I read “Me Before You” a couple months ago. My wedding, honeymoon, and moving all did a great job of stopping things like blog posts! I’m finally here to say, though, that I read this book because of Emilia Clarke, my #1 girl crush. She exudes adorable-ness. I fell in love with Daenerys when reading ASOIAF and because of Khaleesi I now love Emilia. I love her quirkiness, her long rambling hashtags, and I’m convinced she's one of the most beautiful women on the planet. Before the movie trailer ever came out, she raved on Instagram about her experience shooting the movie so I resolved to read the book first.
I don't mind the occasional romance novel but I don't seek them out because they can be predictable. I'd rather read a different genre with some romance sprinkled in. This one, however, I enjoyed. It was sweet and made me sad but still surprised me at the end. (Disclaimer: I understand Will's fictional life is absolutely not every disabled person's experience and that many people didn't like the overarching message.)
This review is for the book only, no movie comparisons. Warning: SPOILERS are in the summary and random thoughts I had. Skip to the rating or read at your own risk.
In the first pages of "Me Before You," Louisa Clarke lost her job at a local cafe and later, in desperation, took a new job as a companion to a disabled man, Will Traynor. Lou had always played it safe; she still lived at her parent's home and had a lukewarm boyfriend. Will had lived an exciting, jet-setting life, but was paralyzed when a motorcycle hit him. Before meeting Lou, Will made his parents a promise that he would give them six more months before they had to take him to an assisted suicide facility to die. He didn’t want to live while his experiences as an abled person kept haunting him. So, his parents hired Lou. Even though she had no caregiver experience, they saw her bubbly personality and hoped she could influence him. The two eventually connected, with Will being rude to her at first. She had a hard time talking to him. Lou found out about the six month plan and did everything she could to show Will how to still enjoy life. She planned outings, researched locations, and talked to other disabled people online. Ultimately, even after the two fell completely in love with each other, she did not alter the plan and Will died.
Lou's family irked me. A lot. She was a huge source of income for them and never asked for anything for herself but they constantly put her down or made comments about her lack of intelligence. Her parents never pushed her to do better or have her own life because they were too worried about themselves. They were nicer and mostly supportive by the end and were funny at times, but they still needed to learn the definition of family. Lou and her sister also had some really immature fights, as in thirteen-year-old girl fights, which was a little off-putting.
Lou’s boyfriend Patrick was annoying. His girlfriend was falling for someone else, sure, I get his frustration there. He really shouldn’t have been surprised that after seven years (I think) of focusing on himself - with no discussion of their future - she moved on. Go Lou. Run, don’t walk, away. And even worse, once he understood that she was spending so much time with Will in an effort to save his life, he told local media the story in revenge! Come on, Neville. I saw that one coming a mile away.
I've seen several reviews where people say the only reason Lou changed for the better was for a man and therefore it was not valid or admirable. Normally, I tend to agree with that sort of assessment in romance novels but not this time. Lou needed a catalyst to overcome her fear of life. Man or not, Will Traynor was the person to do that. He was blunt with her but allowed her to work through the fear. It's not a crime against feminism to be positively influenced by a man you love. It’s not as though Lou couldn’t function away from Will; rather, he equipped Lou to take care of herself the way her own family wouldn't even do. She became independent and unafraid because of him. And so what if he left her money? She touched his life and genuinely cared about him, as opposed to the polite reserve he probably received from everyone else.
There were a few character point of view changes toward the end. I could’ve done without those. The end of the novel needed to remain in Lou’s point of view since that’s what we had had all along. It just didn’t add to the story.
Will’s decision, as I’ve said, surprised me. I was expecting a last minute change of his plans where he chose life with Lou and they lived happily ever after. (You know, the typical "our love shall overcome all!" ending of romance novels.) I don’t really want to get too far into my opinion on the “right to die” debate because honestly, that’s something where I understand both sides of the issue. Do I believe life is precious and you should fight for it no matter what? Yes. Do I understand that people don’t want to spend their remaining time feeling like a burden to others and in constant pain? Yes, though I want to emphasize that EVERY life is worth living even if disabled. Will's pain really broke my heart. I can't possibly understand the struggles a disabled or terminally ill person goes through. For what it’s worth, they have my highest respect. You'll never hear me say their life isn't worth living or fighting for.
I very strongly disliked the insinuation that Lou’s future had more to offer than Will’s. The hashtag the movie promoted was #LiveBoldly. Lou, the abled person, eventually did this...but not Will. Will enjoyed his last 6 months with Lou more than any since his accident. He went places and experienced again, but he didn’t choose to live. I wish he had.
In summary, it's a good read if you're looking for a new romance novel and don't mind the polarizing assisted suicide topic. The “live life to the fullest” mantra wasn’t cheesy like I expected and the romance was sweet. My rating is a 3 out of 5. There’s a sequel to this novel but I doubt I'll read it any time soon.