Me Before You
I absolutely devoured this book. A friend had recommended Me Before You to me, and I read it (somewhat reluctantly at first) because I tend to not jump on the reading trend trains spurred by upcoming films. But Me Before You took me for a loop. Completed in basically one sitting, I sat in bed and sobbed. I won’t get into the plot for fear of spoilers (my mother actually revealed a pretty big secret before I started it — still bitter about that), but suffice to say that you want to schedule a pretty big chunk of time to read this one. It is vacation reading, or sick time reading, or reading when life just asks for a big cry.
I didn’t know I needed to know Will Traynor when I began this novel, but after I met him, I can’t look at life the same way. That is because Jojo Moyes wastes no time embracing readers with humor and personality. It wasn’t necessarily Will’s tragedy that made me love him — it was him. The reader is there experiencing all of his pain, and all of Louisa Clark’s pain, and his mother’s pain, and her boyfriend’s frustrations. And, somehow, I cared about every single one of them. This book is one held up by the people in it.
“I never knew you could care about fictional characters so much,” my mother commented, and she is right. These two novels are the special kind that leave you capable of having conversations with the characters after you close the book. You know them that well, and you will grow attached. That’s why it’s good writing. I laughed out loud and cried like it was happening to me. It is sad, but it is a safe place to go, too.
So go. Read.
I will admit it took me a few weeks of recovering from Me Before You before I cracked the sequel. It was such an emotional experience the first time that I didn’t have the energy to re-enter that world for a little while. But I finally did this past weekend, while I was recovering on the couch from having my wisdom teeth out (ugh).
I wondered how Moyes was going to follow up the story. She needed to give us something — some sort of answer to Louisa’s pain — and she did that in spades. After You is a much more complicated novel than it’s predecessor, but I think that is part of her point. Life is complicated. We get lost. We fall, sometimes, into places that really, really hurt. We experience things that seem unreal, impossible, unfair. But then, somehow, bones heal and you stop crying, drinking, hiding every single day.
Moyes does an amazing job of weaving several new characters and plot lines into this novel — Lily, Sam, Josie, Camilla, Louisa, Treena, Bernard — these are all people who grow from page one. I won’t say more to the effect of plot because, again, go read.
The biggest thing I took away from After You was satisfaction. It wrapped things up, the way a novel should, but also left enough hanging threads to feel real. It wasn’t a perfect fairy-tale ending, but it is a happy one. And happiness is never perfect, is it?
The other huge thing that After You gave me was the sense of being understood. No matter how much we love our families, friends, and significant others, they can’t see into our brains. Especially when we don’t even know what’s going on up there. I didn’t know I needed someone to say the things Louisa did. But Louisa did say them, and now I’m a little more okay, and I am going to buy copies of both books, because these are ones I will return to.