There's more to this post than JUST the review, but the content ties into why I enjoyed the book. The story itself was sweet and simple, if a bit predictable. I found Treena and Pat, particularly, really irritating and self-centered. Lou was decent but cliché. Will was depressing, but I don't mind a depressing character here and there. I loved the very British humor demonstrated Lou's family, as it helped set the darker tone for the book without making it dark. What I really loved was the thought-provoking questions it brought up for readers, which kept it from being an average 3-star read for me.
One of the major questions that this book brings up is at what point does a person whose condition is terminal get to say "no, I cannot keep living like this?" Should we be allowing more people who are able to make coherent decisions decide the conditions under which they want to die? Lou struggles with this question throughout the book, and while she thinks she is firmly against it, in the end she starts to see just how much Will is suffering as a result of other people's determination to dictate to him what he needs in life.
I think this is a major moral issue and I can understand where those on each side are coming from, including those in the novel. On one hand, you've got those firmly against it. They love Will, they want him to live because they know that even if he only lives five or ten more years, he'll be surrounded by people who love him and want to help him, even if they don't always understand the best way to do so.
On the other hand, there are those who do think that Will (to keep this post from straying away from the topic at hand, which is supposed to be a review of this book) should have the choice of when to end his life. He's miserable in his chair and feels like an alien in his own skin following the accident. People are constantly trying to tell him what he wants to do without stopping to think that he's capable of making those decisions still. Nathan, possibly my favorite character in the book, is one of few people who truly gets it: why should Will be forced to live a life he feels so separated from?
While the case can be made that Will is too depressed to really see the opportunities in front of him, it's made clear that the depression came after he worked incredibly hard to improve following the accident. He did everything he could and tried to will into being his ability to recover fully, but his injuries were simply too great.
Bodily autonomy is a HUGE thing nowadays, and honestly I think that's something that comes up indirectly in this book. Kudos to Jojo Moyes for bringing it up. Ultimately, we get to decide what happens to our bodies, or that's how it should be. Scientists can't even take organs from a corpse unless the person gave permission while sound-of-mind. For me, this is (not-so-)simply another issue of bodily autonomy. For those with terminal illnesses, those who know with a very high degree of certainty that their condition will result in their death, I think the most loving thing to do would be to let them pick. Counsel and guide them, certainly, and feel free to try to do as Lou did and show them the possibilities in life if they choose to stay with you, but the pain and suffering they're going through must also be taken into consideration. After all, the disabled, the chronically ill, and the terminally ill are every bit as human as the rest of us.
You are more than welcome to voice your disagreement or agreement in the comments if you wish. I welcome and enjoy a good discussion on difficult issues such as this.
I knew Jojo Moyes was British within a few pages of this book thanks to my upbringing in an Air Force family and British teachers when I was young. It's that dry, slightly twisted sense of humor that is so common among the British people that tipped me off about this author I knew absolutely nothing about before starting this book.
That's also what's saving this book for me. The story itself is decently written with a nice plot, but the humor in it is what makes me continue reading it. The characters themselves I find a bit annoying, but I also have never cared for irredeemably pessimistic characters. I find it hard to relate to them, which is a relief for me at least since it probably means I'm not as pessimistic as I sometimes fear. Lou is slowly growing on me, although her complete lack of interest in developing a life for herself is a bit irksome, as well. Even when I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, I was determined to explore some options and try to find something that attracted me.
I'm still not that far into the book, though, so I'm going to continue on reading and hoping that Lou will grow as a character and that Will might hopefully be a little less of a drag to read about.
Ugh, this book, I wanted to like it, I wanted it to be great and I had hope because everyone goes on about it. However I just really couldn’t get into it. On the positive side, I liked Louisa’s family, they felt realistic, they weren’t perfect but they felt like they could be real people. I also found myself laughing at the banter between Louisa and Will more than I would have expected for a sad romance book. Now on to the negative side of things (from least problematic to most): The romance in this book was also hard to buy into for me as well because Moyes shoved too many things into this book so that the relationship didn’t have space to breath. This book is very clearly written by an able bodied person for an able bodied person which came through surprisingly clearly in some of the word choices that Moyes made. Louisa deciding to better her life was handled in the way we see in a lot of romances, because a man pushed her too. In this case it’s not seeing and working with Will that inspires Louisa to do more, it’s literally Will nagging her throughout the majority of the book to get out and live which feels annoying, and tired. The biggest issues is that this book is pretty shitty for disabilities. While I didn’t have an issue with the ending per se, this book tells the same tired tale in regards to disabilities that we always see and a serious current of “I can’t live a full life with a disability”. This is also a story of a man who is very wealthy, which isn’t the reality for most disabled people. While I don’t think Moyes needed to write a 100% true to life book, the attempts that she made to build a disability community in this book were so infrequent and ended up feeling incredibly half assed and like she was trying to give herself an out when people criticized her disability representation, in my opinion.
I have two points that are serious issues for me and a comment on people’s reaction to the ending but are also spoilers so on to the tag.
Louisa’s reason for dressing quirky and not doing anything were due to a sexual assault, and used as a way to hide from the world. I am still so annoyed by this, it’s not an implied thing it’s stated. I had a roommate accuse of doing my makeup the way I do to hide from the world, which wasn’t true at all. I also have some experience with sexual assault and the message that I couldn’t live a full life because of that is insulting. So I can understand why the disabled community would have an issue with this book and my situation is in no way as serious a disability.
The other issue is more that Will is Louisa’s Fairy Godmother. I cannot believe I haven’t seen anyone else talk about this, though maybe I’ve just been looking in the wrong places. The man sweeps in, fixes her relationship, gets her to embrace life, paves the way for her to do pretty much anything she wants, and then disappears. Sounds like a more like a Fairy Godmother than a real human to me.
As for the ending, as I previously stated I didn’t have an issue with it per se because I think body autonomy is important for the ill and the disabled and something that is frequently taken from them (which is actually something that this book addressed a lot and I appreciated that) HOWEVER there is no good ending to this book with the way that the rest of the story was written. If we look at the inverse situation and Will had decided to live because he fell in love with Louisa that sends a TERRIBLE message that if you are loved enough you wouldn’t want to die, and my extension that anyone who considers or goes through assisted suicide isn’t/wasn’t loved enough. So people to the people crying for a happy ending please tell me an ending that would have worked for this book and wouldn’t have also sent a terrible message?
'I stared at my calendar, the pen stilled in my hand. This little patch of laminated paper suddenly bore a whole heap of responsibility. I had a hundred and seventeen days in which to convince Will Traynor that he had a reason to live.'
Lou Clark knows a lot of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in the Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane. Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now, and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that. What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.
I don't normally read Chick Lit or Romance novels and Me Before You reminded me at every turn of the page why I don't read them. Me Before You was very easy to figure out what was going to happen and it was very predictable which ruined any emotional response that could of happened. The characters were rather boring so I didn't sympathise with them at all even in the events of the last few chapters (which I guessed would happen right from the beginning) I felt nothing.
I expected a lot more from Me Before You and I heard that Moyes is an excellent author, but in this case I didn't see it.