Jenny's Review: Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

Title: Without Merit
Author: Colleen Hoover
Genre: Contemporary
Publisher: Atria Books

Pub Date: October 3, 2017
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Our thoughts...

Without Merit has an important story and message to tell and I think it is beneficial to read it. I do recommend this book for the message alone, but I do take issue with some things. Mainly, that it feels like an afterschool special (Hoover even pokes fun at that at one point) where scenes feel rehearsed instead of organic. Events don’t unfold naturally but forced or rehearsed (if a novel can feel rehearsed). The flow of the story is in a chunky fashion of fiction with mini-lessons thrown in rather than a cohesive blend of the two important aspects. A chunk of story and then a chunk of information, repeat. I really wish the important messages and moments blended into the story in a smoother way. I think they would be even more impactful and easier to relate to but they are impactful regardless. 

This novel could have used one more revision, especially the first…quarter maybe? The present events would be happening and then suddenly cut to background info/history explained for a lengthy period and then I would forget what was happening when the story returned to the present event. I found this to be quite frustrating.

I must mention this: The Bookworm Box store makes an unnamed appearance and who I’m guessing is Hoover’s sister. I don’t have a problem with it being in the book, but it needs to hold more weight or less; it felt awkward. What was the purpose of Merit having that weird conversation with the sales clerk? We never see anything come from it other than Merit and Sagan being comfortably weirded out. That’s it. It feels like a total cameo, which is fine, but if that’s all it’s meant to be then the scene was just too long and drawn out. The length warrants meaning or importance, but it never comes.

This story is worth reading, especially if a reader is unfamiliar with mental illness or wants to be more informed in a way that makes it easier to step into someone else’s shoes, to allow them to be more empathetic. I’m well-acquainted with a wide range of mental health issues from multiple perspectives so it felt a little more like telling me what I already know as if I don’t know it. It can be helpful to a wide audience, though, and I think there is value in reading the story.

I was engaged with the story and compelled to finish but I also don’t feel the need to pick it up again. Just like I didn’t watch reruns of afterschool specials. It’s good; it addresses important topics that are under-addressed, but it feels like the primary purpose of this fiction book is to highlight a (worthy) cause and the characters are secondary to that instead of being the vessel in which we discover the message and moral of the story. I recommend reading it but be prepared to hear “The More You Know” in the back of your mind every time scenes feel rehearsed. 


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