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Without Merit

A Novel


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About The Book

From Colleen Hoover, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of It Starts with Us and It Ends with Us, 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.

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, National Alliance on Mental Illness (,, and To Write Love on Her Arms ( 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

About The Author

Photograph © Captured By Cayson

Colleen Hoover is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty-three novels, including It Starts with UsIt Ends with Us, All Your Perfects, Ugly Love, and Verity. Colleen lives in Texas with her husband and their three boys. For more information, please visit

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atria Books (October 3, 2017)
  • Length: 384 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781501170621

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Raves and Reviews

“Emotionally wrenching and utterly original, Without Merit’s characters stayed with me long after I finished.”

– Sara Shepard, New York Times bestselling author of the Pretty Little Liars series

“Honest, funny, and heart wrenching, all spun together perfectly. I couldn't put it down.”

– Anna Todd, New York Times bestselling author of the After series

“Hoover does an excellent job of revealing the subtle differences between healthy teenage rebellion and clinical depression… This quirky, complex, and frustrating heroine will win hearts and challenge assumptions about family dysfunction and mental illness in a life-affirming story that redefines what's normal.”

– Kirkus (starred review)

"Merit is complex and charming as she struggles with depression, and Hoover shines here as she reveals hope glowing within a house of dysfunction."

– Booklist (5-star review)

"Hoover has captured the insecurities that make us human in this unforgettable novel. . . A captivating and poignant story delving into the complexities of living in a house filled with turmoil, secrets, and mental illness, and the vulnerability it takes to lean on those we love in times of need."

– RT Book Reviews

Praise for Colleen Hoover:

Hoover joins the ranks of such luminaries as Jennifer Weiner and Jojo Moyes, with a dash of Gillian Flynn. Sure to please a plethora of readers.

– Library Journal (starred review)

November 9 is yet another breathtaking novel by Colleen Hoover that's full of blushing, gushing, and heartache. I loved every page and breathed in every beautiful word.

– Anna Todd, New York Times bestselling author of the After series

If you haven't read November 9 yet, then, apologies to your busy schedule, but you're going to have to put everything down and spend the next day devouring it.

– RT Book Reviews, Seal of Excellence Winner

Colleen Hoover’s one-of-a-kind style of storytelling shines with November 9... I dare you not to fall in love with Ben and Fallon.

– Vilma's Book Blog

Colleen Hoover reminds readers that love is a fragile thing, built from courage, hope, and tears. Every person with a heartbeat should read this book.

– Kami Garcia, #1 New York Times bestselling author

It Ends with Us isn't an ordinary love story. It will break your heart while filling you with hope,and by the end of this gripping, pulse-pounding novel, you'll be smiling through your tears.

– Anna Todd, New York Times bestselling author of the After series

What a glorious and touching read, a forever keeper. The kind of book that gets handed down.

– USA Today

It Ends with Us tackles [a] difficult subject…with romantic tenderness and emotional heft. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author's note at the end that explains Hoover's personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read. Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

– Kirkus, Starred Review

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