Review: Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

Title: Without Merit
Author: Colleen Hoover
Publisher: Atria Books
Rating: 2/5 Stars
Paperback, 384 Pages
Published October 2017

Summary: 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.

Emily and I are both big Colleen Hoover fans, so she got me a copy of Without Merit for Christmas, and I was really excited to dive into it and be enveloped it another Colleen Hoover story to love. However, unfortunately, there was just something about this book that I couldn't really attach myself to and I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I've enjoyed her other books in the past. But this isn't a post to bash the book by any means -- I'm going to get into what I liked and disliked about the book, so stick around and keep reading!

As the summary explains, Merit is a member of the infamous Voss family, and therefore is always the talk of the town with various family rumors and scandals. While her mother was sick with cancer, her dad cheated on her with their nurse, got her pregnant, and ended up marrying her...on top of buying a church out from under the pastor he couldn't stand, and moving the entire family in to live there. There are also a lot of family secrets, long-lost family members, and mischievous dogs. Basically, there's a lot going on in the Voss household. In addition to her family being the talk of the town, Merit also struggles with keeping some of the dark, pressing secrets that she's discovered about her family that the public doesn't know -- things that they'd be better off not knowing. On top of it all, she's struggling with the possibility of being depressed, even if she doesn't want to admit it to herself yet.

So, yeah. There's definitely a lot going on in this book, so it'd do you good to pay attention from start to finish, or you might find yourself missing some crucial details.

Speaking of a lot going on, I wasn't really keen on this book because I felt like there was too much going on throughout the whole thing -- it felt like a bunch of different tropes thrown together in an attempt to cover as many bases as possible. There are plenty of books out there that manage to tackle a bunch of important topics in one story, but this one felt...sort of jumbled and tossed together and not thought out very much. Even after I finished this book, I couldn't really tell you what the main theme. This book flip-flops between focusing on mental illness, family ties, sexuality, infidelity, virginity, relationships, and even the Syrian Refugee Crisis. While all of these subjects are incredibly important and certainly need to be talked about, the book felt very unorganized in the sense that these topics were discussed briefly and then dropped, sometimes brought back in a little while later, but there didn't seem to be a steady thread uniting the story from start to finish. Whether or not that's the author's intention isn't the point -- it's just how I received it as a reader.

Something that really bothered me throughout this book was the weird relationship dynamic that took place throughout the whole thing -- it seriously threw me off. (Spoilers ahead, so please skip to the next paragraph if you haven't read this book yet!) Luck tries to sleep with his niece -- and then ends up sleeping with his nephew?!!?! And then the whole family is just okay with it and lets it happen?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!?! It's not even a secret??? And the new wife lives in the same house as the old wife and just...what? There's a lot going on with the relationships in this book and it's just a lot to process/handle.

I also really didn't enjoy Merit as a character. I can't even pin something specific, her character just rubbed me the wrong way throughout the entire story. She was really mean, judgmental, and made so many biting comments toward her family members and friends, and at times she struck me as such a high school mean girl that I couldn't stand it.

However, there were still some parts of this book that I thought were okay. My favorite character throughout the book was Sagan, even when there were times that he seemed weird or insufferable -- by the end, he was super sweet and caring, and you learn a lot about him and the secrets in his life and he becomes the most bearable character of them all, in my opinion. So, yeah. I'd like to think he was the redeeming character in the book for me.

Overall, I wasn't a big fan of Without Merit, which left me really disappointed because I've loved all of Colleen Hoover's previous stories. While I'd still be open to reading more of her books in the future, I feel like this book felt really rushed and thrown-together, and it just felt somewhat juvenile and it threw me off a little bit. But of course, everything listed here is just my opinion, so I still encourage all of you that were considering reading this book to pick it up and give it your own fair shot and try to form your own opinions on the subject (because my word certainly isn't gold!). 

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