes, as it is geared toward a young audience. It is clear that it is made for young adults, as the main character’s name is literally Lily Blossom Bloom and she owns a flower shop (need I say more?)
In short, the book begins with the main character as she deals with the death of her abusive father, navigating living in a new city, and falling in love with a rich doctor named Ryle. The readers learn a lot about her past with her family and ex-boyfriend Atlas, as she reads through the old letters that she wrote to Ellen DeGeneres (yes, that Ellen) as a teenager. Lily’s new boyfriend begins to show abusive behavior toward her, like hitting her and pushing her down the stairs, for which she is always making excuses.They even eventually get married and have a daughter. Throughout the book, Lily also reconnects with her first love, Atlas, as he tries to help her escape her abusive relationship. She and Ryle only break up after an explicit sexual assault scene that was pretty unnecessary to the overall story. It ends with Lily and Atlas ending up together, which rubbed many readers the wrong way as she is clearly dealing with enough and doesn’t need to jump into a new relationship.
Hoover has claimed that It Ends With Us is not a love story between Lily and Atlas, but rather a cautionary tale about ending the cycle of domestic violence. However, many readers have an issue with the way this was done. One reviewer on Good Reads wrote:
“I empathize with the main character Lily and I appreciate the effort that was made to highlight how trauma distorts and lingers, but I don’t believe this captures the severity or nuance that a topic this heavy deserves in fictionalized work. This book is marketed as a romance, and the synopsis makes it seem like a lighthearted love triangle instead of a woman’s experience with spousal abuse.”
While another wrote:
“I have a few big issues with this book and one of them is the impressionable message it could possibly leave on young readers. Another huge problem I have is the lack of repercussions Ryle receives after being outed as Lily’s abuser. His only ‘punishment’ was Lily leaving him. He got to keep his family and their support, his fancy little job, and later on he even gets Lily AND his daughter back in his life. so technically he really just got away with a little pat on the hand and that’s all.”
It seems as though while the message could have been strong, it was executed terribly.
The Coloring Book
Hoover has also been in hot water after attempting to release a coloring book about the novel, which is extremely tone-deaf given the content. One person on Twitter wrote, “Colleen Hoover creating a coloring book for a novel that’s supposedly about DV and SA is just profiting off of the subjects DV and SA. At this point, it’s about money for her and I feel like we should absolutely 100% boycott her and stop buying from her and supporting her.”
After backlash, production on the coloring was halted and Hoover wrote “I hear you guys and I agree with you. No excuses. No finger pointing,” she continued. “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.”
The question remains about how topics such as domestic violence should be handled in the media. What could Hoover have done better? Should the intended audience have been older?