Rating: 4 / 5
Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You is the heartfelt and heartbreaking story of a young woman who falls into a caretaking job for a quadriplegic man whose life has become meaningless without the ability to live his former, exciting life.
Louisa Clark is living an uneventful life in her small UK town. She’s comfortable in her safe little bubble at home with her parents and at the cafe she works at. When the cafe closes and she’s forced to find a new job, she hears of a well-paying caretaking position. She’s immediately uninterested – she can barely stand to feed her ailing grandfather, let alone care full time for a quadriplegic man. She’s forced to take the position, however, because her family is struggling financially.
Will Traynor, Louisa’s charge, is a miserable man. Despite Louisa’s efforts to entertain him, he spends his days in sorrowful silence, and when he’s not silent he’s callous and hostile. Louisa learns a shocking secret that invigorates her desire to help him live life to the fullest – even in his current state, which he is confident will never allow for a happy life.
What once was an uncomfortable relationship quickly blossoms into something exciting and warm. Louisa and Will’s love story is unlike any you’ve read before, and it will leave you tearful and hopeful.
Please take caution while reading Me Before You if any of the following topics may trigger you:
- Sexual assault
- Self-harm / suicide
- Death / dying
Me Before You is both joyful – full of fun and laughter – and woeful – exploring a lack of hope, meaning, and pleasure in life. The characters are well-developed and lovable, but the shining star is surely the fascinating, at times shocking, story. A love story featuring a man who is disabled is, sadly, uncommon, and this story strongly encourages empathy and understanding.
As far as the characters go, Louisa is fun and warm, but so frustratingly safe, while Will is a standoffish prick – for good reason. Louisa’s job is to entertain him and lift his spirits, and that really shines through in her character. She’s consistently a light, bright presence in the story, which is necessary when dealing with such a bleak subject. Will is essentially the opposite of Louisa and he brings so much honesty and an important perspective to the story .
This is a love story – falling in love with yourself first, and then falling in love with someone else. I so enjoyed both aspects, but the love between Louisa and Will takes time to develop. This makes sense, but it also causes the beginning of the book to go by so slowly and the end so quickly. I almost felt lost at times as to their feelings for one another.
I was told over and over again when starting this book that I should have tissues handy, and I’m sorry to say but I didn’t cry! The story is painfully complicated and heartbreaking, but for some reason I wasn’t moved to tears. Take this fact for what it’s worth, but I thought it important to note.
I really enjoyed taking this journey with Lou and Will – the challenges and unearthed secrets along the way and their tender but deeply complicated relationship. There is so much commentary on having empathy and understanding for people that are disabled that I found important, but it takes time to get there, as Lou and her family aren’t well-versed in disability issues and speak ignorantly – if not totally inappropriately – about Will initially. All in all, this was a complicated, beautiful novel that kept my interest and broke my heart.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my thoughts on Me Before You. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the novel in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya!