Me Before You by Jojo Moyes will change your life. It’s an emotional love story that will stay with you for a very long time.
[Major Spoilers; Mature Audiences]
Rating: 5 of 5 stars
I won’t lie. I put off reading Me Before You for over a year. I’m naturally wary of angst, and I knew that this one would hurt. Then I saw the trailer for the move adaptation, and I went all in.
Me Before You is told mostly through Louisa’s point-of-view. She’s fun and quirky. We learn almost immediately that she’s one of the main financial supporters of her family. When the diner she works at closes, she must find new employment, and she really can’t afford to be picky. Despite serious reservations, she takes an interview to be a caregiver to a quadriplegic.
The job is short term, only six months, but they will change her life (and the reader’s) forever.
I have so many feelings about this book. I love the way that Jojo Moyes writes these believable and raw characters. There’s so much layering in the story that after you read it, you’ll go back and find a sentence, something ordinary, then realize it’s actually integral to the story and the characters.
Louisa is brilliant. She’s her own person and unique. Her family seems to take her for granted and are often very sarcastic when it comes to her, but the family dynamic is completely authentic. Her family is so wrapped up in their own problems that they choose to believe that Lou has it all together.
Beneath the surface, Lou’s conflicted. She’s dealing with her lackluster relationship, her feelings of responsibility when it comes to Will, and how to stay in the box she’s created for herself.
While Will’s trauma is obvious, Lou’s is very psychological. At one time there were physical marks, but now it’s her memories that have effectively closed her off. One of the most emotional scenes in the book is when Will helps her out of the garden maze, and she tells him her story. From that moment, we watch as Louisa comes to grips with her past and how it’s effecting her present.
“Right. Are you listening to me?”
I murmured a yes.
“Then I’ll tell you something good,” he said, and then he waited, as if he wanted to be sure he had my attention. “Some mistakes…just have greater consequences than others. But you don’t have to let that night be the thing that defines you.”
I felt his head still pressed against mine.
“You, Clark, have the choice not to let that happen.”
Then there’s Will, he’s sarcastic and blunt. He doesn’t believe that Louisa is living her life to it’s fullest potential. He berates her for living in the tiny town he’s regulated to when she could go anywhere she pleases. Once Will gets to know Lou, he begins pushing her to open her mind and world, to stop being afraid.
In some ways, I want to be mad at Will. I want to call him selfish and cruel. Then there’s a part of me that empathizes with him. Through all the scenes in the book where he tucks his head down in public, where he is the object of stares or whispers, where people kneel down beside his chair as if he’s a child. The strong man he was is at odds with the man he is now.
There are sparks of the Will he used to be, and his personality shines through at the best moments. Louisa’s birthday party being the first that comes to mind.
“Bernard Clark.” Dad reached out and shook Nathan’s hand. He held it out toward Will, before snatching it away again with a sudden flush of embarrassment. “Bernard. Sorry, um…I don’t know how to greet a…I can’t shake you—” He began to stutter.
“A curtsy will be fine.”
Dad stared at him and then, when he realized Will was joking, he let out a great laugh of relief. “Hah!” he said, and clapped Will on the shoulder. “Yes. Curtsy. Nice one. Hah!”
Later, in an effort to get will to change his mind about his six month time limit on life, Lou sets out to take him on a grand adventure that will make him see that there are still things he can do. There’s still a reason to live.
But for Will, it was always about showing Lou how to live. It was never a new adventure for him, but a goodbye present for her. Even when all those plans go south, and they have to change everything because of Will getting sick, they end up in a place that brings Will peace but also changes Lou.
I must say that I had to re-read the part where Lou confesses she’s known about his six-month plan and that she loves him. The first time I read it, I had too many tears to see the words well.
“What do you say?” I whispered.
I could have looked into his eyes forever.
He said it so quietly that for a minute I could not be sure I had heard him correctly.
“I’m sorry. It’s not enough.”
What happens after is brutal for Lou. It’s a rejection like none other, but I was so happy that they were able to have closure with each other. Moyes words are beautiful as she describes Will and Louisa’s last encounter, and then they split your heart wide open with the epilogue.
So this is it. You are scored on my heart, Clark. You were from the first day you walked in, with your ridiculous clothes and your bad jokes and your complete inability to ever hide a single thing you felt.
Don’t think of me too often. I don’t want to think of you getting all maudlin. Just live well.
Looking over this book, I realize that it’s about the journey. We’re treated to the best six months of Will and Louisa’s lives. A time when they lived well and grew together. It’s not that Louisa’s plan didn’t work. It just didn’t work on Will. Somehow, he managed to take her plans for making him want to live and shifted them to her, changing and broadening her horizons.
This book changed the way I view life, and I don’t often get the opportunity to say that about a novel. It’s beautifully written and somehow, heartbreakingly hopeful.
There’s a sequel called After You that follows what happens to Lou after Me Before You. I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to soon.