Published by Atria Books on August 2, 2016
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Sometimes it is the one who loves you who hurts you the most.
Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up — she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.
Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.
As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan — her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.
This book is dangerous.
Typically, when I dislike a book as much as this one (which is supremely rare that I hit the *hate* scale), I either opt not to review, or post a generic “not for me” review. I cannot do that with this book, nor can I be polite or professional about my criticisms. There are spoilers aplenty ahead because they are truly necessary to have an open dialogue about this book.
It Ends With Us follows the “romance” between Ryle and Lily. More accurately, it is a story of the continually escalating verbal, physical and sexual abuse across generations. From Lily’s diary entries written by a younger self, we learn Lily’s father abused her mother throughout her childhood. She had one source of strength in her first love, Atlas. He also came from a downright torturous family situation. Atlas planned to commit suicide and then he sees Lily – a light in his very dark world. He started a tenuous relationship with Lily and lived essentially homeless in a derelict building behind her house until he can join up with the Marines. In an even sadder twist, Atlas is brutally beaten by – you guessed it – Lily’s father. As often happens in NA, he disappears from Lily’s life…for now.
In Lily’s present timeline, she meets Ryle on the same day she eulogizes her father who has died from cancer. In their VERY FIRST ENCOUNTER he is kicking the ever-loving shit out of a piece of furniture before he realizes Lily is out on a rooftop along with him. He hits on her with the skeaziest pick up line and manages to worm himself under Lily’s skin. Their encounter is brief, but six months pass, and Lily still thinks often of Ryle and their “naked truths” rooftop game until their paths cross again. They begin dating (although Ryle says he only does one-night stands and Lily is looking for “the one”). There is zero chemistry between them and innumerable red flags, but they move their relationship along very quickly. They don’t know each other well with Ryle busy completing his residency and Lily starting a new business. Lily realizes Ryle has kind of moved in without any discussion. At this point, Ryle is just uncomfortable, and I thought I was missing something about their relationship. And then shit gets real.
In a completely absurd turn of events, Ryle puts his hands on Lily. He leaves her bloody and broken. It made my stomach plummet. If that wasn’t tragic enough, the language of the book becomes primarily about Lily’s “reasoning.” Lily explains away Ryle’s abuse to herself – and continues to do so as the book progresses across several instances and kinds of abuse. It was her fault for making him mad. He’s very important and under a lot of stress. She kept information from him that she knew would make him mad and it’s her fault he found out. He didn’t mean to hurt her. He has a tragic childhood. He can’t help what he does. He’s not himself.
Lily allows her doctor husband help to treat the bruises and cuts he inflicts on her and thinks to herself, “This is my Ryle” – not the other one that hurts her. She lets him have sex with her as some grotesque form of apology and proof of love. Lily lies (sometimes with Ryle’s help) to those around her who see something is wrong and try to help, up until the point her husband beats her nearly unconscious and rapes her. She waits for Ryle to fall asleep and calls Atlas (yes, he’s around in the present timeline, too). He takes her to a hospital, but bloodied and concussed she tells him not to go to the hospital Ryle works for – she doesn’t want him to lose his job over a “misunderstanding.” She lies to the nurse about being raped to protect Ryle again. She learns she’s pregnant with Ryle’s baby. And through all of this, she blames herself for, time and time again.
I don’t blame fictional Lily for her reasoning. I don’t blame her for staying or struggling to make this toxic relationship work. That part sadly rings very true for the firsthand accounts of spousal abuse I’ve seen in my lifetime. I know that a lot of what is written here is a “normal” portrayal of the guilt and confusion women often feel in abusive relationships. What is astonishing to me is that it takes 75% of the book to change the messaging from Lily somehow being culpable (despite being the victim), to Ryle being the guilty piece of human garbage for ever hurting her in the first place. 75% for her to say and realize this is not ok. 75% for her to say she hates Ryle for his actions, and even then it is qualified that she still loves the man, and hates herself for loving him. I understand the multitudes of complexity here, but for fuck’s sake! This is fiction. Can we not do better for our characters – and for our readers?
We need to stop the narrative. And we sure as hell shouldn’t be masquerading it around as a love story with a morally gray and troubled partner who seems falsely redeemable. It’s bullshit and it’s fucking dangerous. It further devastates me that this is a New Adult title. This book scary for adultier adults, but younger readers especially should know – nothing about this story is ok. There is never any excuse for your partner to put his or her hands on you. EVER. There is no past that could ever justify treatment like this in the present. It’s never your fault. You’re not guilty of doing anything to provoke such a reaction. There are lots of people and organizations who will help you get out. Plainly, this shit isn’t love.
There are objectively good things to say about the writing style, the plot, all the normal stuff I would usually mention in a review, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. There were many times when I should have stopped reading. I knew my triggers were angrily being pressed by this book several times over. I hoped and even told a friend – I need to see that Hoover makes this right. Maybe she will use this as an opportunity to show the audience what to do. That no love, no matter how kismet it may seem, should ever make you feel this way. Any amends she attempted were far too little, far too late. At a certain point, it didn’t even matter how this ended because the damage was severe. It almost pisses me off more that there is some bastardized version of an HEA tacked on to the end of this trauma roller coaster. This book is so emotionally manipulative and full of hurt.