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2nd March 2022

TikTok made me read it: It Ends with Us

Can content warnings ruin a book’s storyline? Hannah Wellock reviews BookTok sensation and New York Times Best Seller It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover and discusses its lack of a content warning
TikTok made me read it: It Ends with Us
Photo: Sophie Berkley @ The Mancunion
Contains spoilers.

If you’re on any form of BookTok, then you’ll have heard of Colleen Hoover and her many many books. She has taken BookTok by storm with her novel It Ends with Us, which again had me questioning, is it worth the hype? 

I started with It Ends with Us as I’d seen it on TikTok the most. It was first published in 2016 and was a #1 New York Times Bestseller. It has recently blown up on TikTok, along with many of Hoover’s other novels, as a must-read among the BookTok community. Hoover has also just announced that 6 years after the release of It Ends with Us, the sequel It Starts with Us, will be released this October.

It Ends with Us follows Lily after she moves to Boston from her hometown in Maine following her father’s death. She meets and falls in love with Ryle Kincaid, a neurosurgeon, as she is starting her own business. Despite his usual ‘no-date’ rule, Lily is the exception, as she refuses to be a one night stand. They take some time to eventually admit their feelings for each other but then quickly barrel into a serious committed relationship. With her new relationship comes thoughts of Lily’s first love Atlas who then also appears to have started a new life in Boston. 

To say this book is gripping is an understatement and a half. I ordered it from (an online bookstore that supports independent high street shops) expecting it to take a few days to arrive. It did not. It arrived the next day. In the middle of one of my 48-hour exams.

Now, I didn’t do what a sensible person would: leave it until after my exam was finished the next day. No, I thought one little chapter won’t hurt anyone. Boy was I wrong. Next thing I knew I was 200 pages in and it was 4 am.

When I say I couldn’t put this book down, I mean I was reading it in Blue 3 in the middle of my exam when I should have been writing an essay. I couldn’t think about anything other than this book and decided that I had to finish then and there. 

I read this book in 24 hours and we’ll have to wait and see what effect it has had on my grades when results are released in March. What I’m trying to say is: don’t start this book if you have something important to do.

Whilst I would rate this book 5 stars, I did have an issue with its lack of a trigger warning. At no point, either on TikTok or any other advertisement, at the start of the book or in the blurb, was there any indication of the themes touched on in the book. Instead, words like “assertive” and “stubborn” are used in the blurb to describe the main male character. 

Despite Hoover thoughtfully crafting this book, the lack of a content warning could be problematic for some. While I very much enjoyed this book, due to the nature of the themes and content, it has the possibility of bringing up past trauma. The story is heavily based around domestic abuse, with Lily’s father abusing her mother throughout her childhood, and Lily then also finding herself in an abusive relationship with Ryle. 

Lily states throughout the first half of the novel that she would never let herself get into the same situation as her mother, that she would leave an abusive relationship without hesitation. Yet, when in an abusive relationship herself, she finds it difficult to leave, finally understanding her mother’s struggles and decisions. 

Hoover demonstrates the complexity of domestic abuse in relationships very well. She ultimately removes the blame put on victims for not leaving those relationships, revealing how they navigate love and other complicated emotions including loyalty and fear. 

In a very moving ending, Lily ultimately decides to leave Ryle to break the ‘cycle of abuse’ as she didn’t want her daughter to grow up experiencing abuse as she did. We are left with an open ending of many possibilities, perfect for the release of a sequel.

In my opinion, this book should have had a trigger warning outlining the themes covered in the book. Especially with the novel’s recent blow-up on TikTok, a platform often used by children and teenagers, it’s even more important that the book has some form of a content warning now that it’s being consumed by a younger audience. 

While some may argue that content warnings can spoil storylines, this wouldn’t have taken away from the impact of the story; it would have given the reader the chance to prepare themselves for a potentially difficult read. 

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