Layla Summary and Study Guide | SuperSummary (2024)


Layla is a romantic suspense novel by New York Times best-selling author Colleen Hoover. Published in 2020, it is her 22nd novel and the only one so far to feature a supernatural element. This guide refers to the 2020 Montlake edition of the book.

Content Warnings: Layla contains depictions of domestic, emotional, and physical abuse; gun violence; mental illness; disordered eating; and an attempt to die by suicide. There are also descriptions of sexual encounters in the novel and references to these encounters in this study guide.

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When the book opens, the narrator, Leeds Gabriel, is participating in an interview with an unknown person, presumably a detective. Leeds recounts how he met his girlfriend, Layla, and everything leading up to the interview.

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Leeds is a musician playing with a band he doesn’t like when his life changes the night they play a wedding at a bed-and-breakfast. Leeds is instantly attracted to Layla, the sister of the bride, and they embark on a romance that soon becomes an intense relationship. They stay at the bed-and-breakfast for several days after everyone else has left and ignore their responsibilities for as long as they can. The first few weeks are perfect, but soon they must return to reality, and complications from Leeds’s past threaten their bond.

Leeds reveals that he was previously in a relationship with a woman named Sable who stalked and harassed him after he broke up with her. She had a history of mental instability and, as the president of a Leeds Gabriel fan club, seemed obsessed with him. When Leeds posts a picture of himself with Layla on Instagram, Sable begins sending her aggressive messages.

One day, Leeds is packing to play out of town when there is a knock on his door. Layla opens the door to find Sable armed with a gun. She shoots both Layla and Leeds. Leeds gets the gun and shoots Sable. For a moment, both Layla and Sable are technically dead, but Layla is revived while Sable is not. Leeds also survives.

Layla’s recovery is difficult. She spends months in the hospital, and Leeds becomes her main caregiver. She not only has to rehabilitate her body but also must treat severe depression, anxiety, and memory loss. When she comes home, she seems like a different person. Leeds feels guilty for missing the person she used to be.

After months of tending to Layla, Leeds rents the bed-and-breakfast where they met, hoping to reconnect with Layla and bring back her old self. The house is for sale, and it is easy for him to rent the whole place for several weeks. Soon after they arrive, strange things start happening. Objects move by themselves, notes play from the piano, and Layla behaves strangely. Leeds installs security cameras to investigate the strange occurrences. He comes to believe that an invisible entity occupies the house.

One night, he realizes he can communicate with the spirit by asking it questions out loud and letting it type its responses into a document on his laptop. He learns that the spirit does not know who or what she is or how long she’s been in the house, but she can slip into Layla’s body and inhabit it.

Leeds is fascinated by this spirit, who calls herself Willow, and begins to encourage her to inhabit Layla’s body so they can see each other, talk, and watch movies together. He realizes he is beginning to fall for Willow and cannot wait for Layla to go to bed every night so he can spend more time with her. Leeds brought an engagement ring to the house, planning to propose to Layla, but now he doesn’t want to because he’s in love with Willow.

Soon Leeds and Layla will have to leave the house, but he doesn’t want to leave Willow behind. He extends their stay and even considers buying the house so that he can continue to visit Willow. Layla is growing increasingly anxious and exhausted, partly because another spirit is entering her body and keeping her awake every night. She finds the engagement ring that Leeds has been hiding, and he reluctantly proposes. Leeds turns to a message board where posters discuss supernatural activity. A user called UndercoverInc says he can help. This is the person with whom Leeds is speaking in the interview sections of the book.

UndercoverInc arrives, and it turns out that he is a displaced spirit like Willow. He is inhabiting the body of someone named Ronald for the interview. Leeds and the spirit determine that during the several minutes that Layla and Sable were both dead and in the same room, their spirits departed from their bodies. At first, Leeds thinks Willow could be Sable, but he realizes that when Layla was revived, Sable’s spirit entered her body. Layla’s lost spirit found its way back to the house where she and Leeds met. Willow is Layla’s spirit, and that's why Leeds fell in love with her so quickly.

Willow/Layla determines that the only way for things to be set right is for her to die momentarily so that Sable’s spirit can leave and she can reenter her body. She devises a plan that involves drowning in a swimming pool and then being rushed to the hospital. Leeds is afraid to complete his part of the plan because the timing is so delicate; he could lose Layla forever. He gives in, though, and the plan works. When Layla awakens in the hospital, her spirit is back inside her body. After Layla recovers, she and Leeds move to Montana to give themselves distance from the traumatic events of the last year.

Layla Summary and Study Guide | SuperSummary (2024)
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