Without Merit: A Novel

Without Merit: A Novel

by Colleen Hoover


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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of It Ends With Us and November 9 comes a moving and haunting novel of family, love, and the power of the truth.

“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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501179761
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 10/03/2017
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Colleen Hoover is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Slammed, This Girl, Point of Retreat, Hopeless, Losing Hope, Finding Cinderella, Maybe Someday, Ugly Love, Maybe Not, Confess, November 9, and It Ends with Us. She lives in Texas with her husband and their three boys. Please visit ColleenHoover.com.

Reading Group Guide


The Voss family is quirky, flawed, and full of secrets. With everything going on at Dollar Voss, it’s easy for Merit to feel pushed to the side or completely ignored. She starts to believe that it would be no great loss to her family if one day she were gone. But before she goes, Merit decides it’s time to clear the air of her family’s darkest secrets and force them to finally face the truth about one another. When she suddenly realizes that she doesn’t want to leave after all, it’s too late. Merit and the rest of the Voss clan are forced to deal with the layers of lies that have tied their family together, and the staggering power of love and truth.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Merit collects trophies she hasn’t won, buying a new one whenever something goes terribly wrong in her life. Is there anything you like to collect? Why?

2. Honesty is a common theme and a big deal for Merit throughout the novel. How different would the Voss family’s relationships be if they were more honest and open with one another?

3. Another prevalent theme is perspective. Luck tells Merit that after only a week he could tell that she lives in her own version of reality. How has Merit’s perspective skewed the way she treats and passes judgement on herself and others?

4. Merit constantly compares herself to her twin sister Honor; always painting herself in a harsh, unforgiving light. How has this affected her sense of identity and self-worth? How has it affected her relationship with Honor?

5. While Merit’s sense of identity is constantly in conflict with Honor’s, Utah’s identity is rooted firmly in what others think and believe of him. How did this lead to what he did to Merit? How did it inform his behavior afterward?

6. Merit keeps her feelings buried inside, like a lidded pot that’s about to boil over, letting searing bits of truth spill out every so often until eventually pouring out every scalding secret into her letter. Why is it so easy for her to be candid about others’ secrets yet so difficult for her to express her own truths?

7. “Not every mistake deserves a consequence. Sometimes the only thing it deserves is forgiveness.” Consider the letter Merit wrote and all of the secrets and mistakes that were revealed in it and afterward. Do you agree with this? Why?

8. Sagan tells Merit, “Tuqburni is used to describe the all-encompassing feeling of not being able to live without someone. Which is why the literal translation is, ‘You bury me.’” How does Merit interpret these words? What does it reveal about her self-perception?

9. Luck opens up about his own struggle with depression and attempt to take his own life. Compare his experience to Merit’s. What led each of them to believe suicide was their only solution? Or that their absence would be met with indifference?

10. As Merit goes through the checklist of the Symptoms of Depression (pages 265–266), she confirms that she’s experienced all of them. Think back on Merit’s behavior throughout the novel and identify examples of each. Why are many of these symptoms so easily brushed aside by some as being normal teenage behavior? When do they become a sign of a deeper imbalance?

11. Despite efforts to raise awareness about mental illness, mental health and its treatment are extremely stigmatized. How does Luck try to help Merit see that suffering from mental illness and seeking treatment doesn’t make her any different from anyone else?

12. In the end, why is it so important that Barnaby Voss decides it’s time for the whole family to go to therapy? What does it mean to Merit and for Merit in particular?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Have an open and honest discussion about mental health with members of your book club and/or at home with your family and friends.

2. Visit sites like the SuicidePreventionLifeline.org, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI.org), ProjectSemicolon.com, and To Write Love on Her Arms (twloha.com) to learn more and keep the conversation going.

3. To learn more about Colleen Hoover, check out her other books, and find her on tour, follower her on social media and visit her at http://www.colleenhoover.com/.

