Me Before You, Jojo Moyes

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The Premise

Lou Clark lives a simple life, working at the same coffee shop for her whole working life, dating Patrick, a steady man, for the last 7 years. But when the coffee shop closes, she is thrust into an unfamiliar world of care work. Her patient is Will, a young quadriplegic who is struggling to live with the pain and hopelessness his accident has left him feeling. He is determined to end his life… but can Lou save it?

The Verdict

I feel like I’m starting to make a habit of having to make these confessions and have to admit that I knew how this story went as I watched the movie first, a while ago. Both the movie and the novel were recommended by my younger sister. Now, she is very loyal and reads every blog post that I write, and it is with a heavy heart that I have to preface this review by saying that I found this novel very… ‘meh’… for lack of a better word, as I know she loves it!

Perhaps because the shock ending of Will committing assisted suicide was taken away, I didn’t really engage with the story or the writing. Rather than sticking to the first person narration of Lou, Moyes interspersed the odd first person narration of other characters – Will’s mum, Nate (Will’s nurse) and Treena (Lou’s sister). But these weren’t regularly spread out through the novel, they just kind of appeared as an extra that seemed a bit unnecessary. It was lazy writing really – Moyes didn’t want to have to explain it through Lou’s eyes and so brought in other narrators. If this had been regular, or more consistently done, it might have added to the story, but as it is, it is messy and just takes away from Lou’s narrative. Perhaps Moyes’ idea was to wrap everything up with the police report at the end of the novel and reveal that the writing had been a part of the police reports assessing the circumstances of Will’s death. If that was the case, it was even more poorly done than the general narrative. That in itself wasn’t a great framing to the novel – Moyes needs to become an expert in the narrative she is using before trying to frame it in different ways.

The story itself was sweet and honest, expressing the struggles of being a carer for a quadriplegic. I liked Lou’s exploration of the forums for quadriplegics, and found Moyes descriptions of how Lou had to care for Will moving and genuine. The internet is a remarkable resource now for people from all walks of life, and it’s nice to see it being utilised in this way. However, once again Moyes doesn’t really do it justice, ocasionally altering the text to show what Lou is reading but not focusing in on it. There was just wasn’t enough depth.

I found Lou’s relationship with Treena, and Moyes’ portrayal of Treena, especially frustrating. Treena is a 2D, selfish and self centred character. Her attempts to support Lou do not mitigate her absence of action when Lou was assaulted. The chapter in her voice shows a completely self centred character who is petty despite having a child and being at university – such as referring to Lou’s room as ‘it was still my room’. Moyes’ portrayal of the working class family is realistic, but exaggerated to the point where it can be ridiculed.

Speaking of ridicule… Patrick. ‘Running Man’ as Will calls him, is a shallow, self centred, obsessive jerk. At no time is his passion for eating well and exercising celebrated. His job is undermined by only really being mentioned when he makes the mistake of suggesting to Will that he could get better. Patrick had potential to be a deep and interesting character, but Moyes overwrites his obsession with exercise. The only time he felt like a real person was when he got angry about Lou’s holiday with Will – and understandable reaction. Lou had dated Patrick for 7 years and whilst Moyes hints that there was some change in him over that time as he became more obsessed, we see none of the good that Lou once saw in him. Moyes scraped the bottom of the barrel by making him the leak to the press regarding Will’s assisted suicide, which to me seemed out of the tiny little bit of character that he had portrayed. It was fine for Lou to break up with her boyfriend, but Moyes should have spent more time creating an actual believable character rather than getting out some frustration at people who do extreme sports.

Overall, the book was disappointing and despite its serious content, lacked the depth and maturity needed to truly engage the reader in the subject matter. I will read the sequel, once I’m done with Insurgent and Alligient, but after that I won’t be seeking out Moyes again.

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