Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Publisher: Penguin Books
Published: July 2013
Genre: adult fiction, contemporary, women’s fiction
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?
Louisa, an average girl from an average family living in an average English village, desperately needs a job to keep her family afloat. When she becomes the caretaker to Will Traynor, a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic man who used to take the world by storm, she begins to have second thoughts as to how desperately she needs employment. Will’s ever-changing moods soon become a welcoming challenge to Louisa, and their time together increases drastically. His carefully built walls fall, and she glimpses a bit of the man he used to be — and what he can still become. But Will has other plans for his life, and Louisa is torn between giving him exactly what he wants and showing him that life is still worth living.
“Live boldly.” Those two words slayed me every time Will said them to Louisa. Here is a man hell-bent on ending his own life, advising a sheltered girl to take life by the horns and seize it at every opportunity. That, I think, is the heart of Louisa’s dilemma. Will isn’t being hypocritical. He’s reminding her that he once lived boldly, with no regrets, and would have continued to do so had he not been the victim of a terrible accident. Life in a wheelchair, after the way he’d lived, is far too debilitating to continue.
From the very beginning you know how the book is going to end. Soon enough all the tension, the foreboding atmosphere, and racing against the clock builds up to such an emotional climax that by the time I reached the last fifty pages, I sobbed and sobbed and needed to take a break from reading to clear my eyes. It’s such an emotional release. This book sheds light on a remarkable dilemma. I’m not even sure I’d have Louisa’s strength by the end of this.
Me Before You isn’t a full-blown romance. It’s about two individuals from very different worlds, experiencing life in very different ways, coming together and finding love in the most unlikely circumstances, and, belatedly, navigating the effects of that love and their diverging life plans. It’s not sudden and sweeping, but slow, heartbreaking, tense. The characters don’t even know what they’ve gotten into until it’s too late. I enjoy these books. It’s natural.
While I’m aware there’s a sequel to this book, I don’t plan to read it. I enjoyed the book as is, I know where things stand, and I want to keep it that way. The characters live on powerfully enough in my mind and heart.