Several years after it reached incredible popularity, as well as a movie adaption starring the Emilia Clarke (Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, Actress I Love), I finally picked up a copy of Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes, from the library.
I’ll be honest: I’ve been avoiding this book. I never saw the movie, even though it seems like it’d be up my alley. And here’s the main reason: I was afraid that it would fall into the typical cliche that comes with stories with a disabled person as a main character.
Throughout college, I took several rhetoric classes that looked into disabilities and the stories that are framed around people with them. There are common tropes, dating back to bad guys marked by their disfigurements (a pirate with a hook or eye patch, maybe) or a climactic death.
This book did not fall into those traps. No, Me Before You was much more complicated, honest, and true—every single character was more than there ability, and beyond. If you were letting that stop you from enjoying this novel by Jojo Moyes, I suggest you open it up to see for yourself.
I literally could not put it down.
- Author: Jojo Moyes
- Genre: Fiction, Romance
- Paperback: 369 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books, 2013
Throughout the novel, we follow the main protagonist Louisa “Lou” Clark, who lives in a small touristy town in England, where she’s never left. At 27 years old, she lives at home with her parents, will probably end up marrying her longtime boyfriend, and has worked at a cafe for about six years.
When Louisa suddenly loses her job, she finds an unexpected opportunity working as a care provider (despite her lack of experience) working for a quadriplegic man named Will Traynor who was once known as a thrill-seeking adventurer. Now, he’s bossy, moody, rude, and seemingly nothing like Lou’s bright and colorful personality. He also has decided to end his life, in six months, and Louisa has been charged to change his mind.
Me Without You follows their complicated journey together, as they navigate life, individual choice, and living fully.
There is so much to love about Me Before You, and it probably all starts with such a strong sense of character. Louisa is lovable, and I found myself cheering her on from start to finish, hoping for her to, as Will said, “see her potential.”
Will, too, was a deeply relatable character that was interesting, three-dimensional, and though seemingly rough around the edges at first, came to be one of my all-time favorite male leads.
This book is not a piece of chick lit. While funny and charming, it is also serious and heartbreaking and very, very real. Moyes does a brilliant job of melding so many different qualities together: humorous exchanges, brutal moments, complex relationships, and very difficult moral choices. It’s enjoyable and refreshing, but will also damn near break your heart.
Regarding the angle of disability, there was a refreshing theme of advocacy and agency. You can see obvious changes in Louisa from beginning to end, as she spends more time in Will’s company. Her outlook changes from an outsider to someone who is compassionate without being condescending, as well as her understanding of what it means to live life freely and for Will to make decisions for himself, even if they are deeply difficult to agree with.
“You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.”
Another hard-hitting theme is one that is right up my alley, fitting nicely in the context of this blog. Despite dealing with difficult choices and looming deadlines, there is an overt sense of living life to the fullest. If not finding sunshine wherever you go, then embracing the rain and getting busy living regardless. I loved that, and cherished the moments when the characters were pushing themselves, exploring, learning, or laughing about all the ways things don’t seem to go exactly right.
Overall, though sometimes hard to bear in my heart, Me Before You is a book I’d recommend, without a doubt.
I loved this book from start to finish. I’d give Me Before You a 5/5 star rating.
Read it, embrace it, and consider if you are living life to your fullest, treating the people in your lives with respect, and being honest with yourself about your goals and ambitions. Or, read and weep. Either way, you get to experience a wonderful novel.