by Aditi Chudasama (‘25) and Hiranmayi Ganapathy (‘24)
Over the last two years, Colleen Hoover, a book author, has risen to fame with the help of her popularity on TikTok and her avid use of social media to promote her work. She has written 22 novels and her most famous novels, It Ends With Us and Verity., two romance novellas, have a massive fanbase on social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter. Hoover has won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance in 2017 for her book Without Merit. Hoover is also one of The New York Times' Best Selling Authors. Her books in total have spent 151 weeks on The New York Times Best Sellers list. In addition, Colleen Hoover has had three to six books on Publisher’s Weekly top 10 best sellers list.
Hoover’s books often outline heavy subjects such as sexual abuse, mental health issues and domestic violence, and It Ends with Us is no exception to that. Despite this, she is known for her swoon-worthy characters, and is the third most followed author on Instagram after Stephen King and Bill Gates, easily making her the most popular contemporary romance author.
“One of my friends kept telling me to read It Ends With Us. I remember I was in the locker room for gym when I downloaded it, and I loved it as soon as I read the first page,” said junior Aastha Bhimani. She, like the many students at South Brunswick, has a love for Colleen Hoover and her books.
However, there is a problem with her chokehold on the thousands of high school students and young adults. Her books have a pattern of romanticizing abusive and toxic behavior in romantic relationships and promoting toxic masculinity. Her books use traumatic events as plot twists to get some shock value. Hoover does not actually address the negative effects of the events in her books, which can normalize the subtle toxic mannerisms to her young, die hard fanbase.
There are many red flags in her books, ones that in any other context would be deemed horrifying. The main love interest in “It Ends with Us”, Ryle, is constantly physically and mentally abusing Lily, the main character, but is constantly let off because of his “inner demons” and past trauma, which is not an excuse at all. The last straw is when Ryle, towards the end of the book, is given shared custody of Lily’s daughter, despite the fact that he had deliberately sexually abused Lily. This is a terrible message, the man who is a cold, methodic criminal, is given a pass because of his rough past. His terrible behavior is redeemed by two or three supposedly heart–wrenching quotes that readers are satisfied with, calling it a so-called “good ending”.
Like many other major reviews have stated, Hoover’s continuous use of abusive relationships as a plotline is an unhealthy fantasy that she is constantly feeding to her demographic: young girls and women. Her books are consumed by high schoolers at a rapid pace, now faster than ever with the help of social media.
It is important to note that there is a certain depiction of abusive relationships in her literature that are used for shock value and solely substance to create a dark fantasy that has a subtle but lasting effect on young girls. Most of Hoover’s main characters end up staying in the toxic relationships, or simply being blind to it and calling most of the toxic behaviors “romantic”, which is not a good influence on her consumers. The fact that it is a recurring theme in most of her books such as November 9th and It Ends With Us demonstrates that Hoover is making a conscious decision to write about these abusive fantasies.
Countless other authors have written about abusive relationships and toxic behaviors, but they have done so in a way, that the character has received help from family and friends, recognizing the toxic patterns and getting out of the relationship. However, this kind of recognition is rarely in Hoover’s books, and it shows that Hoover is not writing about trauma as a way to shed light on the issue, but a genre in itself that is incorporating itself into the category of “Dark Romance '' on BookTok. Hoover is influencing girls in a way, by implying that in order to make a relationship work, accepting and normalizing abusive actions is normal.
The worst part about this is that Hoover refuses to take accountability and address the numerous claims and questions raised. Blocking accounts and writing off critics as “people who don’t understand good writing'' is poor from her part to say the least, but even that is continued to be brushed off because of her large fan following.
Hoover remains to be undoubtedly the most successful romance novelist of this time. However, the themes and messages in her novels continue to raise eyebrows. Whether the targeted audience realizes or not, her books will continue to feed delusional and harmful expectations to her young readers. The hope is that young women understand that it is not okay to accept abusive behivior and that these books are made to ‘entertain’ the imagination.