‘It Ends With Us’ should not set future precedent on romantic tropes

February 9, 2023 — by Nidhi Mathihalli
“It Ends With Us” details the popularized trope of romanticizing abusive partners.
Colleen Hoover’s book has sparked lots of controversy regarding the romanticizing of abusers throughout all social media platforms.

After relenting to peer pressure, I finally downloaded Instagram last summer. This decision opened the floodgates and soon VSCO, TikTok and more resided on my phone. 

Of course, my short attention span prevented me from keeping the social media downloaded for more than two weeks. But even during these two weeks, one specific TikTok genre soon earned my wrath: BookTok, which focuses on book reviews on fan-favorite books. 

And as an avid reader, I saw BookTok promoting excruciatingly bad writing styles. Worse yet, the platform seems to normalize the romanticization of domestic abusers, murders, bullies and more.

One of BookTok’s most popular books is “It Ends With Us” by Colleen Hoover. While the book itself may seem like an innocent romantic tragedy, its underlying tones are harmful to the future of romance books, especially with the trope of an abusive boyfriend.

The book follows the main character Lily Bloom, who struggles with her past involving domestic abuse. As she navigates Boston, she falls in love with neurosurgeon Ryle Kincaid. While their initial reactions are innocent and point to a beautiful ending, things take a dark turn when Kincaid begins to abuse Bloom.

Although the book itself may not romanticize abusers per se, its social media presence has become increasingly alarming. While some readers understand that these topics should not be glamorized, many viewers advertise the book as a “dark romance.” This increased viewership led to Hoover creating a coloring book on “It Ends With Us,” further glorifying the trauma and romanticizing domestic abuse in the book. As Twitter user HastiReads says, “Colleen Hoover creating a coloring book for a novel that’s supposedly about [domestic violence] and [sexual assault] is just profiting off of the subjects.”

Bowing to this pressure, Hoover eventually stopped the development of the coloring book, which had already been written but not yet published. However, the precedent of romanticizing abuse in fiction is hardly novel or OK.

In 2019, singer and songwriter Madison Beer said in an Instagram Live Q&A session that her favorite book was Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel “Lolita.” The book is written from the point of view of a middle-aged literature professor, who in the book goes by Humbert Humbert, who is obsessed with Dolores Haze, a 12-year-old girl. Humbert becomes Haze’s stepfather, following which he kidnaps and sexually abuses her. The book follows Humbert’s journey from place to place, with the book critically acclaimed for its literature and style choices.

Beer went on to state how she “definitely romanticized” the novel. But while it led to lots of backlash, Beer herself did not face consequence for promoting the book, instead growing her social media presence since then.

This idea of romanticizing abuse and pedophilic tropes is horrible, and with the veil that social media presents, it is having a stronger online presence than ever. This great presence exemplifies the even greater need for authors to stop writing such books and for social media users to stop romanticizing them. While “Lolita,” can and should be considered as a standard for true literature, its praise should start and end at Nabokov’s writing style. Romanticizing the book, as Beer did, is far from the book’s purpose, both contributing to the cycle of the “domestic abuse” trope while devaluing Nabokov’s true purpose.

Domestic abuse is not love — it should never be mistaken for love and  should not be a source of profit for authors and celebrities with an online platform. And even more importantly, we as readers should not encourage this behavior.

So please — if you have an iota of respect for the victims of sexual assault or domestic abuse, don’t read books like “It Ends With Us” and contribute to their financial success.

Romance is fine to glamorize; abuse is not.

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