All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

on November 28, 2017

Without Merit
Colleen Hoover
Simon & Schuster AUS
2017, 384p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Not every mistake deserves a consequence. Sometimes the only thing it deserves is forgiveness.

The Voss family is anything but normal. They live in a repurposed church, newly baptized Dollar Voss. The once cancer-stricken mother lives in the basement, the father is married to the mother’s former nurse, the little half-brother isn’t allowed to do or eat anything fun, and the eldest siblings are irritatingly perfect. Then, there’s Merit.

Merit Voss collects trophies she hasn’t earned and secrets her family forces her to keep. While browsing the local antiques shop for her next trophy, she finds Sagan. His wit and unapologetic idealism disarm and spark renewed life into her—until she discovers that he’s completely unavailable. Merit retreats deeper into herself, watching her family from the sidelines when she learns a secret that no trophy in the world can fix.

Fed up with the lies, Merit decides to shatter the happy family illusion that she’s never been a part of before leaving them behind for good. When her escape plan fails, Merit is forced to deal with the staggering consequences of telling the truth and losing the one boy she loves.

I’ve only read one Colleen Hoover book before and it was years ago. I remember being underwhelmed but I’ve heard so much about how her writing and stories have improved and this sounded really interesting with quite a bit publisher push so I decided to give it a go.

Merit’s life is a bit of a mess. Her family is dysfunctional in the extreme – they live in an old converted church that her father purchased from his nemesis. Her mother (divorced from her father, agoraphobic) lives in the basement and never ventures out. The rest of the family – her father, his new wife, their young child together, Merit, her twin sister Honor and their brother Utah live upstairs. It’s not an ideal situation and it seems that there’s plenty of friction within the family.

For me, the biggest problem is that there’s just too much going on in this book. Merit is suffering from depression and anxiety (although is unaware/unwilling to examine it) and she spends a lot of time retreating into herself, skipping school and generally just avoiding as much as she can. Apart from that there’s also sexual assault, agoraphobia, hypochondria, other forms of mental illness, terminal illness and the Syrian civil war and refugee crisis. It makes it really hard to connect to any part of the story because it’s always skipping to something else and addressing the next issue. There’s so many that for me, none of them felt examined in depth or given the amount of page time that they deserve. I especially did not like the way in which the sexual assault was treated. This was something that had plagued the victim for years, had really affected them and when they finally decided to blow open the secret it seemed to take one conversation for everything to be resolved and forgiven and I didn’t think that was at all acceptable or realistic. The perpetrator may have been “confused” but they were by far old enough to know that what they were doing was wrong and predatory behaviour and just plain not okay. And the fact that it was ignored for so long by them was ridiculous. And the reaction of almost jealousy by someone who wasn’t preyed upon? Really? Just….no. Nope. And then there was the tangled mess of what was really happening between Merit’s parents and his new wife situation which was just a few too many twists and turns for me. Add in the new wife’s brother to stir the pot in a way that seems far too obvious and there were so many things that were just clunky and too heavily handled. It really lacked the finesse to gently air out these serious subjects and the emotions and tangled relationships involved here. Especially as it felt like it only took about 2-3 conversations to sort out most of these issues and a whole bunch of stuff could’ve been solved if the family had not kept so many weird secrets and tried to shove things under the rug.

I was excited about this because it had been talked up so much to me, but ultimately it just wasn’t my sort of read. I kept wanting more – so much of it just kept hinging on the fact that no one communicated and all these people were living these separate lives despite all being under the same roof. And there were a lot of people living under this roof. The only character I really probably liked was Sagan and half the time he felt too good to really be true and why on earth was he bothering with Merit and all this mess when she was so horrifically bad to him? Because she was. Absolutely awful. Part of it stems from a misunderstanding when they meet, where Sagan seems to believe that she is her twin. But it continues on for so long.

Ultimately this was disappointing and will probably be my last crack at a Colleen Hoover book, even though I still have one that I bought ages ago on my iBooks. I just don’t think her ways of telling a story are for me.


Book #180 of 2017






3 responses to “Review: Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

  1. michelletw says:

    I have to start with… what’s still on your iBooks?
    This does sound very messy and all over the place. Great review though.

  2. I’ve never read her. And I don’t believe i will start now!

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