Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – Book Review

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I wept, then I swooned, and then I wept some more. I definitely should have believed the sign when I pulled this book off of the table labelled, ‘Curl up in a ball and cry’. I thought the book was well written, and showed an interesting and very controversial storyline of a quadriplegic.

This book, and the movie of it, have garnered quite a bit of negative media attention surrounding the portrayal of Will. Will is a quadriplegic for whom Lou  and consequently sets out on a mission to change his perspective on life, as he has decided to commit assisted suicide in six months time. Many reviews have criticized Me Before You for supposedly being ableist. I understand that this a tricky subject to address and believe that by no means is any one opinion completely correct, so I’m simply going to explain my personal opinion on this conflict.

Will’s character is described as being a successful businessman and adrenaline junkie. He gets hit by a car and subsequently becomes a quadriplegic, meaning in his case that he has basically no ability to move his arms and is completely unable to move anything below his belly button. His life before the accident seemed to consist of outdoor activities that most people would never even consider, due to how challenging and frightening they are. After the accident he has almost no opportunities to do any activities like this. He is unable to do the activities that bring him the most joy in life and sinks into a depression.

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I believe that for most people adjusting to the new reality of being a quadriplegic is incredibly difficult, but something they have to accept and learn to love. This does not, however, mean this is true for all people and maybe Will’s story is one where he is unable to move past his depression. In the face of losing control over a lot his choices, body, and limited activities (in his perspective he sees them as incredibly limiting) he does the one thing he truly feels will give him control and choice in his life and that is to end it.

There is also mention of Will having had pneumonia multiple times and the possibility of him having to be put on a ventilator if his pneumonia were bad enough. They also discuss the fact that his physical well being will only continue to decline and his health will worsen. Therefore, his current state will not get better at all.

Moyes pulls in multiple group discussions between Lou and quadriplegics and paraplegics trying to find ways to change Will’s view on life. The discussions bring in quadriplegics paraplegics who are incredibly fulfilled in their lives and see it as a new outlook on life; a few who side with Will and believe that it is his choice to live or not live how he would like, and who is Lou to decide that he must see his wheelchair as a blessing? I believe she brought in well-rounded ideas and didn’t ultimately force an ableist agenda, as so many believe.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I liked that there was some mystery and a bit of a dark secret in Lou’s past that Will helps her move past. It didn’t take me very long to get into the flow of the book and I ended up reading it in only three days. I saw the look into Will’s life as insightful, eye-opening, sad, and surprising (because of his final decision). I enjoyed Lou’s character and loved her upbeat, witty, and quirky personality and I look forward to watching Emilia Clarke portray her.

Rating: 4/5

Similar Books: Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahern, Christmas at Tiffany’s by Karen Swan, and Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern

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