“I gazed around me, like someone suddenly handed clear glasses, and saw that pretty much everyone bore the brutal imprint of love.”
This was a good book. It wasn’t a great book, and it didn’t hit me the same way as Me Before You, but that’s because it wasn’t Me Before You. Comparing the two will undoubtedly leave you feeling cheated, because After You doesn’t have romance and tension seeping out of its pages like its predecessor. Where Me Before You was about choices and autonomy, After You is about living with the after-effects, and trying to move on.
So if you read this, try not to compare it to the previous book. The romance isn’t jumping off the page. Where Will and Lou had a burning, poignant chemistry, Lou and Sam have something calmer, quieter, steadier—something that will help the other heal.
I was personally not a fan of the grief process shown in this, either. At least for Lou. Lou has always struck me as somewhat of a mirror of myself; she reminds me of me in so many ways, and that’s one of the reasons I had to read this book. I had to know she was okay. What was disappointing was how she healed. In the end, it wasn’t she who got herself out of the rut of depression after Will’s death—it was everyone else. It was falling in love with Sam. It was taking care of Lily. We saw, again, Lou’s ability to care for everyone but herself. The same thing that Will tried to stamp out of her, to get to her to live life for herself and nobody else, was what she struggled with the most in this book. The worst part is that [SPOILERS] her decision at the end to take the job in New York wasn’t even initiated by her, it was pushed on her by everyone else: Treena constantly telling her she was wasting her opportunities (and Lou’s guilt at knowing that Treena didn’t have the same kind of freedom), Lily moving in with her grandmother and going off to school, and Sam saying she needed to do it.
So once again, Lou played it safe. We saw her doing this throughout the entire previous book, and here she was having her decisions made for her again. I just wish Lou had shown a bit of character growth in this book. She’s taking a risk, sure, but it’s the same risk she took after Will died by traveling by herself through Europe. The worst part is that I think any reader with a grasp on Lou’s character will see the obvious: Lou’s going to get to New York and she may feel like she’s “living” for once, but just like happened after her travels through Europe, the freedom will start feeling more like loneliness and she’ll end up spending most of her time working and sleeping, and then feeling guilty because once again she’s not really utilizing her opportunities.
So unfortunately the “happyish ending” doesn’t feel all that happy. Lou’s going to end up the same as she was in London, depressed and alone and not living, she’s going to miss Sam and miss Will and feel guilty. Overall it’s not really an uplifting book. It felt depressing to me, mostly because I feel like she’s never going to be as in love with Sam as she was with Will. It makes me hate Will a bit.
Also I have to continually remind myself that THESE ARE FICTIONAL CHARACTERS AND I SHOULDN’T CARE THIS MUCH. But every time I think about Will and Lou my stomach gets tied into knots.
So there’s my professional review.