What is a classic book trope that ladies like to read over the summer or on vacation? Romantic novels! What’s the year’s biggest romantic novel turned into a major motion picture, therefore bumping up it’s readership? “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes…except also not?
So here’s the deal. There’s a lot of stuff in this book that’s part of the traditional Boy-meets-Girl-and-falls-in-love narrative. Our protagonist is Lou Clark, an out of work waitress who lives at home with her parents, has a kind if vapid boyfriend, no motivation, and is desperate for a job. She’s super quirky – listen to the descriptions of her ridiculous outfits! She’s not super pretty, and the reason for this is…she’s quite short? Basically, her life was very meh before she lost her job, but since it turns out she’s the primary breadwinner for her extended family, she has to take the first non-horrible job that comes up (the employment agency sent her to work with chickens – no thank you). And that first job is caring for a quadriplegic man for six months. She’ll make more in this time than she would have in a couple years at other minimum wage jobs, so she’s going to stick it out no matter what. And then it turns out the young man who requires caring is rich and handsome and…
Oh right, he’s an arse too. And angry and with a frustrating home life, and the reason that the contract is only 6 months long is because…I won’t spoil it for you. But if you’ve got half a brain and can think of reasons why a man confined to a wheelchair might only contract a caregiver for a period of time less than a year, I can tell you now that you’re probably right.
The book itself isn’t really a big romantic thing the way that the ads and trailers for the movie version will make you think it is. Yes, there is a little bit of romance, and at one point, feelings are professed, but it’s amazing to see how the feelings are dealt with. It all feels very realistic in how that happens. Not every situation in life is a big romantic one where a romance is mutual and soul-engaging. Instead, sometimes there are extenuating circumstances.
I’m amazed that the controversial issue at the heart of the book (and by relation, the movie) haven’t become a bigger issue surrounding how this book is discussed. Maybe it is. A gentle googling of the associated term with the title of the book leads me to more people who say that the book is pro-issue when in fact, reading it made Lou out to be more anti-issue than pro, but reluctantly accepting at the end, because adult people of sound mind are allowed to make reasonable choices about what to do with their bodies. She does literally everything in her power (and uses the power of others to boost her own) in order to make the case for anti-issue. But as we know from this current election cycle, there are people who will not be convinced – not by facts, or reason or emotion.
Is it a fun book? On occasion – it definitely picks up once the main relationship is pivoted, but turns back to depressing towards the end. Will you cry? Maybe? I don’t remember if I did, which makes me think I didn’t. Is it a quick read? Yes. Lou is an engaging narrator, and we get the added benefit of occasional narrative look-ins from other main characters that let us see a greater picture of what’s happening in that little world. The movie did fairly well in theaters, and I read it in large part hoping to go to the movie, but since it’s no longer in theaters, I’ll have to wait for either HBO or the second run place nearby. And I’ve already got myself on the list at the library for the sequel, with hopes that it’ll have a cheerier ending!
Who else has read the book? If you want, we can totally discuss the main issue of concern in the comments. It’s a bit of a doozy.
Details: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, first published 2012 by Pamela Dorman Books