Couple of things bothered me, and in the end, the movie fixed those things that bothered me. I also can’t unsee Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin in the main roles so OF COURSE I bawled throughout the last quarter of the book.
Note: This is a movie tie-in book review, because why not.
ME BEFORE YOU
by Jojo Moyes
Penguin Books, July 2013
Rated: 4 / 5 cookies
They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .
Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.
Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.
Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure me liking the movie has everything to do with my rating of the book. If I hadn’t watched the movie (in which the deciding factor was definitely the beautiful Sam Claflin and the quirky Emilia Clarke), I probably wouldn’t have rated the book as high.
But let me start from the beginning, which is the fact that oh my, Mari is reading contemporary fiction! What is happening in the world?! Seriously, though, this is as far left field in my taste of books, but then again, when do I really listen to fantasy much on audiobook these days?
In truth, I read this solely because it has been in my queue for a while now, and because as painful as it had been to watch the movie the first time, I ended up watching it again (I’m a masochist, so sue me), and then I ended up putting this book on hold as an audiobook for later.
Mostly it’s because of this.
Anyway, the book for me was great when it came to the interaction between Louisa and Will, and occasionally the smattering of perspective in a different person made the book worth reading. Lou’s interaction with Camilla was definitely awkward and stilted, and honestly, I loved it when Camilla was in the room, even though she showed up very infrequently throughout the book. It just made the whole situation more realistic, and I was honestly more gutted about Camilla’s sadness over Will than Lou’s up until the end.
Unfortunately, what drove me up the wall was the fact that absolutely no one in Lou’s book-family was in any way supportive of anything she did. And yet half the time it was Lou who was helping put food on the table. (Yes, I get that her sister was struggling and trying to get a career amidst being a single mom, but honestly, her sister couldn’t get any more obnoxious, and I refuse to sympathize.) There were supposed to be moments where the older–and smarter–sister was supposed to be redeemable, because oh yes, she totally supported Lou in her lowest time (which, by the way, was NOT OKAY AND TOTALLY LEFT FIELD WHY DID WE EVEN ADD A RAPE HERE), but I don’t see it, and one or two small events don’t make up for years of being a shit older sister.
Honestly, other than Nathan, Camilla, Lou, and Will, the other characters annoyed me. Will’s sister comes in raging, even though she hasn’t been around the Traynors in years, Lou’s family belittles Lou to the point of ridiculousness, Patrick is kind of a twat and I’m honestly thankful she eventually breaks from him. I suppose if you’re trying to write a romance about a girl whose life is changed by a broken boy, then maybe every other character has to suck so that Lou can finally see the error in her way of living. To be honest, I was okay with her way of living. It was simple and calming and unhurried, and the only problem I saw was Lou needing to find people who don’t actually suck.
Thankfully, the movie took care of that by giving us characters who aren’t uninterestingly one-sided in their suckiness. Jenna Coleman plays the sister, who–as a person who absolutely hated her performance in Doctor Who–actually wasn’t too bad. Lou’s parents were tolerable, though I honestly forgot about them half the time, and Patrick–played by Matthew Lewis–was still obnoxious but hilariously so. I think that had mostly to do with the fact that I cannot unsee him as Neville Longbottom.
The story is sad, and my viewpoint on assisted suicide is lukewarm at best. Will’s situation didn’t particularly strike me as the worst life ever, but I understand that losing the ability of being able to do the things you love is gutting. And Will was a very extroverted person, to boot. I tried to imagine what would happen if I’d never been able to walk again after suffering from a car accident (in which a car hit me, the pedestrian), and yeah, the future would have been bleak. But I’d still have some faculties to me, and dammit, take that tragedy and write a tell-all, why won’t I? So personally, I wouldn’t decide to just end it all. That said, I also believe in choice, and as selfish as Will was, I dunno, would anyone have been able to stop him if he was really so adamant?
Yeah, that thinking gets tricky, especially if depression is an issue. (Which, to be honest, doesn’t seem that way?)
Really, I enjoyed the movie. I bawled by the end (that letter he writes is just as sad when Sam Claflin orates it, but also equally so when being read in the audiobook). And because I did enjoy the movie, I mostly enjoyed the book.
And I will always find the entire scene with the bumblebee tights as the best scene ever, and I can watch that over and over again, just for Emilia Clarke freaking out.
4 out of 5 cookies! I probably won’t read the other two books after this. I’d like to end knowing Lou is in the process of using her experience as a bouncing-off point and that she becomes successful in life. I’m pretty sure she does in the long run, I just don’t feel like reading the rest of the drama to confirm this.