Bestselling Author Colleen Hoover Courts Controversy With Themes of Trauma and Abuse



Courtesy of colleenhoover/Instagram
Author Colleen Hoover “dominated” the 2022 bestsellers list, holding the top three spots according to Publisher’s Weekly, and has a movie adaptation in the works, but now she faces mounting criticism that her books romanticize abuse.
Hoover, known by fans as CoHo, began by self-publishing romance and thriller novels a decade ago, and last year sold 14.3 million copies of her books, according to Publisher’s Weekly. One of her best-known titles, 2016’s “It Ends With Us,” is being adapted into a film starring Blake Lively, set for release in 2024.
But, as her following has grown, so have the number of critics. Hoover is the second-most followed author on Goodreads after horror master Stephen King, and she boasts 1.4 million followers on TikTok.
Readers have flagged “It Ends With Us,” taking to social media to warn other readers that the story it romanticizes abuse. The book follows a woman named Lily Bloom, and details a cycle of domestic abuse from her parents to her own relationships.
But like the title suggests, Lily does eventually end the cycle of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse.
The themes of domestic abuse, and the use of meek women and aggressive men as characters, reappear in Hoover’s other works. And they defy the conventions of the romance genre, which typically call for a happy ending.
“There are certain groups of people who don’t like that Hoover’s creative work is both wildly popular and completely outside their control,” said Morgan Gist MacDonald, founder and CEO of Paper Raven Books.
“We saw the same complaints from the same groups of people over a decade ago with E.L. James’ ’50 Shades of Gray’ books, which then became movies. Some readers were uncomfortable with the aggressive sex scenes, and traditional publishers were fighting over the ability to control a breakout series that had started as self-published fan-fiction,” MacDonald said.
“Publishers should not be the ones who decide which books are available to readers, and which aren’t. Publishers will always go for the ‘safe bet’ books. If they know a certain type of book sold well before, they will find an author to pump out another one exactly like it and put it on the shelves of stores that sell that same type of book every day. If an author starts to write something unconventional, though — dark, aggressive, or even just too quirky — they get nervous about the marketability. Publishers are not just gatekeepers, they’re cowardly gatekeepers,” MacDonald said.
“Authors who find a way to successfully publish and sell controversial books are tapping into something that their readers want, at some level, even if it flies in the face of tradition — and this is certainly true of women authors, who have always had to fight against gatekeepers,” MacDonald said.
“Imagine a world in which Jane Austen hadn’t self-published ‘Sense and Sensibility’ because some people disapproved of how she presented societal marriages. Or a world without Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ because some people found the content too dark for a woman to have penned. Or a world without Octavia Butler’s ‘Parable of the Sower’ because some people didn’t want to be confronted with the worst of human nature,” MacDonald said.
“You don’t have to read Colleen Hoover’s books. You don’t have to sell Colleen Hoover’s books,” MacDonald said. “But, for women’s sake everywhere, don’t try to snuff out a woman’s author who is writing books that other women love to buy and read.”
TMX contributed to this article.