Series: Me Before You #1
Published by Pamela Dorman Books on December 31, 2012
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Louisa Clark is an ordinary young woman living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never 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.
A love story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?
First I noticed the red cover. Then I began to see this book make rounds again and again. But it wasn’t until I read Hannah’s thoughts on So Obsessed With that I really wanted to pick up the book and give it a try. Normally when I read a book like this one, I have to read slowly and process all of the information. In this instance, I couldn’t help but read the book much quicker than I normally would because I because so invested in the lives of Lou Clark and Will Traynor.
After Lou loses a job that she loves dearly, she is devastated. Because her family depends on her for income, she has to dive headfirst back into the workforce, accepting pretty much the first job that becomes available to her. Lou never would have imagined that she would become private caretaker to a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic, but the pay is extraordinary and her family urges her to at least give it a try. So Lou takes the job.
At first, Will does not make things easy for Lou. He is bitter about how his life has turned out, and understandably so. Before his unfortunate accident, he was an active man – he enjoyed a myriad of extreme sports, he had an active social life, and he was a force in the business world. But now? Will feels that he has been reduced to practically nothing. When Lou meets him, he is so sarcastic and rude to her that she isn’t sure she can stand to be around him.
Lou is incredible. Perpetually colorful and happy, even down to the way she dresses. She tries to look on the bright side of things. She never gives up on Will, even when he pushes her away with his angry words and venomous tones. Eventually, Lou and Will begin to bond over movies and music and books – before she knows it, she’s found a way into his head, his heart, his life.
See, Will can’t stand the way everyone tiptoes around him – it annoys him to no end. His family and his old friends treat him as if he’s breakable when in fact, he just wants to be treated as close to normal – as close to the old Will – as possible. The thing Will likes about Lou is that when he gave her a hard time, she gave it right back. She didn’t put up with his nasty behavior. She was honest with him and met him head-on. Will appreciated this. For the first time since his accident, he felt like he found someone that understood him at least a little. Will found a friend. Then, over the course of six-ish months, Will and Lou became very close. Very, very close.
The relationship between Will and Lou is a joy to read, in both the good times and the hard times. Lou is patient with Will, taking care to learn everything she needs to know about the care of someone in a wheelchair. Likewise, Will is patient with Lou, taking care to teach her everything she needs to know about someone living in a wheelchair. After six months, the feelings they have for each other go far beyond the bounds of what a caretaker normally feels for the person she is caring for. And this is the point where interesting becomes even more interesting.
So…this book took my heart, made it swell, and then broke it up into a million, billion pieces. If there is ever a book that can make you feel so happy and so sad at the same time, this is it. What I mean is that there are such a broad range of emotions that accompany Me Before You, and they are all felt so very deeply – it is impossible not to be profoundly affected by this story. But I think that is what Jojo Moyes was hoping to accomplish when she wrote this, or at least I assume so.
I loved Will Traynor. I loved the way he was so expressive of himself at times and so guarded at other times. I feel like he was written so well, such a brilliant, brilliant character. I loved that he was bitter and angry at how his life turned out, because it felt authentic and true (what I assume to be true). I loved watching him open himself up a little bit at a time to Lou as she was able to reach him in ways that no one else could. The thing about Will was that all of his family and all of his friends (from his life before the accident) had written him off, had forgotten that he was a super-smart guy with a lot going for him. His parents assumed responsibility for his permanent care but never got him out of the house or encouraged him to be around other people like himself. For all intensive purposes – until Lou was hired – people treated Will like his mind changed just as much as his body, which wasn’t the case at all. I was so happy that Lou came into Will’s life.
And Lou was a lovely character as well. Her home life was a bit crazy. Her house reminded me of a flurry of activity all the time – people always coming and going, lots of noise, everyone depending on her to keep everything afloat – even her parents. Lou’s boyfriend Patrick was just awful – it was obvious that Lou didn’t feel a deep connection to him but kept him around because she felt like she couldn’t do any better. (I despised his character so much!) When Lou was in the scenes with Will, I almost felt like she was at her most relaxed even though her job was demanding, and I felt like she was developing and changing as a person so much for the better. Lou finished the book so much differently than she began it, and I loved the Lou at the end so much.
The relationship between Will and Lou is probably one of my favorite relationships that I’ve read in a while. After they found their groove, it was such an easy relationship even though it was not perfect. I loved being able to spy on their time together, to listen into their conversations, to watch them go about their business. I loved watching the two of them change and develop as people – both of them helped the other one in ways they each could never know, and I think that is so amazing and was written into the story so well. I actually felt like I was eavesdropping on real people, living a real life – making jokes, sitting beside one another, watching movies, etc. Reading the two of them together was such joy and pain.
For all of the great things about this book (and there are many), there is also a ton of emotional weight and sadness. Will is not the person he used to be. He will never be able to do most of the things that he could do before, and he mourns his past life without ceasing. No matter what Lou does, no matter how happy she makes him – Will is still sad about this, which made me sad too. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book in which I simultaneously felt happy and sad at the same time for such a great length of the book. Because of Will’s sadness, he makes some decisions that absolutely break my heart and made me cry. There is so much to this book that I’m not even mentioning here because it would spoil the plot.
Me Before You is one of the most discussable adult contemporary books I think I’ve ever read. It seems like everyone will likely have an opinion on some of the events that are included in the story. Whatever your opinions, however you feel, this book is one that is worth taking the time to read if you enjoy books that spark discussion and make you think. It’s been a while since I finished it and I’m still thinking about it – I have a feeling that won’t stop any time soon.