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Book Review: It Starts With Us by Colleen Hoover

Book Review: It Starts With Us by Colleen Hoover

If any one book can be named the quintessentialBookTok book, Colleen Hoovers It Ends With Us would be a major contender for the title. First published in 2016, the book received new attention and became a huge international success last year when BookTokkers and Bookstagrammers took notice of the novel and turned it (and Colleen Hoover) into something of a phenomenon. With that newfound attention quickly came the calls from fans for Hoover to reveal what happened next in Lily and Atlasstory, and so the all-new sequel It Starts With Us was conceived, written and published – becoming Simon & Schusters most-preordered title of all time in the process – and sparking a whole new wave of CoHo content too.

Before the novel even starts, Hoover explains in a letter to readers that this novel is going to be a much lighter affair than its predecessor, and to a certain extent, thats definitely true. Picking up in the immediate aftermath of It Ends With Us, this sequel focuses on Lilys next steps, giving her the chance to move forward and forge a new life for herself and her daughter in the wake of the events of the first book, and part of that future also involves getting the chance to build up a new relationship with Atlas, the boy she fell in love with as a teenager (and the internets favourite book boyfriend). A large part of It Starts With Us is therefore driven by the relationship between Atlas and Lily. Their clear connection, consistent chemistry and general emotional maturity – not to mention the resulting slow burn, second chance romance – is a joy to read from the very first page. 

Our first kiss was made of fear and youthful inexperience. This kiss is hope. It’s comfort and safety and stability. It’s everything I’ve been missing in my adult life.”

Contrasting the lighter scenes, however, is the presence of Lily’s ex-husband Ryle and the difficulty he presents in that he is still a part of her life as the father of her daughter, Emmy. Not only is Lily navigating a recent divorce, a newborn and a new co-parenting relationship with Ryle, but she is also still processing the impact and trauma of Ryle’s abuse, and is forced to confront the knowledge that his continuing anger and jealousy could present a problem in her dreams of a future with Atlas.

Despite this added and enduring complication, however, Lily’s strength, positivity and drive to provide for her daughter are evident in spades, and it allows for the kind of character evolution that many fans of the first book will be very grateful to see. This novel takes the hopes of a happy ending hinted at in the initial epilogue of the first book – a light and hopeful note that followed the heavier, devastating scenes of domestic abuse, homelessness and violence that formed a large part of the story – and turns them into a solid, celebrated reality that’s filled with love, support and healing.

In this regard, It Starts With Us feels more like an extended epilogue than a weighty sequel, but nonetheless it’s an update that Colleen Hoover fans and It Ends With Us readers in particular will no doubt be glad to read. It’s a quick and quiet kind of book that explores important plots in realistic ways, contrasting the thrills of rediscovering an old connection and falling in love with the heart wrenching pain of domestic disputes and the kind of complex, messy situations that life just throws at you sometimes. While it’s not without tension, this is a novel that’s largely low on angst and more focused on the everyday reality of exploring a romantic connection with someone and setting out to build a new life together, making for a happier, lighter read as promised by the author.

As a novel it’s certainly not perfect, and not even the quick-paced dual POV chapters can make up for an unwieldy narrative that relies on letters, diary entries and lengthy recollections to fill in gaps of knowledge and catch up both the characters and the readers on everything that came before. In giving Atlas his own POV, Hoover is able to revisit the now-familiar backstory between Lily and Atlas with fresh eyes and provide a new perspective to the relationship that’s finally being given a chance to develop too. Just as Atlas falls deeper in love with Lily as an adult in this latest stage of her life, readers are given the chance to celebrate all that Lily has survived and achieved to become who she is in these pages. Through Lily’s eyes readers are re-introduced to the compassionate and solid dependability of Atlas too.

Ultimately, however, it’s worth remembering that this is a novel that was written for the fans first and foremost; theres no doubt that this novel wont be for everyone, but its also not really designed to be. Although the original announcement of It Starts With Us was unexpected, this addition to Lily and Atlas’ story does feel like it’s a necessary one, giving Lily some much-needed closure and Atlas a much-needed voice. There are a few surprises within these pages, a couple of callbacks and some reflections on the past too, but this book is primarily about moving forward. So if youre picking up this book looking for big drama, huge fallouts and emotional heartache, you will be left disappointed.

Instead, It Starts With Us is a book that should be picked up if you have ever wondered about what comes next for Lily and Atlas on their journey. There are more than enough emotional and heartwarming scenes in this book to make it worth a read for all those It Ends With Us fans who were left wanting more.


It Starts With Us was published by Simon & Schuster on 18 October 2022

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