Published by Atria Books on October 3rd 2017
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.
Poignant and powerful, Without Merit explores the layers of lies that tie a family together and the power of love and truth.
I would like to take a moment and say that I appreciate the fact that there are authors out there who are willing and motivated to write about issues close to their heart and issues that are happening in the world today. CoHo does this and once again, I feel like this book will have a great impact. With that being said, and the fact that I’m a huge Colleen Hoover fan (I’ve read them all except Too Late — I’m getting there!), I don’t have a problem with saying that this was not my favourite book of hers. And you know what? That’s fine. Cool, even. Not every reader is going to like every book and that’s just dandy. Doesn’t mean she’s not a fantastic author or I’m suddenly not a fan of hers, it just means that this story didn’t work as well for me as it may for some other people.
And before I forget, I need to mention that Colleen makes herself a character in this book. She made herself a secondary character! HA! She’s such a savage and I love it! I started laughing when I realized what was going on, it was fantastic.
I feel like I need to start by saying how addictive this book is. Once again, Hoover delivers a story packed with emotional clarity, dry humour, shaking your head with a smile on your face craziness, and unconventional themes. She does these things quite well time and time again. From the moment I picked this book up, I couldn’t stand to put it down. I was excited, dare I even say giddy, even though I wasn’t 100% sure what was even happening. There’s a lot to take in and with so many secrets to be had, there are plenty of things to focus on. Basically until you learn where ‘Without Merit’ comes from, I was enamoured. It was more so after this point though that the main theme of the book became apparently, and I started to lose interest. It felt like there was a big bunch of logs slowing down the river I was floating down. NOT because of this theme/issue, might I add. I just lost its spark for me. I was no longer addicted. I was no longer bouncing with giddiness. I was holding out all of my hope for Sagan and Merit because I didn’t really know where the author was taking this story or how to come back from the bomb that had just been dropped. Until everything just…was. There was a lot of family drama unleashed and even more secrets (perhaps a tad too much on both accounts), and I don’t really know why it turned for me so suddenly. Even some of this drama or some of the characters presence seemed over the top or forced to me in one way of the other.
Something I really look for and/look forward to in books is the climax. I love the tension building higher and high between a set of characters until all of a sudden everything explodes. I love the chaos this brings and to see everyone work their way back. The only instance I can think of in Without Merit was when the secrets came out, but there was still a significant chunk of the book after this to come. From this stand point, I felt like since there was still so much story to come, I didn’t want to think of this as the big moment that I was looking for. I was left waiting and waiting for something big to happen next, but it was just getting slower and slower the farther I got.
Okay, so the big twist or issue or theme or whatever you want to call it, let me just get this out in the open. I appreciate that Hoover pushes the boundaries constantly on what we perceive as conventional. Where it’s romance, fiction, young adult, so be it. If there’s a line, Hoover pushes it and maneuvers it where she wants. That’s awesome. I applaud her for this. Sort of in the same sense as her last book, It Ends With Us, the book changes at some point into dealing with an issue that you did not expect. It just seems that in this particular sense, this book wasn’t as successful to me as a reader as some of her others have been. I understand why she wrote this how she did. I understand the powerful statement that this can bring. I understand the help that this book can and will give some readers. I agree that this book is important. But in the same breath, just because I agree it’s important, doesn’t mean I particularly liked it a whole lot. Which is crappy, because I loved the beginning.
I’m not sure how to properly phrase this in a way that won’t make people want to rip my head off, so I’m just going to go for it. If this paragraph doesn’t make sense, you don’t agree, or you think I an idiot, that’s cool, please just move on. Basically, I feel a little bit cheated with this book. Everyone has genres that they like, yes? Well this is a CoHo book, who is known for her monumental, everlasting, earth shattering love stories. Without Merit is very vague, between both the cover and blurb so you don’t have a good sense of what you’re going in to. But between the author (come on, we all know what we’re getting when you hear the name Colleen Hoover) and the opening chapter — OMG MY HEART — well, I expected one of those monumental, everlasting, earth shattering love stories. And I didn’t get it. I feel like I was lead on or something because that seemed to be the way the book was heading, until it wasn’t. I was rooting for Sagan and Merit so hard until, well, it became a story that I didn’t want it to. And frankly, who cares what I want, I get that, but when you’re expecting one thing, hoping for one thing, and you don’t get it… Well, it’s a little disappointing. Even Goodreads has Romance tagged as one of the genres but yet, here we are.
