Ever since I started my editing business, my time for casual reading has gone from bad to worse. And I know, I know, I could be knocking out a chapter or two rather than playing around with Snapchat filters… but on days when I declare myself “off work”, sometimes my eyes/brain just want to relax. Sometimes I want to write my own stories instead of reading those of others. And sometimes I just want to sit around in my pajamas and drink wine and watch HGTV.
But this book, I mean… okay. I saw the trailer for the movie (coming out in JULY which is just way too far away) and I instantly knew this would be a book I’d love. So I came into it biased, but hey. You can’t blame a girl. Plus I’d been seeing raving reviews for it everywhere in the past few months, so… I forgive myself and you should too.
So for my birthday, Robbie bought me a paperback copy of the book. I had to wait about a week to start it because I was so booked with work, but as soon as I got the chance I plopped down on my bed, fluffed up my pillows and burrowed into the covers, and dug in. I devoured it in two evenings.
I’ll start by saying that this is definitely not a romance. To quote “500 Days of Summer“, Me Before You is “not a love story, it’s a story about love.” And for me at least, that is so much better.
And so much more heartbreaking.
We’ll get to that part in a second.
The first thing I noticed was the quality of the writing. One page in and I was already loving it; it felt lilting and playful, just like the main character Louisa, and I found myself laughing and loving her quirkiness right off the bat. Louisa was an average girl, twenty-six but still living at home, and she didn’t really have any goals. (Normally I wouldn’t like this because it screams “weak character!” but there is a solid reason behind it.) She was content to live at home and remain in her loveless relationship and work at the same old bakery year after year. That is, until the bakery closed up shop. Pushed out the door with three months’ paycheck in an envelope, she is suddenly forced to begin some changes.
After months of fruitless job hunting, she finally finds something she thinks she can do: care and companionship for a recently disabled man. And while their first few meetings are filled with a mutual dislike bordering on hate, Louisa and Will slowly come to find themselves needing each other more than they could have expected. As Louisa opens up to Will about her fears from the past, he begins to soften around the edges, and the two form a bond stronger than just love.
After Me Before You left me a sobbing wreck, it had me wanting more. I actually woke up in the middle of the night after finishing it and was unable to fall asleep because I was contemplating the questions that Moyes raised, both moral and personal. They were questions not often seen in the romance genre: freedom of choice, the ability to die with dignity, lack of autonomy, emotional healing, letting go, etc. Perhaps the biggest was this: is it wrong to do the thing that will devastate the ones close to you? Is it selfish to refuse to settle for a life you never wanted, even if it means breaking the heart of someone who loves you?
This is one of those times I wish my town had a real book club: I need to TALK about these things, darn it! But all in all, the philosophical side of this book is what stole my heart. The romance was fresh and gave me little butterflies, but I don’t think that is or should be the focus of the book, even if the author (or other readers) might disagree. I would urge anyone, man or woman, young or old (perhaps not too young) to check this book out and then think deeply about the circumstances. Was Will’s family after their own happiness, or did they care about Will’s? Was Will’s choice selfish? Or was Louisa, for wanting him to choose differently?
And perhaps my FAVORITE part of the book is … its title. Seriously, it’s genius, even though it’s so simple. Me Before You could mean so many different things: it could mean Louisa and her easy, mindless life before she learns to move on from the past; it could mean Will’s career and adventurous lifestyle before his accident; but my favorite idea is that Me Before You refers to their choices in the end, and the way that Will had to decide: was he going to retain his autonomy and make this one choice, no matter what? Was he going to lay down and accept the life he never wanted, a life that left him scarred and depressed, or was he going to choose his freedom from that over anything (or anyone) else?
Do yourself a favor and read this book, if only for the philosophical parts.