Colleen Hoover’s It Starts with Us: the sequel’s ending, explained

It Starts with Us

Published in 2022, a sequel to Colleen Hoover’s bestselling 2016 novel, It Ends with Us, was highly demanded by fans over Book-Tok and even had a petition! Upon announcement, it became the publisher’s most pre-ordered book of all time. Let’s dive into the romantic novel!

Spoilers Ahead!

Every ending has a beginning

Starting right off where It Ends with Us left off, it was when Atlas and Lily bumped into each other one and a half year after the birth of her daughter. Both in a hurry, but Lily told Atlas that she’s ready to see what happens between them.

One major highlight of this sequel is the introduction of Atlas’ point-of-view to the narrative. He’s excited at the prospect of having Lily in his life again and looks forward to everything it entails. But someone has been vandalizing his restaurants and he’s eager to find who- because it doesn’t seem like an act of hate, but desperation and hunger.

They talk and Lily asks him to take it slow, and he is happy with that, as long as she wants him with her.

The obstacles between their love

Although Lily and Atlas’ love started right where it was left off all those years ago, and they felt just as intensely for one another, there were new obstacles which surrounded them. The first being Lily’s ex-husband Ryle. She left him because he turned blind in his anger and harmed her. But since then, they’ve been co-parenting their daughter Emerson.

It come with stipulations. Lily has full custody but he can have Emmy for 2 days a week, flexible, but Lily doesn’t trust him enough to let Emmy have a sleepover. And he hates Atlas, considering him the cause of their divorce. Lily is afraid of his (unjustified) reaction and delays.

On the other hand, Atlas’ mother is back in the picture but he avoids her. Unless one day she comes to his restaurant and reveals he has a baby brother Josh (aged 12) who’s missing. Atlas connects the dots and waits at his restaurant one night to catch the vandalizer. And he happens to be his brother who thinks Atlas abandoned him.

Redefining their love through time

Apart from all this, Lily and Atlas go strong. She lets him read her journals and he writes notes for her. They’re there for each other with whatever pace life is giving them. Throughout everything that happens, they anchor each other.

And then Ryle finds out. And he’s angry, very angry. In his anger he almost chokes Lily and he turns scary. Lily is in shock at this and takes Emerson to Atlas’ house. She tells him about what happened and he suggests documenting everything in case she needs it.

He does the same with Josh when he witnesses his mom hitting him. But Josh wants to go back to his father, the man who’d been cruel to Atlas. Atlas delays the meeting but takes him, where Josh realizes that the man he wanted to be with has intentionally left him and comes back with Atlas- a considerate, changed boy.

Drama and confrontations

Ryle threatens Lily with drunk texts after some days, and even insults her at her shop. He goes on to Atlas’ restaurant looking for a fight but that’s not what happens. Instead, Atlas calmly but assertively tells Ryle to get over his blame game and accept that everything happened from his actions. He offers him advice and Ryle goes off.

Atlas also informed Child Services about what happened with Josh and they notified his mom. She comes in angrily and demands it to be taken back but Atlas threatens to go to court to get Josh’s custody. At this, she goes away. Atlas gives her a chance later on to be a part of their lives, however small, but after a couple times, she again fades away- but they don’t mind.

A happy ending awaits Atlas and Lily

Lily finally moves in 6 months after they met again. She, Emerson, Atlas and Josh. Ryle had to face an intervention with his sister, brother-in-law and Lily to go for anger management and having visits with Emmy under presence of someone. He has to relent to these demands and seems to be cooperating well.

The last chapter shows Atlas getting ready for his wedding. He’s waited this day and is revising his vows, which make up half the chapter. He’s realistic and optimistic and pessimistic in it all, but the one thing that shines out of it is his love for Lily and Emerson.

They are a family now, with Josh too, and they plan to live it as fully and happily as they can.

Talking about this book with shondaland, author Colleen Hoover says, “Life itself is a long journey of love and loss, sprinkled with dramatic days and challenging moments and bursts of happiness… I love love, but I also love putting my characters in real-life, sometimes uncomfortable situations…”