Customer Reviews

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Without Merit: A Novel 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 43 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another can't put down book from my favorite author! Colleen Hoover you never disappoint! I laughed so hard, and cried a little too while reading "Without Merit", you are the most original and well written author I have ever read and I absolutely love all your unique story lines. You my dear touch my very heart and soul with all your novels.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Like always Colleen guts me!!! I’ve had this book just sitting on my nook for a while. I had to get myself ready for the heartache I’m sure was to come (just like all her books). Then my sister read it first and I couldn’t let that happen since I introduced her to Colleen’s books!! And I was right. It was more than I can ever hope for. I went to bed thinking I’ll just read a couple chapters, enough to pull me in the morning but that never happened. I kept going until I finished it. It is now 6:25am and my 1 year old will be up in 3 hours if I’m lucky. Lol definitely Book Hangover kind of day!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoy this author but I wasn't sure what to think when I started reading this book. Glad I kept reading though.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am never disappointed when I read a book by Colleen Hoover! This book if full of emotions that will force you to keep turning the pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read as are all her books,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love it!
JoannaDursi More than 1 year ago
I’ve read a lot of CoHo’s books and I have loved them but WM wasn’t what I’m accustomed to from Ms. Hoover. I found myself struggling to get through the first quarter of the book and then the first half of the book. The first couple chapters held my attention but then there was so much going on that it took me out of the story. There’s a turning point for Merit herself about half way through. I did enjoy the last half of the book and could appreciate the message I took away from it. I’m very much looking forward to, as always, her next book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This one was tough. I loved I hated it. I wanted to stop reading and then I couldn't put it down. I think the beginning was a little slow but as I got into it the better it got. It wasn't my favorite novel by Colleen Hoover but I still liked it. Can't wait for the next one!
Lisa_Loves_Literature More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book when I finally got the chance to meet Colleen Hoover, one of the authors on my must-meet list since I first read one of her books about two years ago. It was a little later before I finally got around to reading this, because I really wanted to listen to the audiobook from the library, even though I owned a physical copy of the book. The characters were all so unique and they just jumped right off the pages. This was one really messed up family. But we start out not knowing exactly what all those issues are. And then this guy named Luck shows up, and I loved him! He made me laugh so much! Although later in the book he does do something that made me very angry. The book just got weirder and weirder as it went. The craziness just piled on to this family. And then it took a turn I totally didn't see coming! One that had me in tears and at about 35% in the audiobook, I gave up and just picked up the book to start reading. I can read so much faster than it takes to listen to the audiobook. Halfway through she had me sobbing so hard I could barely see through my tears to keep reading. ANd I had to stay up and read, couldn't go to bed without getting past a certain point. A couple things that I loved, there's a funny fact in the book about how you can't hum when you're holding your nose closed. I want to know who actually read that part and didn't then actually try it. I admit it, I tried! Then there is a quote about not trusting an overconfident person, and I totally agree with that 100% from all my past experiences in life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another one of Colleen Hoover's novels that I couldn't put down. Heartbreaking, heartwarming, and comical all at once.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've never read her books before but this book was awesome.
GraneeJ More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Probably wouldn’t have started it had I recognized the level of teenage angst since I am too elderly to think I’m interested in that but it grabbed me in the first chapter and maintained my usually fidgety interest through the entire middle all the way to the end. Well written and illustrated, it’s sweet and funny while doing a good job of portraying one face of depression.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It gives you so much to think about. And so many of the characters I could kind of identify with or someone I know. I got this book because it was Goodreads book of the year. Excellent choice.
laceye721 More than 1 year ago
