By Emily Park
UPDATE: Colleen Hoover canceled the coloring book and deleted her announcement hours after this went live. Catcall still stands by this editorial. For further explanation, read the afterword below the original story.
I’ve long been on the fence about how I feel about Colleen Hoover (CoHo). The best-selling author has sold over 20 million books, and in 2022 she sold more copies than the Bible…2.4 million more copies. Normally, I’d worship a woman who’s taking the book industry by storm, but CoHo is not someone I can celebrate.
The last straw for me? The January 10 announcement of a coloring book for It Ends With Us, a novel about domestic violence. But before I get to the hopefully obvious issues with that, let me backtrack.
I’ve read four CoHo novels: Ugly Love, It Ends With Us, All Your Perfects, and November 9. For my personal reading choices, November 9 ended any intrigue I had regarding the rest of her books. I’m not trying to gatekeep anyone from reading the books they enjoy, so if you think you’ll read November 9 and don’t want a (smallish) spoiler, skip the next paragraph.
November 9 is a “love story” in which the main character’s love interest lies and manipulates his way into getting to know her. The worst part? She forgives him. It’s a book about an incredibly toxic relationship, and we’re supposed to pretend by the end of the book that it’s all rainbows and sunshine. Not cute at all. As I said, this book destroyed any desire I had to read more CoHo books.
I didn’t hate the first three books I read, hence why I read four CoHo books to begin with. But after the shitstorm that was November 9, I looked back at the other books she’d penned and realized her books tend to ooze toxic relationships framed as a journey of girl meets boy, boy has problems, boy hurts girl, but in the end, girl makes boy realize how to be a better person. Girl and boy live happily ever after. Narratives like that are dangerous. They shouldn’t be romanticized, but that’s what many of CoHo’s books do.
It Ends With Us is CoHo’s top-seller. (Another spoiler coming.) Within those pages, she weaves a narrative about domestic abuse—mental, physical, and sexual. As someone who grew up surrounded by—and personally experienced—domestic abuse, I didn’t know how to feel after I first read this book.
At first, I thought CoHo did a decent job depicting what it’s like to experience the horrors of domestic violence. In the end, the main character got out of the situation. But at the same time, she gives the reader a reason to root for the abuser. To hope that he’ll change. While the couple doesn’t end up together, the abuser gets somewhat of a redemption arc. I realize that some real-life abusers do come to that crossroads where they own up for the harm they’ve caused. But that’s rare, and it’s also not the responsibility of the abused one to “forgive and forget” that damage.
CoHo leaves a note at the end of It Ends With Us acknowledging that it was a choice to go the ending she chose. She grew up in domestic violence and forgave her dad for the abuse when he sincerely apologized for it. She made the decision that was best for herself and wrote a book inspired by it. I can’t fault her for that, but at the same time, as someone who has no interest in forgiving her abuser and has processed a lot in therapy since my initial read of It Ends With Us, the novel leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Since finishing November 9, I’ve been hesitant to think anything positive about CoHo. But I still respected her as a female author who’s engaged a lot of new readers over the last few years. That respect ended today when I learned about The Ends With Us coloring book. Who in their right mind would choose to create a coloring book about a story of domestic violence?
The comments on the post were disgusting. Many people were as shocked and offended as I was, but others left comments like, “is there going to be a page featuring stairs” in reference to a scene where the main character is pushed down the stairs by her abuser. While it may not be the intent, and while I also doubt the coloring book will feature scenes of domestic violence, this seems like a cash grab making light of the seriousness of the book’s topic.
Coloring books are supposed to be light and fun. For adults, coloring books are often used in therapeutic ways. As a survivor of domestic abuse, this makes me nauseous. And as someone who has used coloring books as a way to ease anxiety, this announcement is infuriating. If CoHo wanted to make a coloring book, she had over 20 other books to choose from that aren’t anchored in domestic violence.
It feels like CoHo is making light of trauma to make a few more millions in revenue, and she just released the incredibly-anticipated sequel to It Ends With Us called It Starts With Us, so it’s not like she’s not already making millions from that book release. At the very least, you’d think she’d maybe raise some money for a domestic violence awareness charity. Or she could be using this book series to prompt very real conversations, to help people get the resources they need to leave their abuser. But nope, she’s debuting an It Ends With Us coloring book.
That’s not okay, and Colleen Hoover, I am done with your toxicity.
What’s left to do now? Take your own action. You can buy a copy of It Ends With Us for $12.99 at most book stores. Instead, try donating that amount to a domestic violence organization. Here are a few to consider:
For a national organization try:
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: According to Impactful Ninja (a site that ranks the most impactful charities), “NCADV has supported thousands of survivors across America through programs and funds. They influenced social media, and conversations were sparked with over 130,000 NCADV hashtags in October 2018 alone. NCDAV has made contributions to various policies. For example, the Violence Against Women Act and the Victims of Crime Act.”
If you’re looking for something local to the Midwest try:
Rose Brooks: This Kansas City-based emergency shelter supports domestic abuse survivors with housing and resources to help them get on their feet. They also provide shelter for family pets that can’t be left behind—a roadblock for many DV survivors.
Well, you can’t say calling out the bullshit doesn’t do anything. Not even 24 hours after the announcement of the It Ends With Us coloring book, CoHo deleted her announcement and posted about not moving forward with the coloring book on her Instagram story (which will be deleted after 24 hours):
While I’ll give her some credit for at least pulling the reigns on this disastrous choice, it doesn’t undo the damage that her books cause. Nor does it make anything I wrote before she changed her mind any less true. The coloring book was still the last straw for me. Plus, the coloring book is still available for pre-order from Simon & Schuster, so that’s awkward.
There’s more to taking “accountability” for your actions than simply acknowledging what you did was wrong. In a perfect world, CoHo would’ve posted a public announcement (not just a 24-hour-only statement) about the hurt she’s caused and taken action to counteract it. (Like donating to DV survivor charitable foundation or spreading awareness on resources for DV victims). But she didn’t, and the whole situation still sits just as wrong with me this afternoon as it did this morning.
Emily Park (she/her) is a Kansas City-based journalist, passionate about giving a voice to those who don’t always have one. From news to features to business-to-business reporting, she’s done it all. In her free time, you can find Emily reading (probably fantasy smut), playing board games with her partner, or cuddling up with her dogs and cat.