In 2023, Colleen Hoover authored three of the top ten bestsellers in the United States. This was also the year when she announced plans for a coloring book version of one of these best-sellers, It Ends with Us. This was the trigger for the Colleen Hoover controversy – readers found this inappropriate, as the book covered serious themes such as domestic violence and abuse, prompting some to say they would stop buying her books.

Our experts at Business2Community looked at all the controversies Colleen Hoover has faced, including the coloring book controversy. Through news articles, official statements, and social media comments, we’ve compiled a comprehensive timeline of the controversies, in addition to how Hoover dealt with them.

⚠️The article contains spoilers for Hoover’s 2016 novel, It Ends with Us, as well as sensitive topics such as domestic violence and abuse.

Colleen Hoover Controversy – Key Facts

  • In January 2023, best-selling author Colleen Hoover announced her plans to create a coloring book version of her novel, It Ends with Us.
  • As the book was about domestic abuse, Hoover received criticism from her readers for not taking the topic seriously.
  • Shortly after the backlash, Hoover responded to the criticisms, saying her fans were right and the idea was “tone-deaf”. Her publisher didn’t move forward with the coloring book.

The Story of the Colleen Hoover Controversy

Colleen Hoover has been accused of romanticizing toxic relationships and abuse in her books. In January 2023, she mentioned releasing a coloring book version of It Ends with Us, her top-selling novel covering domestic abuse. Readers and critics found it inappropriate to reduce such a sensitive topic to a coloring book, typically associated with children.

Colleen Hoover’s Writing Career

Colleen Hoover started her writing career in 2012, when she self-published a novel for her family to download on Amazon Kindle. Little did she know, this first book, titled Slammed, would become a New York Times best-seller.

Over the next decade, Hoover sold over 20 million books and built a loyal fan base. Her fans call themselves CoHorts and regularly promote Hoover’s books on social media, especially on ‘BookTok,’ TikTok’s burgeoning sub-community for books and literature. The short-form video platform played an important role in Hoover’s popularity, starting from the 2020 pandemic. During this period, the author made five of her e-books free, which resulted in viral reviews and reaction videos on TikTok.

Fast forward to 2024, Hoover has written romance novels, thrillers, and young adult fiction. Her top-selling book is It Ends with Us, covering domestic violence and abuse.

It tells the story of Lily Bloom, a young woman who recently started her own business in Boston. Lily meets and falls in love with a charming neurosurgeon, Ryle Kincaid. As their relationship develops, past traumas resurface, and the main character finds herself in an abusive relationship. The book draws inspiration from Hoover’s own family history, who grew up in a household with an abusive father.

In 2023, the author announced a movie adaptation of It Ends with Us, starring Blake Lively as Lily and Justin Baldoni as Ryle.

It Ends with Us Coloring Book Controversy

In January 2023, Colleen Hoover announced plans through an Instagram story to publish a coloring book based on It Ends with Us. Hoover’s idea faced many criticisms, as the book talked about domestic violence.

Many readers felt that creating a coloring book from such serious topics was insensitive. “What are we going to be drawing? Stairs?” asked one TikTok user, referencing a scene where Ryle pushed Lily down the stairs.

@morgannbook

thoughts?? #itendswithus #colleenhoover #itendswithuscoloringbook

♬ original sound – morgann

Other users mentioned how problematic the book content was, in response to the coloring book announcement. According to a reader, the book played out like a love triangle between Lily, Ryle, and Lily’s ex, which romanticized the main character’s difficult situation. The reader also noted that a lot of children read the book due to its easy-to-read language.

@camilllehill

Replying to @snowgui._ Colleen Hoover is releasing a colouring book of It Ends With Us apparently #itendswithus #colleenhoover #colleenhooverbooks #colleenhooverslander #booktok #fakeeverything #greenscreen

♬ original sound – Camille

Colleen Hoover’s Response to the Coloring Book Controversy

Hoover posted another Instagram story, saying she understood why a coloring book was a tone-deaf idea. Although her story disappeared after 24 hours, it was widely shared on social media and digital publications.

“The coloring book was developed with Lily’s strength in mind, but I can absolutely see how this was tone-deaf. I hear you guys and I agree with you. No excuses. No finger pointing. I have contacted the publisher to let them know I would prefer we don’t move forward with it. Thank you for the respectful discourse and accountability. Nothing but love,” she said, announcing the cancellation of the project.

Collections by Colleen Hoover Controversy

Colleen Hoover sells merchandise on her website, as a part of her Collections by Colleen Hoover brand. Readers can buy clothes, jewelry, and accessories inspired by her books It Ends with Us, Verity, Ugly Love, and November 9.

Screenshot of Collections by Colleen Hoover online shop

Some readers find this controversial. On the Subreddit RomanceBooks, a user said they thought Hoover would be more sensitive after the coloring book controversy. The most upvoted comments agreed with the original poster, criticizing Hoover for making money out of delicate topics and misleading younger readers.

