A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Sometimes the hardest decisions lead to the best outcomes. Nothing you do, no matter how wrong or terrible, gives someone else the right to lay a hand on you in anger. Separated parents and blended families need to be a team for their children; it isn't easy, but it's really the only thing you have to do. Don't stay in a bad situation because it's family. Sometimes the best thing you can do is walk away from it so you can make your own, better family.
Positive Role Models
Atlas is an especially good role model for communication. He's able to defuse tense situations by talking calmly to highly emotional people and helping them see things more clearly. Atlas and Lily are both good models for empathy and teamwork. They're able to put themselves in others' shoes and understand what they're going through. And they also work well not just with each other as a couple but with their friends and coworkers, too.
All characters read as cisgender, heteronormative, able-bodied, neurotypical, and White, except a middle schooler who acknowledges being attracted to the same sex.
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Violence & Scariness
Most of the violence is past memories of physical abuse, including hitting, pushing down stairs, attempted rape, being burned with cigarettes, a beating with a baseball bat, and being gashed near the eye by a thrown screwdriver. In the present an adult slaps her child; a man pushes a woman against a wall, puts his hand on her throat, and slams his other hand on the wall near her head to intimidate; and a man slams another man to the ground and punches him once. Some descriptions of fear and memories of pain.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A few sex scenes between adults describe genital penetration including thrusting, moaning, positioning, kissing with some detailed descriptions, manual stimulation to orgasm, and oral sex. One scene offers a good example of asking for and giving consent. Mention of condom use, birth control, and getting tested. Past sex between teens is described vaguely.
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"S--t," "bulls--t," "d--k," "f--k," "ass," "asshole," "crap," "damn," "hell," and the middle-finger gesture.
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Products & Purchases
A few social media apps and food and consumer products mentioned incidentally.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A villain smokes. Mention of a parent's past smoking and day drinking. Adults have wine with meals occasionally.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Colleen Hoover's It Starts With Us is the sequel to the popular contemporary romance and TikTok sensation, It Ends With Us. It picks up right where the first book left off, so reading them in order is recommended. Neither book was marketed to teens, but this sequel still has enough sexy stuff and romance to appeal to teens. Sexual content includes a few sex scenes between adults that describe genital penetration, thrusting, moaning, positioning, kissing with some detailed descriptions, manual stimulation to orgasm, and oral sex. Past sex between teens is described vaguely. Violence is mostly remembering past physical abuse including attempted rape and a beating with a baseball bat. In the present an adult slaps her child; a man pushes a woman against a wall, puts his hand on her throat, and slams his other hand on the wall near her head to intimidate; and a man slams another man to the ground and punches him once. Strong language includes "s--t," "d--k," and "f--k." An adult smokes, and past smoking and day drinking in an abusive home environment are mentioned. Otherwise adults occasionally have wine with meals.
Is It Any Good?
This popular romance sequel will have fans of the first book cheering for, and sighing with, the couple they've wanted to see all along. It Starts With Us brings back many familiar and favorite characters and introduces some intriguing new ones. And although there are a few steamy sex scenes, it's less edgy than It Ends With Us.
Most of the writing is less corny, although there are still some gems like using being "taken" for having sex. But author Colleen Hoover does a good job of continuing Lily's authentic voice while creating a new and very believable voice for Atlas. Fans will enjoy the chance to see events past and present through his eyes.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.