Without Merit

Merit Voss collects trophies. Not awards she's won, but discarded prizes found at thrift stores or garage sales. She rewards herself when something bad happens by purchasing these mementos: her boyfriend breaks up with her, she fails her driving test, her parents divorce. Given the level of dysfunction in the Voss family, her trophy collection is large.

The seven Vosses live in a former church they refer to as Dollar Voss. There's a marquee in the front yard and an eight-foot-tall statue of Jesus Christ hanging inside. As if that wasn't odd enough, Merit, her twin sister, Honor, and older brother, Utah, live with their father, stepmother and half-brother, while their agoraphobic mother resides in the church basement.

Within the walls of Dollar Voss roam the family's dark secrets. When the household expands--Honor's boyfriend and the stepmother's brother move in--the secrets pile up even higher. Day by day they weigh Merit down until she can't bear the load any longer, and she decides to leave. In her wake, she'll expose everyone's secrets. However, even the best-laid plans don't always work out the way they're intended; Merit's implodes.

Colleen Hoover (It Ends with Us) deftly elicits empathy from her audience for a narrator who could easily be unlikable if viewed only from the surface. Merit's complexity, confusion and sense of isolation pull readers to her and encourage them to look deeply into her character, to see everything she's desperately protecting. Engrossing and compelling, Without Merit beautifully illustrates the power of relationships and honesty. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

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