So with that being said, let me get this off my chest. This is not a love story. It’s not a romance. It’s a coming of age novel about a 17 year old girl and a family full of secrets and deceptions, all trying to coexist somewhat peacefully. It deals with mental disorders and people making mistakes. It deals with the fluidity of sexuality and how everything can change based on your perspective of the world around you. But no where in this did I find a love story. And I feel like some people will come at me saying “well it’s a story of Merit learning to love herself and her life!”, but is it though? Because from my point of view, the story ended before any of that could happen. I thought it was abrupt and forced into a neat little package but considering how much said packages exploded only several days prior, I really don’t see how this can be.
I’m not sure how strong of a resolution this story has, because I’m still left with some questions or concerns. Add in the fact that yes, even though we get explanations for all of the secrets, lies and deceits, it still didn’t change my perception of some of these characters. Her dad for instance, I think is a major DB and I don’t think saying something along the lines of “you have no idea how hard it’s been / I may be an adult but that doesn’t mean I have my life together” is a viable excuse for his actions time and time again. Even the reasoning for Honor’s issues, I didn’t find that this absolved her of everything put into the readers mind based on Merit’s thoughts. I didn’t like either of these characters come the end of the book. Hell, I don’t even know how much I liked Merit come the end of the book either. I liked Sagan, so that’s a bonus, but I don’t even know exactly where he came from in the first place. So would I say this story is resolved? Definitely not.
This seems like a big, depressing pity party and I apologize for that. I wish more than anyone that I didn’t feel this way about this book but alas, here we are, and I felt the need to get this off my chest.
I buddy read this book with my girl Quinn and overall we have fairly similar thoughts. Granted we generally like the same things, I just felt like this tidbit should be mentioned.
I didn’t think that this day would come. That one day I would read a CoHo book and just not love it. I honestly didn’t think that it would have been this book. Of course with Colleen not having a release for over a year, there was high anticipation for Without Merit. I had heard through the grapevine that this one was supposed to be more fluffy and not the “rip your heart out” kind of book that Colleen usually writes.
I don’t write too much about the subject matter in reviews for Colleen’s books. I feel like her novels are best to go in blind, so here’s what I’m going to say about this:
1. This is relevant and necessary to be discussed, especially with teenagers and young adults.
That’s one of the things that I enjoy most about reading Colleen’s books. What she writes about is completely relevant with what’s going on in the world and she does it so damn well. For this I applaud her for. This particular subject matter is just not something that I find relevant to me and my life, therefore it didn’t resonate with me as much as say someone that’s never had experience with this, or is younger(teenager or early 20’s).
2. Colleen can create heartache like no one else
Despite this not being my favorite book by her, I was surprised to find myself tearing up. Some of you may find that hard to believe that I did that in this book. It obviously doesn’t have the gut punch of emotions as say Ugly Love or November 9, but I love how Colleen can so easily string words together that allow the reader to feel whatever the character is going through. And trust me, there’s a lot of characters going through a lot of crap in this one.
3. Each CoHo book teaches a life lesson
Ugly Love reminds us that no matter what happens in life, we can move on. November 9 teaches us that forgiveness is a powerful gift. It Ends With Us teaches us that we can be a survivor and end the cycle, and in this book we learn that everyone is going through something. Again, one of the reasons I love Colleen’s books so much is that she can create characters that go through incredible strife and come out hero’s.
This just wasn’t for me. I wanted more. I needed the gut punch that she usually delivers. I felt like this was very familiar to It Ends With Us as far as perception. It was just OK for me. But any book written by Colleen is still leaps and bounds better than ever other author out there. She is just a superb writer and isn’t afraid of pushing the envelope. I was just looking for something laying below the surface that was going to come up and grab me at the very end….and there just wasn’t.
So if you haven’t read a book by Colleen and are afraid of jumping into the deep end head first, you might want to give this one a try over one of her heavier novels. This is also a really good book to give to a teenager as it addresses a lot of issues that are very much apparent in today’s society(sexuality, mental health issues, family dynamics, etc).
I buddy read with my co-blogger Shannon(go check out her review, it’s fabulous), and she put it best. This is not a romance novel. This is a coming of age novel. If you go in expecting this all-consuming love story that is CoHo’s typical, then you may disappointed. But if you go in expecting this to be a coming of age story, then you may be more satisfied.
I just want to mention that I have mad respect for Colleen. I love her diversity and with that you aren’t going to reach every single reader. I was one of those readers. This actually just makes me more hungry for her next release! I can’t wait to read what she puts out next, because I guarantee it will blow me away.
**ARC provided in exchange for an honest review