Review: Me Before You

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Me Before YouMe Before You by Jojo Moyes
Series: Me Before You #1
Published by Pamela Dorman on December 31, 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 369
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.

First Sentence: “When he emerges from the bathroom, she is awake, propped up against the pillows and flicking through the travel brochures that were beside his bed.”

Jojo Moyes was not really on my radar. I’d seen her name a couple of places, memorable because of its uniqueness, but had not really marked her down as an author whose work I suspected I needed to experience. Still, when I got an unsolicited ARC in the mail, I determined to go ahead and read it, because it’s British and has gotten overwhelming acclaim. In this case, I deem the buzz and all the positive reviews to be completely accurate.

The novel opens in 2007 with Will Traynor, successful, fabulously wealthy businessman, in a state of post-coital bliss with his model-gorgeous girlfriend. He just oozes privilege, self-satisfaction, luxury and hot sex, a woman’s fantasy. Then he gets hit as he tries to get into a cab. This accident leaves him a quadruplegic, unable to control his body from the neck down, except for a small range of motion in one hand.

Moyes tells the story from the first person perspective, with a few exceptions, of Louisa, a 26-year-old woman who has just lost her beloved job working at a local cafe. She still lives with her parents, and the whole family desperately needs her income. With the recession, she has to try alternative careers and winds up getting a job as Will’s caregiver, two years after his accident. Though they initially do not get along in the slightest, she becomes the person he can truly open up to and who can really make him feel alive.

Before I started, I admit I was skeptical of the subject matter. That sounds like it could so easily turn into a depressing tearjerker, and, much as I like depressing stories, I don’t like them to be one note or more dramatic than they need to be. Moyes manages to confront this story without straying into melodrama. She depicts both the hardships of Will’s state and also the moments of beauty. I never felt like she added in an extra bit of sadness just to pull on the reader’s heartstrings more. Everything felt purposeful and essential to the story, with no needless tragedy added.

Now, do not get me wrong, this book will probably make you cry, because it sure as hell made me squeeze out a few tears, and I rarely cry at books. I almost made it through without crying, but Moyes got me in the end. The situation really is just incredibly heartbreaking. The relationship between Will and Louisa reminded me a bit of The Secret Garden, and how Mary was just what Colin needed, even though she lacked medical knowledge. I wished so hard for Will, like Colin, to be healed through hard work and magic.

Will and Louisa have such vibrant personalities. I did not initially warm to either of them, but they became increasingly more dear to me as I read. In different ways, both of them are failing to really live when they first meet and help one another open up to new experiences. From mutual hatred, they ever so slowly carve out a rapport and eventually come to care about one another so very deeply. Their connection is one of the mind, not of the body. I really didn’t think that Moyes could make me root for such an impossible love, but she really, really did.

Moyes brings up a lot of dark subjects, really considering the ethics and options of a person in Will’s condition. She does not preach in the slightest, leaving conclusions to be drawn by the reader. I imagine this would make a marvelous book for a book club, because there is much to be discussed. Moyes delves into what really makes life worth living and how much one can accomplish when trapped in a largely useless body.

My only reservation about Me Before You is an odd storytelling device Moyes used. While the bulk of the novel is from Louisa’s perspective, she includes one chapter each from the perspective of another character: Will’s parents, his other caregiver in charge of his medical well-being, and Louisa’s sister. While I can appreciate the skill in crafting these, since these first person snippets did have a unique feel for each character, they did not add to the story in any meaningful way. The information I glean from them does not add anything I had not already gotten or could not have gotten from Louisa.

For those of you who like books that make you cry and think, Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You is a must-read. Moyes has a bunch of other books out already, and I can only hope they’ll break my heart like this one did.

Favorite Quote:

“Now he was just Will—maddening, mercurial, clever, funny Will—who patronized me and liked to play Professor Higgins to my Eliza Doolittle. His body was just part of the whole package, a thing to be dealt with, at intervals, before we got back to talking. It had become, I supposed, the least interesting part of him.”

17 responses to “Review: Me Before You”

  1. Wow this sounds really good. I had never heard of this author before, so this book wasn’t even on my radar but I think this could be one from me. I like that, even though they felt unnecessary, the author was able to create unique voices for all those perspectives. This is going on my TBR!

  2. Lynn K. says:

    Reading your review makes me want to cry all over again. The UK book cover and blurb on it is such a liar. I picked it up because I thought it would be a nice sunny chick-lit/heart warming kind of story and instead I got this.

    Instead of the various character snippets, I wished that the author gave one in Will’s perspective at the end.

    • Christina says:

      Oh yeah, the UK book cover looks so sweet and happy, which is just NOT what it is. The US cover tells you nothing, which is perhaps good, since I don’t know how you could sum this book up on a cover.

      I could see that. I bet Will’s perspective would be really powerful.

  3. Your review definitely has me curious about this one. I’m adding it to my TBR list.

  4. Great review! Really wanting to read this one!

  5. Jaime Lester says:

    This sounds good. I haven’t heard of the author before, but this book sounds really good. And it has seriously great reviews, and much love. I think I will have to check it out. And I love the cover.

  6. Wow this sounds like a wonderful book! 🙂 I have the book on my shelf and I’m planing to read it soon! 🙂 I can’t wait 🙂

  7. It sounds like a bit of a heartbreaker! I’ve never read anything like that before…

  8. Bea Tejano says:

    I havent heard of this author before but the way you describe the story in your review makes me want to give this book a try:) I’m a sucker for books that make me cry:)

  9. That quote at the end. Wow! I’m intrigued by how different is the style of this author to most.

  10. Cass says:

    You already know I adored this! Lovely review 😀

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