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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at JMU chapter.

Even though we have free, digital stories at our fingertips, nothing beats the feeling of the crisp pages of a physical book between your fingers. Aside from assigned readings and textbooks from various classes, I haven’t read a genuine book in years, especially for my own pleasure. There were plenty of excuses between not having time or not finding the right book that reeled me in, but at the end of the day, they were simply that: excuses. Sure, I read stories here and there on my phone from various free publishing sites, but I missed the satisfaction of having my own paperback copy of a book that truly impacted me in ways that no digital tale can.

It wasn’t until I met my roommate this year who has an endless love for reading that I decided to dive right back into my reading habits. I drove to Barnes & Noble, spending too much time judging covers and reading excerpts until I went home with a long list of books I’d like to read and add to my Amazon shopping cart. Per BookTok recommendations, I began with a by romance novelist and #1 New York Times bestselling author, Colleen Hoover: It Ends With Us. This heart wrenching story pulled me out of my reading slump, leaving me impacted by its words and leading me straight back into the bookstore.


I reignited my reading journey with It Ends With Us which is currently trending on BookTok. This romance follows Lily Bloom, a fellow ginger like me, as she reflects on her diary entries concerning her first love, homeless Atlas Corrigan, while in the present day meeting a new romantic interest. 

We begin with Lily reflecting on her past and the emotions she holds against her father who was abusive towards her mother, but her thoughts are cut short when she is joined on the rooftop by the sexy and mysterious Ryle Kincaid, a young neurosurgeon frustrated by losing a child patient to gun violence. In a short game of what they call “Naked Truths,” it is revealed that they are both attracted to each other, but to Lily’s dismay, Ryle doesn’t do relationships. Unfortunately for him, she doesn’t engage in one-night stands. 

However, as time goes on, the two keep stumbling into each other, and their attraction to one another can no longer be avoided. They agree to a trial relationship which eventually blossoms into a picture-perfect romance, that is until Ryle’s hidden demons come to the surface and Lily’s former lover, Atlas, returns into the picture. I highly recommend this book, it is beautifully written, and as you place yourself as a reader into Lily’s shoes, you begin to test your own limits and strengths as well as question what love really is. Per my advice, bring a pen for your favorite quotes or to put your stream of consciousness into words and do not forget tissues! 

Trigger Warnings for this book include: domestic abuse and violence, gun violence, language, sexual content, and attempted rape

Reflections (Spoilers included!)

It Ends With Us challenged me. It made me question everything I had already thought I knew for certain about love and how we treat our loved ones. To start off, I’m a sucker for love triangles, and the dynamic between Lily and Ryle and Lily and Atlas tore me apart, just as any other love triangle would. These triangles, like Norrington-Elizabeth-Will in The Pirates of the Caribbean or Stefan-Elena-Damon in The Vampire Diaries, almost always drag my heart into two different directions because, even though I may favor one option over the other, my heart always aches for the lover who is not chosen. Now, if you read It Ends With Us, you may be screaming “but, Brittany, Ryle was abusive! The obvious choice is Atlas! How could you feel sorry?” at your computer screen, but Colleen Hoover didn’t make it that easy. 

Ryle begins the story as an alluring, passionate, and determined, all sexy qualities in a man, and even throughout the story, we see glimpses of him at his best, and just as Lily does, we begin to admire him. For me personally, I struggle as a reader with the same question that Lily does as a character: does the good outweigh the bad? Of course, there’s a limit to this question. Unfortunately, we tend to push our limits when it comes to love. How much is worth it? One night of mistakes or maybe a whole affair? Petty arguments in exchange for happy memories? Or in Lily’s case, are a few “accidents” worth the high she feels with Ryle that she hasn’t felt since she said goodbye to Atlas? 

As an outsider, it’s easy to say that you would never stay with an abuser or a cheater, but this book made me question if I would even have the strength to let go of all the beautiful aspects of a relationship to free myself from the ugly side, especially at a first shove or mistake because I am seeing it through the eyes of Lily who is living that reality. 

Though it’s no excuse, I had to set aside my copy of the book and grab some tissues when Ryle explained what he had done to his brother as a child. He’s troubled by his trauma, and he will be for the rest of his life. Unfortunately for him, he cannot provide Lily with the love he wants to give her, the love that she truly deserves, until he can overcome that anger, bitterness, and guilt that he has for himself deep inside. As the saying goes, Ryle cannot love someone else until he can love and forgive himself, and that is exactly what makes me have sorrow in my heart for Ryle, no matter how heartbroken I was when he didn’t give Lily the marriage and respect she deserved. When Lily finally has their daughter and cuts ties with Ryle for the sake of their child, I cried throughout the painful scene. Firstly, it was beautifully and tragically written. All characters present, even the newborn Emerson, are destroyed by the picture-perfect life that they cannot manage, but they are saved by being freed from continuing a cycle of abuse, hence the title, It Ends With Us. Lily loses a man that, no matter how he’s treated her, she loves deeply, and her daughter, Emmy, loses a home with a mother and father under the same roof. Even Ryle loses the woman he desperately wants to love and be with. 

You may be thinking, “Brittany? How could he love her if he abused her?” This novel made me question the same thing. Love is not abuse, and it should never be tolerated. Love is not hurting the one you care that deeply for, but again, I do not think Colleen Hoover makes it that simple. After much reflection and questioning, I do think that Ryle really does have love in his heart for Lily and believes that she is the love of his life. Ryle’s trauma simply inhibits him from knowing how to love and being able to love properly, which is a tragedy in itself. He wants to give her the world, and he does with every happy moment they have together, but he also takes light away from that world every time he is no longer in control of himself. 

As for Atlas, Lily’s diary entries reminiscing about her time together made my heart swell, making me fond of the relationship she once had with him, but when Ryle was good to Lily in the beginning, I did not want anything to jeopardize their relationship. However, with each abusive incident between the couple, I grew to appreciate Atlas as a love interest more and more, especially after seeing how protective he was of Lily even after all the time that they had spent apart. It was so bittersweet knowing that Lily had held onto everything about him since she last saw him between moving to Boston and getting a tattoo in his memory. Knowing that they were always in search of each other over the years, but it never seemed to click, is so heartbreaking. There’s something about romanticizing that first love that makes you crave Lily and Atlas’ happy ending. That’s what makes their reunion in the epilogue so satisfying because they could finally conclude their love story together and give each other the love story they each deserved. Everything fell into place. A part of me still felt for Ryle, despite me knowing this conclusion was best for everyone involved. What hurts is knowing how Ryle would react if the story surpassed the epilogue, seeing the woman he still loves in the arms of a man she swore would not come between them. Love that doesn’t work hurts, but so does loving someone who loves someone else. Yet at the end of the day, Lily’s heart always seemed to belong to Atlas, and based on the resolution of the novel, will certainly continue to belong to him for the rest of her story.

This novel is tragically beautiful, and although it pained me to read, I loved every page and suggest that others read it as well.

“In the future… if by some miracle you ever find yourself in the position to fall in love again… fall in love with me.”

Colleen Hoover, It Ends With Us

Brittany is double majoring in Communications and Studio Art, with a concentration in drawing and painting. She enjoys Disney films, romance novels, writing in her spare time, and decorating for the holidays. She's also an obsessive cat and dog mom with plenty of cute pictures to share.