If you missed my 2016 year-in-review post about books that gave us feels from a couple of days ago, you should go check that out, because Me Before You was featured in it. Consider that your warning. There will be feels when you read this book (or watch the movie, but I would recommend the book, which I’ll get into in a bit). And it’s not, like, one tear on your cheek as you close the book. I’m talking sloppy, drippy crying, y’all. Like I said, you’ve been warned.
Louisa Clark is a normal girl in a small town. She’s had the same job for years, the same boyfriend for years, lived in the same house with her family for years. She’s never really done anything, and she’s okay with that. But then she loses her job—the café she’s been working at all this time closes unexpectedly one day. She has to find a new job, and fast—her family has trouble making ends meet as it is. After a few dead ends, she finds a new job as a caregiver for a quadriplegic who used to live large before a terrible accident (Will Traynor). Will is callous and moody, but Lou doesn’t let him push her around. Before either of them know what’s happening, all each of them wants is to make the other happy. But what if making someone happy means letting them go completely?
Okay, wow, just writing that made me sad all over again. There are some really good things in this book, but there are some problems, too (as with everything, really). I’ll start with the good.
Lou is funny. Personally, I enjoy British humor, so maybe that’s part of why I liked her as a character so much. More than anything, this book is about Lou’s own journey to self-discovery, even if it may not seem like it from the synopsis. At the beginning of the book, she’s meek. She gets pushed around by her boyfriend (more on him in a minute). She gets pushed around by her sister. She doesn’t know how strong she really is. And that changes throughout the book. I love seeing that kind of growth in a female character. Lou felt very genuine to me, and I enjoyed seeing the story through her eyes.
Okay, I promised a bit about the boyfriend, Patrick. I know he’s played by Neville Longbottom in the movie, but you guys—he’s terrible (Patrick, not Neville). It truly seems like a case of him taking something for granted (that would be Lou), but I couldn’t wait for her to ditch him. She outgrew him. He didn’t support her dreams or her passions. And I just… I hated him. Even from his very first appearance, I just hated him.
The other thing that I really appreciated (I don’t think “liked” is the best word, and you’ll see why) is the scene in the hedge maze on the castle grounds. Something terrible happened in Lou’s past, and she was able to work through it with the help of Will. It was both heartwarming and heartbreaking and it was that scene that made me fall in love with Lou and Will together (AND THEY DIDN’T INCLUDE IT IN THE MOVIE HOW DARE THEY??). We all have things in our lives that we have to conquer. That was Lou’s mountain, and Will helped her climb it, and I loved it so much.
You may have noticed that I’ve hardly mentioned Will in all of this. Yes, he’s a key character in this book, but all of my problems with it lie with Will and how he is portrayed. He was in a terrible accident, one that took most of his body’s functions. He lost his life and his health and his friends. I get all of that. But this book really wasn’t a good representation of disability. It made it seem like quadriplegics can’t live even kind of normal lives. And I know the whole book is about Will wanting to be away from his pain and suffering, but is that really the best message to be sending to readers? I think part of it is that I wanted more of Lou and Will, but it was also that he could have kept living a fairly normal life. He chose not to. And while I don’t object to that (people have the right to choose whatever for their lives), in this case, I’m not sure it was the best portrayal of disability.
Did any of you both read the book and see the movie? What were your thoughts? I’d love to hear other opinions!
Me Before You is available wherever books are sold. There is also a sequel, After You, which is also available where books are sold.