TRIGGER WARNING: infertility, depression, cheating, mental health

ALL YOUR PERFECTS by Colleen Hoover is another book my boyfriend gifted me. I finished reading it last night and cried. A lot. This book was so heartbreaking, devastating and life-changing in every meaningful, important way.

Quinn and Graham’s perfect love is threatened by their imperfect marriage.

The memories, mistakes, and secrets that they have built up over the years are now tearing them apart. The one thing that could save them might also be the very thing that pushes their marriage beyond the point of repair.

All Your Perfects is a profound novel about a damaged couple whose potential future hinges on promises made in the past. This is a heartbreaking page-turner that asks: Can a resounding love with a perfect beginning survive a lifetime between two imperfect people?

I went into this book thinking it would be one thing, but it struck me like a cold slap of water, a raw and emotional train wreck of love, heartbreak and everything in between. It spoke volumes of every beautiful, aching moment within love and relationships, the bittersweet, scary journeys of hardships mingled with the magic and candy floss lightness of blossoming and growing romance.

Love is never easy, it isn’t meant to be. It’s always a choice. Every moment in the relationship is a choice you make—to stay, to fight, to love, to choose them again and again.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS is a book that took my heart and shattered into glittering shards of glass, bouncing and reflecting every word I came across, slowly putting it back together as I go over the words and remember how much I adored it. This book has changed my life and the way I know I’ll be in my relationship with not just J, but every other non-romantic love a part of my life.

“If you only shine light on your flaws, all your perfects will dim.”
“I’m a grammar snob. It should be your perfections.”
“That’s what makes me like it. The one word they misuse is perfects. Kind of ironic.”

There is no book that will ever reach me the way ALL YOUR PERFECTS has. Like THE UNDOING OF RYDER BURKE, this novel is one that will forever stay with me, a vice pulling at my heartstrings and hitting me full force in ways I could never have ever even begun to expect. From the summary, I expected it to be just a story of a struggling relationship but it goes so far beyond that. I can’t do it justice by explaining it, but I will tell you this: ALL YOUR PERFECTS will tug and pull and yank on your heart and make you bleed in pain, feeling every raw, tangible emotion ripping through the pages and into your soul.

The characters are so strong, so real, they pour into your mind as if they’re people you know, care about and love. Every emotion Quinn feels burn like molten lava, a riptide of pain and love and heartache, fear of failure and not being enough burning stronger than the embers of the underworld.

“Sometimes I look at him and feel such an overwhelming appreciation for him, I almost want to write thank-you notes to our exes.”

Even in the midst of avoidance and fear, the love echoes through every tiptoeing around one another, every heartbreak and tragedy. This story echoes with deeper, more sensitive issues, usually avoided in contemporary romance and I love how Hoover explores this within ALL YOUR PERFECTS.

The one thing that got to me, more than anything ever, is how REAL this book is. It is heartbreakingly, heart-wrenchingly, immeasurably real, and it is every fear I feel personally encapsulated within an entire novel. Whilst I don’t have endometriosis, I do have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, and i know there is still a chance of pregnancy. But not having it happened for months now scares me in ways I don’t think I can ever explain. The devastation of infertility is one that shoots through me like a bullet, ripping through my heart, creating a black hole of terror, guilt, shame and a kind of heartbreak that I will never be able to recover from.

Along with the uglier, sadder truth of life so inextricably entwined within the book, there is the beauty of still holding onto love and hope. Quinn and Graham’s relationship is so wonderfully chaotic and exhausting, it is emotionally heavy and filled with the kind of hope that can break you. In Shawshank Redemption, there’s a line that goes like “Hope can destroy a man.” This very line resonates with ALL YOUR PERFECTS and breaks every heart that stumbles across the book, hurting and twisting and yanking, but still making the hurt bearable by wanting to see how everything turns out.

“You say that like marriage is a Category 5 hurricane.”
“Not all the time. But I definitely think there are Category 5 moments in every marriage.”

One of the devastating Category 5 moments in this book is one that made me catch my breath, put the book down and pause. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but the explanation, when it came about, made me understand and get it. Whilst there is never an excuse, the characters understand where the fuck up and blame should really be placed. The love between Quinn and Graham is beautiful and magical, but certain moments never are and this book shines a bright spotlight on all these ugly moments, truly reflecting on the beautiful and the ugly, the good and the bad.

I feel like this book has taught me on how to be in a relationship, and how to always make sure I keep communicating my feelings and my thoughts—giving up in a relationship, in a partnership, leads to such damaging heartbreak and decisions that only end up tearing you apart. There is also the deeper, darker aspect of mental health and the impact of depression on so many parts of Quinn’s life, which I feel should’ve been explored further and Graham should’ve realised it.

Society has such a stronghold on the livelihood of women and makes them feel as if they’re failures of women if they can’t have biological children, making them feel as if there is something they should be ashamed of and feel guilty about. This is looked at in ALL YOUR PERFECTS, but the impact it has on mental health, wherein depression can manifest in a variety of ways, isn’t properly explained nor understood, or even considered as a reason behind her change in behaviour or loss of libido.

Whilst I’ve seen the negative reviews of this book, which say that Colleen Hoover writes the same story over and over, with the heroines having traumatic backgrounds and it being resolved in the last few pages—but firstly, romance novels are like that. There is conflict which gets resolved at the end, there’s a beginning, a middle with the conflict and then the end where the conflict is resolved. And secondly, ALL YOUR PERFECTS (much like IT ENDS WITH US) are very real books. Especially this book. This book, in particular, is heartbreakingly real. Of course, a certain thing can never ever be justified, but it is understood and I personally found it hard to look past—but this very thing makes the book hit even harder, even more realistic and heartbreaking.

“The problem is, love and happiness are not concordant. One can exist without the other.”

I felt very emotion, felt my heart break and felt myself heal again, enamoured and broken and whole again with every page of ALL YOUR PERFECTS. This book felt like the weight of every fear crushing me beneath its debris, wanting and desiring a family and children of my own so badly but being terrified that it’s an almost impossible to reach dream.

I will probably end up writing an almost never ending essay if I keep going—so I will stop here. But this book is one I recommend, but one I implore you to read with caution as the depression and mental illness is woven so carefully in every word, yet never properly touched upon. I can’t rate it a high enough number, but I know this is a book I will reread again and will probably write another discussion piece on it.

“It’s funny how you can be so happy with someone and love them so much, it creates an underlying sense of fear in you that you never knew before them. The fear of losing them. The fear of them getting hurt. I imagine that’s what it’s like when you have children. It’s probably the most incredible kind of love you’ll ever know, but it’s also the most terrifying.”

—Sumaiya, x

Posted by:Sumaiya Ahmed

Sumaiya Ahmed is a student, poet and freelance features journalist, aiming to break down the boundaries of cultural stigma and shame attached to mental health and sexuality within the South Asian culture, and bringing marginalised topics to light. She is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Poised.

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