Without Merit

- Colleen Hoover

Goodreads Book Blurb:

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.


My Review:

There were some incredibly touching moments, but overall Without Merit was a little too weird and unbelievable for me.

The Voss family dynamics are very strange, and while this is explained eventually, it feels like a forced strangeness. Like ‘look how weird this family is; we’ll never have the one conversation it will take for everyone to get along and make everything make sense‘. It’s the part that makes it so clear that this is made up for a book, not a real family. So what should be a story addressing depression and mental illness is a story about a weird family who keeps too many secrets from each other.

There is a good discussion here about depression and how it looks different for different people. Still, it comes off, as Merit herself jokes, as an after-school special—very predictable and forced togetherness and almost like a lecture. Important message, poor delivery.

There are some weird incestuous abuse moments that are brushed off way too easily, some mental illness that’s revealed but not addressed, a will-they-won’t-they relationship that contradicts itself every other chapter, and a very large quasi-family with inappropriate relationships. And that pretty much sums up Without Merit.

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