7 Heart-Wrenching Books Like Colleen Hoover’s It Ends with Us

March 9 2022
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As soon as I finished It Ends with Us—tears still fresh in my eyes after reading the author’s note—I reached out to my friend Kayla and demanded that she read this book. The next time I saw her, I thrust the book into her hands. Of course, she read it immediately, texting me updates on her emotional state along the way. When she finished it within one day, she wanted similar books to read while she waited for the rest of her Colleen Hoover book holds to arrive at the library. Thus, here we are! I hope you, and Kayla, enjoy these books next.

Wish You Were Here
by Renée Carlino

If you love Colleen Hoover’s writing style, you’ll love Renée Carlino’s novel for the way the storytelling builds and comes together beautifully, and for the plot that propels you until you’re bleary-eyed at 3 a.m. While WISH YOU WERE HERE definitely doesn’t get as dark as IT ENDS WITH US, it still has similar story developments that’ll keep you reading. Charlotte has a one-night stand with Adam that feels like the beginning of a wonderful love story, but she’s stunned when he’s distant and cold the next morning. She moves on to a new relationship—with Seth—but her perfect night with Adam is always there, confusing her and halting any forward progress. When she begins to search for answers, she realizes that Adam’s closed-off nature is a lot more complicated than she could’ve predicted. Like Lily Bloom, Charlotte is on the cusp of following her passions, but heartbreak and difficult choices upset her plans.    

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Wish You Were Here
Renée Carlino

* USA TODAY Bestseller * Cosmopolitan September 2017 Pick * Goodreads Best Romance of August 2017 *
Hello Giggles “17 Books We Can’t Wait to Read” *

Charlotte has spent her twenties adrift, searching for a spark to jump-start her life and give her a sense of purpose. She’s had as many jobs as she’s had bad relationships, and now she’s feeling especially lost in her less-than-glamorous gig at a pie-and-fry joint in Los Angeles, where the uniforms are bad and the tips are even worse.

Then she collides—literally—with Adam, an intriguing, handsome, and mysterious painter. Their serendipitous meeting on the street turns into a whirlwind one-night stand that has Charlotte feeling enchanted by Adam’s spontaneity and joy for life. There’s promise in both his words and actions, but in the harsh light of morning, Adam’s tune changes, leaving Charlotte to wonder if her notorious bad luck with men is really just her own bad judgment.

Months later, a new relationship with Seth, a charming baseball player, is turning into something more meaningful, but Charlotte’s still having trouble moving past her one enthralling night with Adam. Why? When she searches for answers, she finds the situation with Adam is far more complicated than she ever imagined. Faced with the decision to write a new story with Seth or finish the one started with Adam, Charlotte embarks on a life-altering journey, one that takes her across the world and back again, bringing a lifetime’s worth of pain, joy, and wisdom.

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When We Were Infinite
by Kelly Loy Gilbert

This book is different from IT ENDS WITH US in many ways—it’s a YA book that takes place mostly in high school—but one of their biggest similarities was the friendship aspect. The bond between Lily and Allysa was one of my favorite elements of IT ENDS WITH US; seeing Allysa’s concern for Lily were some of the most moving scenes. And if you feel the same way, this is a great option to pick up next. The deep friendships and complex personalities in WHEN WE WERE INFINITE are what makes this book resonate so much with me. Beth has an amazing friend group in high school that are the perfect harbor away from her not-so-perfect homelife. But trauma interrupts their last few teenage years as her friend Jason experiences violence at home, disrupting any chance of joy they have and stirring up Beth’s own reflections of love and family. Beth’s personality is so real, and flashbacks to her upbringing show you how she became such a caring person—almost to the point of it becoming harmful. As we watch Beth and her friends struggle with the aftermath of their upbringing, their friendship shines forth.

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When We Were Infinite
Kelly Loy Gilbert

From award-winning author Kelly Loy Gilbert comes a powerful, achingly romantic drama about the secrets we keep, from each other and from ourselves, perfect for fans of Permanent Record and I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter.

All Beth wants is for her tight-knit circle of friends—Grace Nakamura, Brandon Lin, Sunny Chen, and Jason Tsou—to stay together. With her family splintered and her future a question mark, these friends are all she has—even if she sometimes wonders if she truly fits in with them. Besides, she’s certain she’ll never be able to tell Jason how she really feels about him, so friendship will have to be enough.

Then Beth witnesses a private act of violence in Jason’s home, and the whole group is shaken. Beth and her friends make a pact to do whatever it takes to protect Jason, no matter the sacrifice. But when even their fierce loyalty isn’t enough to stop Jason from making a life-altering choice, Beth must decide how far she’s willing to go for him—and how much of herself she’s willing to give up.

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In Five Years
by Rebecca Serle

IN FIVE YEARS has a lot in common with IT ENDS WITH US in that you go in thinking it’ll be a love story, but then it turns out to be very different. Plus, both stories had me sobbing by the end. This book rewards you even more if you go into it without knowing much about the plot, so I won’t go too much into the description—and if you’ve read a lot of vague reviews about it, just know they were probably written that way for a reason! When Manhattanite lawyer Dannie Kohan wakes up five years in the future and finds herself in bed beside a man who is not her fiancé, she is understandably distraught but tries to play it cool. After spending an hour with him, she returns to her present day and is forced to cross paths with that same man. If you go into it without any sort of notion about what will happen, you’ll have a much more enriching reading experience. So that’s all I’ll say about that!

