Review + Excerpt: Without Merit - Vilma Iris | Lifestyle Blogger

“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.

Poignant and powerful, Without Merit explores the layers of lies that tie a family together and the power of love and truth.

Book Type:

YA Contemporary

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Without Merit
By Colleen Hoover

Review + Excerpt: Without Merit

“I have Utah’s secret.

I have my father’s secret.

My mother’s secret.

Honor’s secret.

Luck’s secret.

I don’t want any of them anymore!

Maybe if I let all the secrets out, they wouldn’t make me feel like drowning anymore.”

A teenage girl takes drastic measures after reaching a tipping point, deepening the cracks in a dysfunctional family who’s forced to confront long-hidden truths.

Colleen Hoover delivers a powerful coming-of-age story which explores a girl’s struggles with identity and self-worth.

We meet Merit Voss, who lives in a converted church with her siblings, father, stepmother and mother—whose social anxiety prevents her from leaving their basement. Already the situation is ripe for dysfunction, and Merit struggles under the weight of it all. She collects trophies she didn’t win to celebrate her bad days, of which she has many.

Merit feels like a shadow compared to her twin sister’s vivacity, and she barely speaks with her older brother Utah. Her father is never around, her mother never leaves the basement, and her step mother can’t seem to stand her.

When she meets Sagan during a trophy-buying kind of day, Merit is immediately smitten, feels seen, only to be devastated when she realizes he’s already taken. Everything becomes monumentally worse when he is suddenly living at her house, stirring up feelings she’s trying hard to stamp down.

And when her fraying emotions reach a fever pitch, it propels her over the edge, forcing her to deal with the many truths she’s been hiding for so long.

“I don’t matter here, either. If I dropped out of life, just like I dropped out of school, everyone’s lives would go on. With or without Merit.”

The aftermath changes everything for the Voss family.

Hoover tackles big topics with charm, humor and a quirkiness that is quintessentially her. She challenges the definition of normal, with weighty messages about family, honesty, perspective and forgiveness. Talented drawings from Brandon Adams deepen the impact of this poignant, must-read novel.

Read the first part of this excerpt on NBJ, then head back here to keep reading ❯

He stares at me a moment and then opens his container of beef jerky again. “You want a piece yet?”

“No,” I say again, growing more agitated with him by the second. “Are you dumb? Like . . . are you a legit stupid person?”

He closes his container and sets it on the floor between his legs. “No, I’m actually very smart.”

“What’s your issue, then? Are you on drugs?”

He laughs. “Not any illegal ones.”

He’s smiling at me, taking this entire conversation in stride. This is normal for him? He’s completely at ease. It makes me wonder what other kind of people he’s encountered in his life for him to think what’s happening right now is normal.

I exit the highway and decide the best course of action would be to drop him off at the only gas station in our town.

“You got a boyfriend, Merit?”

I shake my head.


I shake my head again.

“Well, is there anyone you find intriguing?”

“Are you hitting on me or is this just you asking questions?”

“I’m not actively hitting on you, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t. You’re cute. But right now I’m just making conver­sation. Ping-Pong.”

I blow out a frustrated rush of air.

“You’re about to hit a turkey,” he says, matter-of-fact.

I slam on my breaks. Why would there be a turkey on this road? I scan the road in front and around us but see nothing. “There’s no turkey.”

“I meant metaphorically.”

What the hell? “Never tell a driver they’re about to hit something metaphorically! Jesus Christ!” I let off the brake until the car starts moving again.

“It’s a bowling term. Three strikes is a turkey.”

“I am so lost.”

He sits up straighter and pulls his leg up in his seat so that he can face me. “Conversation should be like Ping-Pong,” he repeats. “But conversation with you is like bowling. It’s a long, one-way lane. Three strikes in bowling is a turkey. And since you aren’t answering my questions, I used turkey as an anal­ogy to describe your lack of . . .”

“Okay!” I say, holding up a hand to shut him up. “I get it. Yes. There’s a guy. Anything else you want to know before you start over-explaining metaphorical road kill again?”

I can already sense his excitement that I’m agreeing to participate in his conversation. Even if it is just to shut him up. “Does he know you like him?” he asks.

I shake my head.

“Does he like you?”

I shake my head again.

“Is he out of your league?”

“No,” I say immediately. “That’s so rude.”

But even though his question was rude, it does give me pause. When I first saw Sagan at the antiques store, I had a quiet fear that he was out of my league. But when I found out he was dating Honor, it never even crossed my mind that she was out of his league. I hate that I might have thought she deserved him more than I did.

