Oh, yes I did. Yes I DID pick out a cheesy/romantic book to read. Did I read it in a day? Yes. Did I cry? Yes. How did I fall into this trap, you ask? That is a very interesting question. If I had to pick a least favorite genre, I’d probably go with sci-fi or romance or self help and I don’t generally read a lot fantasy that isn’t YA… that being said, every now and again I find a book that looks like good reading. I will admit I saw a preview for the movie version of the book (and let me re-iterate, not my usual type of film fare either) and was seduced by the images and music used. So congrats, Marketing, you got me this time although not the way you had intended.
Me Before You follows Louisa as she cares for Will, a wheelchair bound man who has lost the will to live. Cheery stuff. Louisa is the kind of girl we all know. She’s nice enough but she isn’t a pusher. She lets life happen to her. She stayed in her hometown and got a dead-end job, a dead-end boyfriend, and lives at home. On the surface you wouldn’t look twice at her. If you did look at her twice you might think she’s wasting her time and her life. Will certainly thinks so when they first meet. Will’s parents employ Louisa to basically keep Will company while he alone during the day. Will is also a type that we might recognize. Good looking, talented, kind of a jerk. Arrogant without realizing he’s arrogant. Two years prior to Louisa’s employment he had an accident that put him in a wheelchair and an accompanying dark mental state. Most of the book focuses on their relationship with one another and their daily interactions. It is that kind of warm buttered roll that gets better the more you eat.
Eventually Louisa discovers that Will wants to commit suicide and his parents have agreed to assist him to end his own life if he still feels the same way in six months. While on the surface this book is a cheesy love story, there are some interesting tidbits that give this book more depth. One, Louisa is not simply an unmotivated slug. She has trauma in her past that keeps her on the safe path. Her relationship with her family is also complex. She both loves and needs them at the same time feels them stifling her. The book is also educational in a way. It portrays many of the true aspects of life when someone is paralyzed. The failure to control body temperature, having someone feed you, the difficulty in finding adequate handicapped parking and other accommodations. When I was at university, one of my good friends dove into a shallow swimming pool resulting in quadriplegia. He had a special van that lifted his chair and occasionally I would pick him up for dinner or to go to the movies. We had some hilarious antics with his big van and hydraulic lift. My friend went on to Law School and had a very different attitude to Will’s in the book, but I applaud Moyes for doing her homework and adding true details that would be recognizable to anyone familiar with wheelchair living.
I even liked the ending (kind of). I’d have ended it a bit earlier, there is some unnecessary drama with Louisa’s boyfriend at the end that I find to be a bit of a distraction. While the characters evolve, they don’t have that change of heart moment that I find unrealistic in most books. They are the same people who we started with, but they know a little bit more now. I liked this book so much that I gave it to my sister-in-law for our annual family reunion gift exchange. This is a quick, easy, read for anyone who wants to read it before they see the movie.