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Looking for Thrilling, Romantic Books You Can’t Put Down? Here Are Colleen Hoover’s 8 Best Books

Best Books by Colleen Hoover

Colleen Hoover is one of the fastest rising authors in the Young Adult (YA) and New Adult (NA) romance genre. She wrote her first novel, Slammed, in 2011, with no intention of it being published. Hoover ended up self-publishing it in 2012 just so that her grandmother, who had gotten an Amazon Kindle, could read it on her new tablet. However, the book ended up receiving a 5-star review by blogger Maryse Black, after which sales skyrocketed. As the book climbed the charts as a bestseller, Hoover quit her job in social work and started writing full-time.

In just 10 years, she has written 22 novels and novellas. Additionally, she has one more book on the way this year, with It Starts With Us set to release on October 18, 2022. Her books span YA, New Adult, contemporary romance, and psychological thriller genres. Of her books, 11 of them have risen to become New York Times Bestsellers. One of them, Hopeless, also became an Amazon Best Seller in 2013, in addition being a #1 New York Times bestseller.

Hoover has also racked up a number of impressive literary awards. These include 3 Goodreads Choice Award nominations, and 2 Goodreads Choice Awards wins, as well as an UtopYA Con Awards win for Most Innovative Marketing. Hoover’s books are the kind that readers find difficult to put down once they start. Hoover has established a signature style characterized by heartbreak and unpredictable twists and turns that completely draw readers into a visceral and raw experience. Here are 8 of Hoover’s best works.

1. Verity

Verity by Colleen Hoover
(Grand Central Publishing)

Verity was published in 2018 and marked an unusual deviation from Hoover’s typical contemporary romance, into thriller territory. The book follows writer, Lowen Ashleigh, who has been hired by Jeremy Crawford to ghostwrite the remainder of an unfinished book series that his wife, Verity, had started writing before being severely injured and unable to complete it. Lowen heads to Jeremy and Verity’s house to go through all of Verity’s notes to begin writing the novels. However, instead of notes, she finds a chilling autobiography of Verity filled with shocking and terrible secrets. As her own attraction towards Jeremy grows and as she becomes suspicious of Verity’s condition, she struggles with whether to show Jeremy the crushing, life-altering autobiography, or not.

Verity is Hoover at her very best. She masterfully takes all of the best elements of her romance novels—passion, lust, tension, heartbreak—and winds them into a shocking psychological thriller. Engaging in a romance with a married man whose wife is unresponsive in the room next door is spicy enough on its own. Now, add in that the wife has committed unspeakable acts of evil, along with Lowen’s visions of the wife appearing in a window or camera, alert and awake, and we get something unfathomably thrilling. It’s a deliciously creepy, juicy, and horrifying romance thriller with a twist at the end that will leave you shaken to your core.

2. It Ends with Us

It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
(Atria Books)

While Hoover is known for writing heartbreaking romance tales, none of her novels reach the level of heartbreak and hope that It Ends With Us does. It Ends with Us follows Lily, a young woman who fled to Boston—still bearing scars from her father’s abuse. Her life changes though, when she meets who she believes is her prince charming, Ryle Kincaid. The attraction between them is nothing short of electrifying and they fall hopelessly in love, despite Ryle’s initial declaration that he doesn’t do relationships. However, when her first-love and link to her childhood, Atlas, resurfaces, Lily begins to question everything, including what secrets Ryle is hiding and the real reason he avoids relationships.

It Ends with Us is one of the most poignant and powerful novels on domestic abuse that I have read. The book covers two stories—Lily’s present and her past. Her past is captured in diary entries she wrote and tracks the heartbreaking tale of her father’s abuse toward her mother. What makes the book even more devastating, is that it based on the relationship of Hoover’s parents. Your heart will break over and over again as you read Lily’s tragic past and see her present slowly morphing into that very past she tried so hard to run from. However, the book is also steeped in hope that the cycle of abuse can be broken.

3. Ugly Love

Ugly Love cover image by Colleen Hoover
(Atria Books)

Ugly Love is an aching, yet electrifying story of two lovers who are in over their heads. The novel follows Tate Collins who meets airline pilot, Miles Archer. They don’t really love each other and aren’t even very friendly. However, neither of them can deny the raw, electric attraction sizzling between them. Neither wants love, so they strike up a friends-with-benefits arrangement. To them, it’s a flawless arrangement with only 2 rules—don’t ask about the past and don’t expect a future. It’s an agreement they think they can handle. However, it turns out they can’t handle the arrangement and it will cause some badly broken hearts.

Ugly Love is, at times an infuriating book, but it’s also a bold portrait of just how messy love can get. The book alternates between Miles and Tate’s POVs, with Miles being set in the past with his former love, Rachel, and Tate’s being set in the present. Of course, feelings are bound to arise between Tate and Miles. This makes their agreement to be nonchalant and to have zero responsibilities, especially painful as the feelings rise at disproportionate rates. Meanwhile, the involvement of a past lover only makes the ache deeper. It’s a sad, messy, and ugly, but also a frighteningly realistic portrayal of love gone wrong.