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In Five Years
Rebecca Serle

An Atria Book. Atria Books has a great book for every reader.

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The People We Keep
by Allison Larkin

April Sawicki is a young songwriter living in her abusive father’s motorhome in a small town in 1994 in New York. When she finally works up the courage, she “borrows” a neighbor’s car and winds up in Ithaca—and soon befriends a coffee shop owner and the regulars who dine there. The people she meets begin to put her back together, teaching her more about family and trust than her father ever could, and helping her halt the cyclical, pervasive feeling that she’s unwanted. Much like with Lily Bloom's endearing letters to Ellen DeGeneres in IT ENDS WITH US, the snippets of April’s songwriting sprinkled throughout THE PEOPLE WE KEEP give us a different angle into her subconscious.

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The People We Keep
Allison Larkin

“Raw, surprising and ultimately uplifting, Allison Larkin’s The People We Keep will break your heart a million different ways before putting it back together again.” —Julia Claiborne Johnson, author of Be Frank with Me and Better Luck Next Time

The People We Keep is a “big-hearted and deeply moving novel” (Bruce Holsinger, author of The Gifted School) from the bestselling author of Stay and Swimming for Sunlight about a young songwriter longing to find a home in the world.

Little River, New York, 1994: April Sawicki is living in a motorless motorhome that her father won in a poker game. Failing out of school, picking up shifts at Margo’s diner, she’s left fending for herself in a town where she’s never quite felt at home. When she “borrows” her neighbor’s car to perform at an open mic night, she realizes her life could be much bigger than where she came from. After a fight with her dad, April packs her stuff and leaves for good, setting off on a journey to find a life that’s all hers.

Driving without a chosen destination, she stops to rest in Ithaca. Her only plan is to survive, but as she looks for work, she finds a kindred sense of belonging at Cafe Decadence, the local coffee shop. Still, somehow, it doesn’t make sense to her that life could be this easy. The more she falls in love with her friends in Ithaca, the more she can’t shake the feeling that she’ll hurt them the way she’s been hurt.

As April moves through the world, meeting people who feel like home, she chronicles her life in the songs she writes and discovers that where she came from doesn’t dictate who she has to be.

This lyrical, unflinching tale is for anyone who has ever yearned for the fierce power of found family or to grasp the profound beauty of choosing to belong.

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Queenie
by Candice Carty-Williams

Speaking of characters who hold a place in my heart, this is another book that made me care for the main character, for the tough situation she finds herself in, and the choices she struggles with to make her life better. Queenie Jenkins is a young Jamaican British woman whose recent breakup with her white boyfriend leaves her feeling insecure and unstable—at work, in friendships, with her family. As she tries to find some sense of peace again, some place where she can feel like she belongs, she runs after terrible men who treat her horribly. Candice Carty-Williams does such an amazing job at making you care for Queenie that you’ll feel like you’re there with her, going through trials and learning the hard way how to trust in her friends, colleagues, and herself.

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Queenie
Candice Carty-Williams

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Love and Other Words
by Christina Lauren

IT ENDS WITH US is not technically a romance, so while I tried not to include too many romance books, there is one from the romance author duo Christina Lauren that many people recommended to me after I finished IT ENDS WITH US. LOVE AND OTHER WORDS alternates between Then and Now, telling the love story between Elliot and Macy. As high schoolers, they were best friends bonding over books. Eleven years later, they reunite at a coffee shop and slowly uncover what happened that caused them to stop all contact whatsoever. The alternating storyline pattern is genius because you get the cute ramp-up of them becoming childhood sweethearts and then even more of a build in their adult life as the plot makes you wonder: Just what happened to tear these sweet lovebirds apart, and if they can they recover from it and love again? So its premise is basically “What if Atlas and Lily reunited years later and didn’t have dumb Ryle in the middle ruining everything?”—which was something I was wishing for the entire time I was reading IT ENDS WITH US.

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Love and Other Words
Christina Lauren

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It Starts with Us
by Colleen Hoover

And if you want even more Atlas and Lily interaction, we’re getting a sequel from Colleen Hoover this October! IT STARTS WITH US starts after the events of IT ENDS WITH US, and also tells us part of Atlas’s side of the story. I cannot wait. I’ll be counting down the days for this one as I’m sure anyone reading this list will too.

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It Starts with Us
Colleen Hoover

Before It Ends with Us, it started with Atlas. Colleen Hoover tells fan favorite Atlas’s side of the story and shares what comes next in this long-anticipated sequel to the “glorious and touching” (USA TODAY) #1 New York Times bestseller It Ends with Us.

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It Ends with Us
by Colleen Hoover

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town where she grew up. And when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life seems too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan—her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

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It Ends with Us
Colleen Hoover

In this “brave and heartbreaking novel that digs its claws into you and doesn’t let go, long after you’ve finished it” (Anna Todd, New York Times bestselling author) from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of All Your Perfects, a workaholic with a too-good-to-be-true romance can’t stop thinking about her first love.

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town where she grew up—she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. And when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life seems too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan—her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

An honest, evocative, and tender novel, It Ends with Us is “a glorious and touching read, a forever keeper. The kind of book that gets handed down” (USA TODAY).

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Photo credit: iStock / apeyron

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