Reddit comments on Colleen Hoover books' merch

Controversy About Colleen Hoover’s Son

A year before the coloring book controversy, a Twitter user claimed that Colleen Hoover’s son sexually harassed her when she was 16. In her tweet, she mentioned messaging Hoover about the situation and the author blocking her. “Blocking a teenage girl who directly told her that she was sexually harassed by her son? No wonder she romanticizes predatory behavior in her books,” the person wrote on Twitter.

News outlets reported that Hoover addressed the issue on her private Facebook group, Colleen Hoover’s CoHorts. “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. This absolutely did not happen, and this is not even initially what was said by this person,” she said in her private Facebook group.

She went on by explaining the situation from her own perspective: “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.” She also said she held her son accountable and apologized to the girl.

The Consequences of the Colleen Hoover Controversy

The controversy did not affect Colleen Hoover’s book sales or popularity. It Ends with Us and its sequel It Starts with Us were the top two best-selling print books in the US in 2023. Another Colleen Hoover book, Verity, also ranked in the top 10.

The chart below shows how many copies in 1,000s each book sold:

Chart showing the best-selling books in the US in 2023, with two of Colleen Hoover's books ranking in the top two

However, proposing a coloring book version covering domestic abuse caused a backlash among some of Hoover’s fans and TikTok content creators.

Coloring Book Cancelled

Colleen Hoover’s publisher, Atria Books confirmed they would not move forward with the coloring book version of It Ends with Us. Both Hoover and Atria Books shared public statements.

TikTok Backlash

The coloring book announcement upset many of Hoover’s fans and the BookTok community. TikTok users created videos expressing their concerns about how a child-associated coloring book would diminish the strong message of It Ends with Us:

@charlsbookshelves

Disappointed to say the least #colleenhoover #itendswithus #iewubook #coho #cohobooks #bookishthoughts #bookishtiktok #booktok #ukbooktoker

♬ original sound – Charl🍄

Users also mentioned issues with Hoover’s romance novels, and how It Ends with Us should not be considered as one of her romantic books. “Given that she’s now putting on a coloring book based on a book about domestic violence is a very clear money grab, which I don’t appreciate,” said a TikTok user and a BookTok creator, raising concerns over Hoover marketing It Ends with Us as a romance novel.

@dani.reads.books

Replying to @alicelifestyle__ and I sincerely hope that whoever made the suggestion to make a freaking coloring book is not only fired but steps on some legos #booktok #colleenhoover #bookrecs #spicybooktok #bookreview #danireadsbooks #booktoker #bookish #itendswithus #donotread

♬ original sound – Dani | Booktok 📚

Other criticisms centered around Hoover’s merchandise. Readers found it inappropriate that Hoover released “cute products,” such as nail polish, clothes, and accessories based on a book covering domestic abuse. “It is disgusting to try to turn it into aesthetic pieces of merchandise,” said one user.

@katiesbookobsession

#greenscreen Colleen Hoover’s nailpolish line is a good example on not learning a lesson. #booktok#colleenhoover#bookish#books

♬ original sound – Katie’s book obsession

Criticisms of Colleen Hoover’s Work

Beyond the coloring book controversy, Hoover faced criticisms of her writing style and language.

Long before the coloring book controversy, Whitney Atkinson, a book content creator, expressed concerns about Hoover’s writing style. In 2016, she shared an excerpt from one of Hoover’s books on Twitter, in which the male love interest said he wanted to use physical force on a young woman.

Other readers argued that her books were poorly written, comparing them to Wattpad stories written by teenagers.

@rainystrawberry

maybe an unpopular opinion, but it was the worst book I’ve ever read I’m sorry🫣 itendswithusmovie colleenhooverslander

♬ Mii Music but It Makes You Uncomfortable – lukeitslukas

In an interview with Time Magazine, Hoover talked about readers who think It Ends with Us romanticized domestic violence. She highlighted that the book was never meant to be educational; instead, it was a novel based on how her mother got out of an abusive relationship.

Luckily, I’ve always had a healthy relationship with the fact that I’m creating art. It’s going to have people who hate it and people who are moved by it. I just want to focus on the people who find entertainment and value in what I’m writing and ignore the rest of it

What Can We Learn From the Colleen Hoover Controversy?

In the coloring book controversy, Colleen Hoover took action quickly. She acknowledged her readers’ criticism immediately and canceled the project, instead of moving forward with it. Whereas some people and businesses may consider doubling down on a decision when they care about it or have already invested in it, Hoover made the decision to take onboard feedback and cancel her project.

This highlights the importance of knowing one’s audience and taking responsibility to address their concerns. When launching new products or services, business owners and creative industry workers must consider their audience and their perceptions.

She has been able to address other criticisms in thoughtful ways, communicating directly with the people who care about her work, through her private community. Answering criticisms in public is also imperative to ensure the wider public are aware of how you view your work or your business, which Hoover has demonstrated through her interview with a widely read magazine, Time.

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