Brief synopsis (back cover): Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than her 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 he is not interested in exploring a new one. 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, Lou sets out to show him that life is still worth living. 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?
Rating: Left behind / Travel companion
Long story short: This book is a little tricky to rate because some parts I liked and others…not so much.
I loved the insights Moyes offered into quadriplegia and assisted suicide because these are two topics I know very little about and the latter has become quite contentious over the years. I have no experience in these areas so I can’t say how accurately either were depicted (the book has been criticized for romanticizing suicide), but it was a change from what I usually read and I enjoyed learning something new.
Through Louisa we’re introduced to caregiving and all the difficult and wonderful moments that come with it. She is spunky and kind and always trying to do the good thing, the right thing, for other people. There is a particular instance in the novel where we get to see the root of her personality—why she is who she is—and it’s a vulnerable time for her. While the set up was done well I wished Moyes took more time drawing Louisa out of her shell. She was definitely my favorite part of the story.
My biggest issue was that the book was touted as a “heartbreakingly romantic novel” but it was mostly just heartbreaking and not very romantic. Louisa and Will go through the typical “girl and boy dislike each other, girl and boy become friends, girl and boy realize the other isn’t so terrible after all” trope, which didn’t really do it for me because it was so predictable. Aside from a handful of briefly intimate moments it seemed more like an infatuation that had the potential to develop into something eventually, and made me wonder how much of what the two were feeling was love and how much was the feeling of being needed (Louisa) and the feeling of being treated with dignity (Will). That being said it’s not uncommon for two individuals who are together in stressful environments to build deep connections quickly.
I was also disappointed by how little is divulged about Will’s thoughts and feelings. I mean, the whole book is really about how he tries and fails to deal with his severely-handicapped body and we only see him through other people, which is ironic considering he spends a lot of time explaining to Louisa how he hates when others make decisions for him. A chapter each are written in the point of view of Will’s mother and his nurse (both POV feel awkward and out of place), yet we never see Will as he sees himself, doing the character—and readers who can identify with Will—a great disservice. I can understand that this was done intentionally to keep the reader in suspense until the end, however the overall message lost its impact by ignoring Will’s perspective.
Despite its flaws this book was incredibly addictive and nearly impossible to put down; I think it was my fastest read so far this year. I’d recommend taking it along on your summer vacation (just don’t read too deep into it).
Have you read this book or have any intention to read it or see the movie? Comment and let me know!
P.S. Shout out to the stranger (a.k.a. the friend I haven’t met yet) who sent me this book via a Facebook book chain. I’m glad I had a chance to read it, so thank you for sharing it with me 🙂