Novel: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes | Goodreads
Release Date: January 5, 2012
Publisher: Penguin Books
Rating: 4.5 stars
Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.
Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.
A love story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?
Me Before You is a beautiful and thought-provoking novel filled with seemingly real characters, realistic problems, and British humor that I’ll openly admit I didn’t always follow. The story is set in a small tourist town in the English countryside. It’s told mostly in first-person from Louisa Clark’s perspective, with a few single chapters told from minor characters’ perspectives sprinkled throughout. And just as a warning before you read Me Before You: it’s not really a romance. It is an adult contemporary novel about all sorts of complicated issues and the interconnected lives of characters; a bit of romantic love develops slowly, but it isn’t what the novel is about. Rather, it’s a marketing tool that’s been abused as a selling point for Me Before You.
Louisa and I didn’t get off to a great start; I found her whiny and contrary in the first three chapters and actually put the book down for about a week. However, when I picked it back up I got right into her perspective and the story, so maybe I was just having a bad night initially. I really enjoyed Louisa’s wry voice, which is filled with humor, compassion, self-deprecation, and blunt honesty, about both herself and the world. I liked reading about her family dynamics, her lackluster relationship with Patrick, and her growth over the course of the novel. The one thing I found a bit disappointing with regards to Louisa is the way Moyes addressed her history with sexual assault. I thought it could have been dealt with more thoroughly and in a more impactful manner.
Our other main character, whose perspective we only see in the prologue from third-person, is Will Traynor. And he is a character. Will has a big personality; before his accident, he did everything big, with passion and intensity. He had designed a life he loved living, and now that his dream life is gone forever, he wants to commit suicide. He tries to, which is why Louisa is hired to watch over him. I really want to leave it at that, because the rest is for the reader to discover while reading. But I loved Will and found his life before the accident to be exciting and his life afterwards to be eye-opening. His perspective and philosophy on living is inspiring and he made a mark on my heart.
I’m always wary of hyped up books when I am late on the hype train. They’re almost always spoiled for me in some sense, and my reading experience and overall opinion of a book is altered—for better or for worse—because of its hype. If I had read Me Before You when I’d originally planned to—back a few years ago when my mom did, before all the movie hype—I think I would have been shocked by it. Its ending would have swept me off my feet and face-planted me into a pool of my own tears. That being said, it still made me said and my eyes did water a bit (I finished it at a swim team banquet and thus held in the tears that otherwise would have spilled down my cheeks). But my prediction of why everyone says it’s such a sad book and that “omg” they cried at the end was right. And I knew it would be right (without actually looking it up). So in that sense, Me Before You’s hype took away from my experience reading it, although I still found it fresh, heartbreaking, and wonderful. I would give it 4 stars based on my own experience and know I would have given it 5 had I not known what would happen. So I settled on a solid and, in my opinion, fair 4.5 star rating.
I highly recommend reading Me Before You. There is also sequel out for those interested; I felt very content with the first book’s ending because it is a complete story with no loose ends, but I may check out the second installment and review it. Let me know what you thought of Me Before You (or After You) if you’ve read either, but please keep any comments spoiler-free!
Thanks for reading.