When Colleen Hoover announced she was giving Lily Bloom and Atlas Corrigan their own story, fans everywhere were ecstatic. Hoover originally shared that It Starts With Us would be a prequel to the TikTok-famous It Ends With Us, giving us a more in-depth look at Atlas and Lily as children and how their friendship started. We don’t get too many details of Lily and Atlas growing up in It Ends With Us if it doesn’t pertain to the difficult family situations they both grew up in, and Atlas is a fan-favourite.
If I’m being honest, I was nervous for this book to come out. Hoover is my favourite author, but after having read nearly her entire backlist I can say that, historically, her sequels are her downfall. She developed a pattern of writing her sequels as the same story as the first book in the series, just from the other main character’s point of view. We’ve seen that with two of her other series, the Slammed series and the Hopeless series. But I’m very pleased to say that It Starts With Us does not follow this pattern and is a true sequel.
It Starts With Us picks up on the same day that the epilogue of It Ends With Us takes place. Readers learn that Atlas is now the successful business owner of two restaurants, Bib’s and Corrigan’s, and Lily runs her own flower shop, Lily Bloom’s. Lily is trying to adjust to a new custody situation for her daughter, Emerson, with her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid. The story starts from Atlas’s perspective. We find him standing behind Bib’s with two of his employees, where he has found vandalism. He is puzzled by who could have left the vulgar, yet misspelled, word that is spray painted across the back door of his restaurant, and that the only thing the culprit seems to have taken from the restaurant is some croutons. But his thoughts are derailed by a text message he hopes is from Lily.
Even though It Starts With Us isn’t the prequel CoHorts thought we were getting, this sequel is everything we didn’t know we needed from Hoover. We are given alternating chapters from Atlas’s and Lily’s perspectives. Lily has finally found a healthy relationship with Atlas, who treats her the way she deserves to be treated. However, she is trying to create boundaries with Ryle so that he can still be in Emerson’s life. The internal struggle she faces to protect herself from Ryle’s manipulation sheds light on how victims of domestic violence struggle to release themselves from their controlling and violent partner’s grasp.
Although the book has faced criticism from readers for Ryle’s lack of character development from the first book to the second and that not every conflict is resolved so the story can be wrapped up in a little bow, Hoover wrote a realistic account of the aftermath of leaving an abusive partner when there is a child in the picture and that positive change isn’t instantaneous or smooth. I don’t think it’s realistic for readers to go into this book assuming that Ryle has suddenly learned the error of his ways and is suddenly a better person. Hoover was right to write Ryle as the flawed person he very much still is.
Oh, and those Ellen letters from It Ends With Us? They make an appearance in this book, which has fans divided. If you’re not an Ellen DeGeneres fan, one way to think of them is Lily writing in her diary that she has named Ellen.
This one still packs a punch, just in a different, happier way. With aspects of found family and second chances, It Starts With Us has made its way to the top of the list of my favourite Colleen Hoover novels.
Photo credit: Kirkus Reviews
This blog post was written by guest blogger, Katie S.