I was very suspicious about this book. In fact, I was sure I wouldn’t like it.
It wasn’t my normal genre AT ALL and its horrendous chick-lit cover (not the one you see pictured, I like this one better) was so cringe-inducing I barely had the willpower to pick it up. BUT, I knew it was a popular bestseller with an upcoming movie, and the book was bought for me by one of my best bookish friends and she had only glowing things to say. So, I took a deep breath, tried to keep an open mind, and settled down with a cup of tea and a blanket.
Lou Clark knows lots of things.
She knows how many footstepts 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 wasn’t converted by Me Before You straight away, and everything about it seemed unremarkable initially. However, Moyes slowly drew me in. Her writing was so easy to read that 100 pages could slip by in what seemed like a minute but was actually an hour. Moyes has subtle writing that is intent mainly on telling the story but scattered within there are some beautiful, understated descriptions, and she has the ability to truly capture moments full of wonder, hope and love. So, while I wouldn’t call Moyes the best writer in the world, she definitely has a talent for sweeping you up in a whirlwind of emotions, and she also has that rare magic that lets the reader become part of the story, without the author’s presence being felt.
Me Before You contains a lot of elements that will make it universally enjoyable to most people. We start with a quirky 26yr old girl who is down on her luck and has just lost her job, a job that she loves and has put six years into. Of course, she is devastated. Even considering that she’s living in a multigenerational household with her parents, grandad, sister and her sister’s child, money is incredibly tight for all of them, so Lou finds herself down at the job centre faced with numerous unappealing jobs like working at the chicken factory. After trying and failing at several of these, she ends up with a caring job with a six month contract that she has no qualifications for because the pay is unbelievably good.
Here enters the incredibly rich, arrogant and entitled, not to mention good looking, Will, who is a quadriplegic confined to a chair almost completely paralyzed. He is undeniably rude, snapping and making snide comments at everything Lou says or does. He’s a Mr. Darcy if ever I saw one. However, knowing they will be spending every day with each other, the two form an uneasy coexistence, which eventually develops into a tentative friendship.
This is a quiet novel that creeps up on you. It doesn’t shout out wanting to be noticed and it isn’t heavy with its themes or morals, but it becomes steadily more addictive the further into it you get. I couldn’t put it down. Both main characters are individual and easy to relate to, complimenting each other in different ways. While Lou is desperate to make depressed Will realise that life is worth living, even if he’s stuck in a chair and cannot do the things he used to be able to do, Will is determined to inspire Lou to do the same thing but in a different way. He hopes to make her find her inner wanderlust and is intent on getting her to see beyond the realms of her very contained, restricted life, where she is doing mediocre jobs despite her intelligence, and is failing the experience life outside her small town.
I also loved the way this book explored the idea of euthanasia and assisted suicide, and why people may consider it. For Will, being confined to a chair with zero hope of recovery and with, if anything, a likely decline in his condition, as well his proneness to infection and his inability to do anything for himself, makes this an appealing possibility, despite everyone around him objecting. It was interesting – as someone who has always been for euthanasia – to see how different characters reacted to the idea being discussed, and the reasons for their feelings. I felt that Moyes dealt with the subject in a mature and sensitive manner, and was really impressed.
However, the main reason to read this book is not for the plot (which is quite simplistic and predictable) but for the characters, which are so well crafted. I immediately felt a kind of kinship with Lou, who at 26, is totally confused about what she should be doing with her life while also worrying about providing for her family, and whether her boyfriend is truly ‘the one’. These are all very typical chick-lit tropes, but somehow Moyes prevents it from feeling contrived. I thought it was great that Lou dressed like she had raided a charity shop, and felt frustrated when her parents favoured her sister. And as the story goes on, more truths about Lou are revealed that make her a unique character.
In contrast, I didn’t like Will at all at first, he was so horrendous! So resentful of his situation, bitter about what he had lost, rude to those who were only trying to help. But through the help of Lou, his walls are slowly broken down and you see more of the man behind the situation. I loved the banter between the two characters and found myself snorting with laughter and beaming. I cried tears of happiness and sadness as events unfolded, and found a strange beauty in the fact that if it hadn’t been for Will’s condition, the two never would have met and formed such a beautiful relationship.
Overall, Me Before You is a memorable, heartfelt read that will have you pondering the lives of the characters well after the last page. It’s up there with the great romantic tear jerkers of our time and I dare you to make it through this book without experiencing the emotional roller coaster of feels! I would recommend Me Before You to hopeless romantics of all ages, or to anyone who is just interested in the way our relationships with people develop and evolve. Me Before You is truly one of those books that manages to transcend its genre boundaries making it appealing to pretty much anyone, and I think that’s the sign of a truly good book.
Writing Style: 5/5
Character Development: 5/5
Would I recommend this book? Yes!