Published by Atria on 10/03/2017
Not every mistake deserves a consequence. Sometimes the only thing it deserves is forgiveness.
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.
“Don’t make your presence known. Make your absence felt.”
I’m not quite sure what I expected Without Merit would be like, but this wasn’t it. Not that that’s a bad thing; it was just unexpected.
Colleen Hoover’s characters a typically pretty unique and kind of quirky, but every character in this book took the cake. The quirks were so rampant that it almost made them weird. In a lot of cases it just made for some hilarious comic relief, but it also made the characters seem a little bit less authentic and real.
I appreciated how much Hoover based the setting off of her own town, since I’ve been there a couple of times myself. It made the story feel familiar and it was cool to recognize some of the landmarks. She even wrote herself into a little cameo that was pretty amusing.
The writing, as always, was superb and I appreciated her tackling the issues of anxiety and depression, among other things. Those aren’t easy to address, and as someone who’s familiar with both, I thought it was really well done and didn’t cross over to the point of pandering or patronizing.
I was pretty absorbed in this story for the majority of the book, and at one point stayed up into the middle of the night reading because I couldn’t put it down. I appreciated the character growth, though for a couple of them I would’ve liked a bit more resolution.
Overall, it was an enjoyable read. It was a bit heavy at times, but like I said, I appreciated the spotlight on some of the issues. My only real critique is how odd the characters were. Even when they made me laugh, I couldn’t help but think to myself that people like them couldn’t possibly really exist. If you’re a fan of Colleen Hoover’s books, you should expect a bit of a departure from her other stories. But it still has her signature touch and is really well-written, and I definitely recommend it.
When I start a Colleen Hoover book I’m usually filled with a bit of hesitation. It hasn’t always been this way. Her earlier releases I’ve loved, as Maybe Someday leads the pack while others have left me feeling underwhelmed. I’m not sure whether it’s the way she’s grown as a writer, or the development of my reading pallet, but my enjoyment of her novels has lessened which each successive release. They’re never written poorly, but maybe I’m just not her audience? I am always willing to give her books a chance though because she is a skilled writer and a pretty decent human. I’m happy to say that Without Merit was surprisingly weighty and rather enjoyable.
This cast of characters is one I think readers of any age or reading tastes would appreciate, maybe even find relatable, like I did. I’m at that weird age where I can appreciate and remember many of the feelings and situations Merit experienced and also understood some of the parenting issues her father had to manage. And while the mismatched quilt of personalities comes together in this story to deliver a message about forgiveness and perspective and heavier topics such as depression and suicide, I was left feeling really fulfilled despite the oddness of them all. It never felt superficial or overly manufactured. They felt like real people involved in real situations. I liked that.
I would encourage young readers to pick this one up. I felt that it had great representation of teen and familial issues. However if a romance reader is looking for a sweet YA love story, be warned that the focus on the romance is definitely secondary.