It Starts with Us: Heartbreaking in the best way

Molly B (Year 8), Chief Contributor

WARNING: Spoilers to It Ends With Us & It Starts With Us ahead.  

 The worldwide sensation It Ends With Us, written by Colleen Hoover, is a story that revolves around the protagonist, Lily Bloom, and communicates her struggle with abuse. This book explores obscure concepts such as escaping abusive relationships and healing from past trauma. Additionally, the book also has an element of romance to balance out the heaviness that surrounds the abuse she experienced with her husband Ryle Kincaid, and her father, Andrew Bloom. The book was received brilliantly by its audience and was spoken about very highly in the media (TikTok, Instagram, Twitter). It was presumed that there would not be a sequel for It Ends With Us, and that it would be a successful stand-alone novel.  

 Until Hoover posted a teaser for It Starts With Us.  

In It Ends With Us, we, as an audience, receive two points of view. Our first is Lily grown up and living in Boston at 23 years old, head over heels in love with neurosurgeon Ryle Kincaid. Our second is from the diary entries she wrote when she was 15 talking about her blossoming romance with Atlas Corrigan, bearing in mind, he was homeless at the time. The book mainly focuses on her journey with Ryle and the terrible verbal and physical abuse she suffered throughout their toxic relationship. However, after the first book, fans stated that they would love another book to focus on the rekindled relationship of Lily and Atlas, giving fans a chance to see them living a happy life together.  

But was the sequel required?  

In It Starts With Us, Atlas and Lily are now thriving in their separate lives. Atlas has two successful restaurants and Lily has a daughter, Emerson, from her previous relationship with Ryle. The two are living (somewhat) comfortably when they reconnect after spending some time apart. Their relationship immediately rekindles which is portrayed as in It Starts With Us, we get a split point of view from both Atlas and Lily. They both express their desire to reach out and strengthen the relationship with each other. Luckily for die-hard Lily and Atlas fans, their relationship develops, and Atlas goes to Lily’s flower shop to bring her lunch from his restaurant. As Lily swoons over Atlas, Ryle shows up, so Atlas is hidden in a cupboard in Lily’s office to avoid any conflicts that could arise.  

“I’m sure Atlas can see the absolute fear in my expression when I look at him, but he very calmly says, “Where do you want me?”.” 

After that incident, we are further introduced to Atlas’s pal or as described in the book, his 12-year-old therapist, Theo, who he tells about Lily. Theo continuously calls him out for some of his cheesy pick-up lines and finally gives the audience a comedic environment, very different to the tone witnessed in It Ends With Us. Additionally, we find out that Atlas has a younger brother, Josh, who continues vandalizing Atlas’s restaurants due to a grudge he holds due to the lies his mother told him. Thankfully, Atlas conclusively catches him and the two develop a close relationship over the course of the book. It allows Lily and Atlas to have yet another thing in common as the two are both responsible for a child now and can help each other in certain circumstances.  

The book includes numerous sweet moments between Atlas and Lily as they develop their relationship through long facetime calls and deep messages. Eventually, Atlas asks Lily out, and they attempt to have dinner. However, Lily is now a single mother to her newborn daughter Emerson and is inevitably exhausted. Lily sleeps through their whole date whilst Atlas reads many diary entries that Lily wrote when they were younger. He sympathizes with her as she recalls her experience of watching Atlas being beaten by her own father to the point where he was taken away in an ambulance. He also gets to hear Lily’s perspective on lighter things such as the first time they said “I love you” or some of the memories they made when they would bake cookies or even sit on the bus together.   

Unfortunately, Lily endures another abusive encounter with her ex-husband, Ryle, as the built-up pressure of telling him about her rekindled relationship with Atlas explodes as Ryle sees evidence of them being together when coming to collect his daughter. Ryle ends up pushing Lily against a wall, wrapping his hands around her neck and leaving her speechless and petrified. This is the final straw for Lily, so she speaks to her mother, Ryle’s sister (Alyssa) and her husband Marshall and organise to meet with Ryle. The three inform Ryle that he needs to attend anger management classes if he wants to be a part of Emersons life. However, Lily’s final request shocks everyone. She poses the threat that if Ryle ever lays a hand on her again, she’ll drop everything to fight him in court. No matter what she must spend, no matter how long the case may take, she insists she will not give her daughter the same life her mother gave her.   

A bittersweet ending unravels when we read Atlas’s wedding vows for Lily. After many years of waiting for each other, they finally get their happy ever after. I believe that It Starts With Us was a completely required sequel as it finally gave Lily and Atlas a chance to heal from their past. They got their opportunity to be together whilst also being healthy on their own. Atlas has Josh, Lily has Emerson, and they get to experience life together after being separated for many years. All the negative aspects of Lily and Atlas’s separate life are in the past and they finally get the future they both entirely deserve. The impact It Ends With Us and It Starts With Us had on readers was refreshing. Awareness for people in domestic abusive relationships was raised, and as readers, we got to understand the struggle people in abusive relationships suffer from and how hard it is to escape and rebound from such issues. Colleen Hoover has an enchanted way with words, and in these two books, she shows it. Two stories are beautifully written about Lily Bloom’s experience with abuse and how she healed, where Lily additionally ends up with someone who treats her well and shows her the correct way to be loved.