Colleen Hoover has definitely become one of my favorite authors. Every book I’ve read by her is fantastic and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on “Without Merit”. Since I’ve read her before, I know that her books always deal with tough topics and it’s one of the many reasons I love her. This book was not an exception. I honestly think this book had more tough topics than the others that I’ve read by her. There were times where my heart broke for the characters because of what they were dealing with. It wasn’t just one character dealing with issues either, it was every single character in this book. The main thing that I noticed about Without Merit was the fact that I wouldn’t say this book is classified as romantic. Every single book I’ve read by Colleen Hoover has been a heartbreaking romance. This book was absolutely a switch up from her usual. This is a great thing as an author to surprise their readers, but I’m not sure I fell in love with this story as much as her others because of this. Was there romance in this book? Definitely. It was more mixed-in than the main plot. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s good to switch it up, but personally, I love Colleen Hoover’s angsty romance and I’m sad there wasn’t really any. The characters were probably my favorite thing about this book. There were so many different point of views because it is about a family through the eyes of the main character, Merit. It was really interesting to see which family member had which problem and how they were currently dealing with it. The characters through the end were pretty crazy. They each had their own troubles and when it all comes to a head, it was great to see who reacts which way. I think what was different about this book for me was the fact that this book didn’t grasp me right away like her others did. Usually by the first paragraph, I’m hooked on what will happen next which makes me interested in the entire book. I noticed that I had a hard time grasping right away with this one, and there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just different than what I was used to with her. Colleen Hoover gives so much information in the first few chapters. With her other books, the story starts right away and we find out who the characters are throughout the narrative. This book told us a lot right away. Overall, I liked this book, but it wasn’t my favorite CoHo. I gave it four stars because once I got started, I really couldn’t put it down. After the first few chapters, the story really gets going and it was an interesting twist on Colleen Hoover’s usual narrative. I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us in the future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book, but I love everything she writes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MyndiL More than 1 year ago
I don't think I could ever be disappointed by this author. I haven't read everything she's written yet, but every book has amazed me so far. In Without Merit, we get to see a girl who is troubled and doesn't realized the extent that trouble until it's almost too late. I applaud the author for shedding light on a subject that is often swept under the rug and one that affects me on a very personal level. I found myself relating to Merit at the same time as I was annoyed by some of her actions. I guess it's fair to say that she reminded me of myself at that age, even though our problems were quite different. I was also intrigued by the history of Sagan's family and found myself learning as I read. I'm not usually one to read in order to learn (as strange as that sounds, but hey, I'm not in school anymore!) But I was so drawn into the story and wanting to find out what was going on with Sagan, that I found myself enjoying the lesson, no matter how tragic. It's not often that I read a book with a bit of history or political science in it and truly find myself lost in the story and not getting annoyed at it reading like a text book (which this did not.) One underlying theme that really resonated with me, was that everyone has their own stress baseline. No one should consider their stresses more or less than anyone else simply because they are different. We all feel stress in our own way and for our own reasons and no one should make you feel belittled because of that. I hope a great many of high school kids will read this book and learn that lesson earlier than this 30 something woman did. Overall, I have to say well done once again to Ms. Hoover. I know the YA/NA style of this book may not appeal to everyone, but I think the writing is superb and will entertain as it enlightens.
JMTJTC More than 1 year ago
“Not every mistake deserves a consequence. Sometimes the only thing it deserves is forgiveness.” Genre: Young Adult. Number of Pages: 384. Perspective: First. Location: Texas. This book follows the dysfunctional Voss family told from 17-year-old Merit’s perspective. She is holding on to a lot of secrets for members of her family, but she may not be seeing the full picture. First of all, any book that I can read in one day (and practically one sitting) has to be pretty good. The way Hoover writes just flows so well. All of her books suck you in and are quick reads because you just want to devour the book. They usually have some twists, but you never feel like you have to think too hard or slow down to piece everything together. I even gave it my Best Book Award (I am on a roll with good books this week!). My favorite part about this book is that it discusses perception and that we make a lot of assumptions about people. I also like how it makes us aware that no one is perfect. Some reviewers complained that most of the main characters are unlikeable, but I actually appreciated that they were flawed. It made them feel more real. I also like how it addressed a lot of hot topic issues, such as mental health. My only complaint is that it kind of made light of and easily brushed over some controversial topics. To read the rest of my review, go here: http://judgingmorethanjustthecover.blogspot.com/2017/10/without-merit-colleen-hoover.html
