5 stars – New Adult/Contemporary Women’s Fiction (Chick-lit/Romance)
I have so many thoughts and feelings about this exceptional, powerful book, and I5 stars – New Adult/Contemporary Women’s Fiction (Chick-lit/Romance)
I have so many thoughts and feelings about this exceptional, powerful book, and I had a much stronger emotional reaction to it than I expected to. I read this primarily because it won Best Romance in the Goodreads Choice Awards for 2016 and it was highly rated by several of my GR friends. I avoided reading reviews and spoilers, so I went into it expecting a new adult contemporary romance, which is how it’s labeled/marketed. But it’s really a women’s fiction story and not technically a romance, especially considering the serious, heavy subject matter of (view spoiler)[domestic violence (hide spoiler)].
Given my usual preference for romance and expectations, I should’ve been disappointed, but this book ended up being more, unique, and so much better than I’d anticipated. I actually listened to the audiobook version and the narrator did a fabulous job and really engaged my emotions and further enhanced my love of the book.
There will be spoilers going forward in the next few paragraphs/sections, so heed the spoiler warning/tag if you don’t want any spoilers about the content/story.(view spoiler)[
I’m sure a lot of readers fell in love with Ryle like Lily did and subsequently felt even more anguish over the sad turn of events and rocky, violent demise of their relationship, but that didn’t really happen for me. I had a strong sense of foreboding the moment Ryle burst out onto that rooftop and kicked the lawn chair in a fit of anger/temper about where the story would lead. There were other things about his personality and actions, even early on, that set off red warning flags for me: his complete lack of relationships and adamant stance against them, his unhealthy obsession with Lily, his controlling nature, his emotional inexperience and immaturity, and the deep-seated trauma/issue (revealed later in the book) that he suffered as a child.
Lily and Ryle’s entire relationship and romance was sort of tainted for me since I expected where it was headed and could sense things were eventually going to get very ugly. Because of the unease I felt towards Ryle’s character from the start, I never fully trusted or totally warmed up to him as a romantic lead and love interest for Lily. Still, he managed to grow on me over the course of the middle part of the story and dare I say, nearly stole my heart along with Lily’s. His childhood backstory was so unbelievably sad and tragic and really made me sympathize with his character. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but I wanted so very much to be wrong about him and to love him like she did; so even though I wasn’t surprised by the abusive turn, it still gutted me and broke my heart right along with hers.
The Dear Ellen diaries/journals and glimpses into the past were such a compelling and moving aspect of the story. I fell completely, utterly, hopelessly in love with Atlas and wanted/needed/hoped for Lily and him to be reunited and end up together. So that also negatively impacted my feelings towards Lily’s relationship and romance with Ryle. I was really frustrated by the lack of honesty and communication between (the grown-up versions of) Lily and Atlas because so much pain, anguish, and heartache could’ve been avoided. Then again, that also would’ve taken things in a very different turn, altered the course of the characters, and completely changed the depth and focus of the story.
Some random thoughts/questions/quibbles:
*For readers wondering/concerned over this story having a love triangle, it technically doesn’t. It’s hard to explain, but just don’t let that possibility keep you from reading because it really isn’t that, at all.
*I wanted to know more about what happened to Atlas after Lily’s father beat him up and how he managed to still make it into the military?
*I felt like Lily and Ryle didn’t really know each other that well and didn’t share enough about their pasts. Their relationship jumped into marriage too fast.
*Why didn’t Lily and Ryle seek professional help and/or go to therapy together following Ryle’s revelation regarding his anger issues and blackouts? Ryle mentioned going to therapy since he was 6-years-old after his brother’s death but they never discussed the idea or possibility of going or getting help together. And unlike a lot of couples, they could definitely afford it.
*I was disappointed with the rushed ending and too brief epilogue. I wanted a more definitive ending with Lily and Atlas finally together and more revealed about their future together. How did Ryle fit into that? How would Ryle handle Lily being with Atlas?
*What about the possibility of Ryle having one of his anger/emotional induced episodes or blackouts around their daughter?
*I loved Atlas, and this was one of my favorite quotes. “In the future...if by some miracle you ever find yourself in the position to fall in love again...fall in love with me.” (hide spoiler)]
There were a lot of questions left unanswered for me and things left unresolved that should’ve lessened my enjoyment and lowered my rating. But I just can’t give this book less than 5 full stars because it’s so damn well-written, brilliant, unique, important, daring, poignant, and powerful. And the Author’s Note is so honest and emotional and worth 5 stars alone. So big 5 stars for this excellent read!
Also, I would love for Colleen Hoover to write Atlas’s story...just saying.