DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a spoiler-free book review! Proceed with caution. Although I don’t totally ruin it. 😉
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Edition: Kindle (385 pages)
Published on: December 31, 2012 (Penguin Books)
Genre: Romance, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5 Stars
They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .
Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their 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 now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.
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, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.
Excerpt from Page 82:
“Do you hate it? Living here, I mean?”
“Is there any way you might be able to live in London again?”
“Not like this, no.”
“But you might improve. I mean, there are loads of advances in this kind of injury.”
Will closed his eyes again.
I waited, and then I adjusted the pillow behind his head and the duvet around his chest. “Sorry,” I said, sitting upright. “If I ask too many questions. Do you want me to leave?”
“No. Stay for a bit. Talk to me.” He swallowed. His eyes opened again and his gaze slid up to mine. He looked unbearably tired. “Tell me something good.”
One of the most difficult things to accomplish as a writer is character voice. Capturing a unique human being on the page is a daunting task, but it is one that Jojo Moyes makes look easy. Her protagonist, Miss Louisa Clark, is obnoxious and misinformed, hilarious and lovable all rolled into one. She is a three dimensional character. Going into this novel, I was expecting it to be all about Will Traynor, our paraplegic male counterpart who has lost everything in a tragic car accident that made him lose movement in his legs and almost completely from his arms. The story is, after all, about his decision to stay alive or take his own life after he has lost everything that he believed made him who he was. The emotion of the plot is driven by his emotions. Louisa devotes her life to try and save his.
And while this was, of course, extremely effectively emotional, (this book is a real crier, so be prepared. Think The Notebook, but the movie, not the book) that’s not what I think the real draw of this novel is. The real draw comes in Louisa Clark-her story, her emotions, and her decisions.
Louisa is a grown woman from a very small town who has accomplished all of nothing so far in her life. She is in a nine-year-long dead end relationship. She hasn’t gone to school. She’s worked in a mom-and-pop cafe for her whole life that has now closed down. She seems content enough in her small life, which might seem irritating to some readers. However, Louisa has a secret that, in my opinion, not enough readers seem to focus on, maybe because it is somehow even more uncomfortable than Will’s physical disabilities.
This is a book of life and death and loss and love, but it is also a book about sexual assault. Louisa had dreams when she was growing up, she wanted to travel. However, she was sexually assaulted when she was 20 years old, and since then, has decided to stay safe. She dresses eccentrically in order to keep her body safe. She stays in her boring relationship to keep her emotions safe. And she’s content to stay in her small town doing what she knows how to do.
To some, it may seem that this is a classic boy-saves-girl storyline. After Louisa tells Will about her assault, he is able to convince her to go back to school and learn to do something new, and to get out and see the world. However, to me, this is a whole different story. Louisa had never told anyone about her assault before. She was hiding pain and guilt from the whole world, and she felt a responsibility to herself to stay in a situation that she knew would protect her. When she finally was able to open up about this secret guilt she harbored, she could blossom.
This is a novel about so much more than it seems on the surface. It is about learning to trust yourself and others, and it is about learning to live. Will has to make a decision whether or not to continue life after his body has been taken away from him, but so does Louisa. The great strength of this story lies in the juxtapositions Jojo Moyes was able to highlight between these two very different, but eerily similar situations of loss.
As a reader, I fell in love with the characters and relationships in this novel. As a writer, I admired the straightforward and openly honest voice. And as a sexual assault survivor, I felt validated in a way no other work of fiction has ever made me feel.
Here’s where you can find this book!
(Short blogger’s note: Can you believe that excerpt was from page 82? It’s perfect.)