Love her or hate her, you’ve probably heard of author Colleen Hoover. Step into a Barnes and Noble and you’ll be greeted with an entire stand dedicated to her plethora of books. They’re among the most read books on Goodreads, and her novel “It Ends With Us” is currently being adapted into a movie. Yet, despite the adoration and cult-like following that Hoover has received, her name also brings about a chorus of groans. YouTube reviews, bluntly titled “i read the 5 most popular colleen hoover books so you never have to” and “i read 3 colleen hoover books and my life has been changed... for the WORST,” beg the question: what makes the work of Colleen Hoover so controversial?
Hoover’s popularity surged with the rise of BookTok, Tiktok’s subcommunity focused on books and literature. A place for book lovers to share recommendations and their thoughts on the latest releases, BookTok has revitalized the publishing industry. Its influence on the popularity of books is indisputable, with ten of the fifteen top sellers on the New York Times bestseller list being “BookTok books.” Out of those ten books, five were written by Hoover.
Hoover’s novels span a multitude of genres: from romances to steamy psychological thrillers, Hoover has covered it all. Yet one thing that remains consistent in her work is her combination of fast-paced drama and outlandish plot twists. These inventive plots have fueled BookTok conversations about everything from the rollercoaster ride that is “Verity” to the emotional damage inflicted by “Reminders of Him.” Paired with her easily digestible prose, her books have reached new audiences and garnered a legion of cultish fans.
However, Hoover has also experienced her fair share of controversies. This is most prominent with her most popular book, “It Ends With Us.” “It Ends With Us” is a contemporary romance novel that tells the story of Lily Blossom Bloom (yes, that’s her real name) and her tumultuous-turned-abusive relationship with neurosurgeon Ryle Kincaid. The novel has received criticism surrounding a plethora of issues. Critics of the novel question the absurdity of the plot: what kind of main character writes letters to Ellen Degeneres and owns a flower shop while being named Lily Blossom Bloom? More significantly, “It Ends With Us” has been accused of glorifying abuse. At the end of the book, we learn that Lily and Ryle have “amicably” divorced and are now co-parenting their daughter.
Yet, as Jennie Young from Ms. Magazine points out, this decision was not redemptive but “a blatant shirking of the barest parental responsibility—the responsibility to protect her daughter.” At this point, Ryle is a known violent sex offender with a history of manipulating and victimizing women. To allow him to be around the young daughter and paint this in a positive light is a dangerous message to send to the readers of Hoover’s novels, which are primarily younger women.
“It Ends With Us” was also slated to have a spin-off coloring book, a decision that was slammed by the book community. After all, what would you be coloring in a book centered around domestic abuse? Fortunately, Colleen Hoover listened to the waves of criticism and decided to pull the plug on this project. In an apology on her Instagram story, Hoover wrote that “The coloring book was developed with Lily's strength in mind, but I can absolutely see how this was tone-deaf. I hear you guys and I agree with you. No excuses. No finger pointing. I have contacted the publisher to let them know I would prefer we don't move forward with it. Thank you for the respectful discourse and accountability. Nothing but love.”
Speaking more broadly though, much of the criticism surrounding Hoover’s work can be attributed to her writing style. Although easily digestible, many have argued that Hoover’s writing is subpar, elementary, and sounds like it belongs on Wattpad. Case in point: “We both laugh at our son’s big balls” is an actual line excerpted from Hoover’s book “Ugly Love.”
Hoover is at once one of BookTok’s most loved and most hated authors. She continues to dominate the conversations on these book-focused platforms, and, consequently, the best sellers list while also generating passionate hate from creators. The controversy surrounding Hoover brings up larger questions of what it means to be an author in the age of TikTok: how should we tell stories about domestic abuse? What kind of responsibilities does Hoover hold as an author to tell the “right” narratives around domestic abuse? Should we value plot or writing style more? While these questions have heated much debate, one thing is undeniable: Colleen Hoover’s work has revitalized the book industry.
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