It Should Have Ended: A Review of “It Starts With Us” by Colleen Hoover


Ni'yah-Marie Preacely, Opinion Editor

After seeing the positive responses from users on TikTok, Colleen Hoover announced on Feb. 11 that her New York Times bestselling novel “It Ends With Us” would get a sequel in October. 

Hoover released the sequel “It Starts With Us,” on Oct. 18. This book is the perfect example of the old phrase “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” The novel is a rushed mess full of quickly answered questions to appease Hoover’s fans. 

The first installment follows florist Lily Bloom who is navigating her new life in Boston after the recent passing of her abusive father. While in Boston, Bloom meets neurosurgeon Ryle Kincaid. The two connect and eventually get into a romantic relationship. 

Throughout the novel, you follow Lily and Ryle’s relationship. After what seems to be the “perfect” romance, Ryle starts physically abusing Lily. Not wanting to be like her mother, Lily keeps promising herself that she will leave Ryle if he does it again. After multiple instances where Ryle hurts her, she realizes the toxicity of his behavior but is conflicted because she loves him. While trying to figure out how to handle her current situation, Lily runs into her first love and local restaurant owner Atlas Corrigan. Atlas knew about Lily’s family situation growing up. When they were younger, Atlas was a homeless teenager because his mother kicked him out. Lily would let him stay in her bedroom without her parents knowing. They fell in love with each other, but Atlas left to join the marines shortly after, and they lost connection. 

One day, to Lily’s dismay, she and Ryle go to lunch at Atlas’ restaurant. Atlas sees Lily and is at a loss for words. Seeing a cut on Lily’s eye from the most recent fight with Ryle, Atlas notices something is off with Lily, and immediately realizes the situation she’s in. His first instinct is to save her. She insists everything is fine and she can deal with the situation herself. 

Ryle sees Lily talking to Atlas and realizes that he is from Lily’s past and shows immediate jealousy, which causes a physical altercation between the two men. After the confrontation, Lily explains everything to Ryle, calming him down, and he chooses to forget about it. As time goes by Lily starts to believe that everything is getting better and that she and Ryle are genuinely in love. They impulsively decide to get married and elope in Vegas. All is well until Lily comes home one night thinking she will have another romantic night with Ryle. However, Ryle found Lily’s journals from her youth, which explain in explicit detail, her romance with Atlas. Ryle drunkenly confronts her about it and takes things too far, hitting Lily and trying to force himself onto her. Lily, in shock and terrified by what just happened, remembers she had memorized Atlas’s number and called him to come to take her to the hospital.

While at the hospital in a state of distress, Lily finds out she’s pregnant with her abuser’s child. When she finally goes home, Atlas tells her to call him only in the case of an emergency because he’s not sure if he can handle being friends with her. Lily understands and thanks him for his help. 

During her pregnancy, she keeps Ryle at arm’s length, trying to discern what she will do when the baby comes. When she goes into labor and her daughter Emerson is born, she finally knows what she needs to do. Minutes after her baby is born, Lily tells Ryle she wants a divorce and that the cycle of abuse ends with them. 

A year passes, and Lily and Ryle are divorced with joint custody of Emerson. While on her way to drop-off Emerson off to Ryle, she runs into Atlas. After telling Atlas that she and Ryle are no longer together, Atlas tells Lily that when she’s ready to fall in love again to fall in love with him. 

“It Starts With Us” picks up right where the first book left off, but with Atlas’s point of view. Atlas is wondering what to do about Lily, and he desperately wants to be with her. Lily is also worrying about handling her feelings for Atlas because she’s scared of how Ryle will react. While also dealing with his emotions, there was someone vandalizing his restaurant, so he’s worried about security. 

Atlas and Lily take their relationship very slow, especially because Emerson is involved. Atlas finds out that the person vandalizing his restaurant is the brother he didn’t know he had: Josh. He begins to form a connection with Josh, knowing well how their mother used to treat him, and he wants to get custody of him. 

During this, Ryle finds out about Lily and Atlas, and he reverts back to his emotionally abusive ways and scares Lily. Ryle then goes to confront Atlas, punching him in the face. Atlas calmly handles the situation by telling Ryle he’s the one that needs to change. After everything transpired, Lily and her best friend Alyssa (who happens to be Ryle’s sister), and her husband Marshall have a sit down with Ryle. They all tell Ryle that if he doesn’t get help with his anger, he will not be able to see Emerson or his niece, Alyssa’s daughter, Rylee. They also say if he ever threatens Lily or Emerson, she will sell everything she owns and goes to court against him and that Alyssa will help. Ryle reluctantly agrees. After figuring out everything with Ryle and Atlas getting custody of Josh, the book jumps forward in time. Ryle seems to be fine with Lily and Atlas being together. The book ends with Atlas planning to propose to Lily. 

This book is so mediocre it makes fan fiction look like the Odyssey. It all seems so unbelievably rushed. It’s obvious Hoover wrote this because of the social media spotlight the first received. It doesn’t seem like she even wrote it: the novel airs of Hoover getting a few die-hard fans on a zoom call, asking for their suggestions, and then taking everything they said and hastily throwing it together.

Hoover said herself that she never planned to write a sequel, so my question is “Why write it, then?” I understand that the book is based on her childhood and experiences with her father, but instead of portraying the whirlwind of emotions and hardships that come with leaving an abusive relationship and breaking generational cycles, it romanticizes abuse and emphasizes the idea of needing someone to save you. 

This book was not necessary. With the way the first novel ended, Hoover could have left it the way it was: with Lily knowing she made the right decision to leave Ryle for the sake of her daughter. There is no point in having Ryle in the second book showing how he has not changed at all. He is still the manipulative jerk he was in the first one. The romance between Atlas and Lily was okay at best, as Atlas was meeting the bare minimum of a significant other and the book makes it seem like he’s a hero. Hoover’s “It Starts With Us” shows us that just because fans want something doesn’t always mean they should have it.