Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (3 Oct. 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.
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There was a lot of things that I really liked about Without Merit, and equally, things I really didn’t like about the book. I didn’t like Colleen Hoover’s usual books, which I know a lot of people absolutely loved, the contemporary ones such as the Slammed, Hopeless and Maybe series. The one that I did like though, LOVED - was It Ends With Us, which was probably one of my fav books of the year, last year. I’m more of a fan of her NA/adult books, and Without Merit is another one of those (I think?) - but I sense this is a hit or miss kinda book and I’m still not sure how it sits with me.
This is darker than Hoover’s usual, evident in the content and the issues discussed in the book. There’s a very dysfunctional family dynamic going on, there’s issues about identity, sexuality, drugs, abuse. There’s basically A LOT going on - and I get what the author was trying to do in bringing these issues to light - but quantity over quantity. For me, there were too many issues trying to be jam packed into one and the risk of that is that there’s never enough time to properly explore the issues on hand and this is very very important. Because you run the risk of not talking about the issue properly, not representing it how it should in the story - it shouldn’t just be a tick-box case where you throw the issue in there just to get it out there - these issues are important and should be given time to be explored and talked about in a book. For me personally, picking fewer topics to discuss would have worked out better. Having said that, I really did appreciate Hoover’s inclusion of Sagan and his background - about his family in Syria and in highlighting the Syrian crisis - but again, there wasn’t enough time to really delve into what this issue means and the plight of the people.
In terms of the characters, I’m torn between how I feel about Merit. There’s something about her that’s broken which I relate to and understand - she’s flawed, there’s a lot going on with her, but the more I read about her, the less redeeming qualities she seemed to possess. Her perspective, her views, were very narrow minded and started to get annoying. Likewise, her relationship with her siblings was irritating - I think midway through the book, I was pretty sure I disliked all of them, including Merit.
I feel like this book could have been really, really good - as always in such cases, the idea was definitely there - but it could have been executed better. Fewer issues, more time spent exploring said issues, and an ending with a resolution because it didn’t feel like it was really resolved to me. I know there’s a lot of negative going on here, so let’s chuck some good stuff in - ok ok the story at the beginning about how they moved into what used to be the church and Merit dressing the statue of Jesus up every morning did make me chuckle. There was a fair bit of dry, sarcastic witty humour in the book - my fav type - but it was few and far between. I did however, love the message I took away from the book, and one of my fav quotes from the book:
“Not every mistake deserves a consequence. Sometimes the only thing it deserves is forgiveness.” – Sagan
One of the few other things I did like about the book, was that it’s not all about the romance. The little that there was, I don’t think I enjoyed - Merit annoyed me and there wasn’t much about Sagan that I found likeable either - together, these two weren’t great. So I guess I’m glad there wasn’t much to endure, a blessing in disguise. The writing however, I really did like - Hoover knows how to write, that much is evident. I just hope the next book from here is executed better, because I know she can - she did it with It Ends With Us and I’m literally just waiting for another scorcher of a book from here. Please Hoover, SOON.