Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
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.
Review: Remember that time I bought a few romance books to get out of my reading comfort zone? Well, this was one of them. I put off reading it for months because the author has won many awards for her romance fiction. In my love-phobic world, that would automatically put a book in the “don’t touch with a 50-foot stick” category. But, I read Me Before You, and . . . it was good. There are actually a lot of things I like about it.
Me Before You follows two characters, Will and Louisa. Will lived a fast-paced life, until he was hit by a motorcycle and became a quadriplegic. Will’s parents hire Louisa to take care of him and to convince him not to go through with his plan to commit assisted suicide. Since this is a romance, Will and Louisa fall in love, but love may not be enough to change Will’s plans.
This book is so much more than a love story! It’s about the ethics of assisted suicide and the challenges that disabled people face in a world that’s not made for them. It’s also about two very different people who slowly learn to get along.
“ . . . I told him a story of two people. Two people who shouldn't have met, and who didn't like each other much when they did, but who found they were the only two people in the world who could possibly have understood each other.” – Me Before You
Honestly, I didn’t like either of the main characters on their own. Will is a jerk, and Louisa is kind of . . . vapid? That sounds horribly mean, and the author probably intended for her to be bland, but other than her unusual clothing choices, there doesn’t seem to be much going on with Louisa. I did like the characters when they were together and learning from one another. At first, Will is just a paycheck and a curiosity to Louisa. She treats him like an object that she needs to care for. As the story goes on, she learns to listen to him and respect his choices. He may be paralyzed, but he’s not an idiot. He has opinions and can make decisions for himself.
The book also shows what it’s like to live as a quadriplegic. This is the most interesting part of the story for me because I’d never read a book with a quadriplegic protagonist before. I’d never thought about how difficult life would be for people in that situation. It’s hard to watch Will struggle with everyday activities. For him, it’s humiliating to need help and to be stared at or overlooked when he’s in public. I can understand why he would be depressed about it.
“I will never, ever regret the things I've done. Because most days, all you have are places in your memory that you can go to.” – Me Before You
My biggest problem with Me Before You is the message it sends. The message I got from it is, “If you can’t have grand adventures, life isn’t worth living.” Before Will’s accident, he traveled the world, had tons of amazing sex, and participated in extreme sports. Now that he’s quadriplegic, he’s considering suicide because he can’t have those types of adventures anymore. Louisa is (mostly) satisfied with her life in a small town, but then Will basically bullies her into traveling and going on adventures. In Will’s opinion, Louisa is wasting her life.
This whole adventure thing kind of makes me uncomfortable. I’d love to visit Paris or climb Mount Kilimanjaro, but that’s not financially or physically possible at this point in my life. Those things may never be possible for me. My life is still valuable, even without the expensive adventures. There are many ways to enjoy life.
If you’re romance-phobic like me, then this book might be a good way to get into the genre. There is a love story, but it’s not the entire focus of the book. The story and the characters give you plenty of other things to think about.