Me Before You
by Jojo Moyes
I had been on the fence about reading this book for such a long time -- there was so much hype about it, but I was never convinced it would be my kind of thing (the movie trailer finally prompted me to read it). Turns out I was wrong about that, because I did sort of love it, but my feelings about the book are complicated.Summary: 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.
I enjoyed the book while I was reading, although it did drag a bit in certain parts and I didn't really like the random POV's thrown in every so often (I think there were 4 chapters like that? And the book would've worked just fine, if not better, without them)...but when I finished it, I realised it hadn't gotten under my skin as much as it should have, and it's one of those ones where the positive feelings I had will dim over time until I forget I even read it.
I think the problem is the romance. Maybe because the book (and movie) was marketed as being a romance, I expected more from that aspect of it (I knew how it would end, so it wasn't even that it didn't end the way I would've liked, because I knew what I was getting into). But something felt off about Will and Louisa's relationship. He was constantly trying to change her, to push her to do things he felt she should be doing with her life, frequently he would get pretentiously judgemental of her and things she liked/of the things she hadn't done, and it got to the point where their age gap and the difference in social class felt almost uncomfortable...it became more teacher/reluctant student (Louisa acknowledges this herself with Pygmalion/My Fair Lady comparisons).
I loved the characters as individuals, and I could understand why he was that way and why she'd react the way she did but it still made it so they never really felt like they were equals even though they loved each other. In the end, I did genuinely like them together and their scenes were my favourite in the book, and I was rooting for them...but yeah, I expected -- I dunno, something more from the love story than what it delivered?
Plus, it's one of those books that makes the current boyfriend really obnoxious and it's like it's done that way to make the intended love interest seem amazing by comparison -- and it works, but it's annoying and tends to feel like lazy writing (like the author wanted the added conflict of having him in the way for a time, but can't be bothered writing him well enough to make the reader care or to make the decision to end things difficult for the main character).
So yeah, while I liked the romance, those aspects made it feel kind of lacking. Maybe my expectations were at fault, but either way, it didn't meet them. I wouldn't even really class it as a romance, just a book with a romantic subplot -- but there's no way to really explain what the heart of the book is without spoiling it. The strength of Lou and Will's relationship was in the unlikely friendship they formed, not the romance.
I loved the family aspect of the books and seeing the difference in Will and Lou's family dynamics. And I loved all the stuff relating to Will's condition, and the fact that it showed that you can't always fix something broken with a love story.
That's all I can say about the book without spoilers really. Which is annoying, because the main part of the book, the part I most want to discuss is the spoiler-y parts (and the fact that the bulk of my review is discussing the romantic subplot really perpetuates the annoying idea that the story is about romance when it wasn't and that was one of its weakest parts).
I'd rate the book 4.5 stars out of 5, because it was really good -- the things that bothered me about it were less about me not liking it and more that those things stopped me from really, really loving it.
Update: I've since seen a lot of criticism about the story line perpetuating a harmful idea about people with disabilities. If you read the book/watch the movie, it's a good idea to look into that and listen to what people have to say about it so you can recognise the issues.