Book Review: Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

“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. (Goodreads)

🌿🌿🌿

First thoughts: “Wow she’s like the female Chuck Palahniuk!” which is a high form of compliment, considering how I adore Mr. Chuck P.! The first few chapters were so full of interesting and colorful characters–including an old dog and an extraordinary house!

When I got this book, I really expected it to be dark, like My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent~another fave book! I didn’t think it would be a romance novel for some reason. I realized afterwards that CoHo is actually well known for her love stories 🤷🏻‍♀️ I was also surprised that it’s actually very funny. I can’t stop smiling and chuckling while reading the first few chapters. I have to warn you though that I may have a twisted sense of humor, so it might be different for you.

“Don’t make your presence known. Make your absence felt.”

So that’s good and all BUT before I’m halfway through, I’m convinced that the main character, Merit, is an annoying person. I don’t like how she did not listen to people around her while expecting everyone to do the same for her.

*Fair warning before I proceed: there might be some very light spoilers ahead*

As I was saying, I don’t know why I’m so annoyed with Merit. Maybe it started when it’s obvious she just doesn’t know how to keep her mouth shut, and does not speak out when it’s actually needed. It does seem obvious at this point that the girl may have mental health issues so I am willing to give her some slack.

“It suddenly feels like I’ve swallowed his heart because I have all these extra beats in my chest.”

As for the romantic parts–I think I could have liked Sagan, but I’m still not so sure. All the mansplaining he did was 👎🏻 And I must be really getting old because all I can think about is how young they are during their steamy scenes. The amount of tongue action made me blush 🙈 But then again, I realized after the fact that this might be the CoHo brand. I should have known better 🤷🏻‍♀️

I started to enjoy reading again towards the end but I realized I was just distracted by the happy tone – much like how Sagan warned Merit that a “momentary sense of euphoria” can cloud your vision and keep you from acknowledging the true important matters.

“So many people dream of living in a house with a white picket fence. Little do they know, there’s no such thing as a perfect family, no matter how white the picket fence is.”

There were a lot of major issues mentioned in the book: suicide, depression, LGBT, polygamy(?) and even the Syrian refugee crisis! Maybe the book was just too ambitious. There was a very cringey conversation about gender/sexuality orientation, and a terrible scene of forced ‘coming out’. There are frankly too many HUGE issues that appeared solved by rather simple (badly written?) conversations alone–just not believable!

I am also left confused about the relationship of Merit’s father to her biological mother. He said he still loves her, and did not clarify if they are still sleeping together so I feel really bad for her stepmother (and her father’s current legal wife) Victoria. She doesn’t deserve to be cheated on. She seems like a really nice woman that was just misunderstood by Merit and her siblings. But maybe the author is pro-polygamy? It wasn’t a very effective portrayal if so.

Lastly, I’m an atheist and perhaps the worst thing for me in the book is the confusing rep of Merit’s atheist father. Look at this contradicting quote.

“And even though I’m an atheist, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank God that I have a wife who understands that.”

An atheist that thanks God? How can you thank someone or something that you don’t even believe exists? 🤦🏻‍♀️ At times I also felt personally attacked, but I choose to think it’s just part of Merit’s character. I did not particularly like this statement:

“I know my father doesn’t believe in God, but luckily, atheism isn’t hereditary.”

So there. For me it was just full of problematic areas and confusing rep that while I am writing this review I am quite tempted to lower my rating. But I do give credit (or merit?) where credit is due. This book is still a page turner and I did love the opening chapters. I guess I can also overlook all the mansplaining done to wrap-up a lot of the issues at the end. I do wish all of the characters a happy ever after.

Overall rating: 3/5⭐️

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