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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Pitt chapter.

Trigger Warning: This article discusses topics of domestic and sexual violence.

Colleen Hoover has become an internet sensation because of her 2016 best-selling book It Ends with Us. This novel has taken social media by storm, especially Tiktok. Countless booktokers sang their praise for Hoover and her other works, while others have been quick to call her out and hold her accountable. I, myself, and various of my friends were also part of the Colleen Hoover bandwagon, until some concerning background information about her came out, giving me the opportunity to really think about the content I was consuming. Her quick rise to internet fame was largely unopposed until various critiques, problematic marketing decisions and behaviors came to light. At the beginning of her fame people across the internet praised Hoover for giving society a modern, first-person perspective on the intricacies and misconceptions of being in an abusive relationship. But it seems that one decent decision cannot erase a chronicle of harmful images and values.

In It Ends with Us, the main character, Lily Bloom, watched her mother struggle through an abusive relationship with her father throughout her childhood. Lily starts the book with a completely different attitude about abusive relationships, saying critical things like “Why not just leave?” and “I don’t understand why she put up with him for so long.” After a seemingly whirl-wind romance, she learns that it’s not that easy. When her charismatic, intelligent husband Ryle starts showing concerning behaviors, the audience doesn’t catch on until it is too late. Because of Ryle’s demeanor, his betrayal of Lily comes as a shock to the audience, like a switch was flipped. Ryle was the charming man who seemingly has everything he could ever want yet still turned into someone that is no longer recognizable. This twist struck the audience hard because Hoover wrote him as the perfect man that everyone could fall in love with, making the betrayal to Lily feel like our won as well. Lily struggles throughout the duration of the novel to set hard boundaries and learns to safely stand up for herself. While I agree that this novel gives a much-needed insight into a topic that many are too afraid to acknowledge or talk about, its marketing is what rubs me the wrong way.

If this novel was marketed toward adults in their 20s or 30s, then I would say that it is a great product, especially because it brings awareness to domestic violence. However, this book has been marketed as a “romance”, giving teenagers access to confusing content before their ideas, values and relationship expectations have had a chance to develop. The charismatic, yet controlling nature that Ryle puts forth can be misconstrued as romantic to young readers, giving them false expectations from partners and training them to believe that subconscious abuse should be tolerated and can even be attractive. This is not just in reference to Hoover’s novel It Ends with Us as pointed out by an article in The Tulane Hullabaloo titled, “Colleen Hoover Drafts Problematic Narratives for Young Adults.” Hoover has a variety of novels in the “romance” genre that puts problematic and “broken” men at the forefront to be changed or nurtured by the female protagonist. This continuous type casting of men being possessive alpha males who have troubled pasts is dangerous for young women around relationship initiation age and young men who don’t fit a hyper-masculine persona. Whether it is retaliation or emotional manipulation, most of Hoover’s female protagonists find their way back to the main male character, with the exception of Lily Bloom in It Ends with Us. Jeanette McKellar, the article’s author, hits the nail on the head when they say, “To begin, Hoover’s work represents women in phallocentric terms; women are illustrated as passive objects, only able to derive agency when their male counterpart chooses them.” Based on this idea alone, what are we teaching young women about romantic partnerships? This lack of equity in mainstream romance perpetuates patriarchial ideas that the woman should be grateful and reliant on a man, despite the actions taken against her.

Just when you think that Colleen Hoover could not be more tone-deaf, she surprises everyone and announces the release of a Lily Bloom and It Ends with Us CHILDREN’S coloring book. While it was a book full of flower images, the connection to Lily, a survivor of domestic violence, is just another way in which Hoover brings these mature themes to young audiences. These obvious money grabs truly show that her priorities are not as sincere as she would like you to believe. Just a day after Hoover released the upcoming coloring book release, a public apology was released via Instagram story. Colleen Hoover claims that this coloring book was made with “Lily’s strength in mind”, but fails to address the fact that this project invited an audience even younger than her already too-young audience to consume her novels in the future. I am not sure how a coloring book connected to such harsh themes got passed around to however many executives at the Atria Publishing Group and not one considered the repercussions of releasing something so sensitive to a new audience. It was additionally a calculative move to release an apology statement on an Instagram story, something that automatically disappears from your profile page after 24 hours. This was no doubt done by Hoover on purpose to make sure that this incident was erased from public memory, hoping for an out-of-sight, out-of-mind outcome since there was no evidence of the promotional post or apology, with the exception of screenshots taken by followers/news outlets.

To makes matters even worse, when confronted with claims on the internet that her son, Levi, had sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl, she swept it under the rug as if it was nonexistent. She made a public claim on Facebook that “the two had never met” while the girl said that Hoover immediately blocked her when she tried to contact her to discuss the sensitive matter. It goes without saying that this behavior is unacceptable and Hoover’s inability to acknowledge and address these concerns says a lot more about her than any best-seller list or award nomination could.

These instances are not coincidences and reflect a clear lack of care and consideration for the society of young women who are consuming her “romance” literature. The damage that these decisions create is dangerous for young minds and I urge you to stop and think before picking up your next Colleen Hoover novel.

Liz Acque

Pitt '23

I am a Psychology major at Pitt who loves to read and write. I love to use writing as an outlet and I think the art of storytelling is so important. Reading is the best escape for me and the way I typically choose to relax. Grateful to HC Pitt for giving me the opportunity to write!