Colleen Hoover's Controversies Don't "End With" Her Books

With great fame comes great controversy. Even the BookTok queen, Colleen Hoover, isn't immune to controversy.

Jamie Lerner - Author

May 17 2024, Published 9:07 a.m. ET

Colleen Hoover at the 2023 Time 100 event
Source: Getty Images

As we gear up for the 2024 blockbuster season, one of the most talked-about projects is It Ends with Us, a film adaptation of Colleen Hoover’s book of the same name. The film stars Blake Lively, Justin Baldoni, and Brandon Sklenar, and is set to release on June 21, 2024 — but not without its fair share of controversies. Colleen rose to BookTok fame thanks to her popularity on TikTok after self-publishing several of her own genre-bending novels.

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It Ends with Us is arguably Colleen’s most popular, and therefore most controversial, book. Although some might call Colleen a fluff writer because of her focus on romance and YA genres, others laud her for her ability to blur the lines between romantic fantasy and reality with dark thriller elements. But being in the public eye often brings controversy, and Colleen isn’t immune. From her books’ contents to her family life, several controversies have followed Colleen through her career.

Blake Lively and Justin Baldoni filming 'It Ends with Us' in Jersey City
Source: Getty Images
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The biggest controversy surrounding Colleen Hoover is about how she handles domestic violence in her novels.

Colleen has spoken about how her mother was in an abusive relationship, so she draws a lot of inspiration from her novels from that experience. It Ends with Us, Colleen’s most popular novel and a NYT bestseller, focuses on the relationship between Lily Bloom, her abusive neurosurgeon husband Ryle Kincaid, and her childhood first love Atlas Corrigan. It’s basically a love triangle in which one of the points is an abuser.

Many, however, have criticized Colleen for writing about abuse irresponsibly. They’ve argued that young readers come away from her novels romanticizing abusers with forgiveness and redeemable traits, rather than accurately depicting the harsh reality of being in an abusive relationship.

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But we would argue that that’s why people often stay in abusive relationships — their abusers have redeeming traits that can make it nearly impossible to leave. Writing about these murky waters responsibly is challenging and could perhaps be dishonest. The greater issue, then, is not how Colleen writes her books but how she markets them.

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Because Colleen grew to popularity on TikTok, many of her readers are young and impressionable teenagers who could internalize some of the protagonists’ forgiveness towards her abuser. In fact, the publisher was set to release a coloring book based on It Ends with Us, which just proves how tone-deaf they are to the content of the novel versus the audience reading it. After backlash from fans, Colleen apologized for the move and worked with the publisher to cancel the coloring book project.

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Another controversy regarding a sexual harassment allegation against Colleen Hoover’s son came to light in 2022.

Because Colleen is an advocate for women to break boundaries in literature and beyond, it can be extremely disheartening when a controversy comes to light that taints this image. The mother of three was thrust into the spotlight in February 2022 when sexual harassment allegations came up against her son, Levi, who was 21 years old at the time.

A 16-year-old Twitter user wrote in a since-deleted tweet, “Her son also sexually harassed me and she blocked me when I spoke up about it to her." She added, “Long story short, we were friends on [Snapchat] and s--t and like every day we would message cause we're friends right and like this was when I was 16 and he was fully aware of how old I was I was cause I always talked about the fact I was still in school."

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Colleen responded to the allegations in a Facebook group in a statement: "Things being said about my son aren't accurate. People are commenting that I blocked a girl for informing me that my son sexually assaulted her when she was sixteen."

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"My son and a girl were online friends for several months. They never met in person. He said something to her in a message that made her uncomfortable (he asked her to send him a pic), so she messaged me about it. I did not read this message, but she thought I did, and it understandably upset her that I didn't respond."

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"We discussed what happened, I apologized to her and thanked her for bringing this to my attention, and I offered to send her our home address and lawyer info should she want it. I held my son accountable for sending a message to her that was inappropriate. I addressed it directly with her and with my son."

Nobody’s perfect, and we can’t fault Colleen for the behaviors of a 21-year-old boy — many women and girls have dealt with similar situations, which goes back to society’s mishandling of gender dynamics.

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Brandon Sklenar and Blake Lively filming 'It Ends with Us'
Source: Getty Images

And while there are more than enough controversies surrounding Colleen and her novels, the greatest controversy of all is probably just that some people don’t think she’s a good writer at all. But if you’re able to sow controversy and stay above it all like Colleen, then popularity, high book sales, and blockbuster movie deals could soon follow.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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