Monday Review: Me Before You

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Review…

Summary:

This is another book in the quad-wants-to-die category, which tends to get me worked up. I’m waiting for a book where the quadriplegic doesn’t want to find a way to finish himself off. The quads I’ve known in real life were grateful to be alive and very appreciative of life, having come so close to losing it.

Anyway, the story is that Lou, a charming young woman with a quirky sense of style, gets hired to be the carer for a quadriplegic man even though she has no experience at all. It turns out that she was hired more because of her cheery nature in the hopes that she will help bring him out of depression.

Though the subject matter is heavy, it is a chick-lit style book.

I was very surprised to see how many reviews the book has on Amazon. In the UK, where it is published and based, there are some 700 reviews. I’ve never seen that many! I have no idea how that happened, but there were several one star reviews from people who were not expecting a chick-lit book, so let me warn you about that ahead of time!

The Good:

Never has 480 pages sailed by so quickly. The main character is sweet, endearing, and adorable. Her kooky family members are entertaining secondary characters. And the love that develops between Lou and Will is quite profound. It builds very, very slowly and blossoms into one of the most believable loves I’ve seen in fiction. Because it takes Lou so much time to realize her feelings, the love is that much deeper and more real.

Lou has her own past experiences and the lead up to that reveal is very subtle. I thought it was handled well.

I was glad that some other voices were included. Lou joins an online forum to help her learn about disability and meets some quads who don’t want to die. I wish that had been further developed, since we never get to meet a character who expresses that view.

The Bad:

I really was in suspense up until the very last moment as to how it would end. I think it honestly could have gone either way. It’s rare to read a romance not knowing how things will end. However, I didn’t feel as though the ending made the most sense with the book. It felt a little bit forced, like the author knew what message she wanted to give about assisted suicide (that it should be the choice of the person in question) and squeezed the characters into that mold. The characters themselves, I think, were not quite on board with the ending.

Almost the entire 480 page book is told from Lou’s first-person point of view, but there are five individual chapters scattered throughout where other characters take on the narrative (Will’s mother, Will’s father, Lou’s sister, and Will’s main carer). This was extremely disconcerting. Though it was interested to get those characters’ takes on things, it felt random, unplanned, and the first time it happened I had no idea it was only for one chapter, so at the next chapter I couldn’t tell who was narrating for quite a while until I figured out we were back to Lou. To me, throwing weird point of view changes in randomly makes it seem like the author is not able to handle the narrative. It looks unprofessional and feels like a cheap trick because the person isn’t talented or dedicated enough to work out how to give that information within the point of view she chose.

The other strange thing about these point of view changes is that Will never got to speak. For a love story, how very¬†bizarre¬†that the only time Will was in control of the narrative was a third person prologue. After his accident, he has no direct voice and the other characters all speak and think about him. This may have been a conscious choice, since Will’s biggest complaint in the book is that people do not listen to him, don’t take into account what he wants.

And then the biggest problem. If you know me then you know that I find the quad-wants-to-die plot extremely tiresome. It reeks of ableism: “I, an able-bodied woman with no experience of disability shall write about a quadriplegic because I read about it in the news. What should I write? How about how miserable his life must be?”

I, also an able-bodied woman, have no authority to say that’s not true. What I can say is that I’ve known quads, two of them being at the same injury level as Will and one higher. None of them have wanted to commit suicicde. They expressed to me how grateful they were to be alive and emphasized how they have grown from the experience. One told me that he had learned so much from it that his life was better than it had been.

I’m waiting for someone to tell their stories! No one ever does (guess that’s up to me!).

Yummy Hero Factor:

The physical realities for Will are well presented and realistic. He himself is charming and roguish in a most delightful way. Though, like in many romances, he starts out gruff and angry, when he finally comes to respect Lou, he’s very fun to be around. Even in the beginning when he’s being difficult, he never seemed over the top or so unappealing that you wonder why the girl even falls for him.

Great Line:

I didn’t give him any choice. I sat down carefully on Will’s lap, draped my arms¬†around¬†his neck to hold myself in¬†place. He looked into my eyes for a¬†minute, as if working¬†out¬†whether¬†he could refuse me. Then, astonishingly, Will wheeled us out on to the dance floor, and began moving in small circles under the sparkling lights of the mirrorball.

Conclusion:

If you’re going to ever read any book where the plot is quad-wants-to-die, this is the one to read. It does present a fairly balanced view of the issue. I’m reluctant to recommend any book with this plot, but I did find myself moved by it. If you do read it, I urge you to remember that whatever it might seem like from an outside point of view, many people with quadriplegia are living happy and content lives.

I was reluctant to read the book knowing this was the plot, but I am actually glad that I read it. I enjoyed it, found the writing good, and would recommend it with the above caveat.

Buy Now (Paper):


If you’ve written a book or know of a book that features a character with a physical disability, send me an email with “review” in the subject line: ruthmadison82@yahoo.com

 

9 Comments

  1. Beverly Diehl
    Jun 4, 2012

    Sounds like an interesting read.

    I would have a bigger problem with the part you mentioned, the five out-of-POV chapters, than the chick lit flavor. Done well, I love chick lit., and it sounds like the love story does grow slowly, which I like.

    • RuthMadison
      Jun 5, 2012

      It really isn’t that bad. It’s just a couple places in almost 500 pages. It felt a little weird to me when it happened, but it didn’t make me dislike the book.

  2. Kelly
    Jun 5, 2012

    Its not avaliable on kindle right now? ūüôĀ

    • RuthMadison
      Jun 5, 2012

      Oh jeez, it looks like the Kindle version is only available in the UK. I’m sorry about that! I got the paperback.

  3. Rebecca
    Jun 14, 2012

    Curious if you read “Broken”? It’s about a woman who is married to (I think C5) quad; the main story is about her, really, and how she’s struggling with a marriage that she’s stayed with out of love and duty despite the fact that maybe she shouldn’t have. Even though the crux of the story is more focused with the main character living vicariously through the sexcapades of her male friend, I do think the author did a good job of creating believable characters. For example, Adam, the husband, is kind of a mean/bitter man, but it’s suggested that wasn’t just do to his injury, and the dissolution of their marriage seems (in my opinion) to have been inevitable even if he hadn’t been injured.

    • RuthMadison
      Jun 14, 2012

      Thanks for your recommendation! I’ve heard of it, but I was wary of reading it because I was afraid it would be upsetting. I’m rethinking reading it now, though. ūüôā

      • Rebecca
        Jun 17, 2012

        I’m a big fan of Megan Hart. Although she writes erotica, I feel like she really attempts to craft a strong piece of writing, and her characters are believable and fully developed for the most part.

        She also obviously did her research on SCI (espcially high-level quads) for “Broken.”

  4. Annabelle
    Aug 19, 2013

    I just finished this book and totally agree with you on all points. I wish Will had changed his mind at the end. It’s very very clear the author is not a dev… by the ending and also the lack of details about Will. She never even explained how he controlled his wheelchair! Also, his function did not fit with a c5/c6 injury. The c5/c6 quads I know are actually fairly independent–working, self-feeding, etc.

    Btw, you should include the author’s name in your paradevo review. I almost duplicated your review bc I did a search for the author’s last name and nothing came up.

    • RuthMadison
      Aug 23, 2013

      Oh, good catch! I should definitely put her name in the review.

      I don’t know that much about levels and abilities so I didn’t critique that part!

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