“Why isn’t he your boyfriend?”

I grip the steering wheel. I’m a mile away from the gas sta­tion. One more stop sign and I can drop him off.

“Don’t hit the metaphorical turkey,” he says. “Why aren’t you dating this fellow you find intriguing?”

Fellow? He seriously just referred to another guy as a fel­low. And his turkey metaphor doesn’t even make sense. “You use analogies wrong.”

“Don’t avoid the question,” he says. “Why aren’t you and this guy dating?”

I sigh. “He’s my sister’s boyfriend.”

The words are barely out of my mouth before Luck starts laughing. “Your sister? Holy crap, Merit! What a terrible thing to do!” I give him the side eye. Does he think I don’t realize how terrible it is to be attracted to my sister’s boyfriend?

“Does your sister know you like him?”

“Of course not. And she never will.” I motion toward his phone. “Let me see the picture of your sister’s house. I might know where it is.” I’m more eager than ever to drop him off now.

Luck scrolls through the pictures on his phone. Right when I get to the stop sign, he hands me his phone.

You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m being pranked, right? I immediately throw the car in park. I zoom in on the picture of Victoria standing in front of Dollar Voss. The picture looks a couple of years old because the white picket fence my dad put up last year isn’t in this picture.

“Looks like it might have been a church at some point,” Luck says. “Victoria is your sister?”

He perks up. “You know her?”

I hand him back his phone and grip the steering wheel. I press my forehead against it. Five seconds later, a car behind us honks. I look in my rearview mirror and the guy behind us holds up his hands in frustration. I put the car in drive. “Yes, I know her.”

“You know where she lives?”


Luck faces forward again. “Good,” he says. “That’s good.” He starts tapping his fingers on his leg again. “And you’re tak­ing me to her house? Right now?” He seems nervous again.

“Isn’t that where you want to go?”

He nods, but even his nod seems unsure.

“Does your sister know you’re coming?”

He shrugs his shoulders as he stares out the passenger window. “There’s not really a correct answer to that question.”

“Actually, there are two potential correct answers. Yes and no.”

“She may not be expecting me today. But she can’t aban­don me without expecting me to show back up at some point.”

I had no idea Victoria had a brother. I’m not so sure my father knows Victoria has a brother. And he’s so . . . different. Nothing like Victoria.

I turn onto our road and then pull in our driveway. I put the car in park. Luck is staring at the house, still tapping his leg and bouncing his knee, but not making an effort to get out of the car.

“Why does she live in a church?” He pronounces church without the r. Chuch. All of his annoying confidence is gone, replaced by an equally annoying amount of vulnerability. He swallows and then reaches to the floorboard to pick up his container of beef jerky. “Thanks for the ride, Merit.” He puts his hand on the door and glances back at me. “We should be friends while I’m in town. You want to exchange numbers?”

I shake my head and open my door. “That won’t be neces­sary.” I pop the trunk and get out of the car.

“I can get my own stuff,” he says. “You don’t have to help.”

I open the trunk. “I’m not. I’m getting my dog food.” I struggle to pull the bag out from beneath all of Luck’s belong­ings. Once I have a secure grip on it, I head for the front door.

“Why are you taking your dog food to my sister’s house?” When I don’t stop to answer him, he starts following me. “Merit!” He reaches me just as I stick a key in the front door. When it unlocks, I face him. He’s still staring at the key in the door.

“Your sister is married to my father.”

I wait for him to absorb that information. When he does, he takes a step back and tilts his head. “You live here? With my sister?”

I nod. “She’s my stepmother.”

He scratches his chin. “So that makes me . . . your uncle?”

“Step-uncle.” I walk through the front door and toss the bag of dog food onto the floor. Luck stands in the doorway as he runs a hand through his hair and then grips the back of his neck. “I already pictured you naked,” he mutters.

“Now would be a good time to stop doing that.”

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  1. Jennifer Shiflett said:

    I can’t wait for this book! Not sure if I’m commenting for the giveaway but regardless, I really want to read it!


  2. Nicole said:

    I love excerpt. I can’t wait to read more of this wonderful book by Colleen.


  3. Myra Espino said:

    ???? looking forward to this book!!!! Eeekkk!!!


  4. MJ Symmonds said:

    It always feels like forever when waiting for a CoHo book. Awesome review.


    1. vilmairis Post author said:

      Thank you!


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