Dear readers, warning!! I don’t usually put spoilers in my reviews, but I had to in this one to discuss it properly. Please do not read this if you haven’t read the book yet.
Time to talk about Me Before You. This is a difficult one. Louisa (Lou) Clark recently lost her job. She needs another one, quick, before her family loses the house. Will Traynor used to be an active, world traveling, 1%er, but, after a terrible accident, he’s stuck in wheelchair and suffers each day as a quadriplegic. Both Lou and Will are damaged in their own way, but they make life better for each other.
Me Before You addresses the difficult issue of assisted suicide, so if you have trouble reading about that topic, steer clear. There’s also some flashbacks to a rape, so another warning, for folks who are triggered by such things.
I didn’t struggle with either of those topics, but it bothered me that the author painted such a bleak world for Lou. Her family doesn’t treat her well, her boyfriend, Patrick, doesn’t treat her well, and, in consequence, she doesn’t treat herself very well. I realize that the point of the story is how Will changes Lou’s view about the world and herself but it is awfully depressing.
And then, of course, I hated the ending. After everything they go through, Lou’s love isn’t enough? Yeah, I didn’t like that. You’d think Will would see how he made such a difference in one person’s life and realize that he could help many, many more people, if he could just see his world as larger than his body, but no. This book didn’t make me cry, I just felt awful. Seriously, awful. Stomach hurting, headache inducing, post-book depression, awful. So, you may not want to read Me Before You if you’re feeling down before you begin. It’s not a happy book.
Moyes does a great job with the characterizations. Here is Lou explaining how badly she misses her job: “Unemployment had been a concept, something droningly referred to on the news in relation to shipyards or car factories. I had never considered that you might miss a job like you missed a limb- a constant, reflexive thing. I hadn’t thought that as well as the obvious fears about money, and your future, losing your job would make you feel inadequate, and a bit useless. That it would be harder to get up in the morning than when you were rudely shocked into consciousness by the alarm.” pg 30 ebook Dealing with some unemployed depression at my house right now. That passage rang some bells for me.
Will’s mother, Camilla, is also a major figure in the story. Lou describes her here: “I wanted to say: Well, here I am, being cheery every ruddy day. Being robust, just as you wanted. So what’s your problem? But Camilla Traynor was not the kind of woman you could have said that to. And besides, I got the feeling nobody in that house ever said anything direct to anyone else.” pg 71 ebook
Lou’s perception of time when caring for an ailing Will: “There are normal hours, and then there are invalid hours, when time stalls and slips, when life-real life-seems to exist at one remove. I watched some television, ate, and cleared up the kitchen, drifting around the annex in silence.” pg 90 ebook When my child gets sick, I’ve experienced that strange “between time” too.
Camilla’s frustration as a town magistrate: “It’s quite hard to stay calm and understanding when you see the same faces, the same mistakes made again and again. I could sometimes hear the impatience in my tone. It could be oddly dispiriting, the blank refusal of humankind to even attempt to function responsibly.” pg 112 ebook I feel that sometimes at my job. Why can’t folks learn how to use a copier! Sigh.
I laughed when Lou went to the library for the first time in years and was surprised by what she found. I think it makes a statement for the evolution of library systems: “It wasn’t what I remembered. Half the books seemed to have been replaced by CDs and DVDs, great bookshelves full of audiobooks, and even stands of greeting cards. And it was not silent. The sound of singing and clapping filtered through from the children’s book corner, where some kind of mother and baby group was in full swing. People read magazines and chatted quietly. The section where old men used to fall asleep over the free newspapers had disappeared, replaced by a large oval table with computers dotted around the perimeter. pg 141 ebook. My section! “A librarian stopped by my table, and handed me a card and a laminated sheet with instructions on it. She didn’t stand over my shoulder, just murmured that she would be at the desk if I needed any further help..” pg 141 ebook. If Lou had grown up in my town, that would be me!
The key to Lou’s character, in my opinion: “It felt like I was living a life I hadn’t had the chance to anticipate.” pg 234 ebook I think a lot of people are like that, sort of stumbling through life without goals or dreams of any kind. For her, love was the key to turning that around. If only more people could be that fortunate, without the abrupt ending.
If you enjoyed Me Before You, you may want to pick up The Fault in Our Stars by John Green or If I Stay by Gayle Foreman. All of which have film adaptations: so, read the book first, then keep those kleenexes close for the movie.
Thanks for reading!