Genre: Fiction, Romance
Author: Jojo Moyes
Length: 369 pages
My rating: 6/10 (5 points for plot, 1 bonus point for its ability to convey the subject of disability and the multifaceted controversy of assisted suicide)
Here is a wonderful summary written by the bookmaiden at bookmaiden.wordpress.com:
” Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.”
Disclaimer: In the spirit of writing a completely honest review, I must dive into the unpopular realm of unpopular opinions. This happens to my personal opinion only. If you loved this book. Good for you. We just happen to have different tastes in stories. We should enjoy our differences. It’s all fine.
If I was being honest, I picked this book up only because of sheer mass approval. Booktubers have been raving about it. Rotten Tomatos did a review on its film. Everyone and their dog has been reading this book and loving it. So I was surprised to find that I did not enjoy the book very much at all. The only redeeming thing about this novel was that it only took me up until the end to figure out how much I disliked it. It was well-written, well-developed, and engaging that is until the romance actually began.
So, why did I not like it as much as I should have? It all comes down to the wrong marketing. From the goo-goo-eyed cover, and the simpering looks I got in the trailer, I thought that I was getting a romantic story, instead I found myself reading a tale about the coming-of-age of a young woman.
Now don’t get me wrong. I love coming-of-age stories. Adore them in fact. I also knew before reading that this was not going to be a nice, happy romance which happened to be the reasom that compelled me to pick up the book in the first place. I have a horrible propensity for tragic romances. Angst. Character death. Unreciprocated pining. All that jazz. I love to watch characters fall apart, and I love to fall apart with them.
So, what did I do when I found myself halfway into Me Before You and realizing that although there happens to be a perfectly wonderful story about a young woman coming to terms with responsibility and respect, the focus of everyone reading it (not to mention selling it as well) was the romance? The nearly nonexistent romance I must add.
Throughout the course of the novel, we see Lou growing into herself. She faces her fears. She comes to terms with her family. She learns to expand her horizons. She redefines the way she saw herself. Lou transformed from a woman with no ambitions and dreams to one who saw her own potential for both.
Then we have Will Traynor.
Personally, I love Will. Moyes wrote a great character when she brought Will into life. When she snapped his spinal chord and threw him into a domestic prison full of despair, Will Traynor became even better. He became realistic. Moyes did a fantastic job with Will. Will was a conductor for a respectable insight into the lives of the disabled. Through Will, we were able to understand the processes of someone considering assisted suicide. There was no sugarcoating the life of a broken man, and Will Traynor projected the existence of one well.
Lou was inspiring. Will was relatable.
Together, they were a dud.
Lou and Will picked each other up. Lou made Will happy, and Will taught Lou how to dream bigger. As friends they complemented each other. That was how the first three quarters of the book played out, a well-written story about friendship. Not expected, but also not bad. In fact, it was all quite nice.
Then the storm hit (literally), and the romance we all expected began to form.
This was my main strife with the book. The romance felt unreal. Unlike the characters themselves, I was unable to believe. Not even for a second. Yes, you may argue, they needed time to cozy up to one other. They needed development. Part of that development happened in the phase of their friendship when they learned to confide in each other. Their friendship was supposed to be, in theory, the foundation for their romance.
So, I expected the romance to build upon that friendship. If they had such good chemistry as friends, then surely they would blow up an expensive lab with their romantic relationship. No such luck. What I got instead was a very underdeveloped and honestly, pitifully small love story.
There were several reasons why I felt that their romance was weak. One was Lou’s frightful reversion back to her dependent, dare I say needy, self. Her identity and self esteem was caught up in her relationship with Will Traynor once the promise of a romance between the two really started looking inevitable.
Another reason was that the romance on Will’s part seemed, for lack of better words, insubstantial. I did not feel throughout the course of the novel that Will was truly in love with Lou. There was attraction, yes. But, love? If he did feel it, I did not see it.
Spoiler: I did not expect Will to choose a different end based solely on his love for Lou. It would have made the story a bit contrite and benign if he did. I did expect to see him struggling profusely with the idea of a life of pain and happiness with Lou or one of empty calmness with death. If Lou had changed his life, then Will should have had more to consider. It felt as if everything that Lou had done, everything that she was had not been enough for Will to even rethink his decision. From that point on, I could only see the huge disparity in their love for each other. And while that will make for a good novel with a different story, it certainly did not work for one promising a romantic encounter like it does in this one.
The last qualm I had about the romance was the brevity of it. The build up was pretty much the majority of the book. This happened to be the growing friendship that I had previously remarked on. The actual romantic relationship played out within a few chapters. It was set in a sort of holiday type of setting which was all fine except that it their love seem a bit distant from reality, a bit rushed as well. Moyes could have explored their romantic relationship in the context of harsh reality, in addition to the honeymoon, dream-like state we were actually given. I would have liked to see the two take on life as a disabled couple, together in the “real world”. I would have liked to witness their arguments and painful insecurities. I would have like to see their bond grow stronger as they confess, accept each other, and reconnect.
We were given some sort of this, but it was abbreviated, the bud snapped off before it could even begin to bloom. Which was a crying shame, because it certainly had the potential.
My final say about this novel is that it was a good novel. The characters were good. They were good for each other up to a certain point. If you are looking for a romantic story that tears at your heartstrings, stay far away from this. However, if you want an insightful exploration of relationships and friendship in disability and the growth of a lost girl into a determined woman, then you may like what this book have to offer.
For the daily prompt: Luxury