– By Erin Takeuchi –
Me Before You is the first book in the Me Before You series. Louisa Clark isn’t considered anything special. She is pretty, but not gorgeous. She is hardworking, but not ambitious. And she is a small town girl with little desire to travel and see the world. After losing her waitressing job, Louisa is desperate to find anything to help her family pay the bills. When she takes a care assistant position, she meets Will Traynor, who is exactly her opposite. Will is sarcastic, moody, and uninterested in learning how to live a new life after an accident has left him a quadriplegic. Louisa is protective of him, but refuses to accept his condition as a life sentence. A little bit at a time, she is able to break down his barriers and become his friend. When she discovers a devastating secret, Louisa must prove to Will that there are still adventures worth having.
“You only get one life. It’s your duty to live it as fully as possible.”
After watching the movie trailer, of the same title, I was desperate to get my hands on a copy of Me Before You. I assumed it was going to be a cute tale about a down-on-her-luck small town girl who restores faith in an angry young man. But it was so much more than that. The book had some very sweet moments, but also addressed difficult issues like disability, suicide and the responsibility of family. Surprisingly, this book had funny, sweet and heartbreaking moments.
Louisa is a bubbly girl, but she doesn’t have much going for her. She spends the majority of the book crutched by other people – her sister’s advice, her boyfriend’s jealousy, and the Traynor’s secrecy – which annoyed me greatly. I wanted her to be strong and outgoing from the start. But as Louisa fumbles over her duties and holds her own against the sarcastic and resentful Will, she makes you love her a little more. Over the course of the story, with Will’s financial and emotional support, she becomes more independent and more determined to succeed.
On the other hand, Will is angry that the world he once knew – once loved – he can no longer take part in. He is definitely an emotional roller coaster, going from “what a jerk” moments like when he fakes having a seizure on Louisa’s first day, to “what a romantic” when he gives Louisa her favourite childhood tights for her birthday. Throughout, I didn’t find him to be ashamed of his quadriplegia, but rather resentful of the limitations that have been put upon him. His portrayal felt well-developed and thoughtful.
What I enjoyed about Me Before You was its respectful treatment of disability. Will was an interesting and very complex character that never faded into the background. Also, the close relationship that Will and Louisa developed over the course of the story felt very real and well paced. Whereas, relationships in other romance novels sometimes feel very rushed. Neither of them fell in love immediately (or at all, I think some reviewers would argue) and have their own issues they deal with throughout the book.
Overall, Me Before You was heartbreaking and very original. If the movie (which is out in June in Canada) is anything like the book, bring lots of chocolate and tissues!