I loved Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. It was the first book I read this year and, while there were parts that reduced me to a sniveling mess, I felt it was a perfect book to start off the year. When I read Swapna Krishna’s review of the book, I begged her to let us share it with you here, because she said how I felt about the book exactly. It is reprinted here with her permission.
When the café where Louisa Clark works announces it’s going to close, she’s bereft. After all, she knows her parents depend on her paycheck to help out at home and she has no idea what she’s going to do next. An opportunity falls into her lap, though, with Will Traynor. Will was an attractive risk seeker who was taken down by the most mundane of things: a car. Now, he’s paralyzed and his mother believes that he needs someone to keep him company and lift his spirits. At first, Louisa is bewildered by Will’s bad attitude, but as she gets to know him, she comes to see him for who he is, beyond the wheelchair.
Me Before You is a difficult book to describe, and an even harder one to review, simply because it is just that good. It seems like the simplest of storylines: young girl is hired to care for guy in wheelchair. But this book is so much more than that. It has heart and soul and wit; it’s a novel that will have you laughing with joy, but also sobbing with everything you have in you. Moyes manages to make the reader incredibly emotionally involved with both the characters and the story without manipulating them. As a result, this is an honest, down to earth read that floored me.
Moyes has created realistic and sympathetic characters in Me Before You. Louisa is charming and wonderful. She’s not perfect, mind you, but she’s oh-so-easy to fall in love with. Will is more difficult at the beginning; he’s prickly, and it’s clear he (for good reason) resents his circumstances. It’s wonderful to see Louisa have an effect on him, but also to see how Will changes Louisa. It’s a unique relationship that really does come about organically.
There are definitely aspects of the storyline of Me Before You that are predictable. But there are also surprises around every corner, both large and small. It’s the type of novel that’s full of small delights, little things that you don’t expect that are just so much fun. But it’s also a difficult novel to read at times. Will’s disability is gut-wrenchingly difficult. There’s a darker side to this book, to be sure. It has all the messiness of real life, and whether you like it or not, things aren’t always easy and tidy.
One of the many things that Me Before You does extremely well is show just how difficult it is for a person in a wheelchair. Just going out to lunch is a huge ordeal for Will; it’s understandable why he’d just rather stay at home. Every time he goes out, he’s reminded of his accident, of what he’s lost, because it’s so hard for him to accomplish anything and he’s so dependent on others. It’s so dejecting and sad, and Moyes portrays the psychological side effects of this vividly.
Me Before You is, quite simply, one of the best books I’ve ever read. It has so much depth and wisdom within its pages. Read it for book club, read it on a plane, read it on a dark and stormy night or by the pool — you can read it anywhere, but make sure you read it.
Other books by Jojo Moyes:
Swapna is a freelance writer, editor, and book reviewer and is an avid reader. She has been blogging at S. Krishna’s Books since 2008. When not reading and blogging, she enjoys watching TV, exploring craft beer, traveling, and spending time with her husband.
About Marybeth Whalen
Marybeth Whalen is the co-founder of She Reads, mother of six, and life-long reader. She is also the author of two novels with a third out in July: The Mailbox, She Makes It Look Easy, and The Guest Book.