Published by Michael Joseph (UK) on January 5th 2012
Lou Clark knows lots 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.
Me Before You is one of those books that have sat on my kindle for much longer than it should have, that my finger has hovered over as I hesitated to download it many times despite knowing that it would probably become a favourite, that it would make me feel and that it would break me… The impending release of the movie last summer eventually spurred me on to pull up my big girl panties and get on with it and boy oh boy was it worth it. It’s taken six months to bring myself to review this book and honestly at this point I don’t know if there’ll be a rambling ten paragraphs to follow of incoherence or an abrupt couple of lines because how will I ever truly convey what a book this was for me.
MBY introduces us to Louisa Clark; bright, pretty, sociable are all words to describe her but for some reason she’s never truly reached her potential according to those around her. Eking out a meagre living working in the local coffee shop and dating a lad who is more interested in his PB in the next 10K at the weekend, Louisa, the girl who seemed destined for great things is stuck. Unceremoniously fired from her job and up the proverbial creek, Louisa is desperate for anything to help keep the wolf from the door, assist her parents and her somewhat selfish younger sister and nephew. Answering an ad for an assistant to a quadriplegic never seemed on the cards but Louisa ends up at the Traynor’s front door and steps into a world very unlike her own. Privileged, wealthy, the Traynor’s want for nothing…except to help their son Will whose life on the fast-track reached an abrupt end when a devastating accident left him paralyzed. Louisa and Will couldn’t be more different and never would their paths have crossed in “normal” circumstances however through many mistakes, missteps and stumbles along the way, Louisa and Will bond in a way neither thought possible. Could their friendship be the thing that helps them both heal the inner pain and turmoil they bear?
Jojo Moyes has a way of writing that is so real, warm and witty; it’s like curling up with a cup of tea and a chat with a good friend. She draws you into the worlds she creates with characters that you can’t quite put your finger on why but remind you of friends, neighbours, colleagues, people who you connect with. Her scenarios and plotlines; while they can have a “soapy” feel to them at times are heartbreakingly genuine and honest. Me Before You is no different. From the Clarks’ financial struggles to the stark reality of Will Traynor’s day-to-day existence, Me Before You is part novel, part teaching manual. It challenges your perceptions and prejudices of ability and disability and truly opens your eyes, both to the fragility and resilience of the human body and mind. It also challenges your fears of the unknown and educated me personally on many things relating to quadriplegia and its effects on the body.
The characters of Louisa and Will, on the surface so different are so wonderful together and their relationship evolves from initial awkward encounters and snarky backchat to playful banter, deep conversation and emotional connection. Louisa, with her fashion-forward outfits yet resigned outlook on her own personal life, is everyone’s champion. The first to push those she loves to do what they want, she continually puts her own dreams to one side. Will challenges her, inspires her and at times goads her to slowly but surely chip away at the locked secrets and desires in her heart and make a life for herself.
Will, who decided a long time ago, that life was something he used to live but now simply exists in, has never known someone like Louisa. At first, somewhat more of an irritating gnat buzzing around asking if he wants a cup of tea, she slowly awakens his heart and helps him to see colour where before everything was grey.
Me Before You will break you but it will also fill you with hope. Hope for life and love, that light can reach through the smallest of cracks and splinter the darkness. From start of finish, Me Before You kept me enthralled, it made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me feel. For that I am truly thankful.
After You (Me Before You, #2) by Jojo Moyes
Published by Penguin Publishing Group on September 29th 2015
***THE SEQUEL TO THE WORLDWIDE PHENOMENON ME BEFORE YOU ***
Jojo Moyes says: "I hadn't planned to write a sequel to Me Before You. But working on the movie script, and reading the sheer volume of tweets and emails every day asking what Lou did with her life, meant that the characters never left me. It has been such a pleasure revisiting Lou and her family, and the Traynors, and confronting them with a whole new set of issues. As ever, they have made me laugh, and cry. I hope readers feel the same way at meeting them again."
After You is one of those books that you think would be a good idea in theory but in reality reminds you that some stories just don’t need to be told. I adored Louisa Clark in Me Before You, her story resonated with me, and I identified a lot with many of her fears and rooted for her on every page. When we meet her in After You, it’s like she’s regressed right back to the girl we met before she walked up the gravelly path to the Traynors’ house.
This is not Louisa’s story; it’s the story of everyone else around her as Louisa becomes that girl who pushes everyone else forward, who concentrates on solving everyone else’s problems so she doesn’t have to face her own. Literally up to the last page, I felt like screaming at her as it seemed like no progress towards her own goals and dreams was being made. While it was nice to catch up with the Clarks and the Traynors, overall this just felt like a waste.
The supreme brilliance of Me Before You seemed almost tainted by this add-on because that’s truly what it felt like…an add-on rather than a fully realised novel in its own right. Part of me wishes that I had just closed the book completely on this story with Me Before You but the tantalising promise of Ms Moyes usual artistry seemed like too much of a temptation. Lesson learned. If you have to, go ahead and read it but honestly pick up one of her other books and move on!