Whether it was because my mother told me that I couldn't watch the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe movie until after I had read the book or just due to being constantly let down by casting choices and bad representations of the book and its characters in movie adaptions, but I always try to read the book before I see the movie. Thus, I was more than a little disappointed when I realized that the book I had recently been lucky enough to add to my collection was in fact a soon to be movie whose trailer I had just seen about a week before. Yes, that's right. I realized too late to take back watching the trailer (which I had been excited about at the time) that the soon to be released movie, Me Before You, was in fact a book first. I wished I could forget what Sam Claflin looked like and forget all the other actors from the trailer I had seen looked like. I wanted to see the characters in my head based on what I read, not based around who had been cast to play the characters in the movie. So it was with a bit of bitterness that I started this book, but the majority of my expectations were simply hoping it would be a good book.
Although this is the first book of Jojo Moyes that I have read, I doubt it will be the last as I was pretty impressed with it. One of the things that really makes Me Before You interesting is that it's not a conventional love story. At first I wasn't exactly happy with the ending, but the more I had time to accept it and think it over, I grew to appreciate it. Not only is Will and Lou's relationship far from the typical "boy meets girl" for many reasons, but I really felt like they both influenced each other to be better people and to grow. He gives her hopes and dreams beyond the small town where she's lived her whole life. She in turn shows him that every day could be worth living when you try to see it in that perspective. What happened to me-as I stayed up until 3am reading this book-was that I got utterly lost in the story and caught up in Lou's mission to save Will. I did try to forget all I had seen in the trailer to the movie adaption and maybe that was why I was a little shocked when I realized the story was rather taking a darker turn. Maybe there were things I would have picked up on sooner if I hadn't been as involved in the story (but is that really a bad thing?), but I would still have to say this is a pretty solid plot. There are ups and downs with her relationship and plans for Will, her relationship with her boyfriend, details of her past, and conflict and pressure with her family. I loved that from the first chapter of this book it was very blatantly British. I love all things British (except, perhaps, walking in pouring rain) and the setting for this book is a small town somewhere in the english countryside.
As well as being cute, British, and an unconventional romance story, this book opens the reader's eyes to several issues. For one, it puts you into the life of a person living with disabilities and directly in the shoes of someone who is helping to take care of them. There's also the raised issue of whether or not someone in a position like Will's should be allowed to choose to end their own life. I've read a few other books with a main character or a background character who has a disability and it's always shocking when you're reading and you keep realizing all the things that you take for granted: like being able to travel along a narrow sidewalk or the convenience an able-bodied person has in restaurants and other public places vs someone in a wheelchair. I would love to see these everyday struggles presented more often in mainstream media because I don't think about, or notice, how many hardships there are for people with disabilities in everyday life, from walking down the street to driving somewhere. I doubt others do, either. While there are a few things mentioned that I've experienced or heard discussed about my grandpa's care that are in the book (bed sores, for example), I don't really have any place to say whether or not the author did a good job representing these struggles, but it felt like she did to me. It was very eyeopening.
Other than the ending taking a bit of time to settle with me, the only other thing I disliked really was how Lou is treated by her family at times. I know that most families are a bit dysfunctional because you're taking a group of individuals and they're tied by blood to live together for a certain set of years and you love to hate them in a way... But it was sad how she is treated by her family and the pressure that they put on her. The financial troubles her family has are something that bring in a feeling of reality and make the story relatable because a lot of people have gone through some sort of financial struggle before.
This book kept me up until 3am reading about Lou and Will! I had to tear myself away to go to bed only to return to it the next morning as soon as I woke up. I found it very interesting and eyeopening to several issues, particularly to the struggles a person with disabilities could come across, more often than not, each and every day. I want to say something along the lines of this book being a sort of bittersweet love story. It was a bit heartbreaking to me and I had to take a day or so to recover from it. I got very easily attached to the characters and sucked into their story. While the ending can be a bit hard to deal with, I would highly recommend this book. It's masterfully written and I did enjoy it a lot despite the couple hours of sleep lost over it and the few tears shed. Upon finishing Me Before You, I realized that it was a prequel to Me After You and I definitely plan to pick up that book now. Bottom line, I was pleasantly surprised by a wonderful and moving story that exceeded the casual expectations I had before starting this book. And after reading Me Before You I'm eager to read more of Jojo Moyes books!
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Goodreads • Published December 2012 • Prequel to After You.