Review: Me Before You

My mum’s been nagging me for over a year, “Pick up that book by Jojo Moyes. You know, Me Before You. You’ll love it.” I grumbled a bit, dragged my feet several months, and finally caved. [Note: I drag my feet at “trendy” bestsellers, because I often dread the mundane and artless writing that appeals to the masses. Call me a bookish snob if you wish; I accept that criticism.]

After months of repeated demands that I read Moyes’ Me Before You, I picked up a copy at the local Hastings store and settled in for some rare weeknight reading. (Last week of school = very little evening prep work, praise the Lord!) I faltered a bit at the start — My attention span is wonky. How do you do this extended reading thing, again? — but after Zack settled in for an evening on the PS4, I shut off my phone and succumbed to bliss.

The novel starts with a prologue, the only section of the novel told from the perspective of the male lead, Will Traynor. The start is a bit cliché, if I’m going to be quite honest:

Sexy, suave, successful man is on his way to work after a night of wining and dining an equally sexy, suave, successful woman who desires a trip abroad. Man teases woman before heading out the door and onto the crowded streets of London, where he innocently checks messages while simultaneously hailing a cab. Man is hit by oncoming traffic. [End scene.]

At this point in the story, I’m not super invested; but I’ve seen the trailer for the movie and I’ve become quite enamored with Emilia Clarke after her debut as Daenerys Targaryan on HBO’s adaptation of Game of Thrones. I remind myself how badly I want to see this movie, and how much I despise reading books after I’ve seen their film adaptations. Begrudgingly, I overlook Moyes’ somewhat trite beginning and read on.

The story shifts forward two years to the perspective of one Louisa (Lou) Clark, a 26-year-old oddball who lives with her parents and works at the Buttered Bun, a local tea shop, as a waitress. Unfortunately for Lou, her beloved cafe is nearing its demise as a local castle and tourist hotspot opens the doors of its very own restaurant. Lou’s family faces struggles of its own during this economic recession, and she is forced to search for other employment — any other job — in order to support her financially handicapped household.

Plot twist: poor, unstable Lou meets wealthy, embittered quadriplegic, Will. She becomes his caregiver. She endures his stoic glares, his snarky comments, and his bristling persona for weeks — only to discover, by accident, that there’s a witty, endearing, charming person hiding behind that icy facade.

I won’t elaborate on future plot twists — you’ll want to discover those for yourself. The book is a quick, satisfying read, full of emotion and funny bits mixed with hard-to-accept realities. This is the novel to pick up if you’re stuck inside on a rainy summer day, with nowhere to go and no people to see (you will ugly-cry…a lot…if you have a soul).

Me Before You is one of those rare, evocative novels that will initiate uncontrollable, body-wracking sobs [spoiler: expect this for at least the last 30 pages of the book]; girlish butterflies from stomach to throat; and (many) audible chuckles from the living room sofa. My verdict: get a copy, quickly, and finish prior to the movie’s release date (June 3)!

Overall rating: 4.5 / 5