4. Slammed

Slammed by Colleen Hoover
(Atria Books)

Slammed is Hoover’s first novel and there’s a reason it propelled her into the literary world. The novel follows 18-year-old Layken, who recently lost her father. She bravely takes up the burden of head of the house to care for her mother and brother, but inside, she’s barely hanging on. Everything changes when she meets 21-year-old, poetry slam enthusiast, Will, who she falls head over heals for. They have a magical first date and can’t deny they see something in each other. Right as the pieces of their lives seem be falling into place, a shocking discovery slams them to their core and stops their relationship in a its tracks.

Slammed is gut-wrenchingly beautiful and reads quite a lot like the poetry that binds Layken and Will. It’s a typical doomed-love story, but Hoover manages to work her magic on it. The underlying subplot will break your heart numerous times and you will also come out feeling like you know both Will and Layken personally. You will understand their heart, passion, and will feel butterflies in your own stomach as they describe their feelings for one another. It is a love story that is all at once tragic, refreshing, electric, and intense.

5. Hopeless

Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
(Atria Books)

Hopeless is another doomed-love type story, but it is made more heartrending with its unique protagonist. 17-year-old Sky, who was adopted, has been homeschooled her entire life. She lives without internet and passes the time reading and baking. However, her life changes when she enters public school for the first time, senior year. It is there she meets Dean Holder, who instantly captivates and terrifies her. She knows he’s a typical “bad boy” and that he means trouble, but she finally gives in to his pursuit. When she learns the secrets that Holder has been hiding, though, her life falls apart and their love is deemed hopeless.

As someone who was homeschooled as a kid, this book especially spoke to me. Homeschooled kids who were raised in isolation with little-to-no social interaction, don’t get nearly enough attention. It adds a whole other layer of pain to the story and makes her first-love all the more intense and serious, given her isolated past. Also, the true story of her past will eventually come out and it is even more tragic than you’ll initially think. It’s a book that examines child abuse, homeschooling, and love in a balanced and nuanced way. Readers will be shocked by the plot twists, but will also walk away knowing the book is surprisingly hopeful for being titled Hopeless.

6. November 9

November 9 by Colleen Hoover
(Atria Books)

November 9 is one of those fun books that has a wonky ‘story within a story’ to mess with readers. November 9 follows Fallon, who meets an aspiring novelist, Ben, on November 9th, the day before she’s scheduled to move cross-country. The two have a powerful attraction and spend the day together, with Fallon giving Ben inspiration for his novel. While the two depart and live their lives distanced from each other, they always meet back on the same day every year, November 9th. However, as time goes on Fallon begins to question what about Ben is true and what is fabricated to create the perfect plot twist for his novel.

While November 9 is classified as a romance novel, it actually plays out closer to a psychological thriller. Basically, just as Fallon begins questioning what’s real and fiction when it comes to Ben, readers will begin to question what the real story is here. Filled with heated romance, odd coincidences, and unexplainable actions, there is definitely a feeling of some underlying story you can’t put your finger on. However, no one can possibly guess how surprising, and disturbing, the ending actually turns out to be. This isn’t your typical romance novel, as it’s dark, creepy, and twisted. However, if you can stomach it, it will be worth the read.

7. Layla

Layla by Colleen Hoover

Layla is another one of Hoover’s books that is outside of her usual work and blends the genres of paranormal fiction and romance. The novel centers upon Leeds, who is happily planning his future with Layla, the love of his life. However, their lives are deeply rattled when Layla is attacked, landing her in the hospital with lasting emotional and mental trauma. In hopes of aiding her recovery, Leeds takes her to the bed and breakfast where they met. However, Leeds starts developing a connection with another guest there, Willow, which proves to be further detrimental to Layla’s well-being.

Layla is a novel that is unlike anything else you will read. It doesn’t have the major plot twists that most of Hoover’s books have, but it’s a shocking tale nonetheless. What Layla is, is a slow-burning love story with a paranormal twist to it. Now, when you hear “paranormal” you’ll think of a haunted house or other paranormal activity, but you certainly won’t expect the part of the book that Hoover actually makes paranormal. This is the kind of book that is so original and so absurdly dark that you will be captivated until the very end and will have the story stewing in your head long afterwards.

8. Without Merit

Without Merit by Colleen Hoover
(Atria Books)

Without Merit takes the concept of a dysfunctional family to a whole new level. Merit Voss, the protagonist, is weighed down by horrific secrets. The Voss family—Merit, her siblings, father, and stepmother—live in the upstairs portion of a renovated church. In the basement, lives Merit’s cancer-stricken mother. Merit’s father cheated on Merit’s mother with her nurse during her illness and banished her to the basement while he moved in with the new woman upstairs. Tired of her family’s lies and depressed that the boy she loves is unavailable, Merit prepares to share the truth, but the consequences are greater than she thought.

Hoover truly doesn’t get any bolder than Without Merit. She unflinchingly covers a wide range of sensitive topics including depression, infidelity, family roles, sexuality, and alcohol and drug abuse. Additionally, she isn’t afraid to shock readers by creating a total dysfunctional mess of a family. However, her tale is oddly realistic for those who live in less-than-ideal families. It’s truly more of a family saga than a romance novel, but it really works. It is an honest and open portrayal of the disappointing side of humanity and the necessity of truth.

(featured image: Montlake, Atria Books)

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Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.