Read Dates: October 2, 2022 – October 13, 2022
Publication Date: August 2, 2016
Source: Owned paperback
Ok… Ok. So.
I struggled with this book. Mostly in the beginning half of it. I knew this book had to do with an abusive relationship but it was on my tbr list and a book club I recently joined was reading it, so I gave it a shot.
Good lord, I can already tell I’m going to have to proofread this 100 times and fix all my ranting. Hold onto your pants, here we go.
First of all, this book needs trigger warnings. Physical abuse and attempted rape are the two big ones here. You’ve been warned. I wasn’t.
Let me preface this by saying, I am a domestic abuse survivor. It’s not something I talk about a lot but I am and a lot of this book resonated with me in ways I wasn’t ready for. There were a lot of things, as it turns out, that I still wasn’t ready to face. Anyway…
I think the reason I struggled at first is because I saw all those red flags. All the ones I, unfortunately, lived with myself. Watching it and imagining how it looked to someone else as I went through it was incredibly disturbing for me, I think. To the point where I actually put the book down after the very first incident and had no intentions of picking it back up. I couldn’t stomach it.
However, in my time away from the book, I had two friends reach out and mention the book and how they were excited I was reading it and BOTH of them told me not to skip the author’s note at the end of the book. This intrigued me a little further and made me realize that this book may not have just been a work of fiction after all, but instead a retelling of a personal account. So, I soldiered on.
I am so glad I did. For the most part.
I was crying but I wasn’t crying because I felt sorry for the MC. I was crying because of the STRENGTH and the logic in the choices she made. I was crying because this book should be picked up and read by every woman on Earth, whether you’ve been a victim of domestic abuse, a witness to it, or never encountered it in your life at all. There were so many one-liners in this that had me literally weeping. So many things that I wish I would have heard or would have figured out myself back when they would have mattered most.
“How could she love him after what he did to her? How could she contemplate taking him back?”
It’s sad that those are the first thoughts that run through our minds when someone is abused. Shouldn’t there be more distaste in our mouths for the abusers than for those who continue to love the abusers?
Every situation is different, but I appreciated the glimpse the author gave into her real-life experience with characters who were based around real-life people. In my case, the abuser wasn’t so reasonable or understanding but it was wild to see how many similarities were still there even when the personalities were worlds apart.
Ultimately, in the first half of this book, I had decided on a 2-star rating and a big fat DNF but I powered through and I am glad I did because now I can confidently tell you that you should read this book. Everyone should. I recommend this to every single person. I appreciated Hoover’s book Ugly Love for the way it felt so real and raw but THIS BOOK is far more real and raw than Ugly Love was. Both are incredible books, but this one, this one holds more meaning. It tackles a real-life, truly ugly love story and holds within it the strength we all need to do what’s best for us.
Cycles exist because they are excruciating to break. It takes an astronomical amount of pain and courage to disrupt a familiar pattern. Sometimes it seems easier to just keep running in the same familiar circles, rather than face the fear of jumping and possibly not landing on your feet.
Is any of this making sense to you? Maybe. Maybe not. If you’ve been through it, I imagine you over there nodding your head in agreement with a full understanding of what I’m saying.
I didn’t really mean for this to get so personal but I felt this book on such a personal level that it was hard not to get personal in my review.
Our MC, Lily, struggled as most victims of domestic abuse do because of the true love she felt for this guy. She truly loved him and craved the good moments with him so much that she was willing to look past his transgressions until she wasn’t. Having watched her mother be abused by her father, she knew firsthand what she was going through, the treatment that she shouldn’t be allowing herself to go through. Ryle had a traumatizing childhood and had undergone therapy for the emotional trauma he still lives with but, unfortunately, it hasn’t helped his temperamental outbursts.
It was almost hard for me to remember everything I learned firsthand. ALMOST. I wanted to feel sorry for him and I did a little but, this time, from the outside looking in, I knew what Lily needed to do. I knew what would happen if she didn’t. I wanted her to break free from the hurt and realize that she was worth so much more than the love she thought she deserved.
I actually hated Ryle from the first page he appeared on and never liked him throughout the entirety of this book. At all. Which is why I’m taking one star away, actually. While this book was able to capture the feeling of loving your abuser and was able to construe the feelings Lily and her mother both felt in the moment, it failed to show the manipulative charm of an abuser, in my opinion. He was a total ass from the first encounter and I never liked him at all. Not once. There weren’t small signs from the very beginning, there were giant NEON signs from the beginning, and while, yes, most of us who have been through it were, at some point, a terrible judge of character, but this one wasn’t that. It was completely obvious, or at least it should have been.
This book didn’t necessarily have a happy ending. It had an ending, I suppose, but it wasn’t an overly happy one and I really appreciated that about this book as well. Most of the time, these situations don’t end happily. Even when the abuser is someone who is willing to let you go, it doesn’t always just end in a way where you can go your own way comfortably. I appreciated that so much about this book. The ending wasn’t romanticized. It wasn’t a happy ending where everyone ended up being super happy. It was just an ending. That being said, I found a couple elements of the ending to be a little farfetched. Given everything we saw from the beginning to the end, I found the prologue a little hard to believe. That’s all I can really say without spoiling anything.
Also, one word. Allysa. The friendship between Lily and Allysa was so amazing and I love Allysa so much in this book.
One more thing I feel is worth mentioning: this is not a love triangle as it seems to be falsely advertised as one. This is a story told about a girl falling in love with a guy who looks back at her old journal and reads and remembers the story of the first guy she fell in love with. I would, in no way, consider this to be a book with a love triangle. *Steps down from soap box*
I’m excited for the next book if not a little skeptical if I’m being honest. I have a feeling I know a little of what is going to happen. Abusers are usually pretty predictable in a situation like he and Lily are in at the end of this book. I can only imagine what will happen next.
I will say, though, with Colleen Hoover at the helm, I can’t wait to see in which ways she rips my heart out, stitches it back together, and makes me feel all the things. I have a newfound respect for Hoover that I don’t think a single “bad” book of hers will take from me. This was a hard story to tackle and yet she did it so perfectly.
“In the future . . . if by some miracle you ever find yourself in the position to fall in love again . . . fall in love with me.”
Go read this book. All of you. This isn’t an “if you like xyz you’ll love this one.” No. Just go read it. Everyone should.