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was amazing and would read it again
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I gave this book 4stars...not because i didnt love it because I did... Just not her usual passionate love story,.but really insightful in many different ways. Id advise all CH fans to read it..
TeresaMaryRose More than 1 year ago
It’s been a while since I’ve read a CoHo book, but I’m glad I decided to read this one. She knows how to write an addictive read that really tugs at your emotions. None of her books are safe and she always tackles tough topics and Without Merit was no exception. Without Merit is very different from a lot of her other reads. For one, the romance is not the central aspect here. It’s a very small part of the story and is very much secondary to the overall plot. This is Merit’s story and is focused on her and her family life. There is a lot going on in Merit’s house and nobody deals with their problems. My heart broke for Merit because she just wanted to be heard. I wanted to reach into the book and help her so badly. There were so many secrets in this family and when it all comes out things come crashing down. What’s so interesting about this book though is that while I was fully invested and felt so much for Merit, I’m not sure I actually liked any of these characters. Like Sagan, he had some valid points but I didn’t always like his delivery. I also didn’t like how he pushed people to talk but didn’t really talk himself. I also had some serious issues with Honor. She has her own issues, but she treats Merit horribly and there is a thing I’m not cool with. I won’t even touch her Dad or Utah because ill rant for days. Even Merit, who I truly sympathized with, I don’t know if I liked her. The only ones I liked were Moby (who is four) and Victoria, which is weird because she is the one most of the characters hated. I just think she got a lot taken out on her. But I don’t think the point of the book is for me to like these characters. They all have their flaws and that makes them real and kind of what makes the story so captivating. People in real life aren’t always likable but it doesn’t make them any less valid and that is the point here and that is what resonated with me and what I liked so much about this book. So yes it’s weird that I didn’t like the characters but I still really liked the book and I’d recommend it. All in all, Without Merit is one of those books you really need to digest and process and the kind that stays with you. This book isn’t safe, but it makes you feel and realize that everyone is going through something and that it’s worth it to take time to notices those around you.
Candy-Prisoners-of-Print More than 1 year ago
Whoa. Let me start off by saying that w=Without Merit is so different from any of Colleen Hoover’s previously released books. Yet, it also has a very signature Hoover style in its poignancy and issue awareness. I can’t say I knew what to expect, and though I found the beginning chapters to be quite odd and eccentric, the story captivated me and absolutely blew me away. “So many people dream of living in a house with a white picket fence. Little do they know, there’s no such thing as a perfect family, no matter how white the picket fence is.” Merit is a teenage girl dealing with family situations that left her feeling vulnerable and alone. I loved the way Colleen Hoover didn’t blatantly point out signs; she subtly hinted at things going awry one by one. It wasn’t until Merit had to confront her life experiences and jolt her beliefs that she came out of her own self-centered (for lack of a better word) bubble. Once she did, the reader was able to see Hoover’s intention and I found it to be done absolutely beautifully. At the heart of this novel, it’s about this girl finding her way, finding her family, and discovering that nobody in this world is perfect. We all have our flaws and it felt good for me to personally be reminded of my own, particularly in the ways that I could relate to this character. “Maybe that’s the root of a lot of family issues. It isn’t actually the issues people are hung up about for so long. It’s that no one has the courage to take the first step in talking about the issues.” I’ve tried to keep my review vague because, like most of her novels, Colleen creates a riveting story that needs to just be experienced. Without Merit was so relevant to today’s society and warmed my heart on more than one occasion. It served as an excellent reminder for those of us struggling, while also delivering on some warm fuzzies. No matter what, this incredible lady has earned a faithful reader in me, but there was something definitely special about Without Merit. With a message so loud and personal, I’m sure I won’t be letting go of this book any time soon.