Book Title: Without Merit
Author: Colleen Hoover
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, YA/NA, Romance, Domestic Drama, Family Saga
Pub Date: 10/03/17
In Colleen Hoover’s gripping novel, reminiscent of the bestselling works of Liane Moriarty and Jojo Moyes, a young woman decides to reveal the dark secrets of her seemingly-happy family before she leaves them behind, but when her escape plan fails, she must deal with the staggering consequences of telling the truth.
There is always a great deal of pressure when reviewing a highly anticipated novel before it’s release date. When this magical ARC was delivered to my doorstep and I read the press release, I knew this would be a really special read. I cleared my entire TBR schedule to be able to read this book immediately and I regret nothing. If you are the type who likes to go into a book fully blind, I’m going to stop right here and encourage that you to wait until you get your hands on Without Merit before reading any further, or reading any reviews for that matter. Do you see how short the blurb above is? It’s basically one line, and there’s good reason for that. I’m also going to discuss minor spoilers of It Ends With Us, as well as talk about some vague themes included in this current book, just as a fair warning.
Now that I’ve gone through the fine print, let’s start from the beginning. I’m hoping to refer more to my experience while reading this book and what I learned from it than the actual plot itself, as I feel this will better direct the right reader to this particular story. Anyone who devoured It Ends With Us last year knows that Hoover isn’t shy in dealing with tough subjects and trigger worthy issues (one of the many things I love about the woman), and I was blown away with the fictional tale shrouded in her personal family history to bring awareness to domestic violence and what can happen when the continuous cycle is broken. I’m not crying; YOU’RE crying! When everyone went bananas over that book last year, it made me pause and ponder if perhaps CoHo is moving her stories slowly in a different direction. Sure enough, I quickly discovered that Without Merit is unlike any book she’s written thus far; if I had to compare it to another book of hers I’d say it’s most like IEWU, except much less romantic. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that WM isn’t actually a romance. GASP! Does it contain romance in the novel? Sure, but it’s more of a side plot and it most definitely isn’t the focal point of the story. As you can guess, this was a risky move for the author in veering so far from her normal writing style, but I’m pleased to admit that it worked well, SO well. This new direction is something I feel will keep Hoover fresh, unique, and in demand for many years to come.
When I began reading, I noticed the differences almost immediately. I love how there are little twists and surprises in all of CoHo’s books, but the ones found in WM are far deeper and more complex than those tied to her more traditional romance style. The first 50 pages or so in the book is a major info dump; I was wondering where the author’s signature dry humor was and felt the build up of a more serious tone, which I think was necessary to prepare the reader for where she takes the rest of the story. Once I hit that mark, the story really took off and I read the remainder in a single sitting. I found I couldn’t tear myself away from the quirky, sad bunch of characters who managed to still make me feel hopeful that things would turn around for them. Hoover has brought together a cast that shows what it truly means to be human; the vulnerability of each and every one of us is felt through these realistic people and I think that is one of Colleen’s major talents which results in bringing repeat readers to her new books.
While Hoover chose to tackle domestic abuse and the horrific trauma involved surrounding the subject in her previous novel, here she has chosen to bring awareness to mental health, depression, and suicide among many other things. <— Trigger warnings clearly listed. While you may think this sounds like a dreary, heavy read, and you’d be partially correct, the author never allows the light of hope to dim. You may feel like this story seems crazy, wild, and unrealistic within the first 50% of reading it, but if you reach the ending you’ll see it all makes sense and portrays a very timely, important message. I truly felt this was CoHo’s most appropriate book for a younger audience, not only because the usual steamy, sexy romance is traded for a milder, coming of age and discovery, but because the message is just so dang important for our older teens and college aged students to hear. Cue the feels!
I know I’m rambling, and I’m truly sorry for that, but this is a ramble worthy book. I’ve already heard some people speculating that they are worried they’ll be disappointed in this dramatic change of style and genre for a beloved author; let me be the first to tell you, YOU HAVE NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT. Holy guacamole, this book is amazing! I can’t remember a single book since IEWU that has caused me to take a step back and think about tough things for quite some time. I also think it’s truly appropriate that my 1,000th book logged as read on Goodreads was such an important one as this! Without Merit is a book that is worthy of your time and money; don’t sit in a queue of 200 people waiting for it to come in at the library. Buy it! Pre-order it! Add it to your TBR on Goodreads! Talk about it with your friends; I promise ladies and gentlemen, this one is worth the hype. As a mother of two young girls I took away so much from this book; it made me toss around scenarios and ideas of how I might react in a similar situation and what I need to do to be as involved, accepting, and loving toward my children as I can possibly be. Clasp your pearls to your chest and grab a hanky; this one is a tear jerker, but per classic Hoover, there is a ray of hope that turns into what a real happily ever after should look like. PS-that classic wit and humor does make many an appearance, I was just pulling your leg. 😉
*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my copy; it was an absolute pleasure to provide my honest thoughts here.