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  • Writer's pictureTantra Bensko

Romance Winner Overcomes Its Flaws

Updated: Apr 26, 2018

Congratulations to Colleen Hoover for this winning the GoodReads Choice Book Award 2017 with Without Merit. Every young women book vlogger on YouTube cites her as a favorite romance author, though not necessarily for this particular book. Elsewhere I've seen many readers say they love all her other books but this one, so I was curious to evaluate it myself. I enjoyed reading it quite a bit in spite of what I would call its flaws. I was able to immerse myself in Merit's life and care about her.

I cried hard a few times toward the end, not at all because it made me sad. That's a big accomplishment. The resolution of a family drama can be grand and poignant, resonate of our own family distances we wish could be closed.

I enjoyed how many vivid, memorable, easy to keep straight characters were in this rich story.

I wished I saw characters have more interests and problems unrelated to sex, particularly Merit. When I was a teenager, I was doing a huge number of things, participating heavily in all the arts, excited about my studies, running around in nature, practicing telepathy. . . I like that there are lots of twists and turns and surprises in this book, some related to misperceptions, but the way they usually revolved around sex and its consequences made it seem overly biological.

The more that happened, the more I wanted that balanced by other ways of relating to the world. Therefore, I was very glad to see things like swimming, marque-changing, church-buying, drawing.

Motifs circled around nicely within the plot, like the dog and the title phrase.

At once point it felt After School Special with the list of depression symptoms.

Several of the first chapters went on at great length with expository backstory rather than intriguing us with action. I haven't seen a contemporary published book do that to that degree before.

The historical portrayal of the Arab Spring which I consider inaccurate deeply saddened me, because she's so influential to so many readers. But I love her anyway, and reading a Colleen Hoover book, I also have the hope that somewhere, in some way, she loves me too.

I think it's good it's labeled Romance, because it stretches the genre into the realistic, messy, and complex rather than titillating, formulaic or wish-fulfilling. And it shows readers are ready for that and aren't addicted to repeats of other people books.

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