I was super late to the party and didn’t read my first CoHo book until last year. I purchased It Ends With Us after seeing it won the Goodreads’ Choice Award for Best Romance of 2016. I read IEWU in a matter of hours and cried like a baby. I’ve since been making my way through her entire catalog and I’m such a fan. Hoover has a way of creating a love story to root for (or against in some cases), meanwhile tackling a serious issue, such as relationship or family abuse. Books with dark themes are some of my favorites, but I also enjoy a swoon-worthy romance. And Hoover gives me both.
(NOTE: There are slight spoilers below under the label “potential triggers.”)
Without Merit, Hoover’s latest release, is vastly different from her other works. Instead of making a romantic relationship the focus of the book, the dynamics among the dysfunctional Voss Family take center stage. (And if you’re a fan of Hoover’s unique choice in character names, she definitely delivers here as well.)
The eclectic Voss Family lives in a refurbished church, acquired as a result of a feud between Mr. Barnaby Voss and the church’s pastor. Now lovingly dubbed “Dollar Voss,” Barnaby; his new wife Victoria; their son, Moby; and three children from his previous marriage, Utah, Honor, and Merit, all reside in the former House of God. Did I mention the ex-wife, also named Victoria, lives as a recluse in the basement? No? Well, there it is.
Our narrator and protagonist is 17-year-old, Merit Voss, the “less remarkable” twin sister of Honor. Over the course of the book, Merit becomes privy to several secrets and scandals within her family and is forced to keep them to herself. The intensity of keeping these secrets keeps building and building until Merit asks the question, “What if I wasn’t around to be the family’s secret keeper?”
As mentioned before, there is a love interest for Merit, but it’s definitely a side plot. The sexual content is also very mild compared to the other books of Hoover’s that I have read so far.
Oh, and there’s humor, too! I particularly enjoyed the different costumes Merit gave the crucifix hanging their house–my favorite, of course, being the “Cheesus” in honor of the Green Bay Packers. Merit’s humor is very dry and self-deprecating aka the title of my autobiography. I greatly connected to her and her way of interacting with the world.
Without Merit does contain themes of depression, suicide ideation (including an attempt), but it is not graphic. An unwanted sexual advance by a family member is also part of the plot, but again, it does not go into vivid detail of the assault itself.}
If you’re wary of Hoover changing her typical formula a little, I highly encourage you to give Without Merit a chance. The word I’d use to describe it is human. It’s a very human story. I still ended up reading it in one sitting and became a weeping pile of salt water. Never fear: what makes Colleen Hoover, Colleen Hoover is still there.
4.5 / 5
Without Merit is available now. Thank you so much to Atria Books for sending me an advanced digital copy.