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Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.
Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.
A love story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?
Okay. I have to admit outright, I only checked this book out because the movie poster promises me the union of the Daenarys Targaryen and Finnick Odair. I did not think Me Before You would be a book I would enjoy, I just wanted to be ‘in the know’ – so to speak – when everyone sees the movie in June (yes, I am a tragic, pitiable snob).
Melodrama is not my cup of tea – and I had doubts that Me Before You would amount to more than that. Every time I saw a tweet of an emotionally distraught reader, I felt my fears were further confirmed. But you know what? This book made me eat my words. It was moving without being emotionally manipulative. It was not a story about loss, but one about life. It was not a romance, but a love story between two unlikely people. Did I cry? No. But I did love every single moment of it – even when the ending made me want to throw my Kindle across the room.
I think much of this book’s strength comes from its ability to finely toe the line between drama and optimism. I felt that given the book’s content, Me Before You could have quickly dissolved into a cheese-fest. The movie trailer does nothing to dispel that preconception. Fortunately, the book itself is above cheap melodrama. Although the book centres around some very tragic and upsetting circumstances, its heroine, Lou, provide a constant source of light and humour. Lou assumes the same role in her relationship with Will. Although at first, she is intimidated by the force of his anger and bitterness – Lou gradually comes into her own and starts challenging him.
Time and again, this text references Pygmalion and My Fair Lady when it describes the relationship between Lou and Will. However, I personally find that their relationship is a lot more balanced than both the classic text and the famed musical. Yes, Will plays at refining Lou’s life through impromptu foreign movies viewing and classical literature quizzes. However, Lou is more than a blank canvas ready to be shaped by his hands. Although she comes to appreciate Will’s effort – she’s also bogged down by multitudes of her own issues and past demons. Despite this, she soldiers on with life and never loses her own moral integrity or spark. Much of the insecurities that Lou is plagued with: our place in life, the indeterminable future, feeling of worthlessness – are all dark places I have been. I found her to be an admirable heroine and she’s my favourite part of the novel.
Coming back to the relationship between Lou and Will, I was absolutely 100% aboard this ship. This was no typical rich guy-poor maid match up, from the very beginning I felt they interacted as true equals. Their relationship developed organically over the course of the novel, and it was first and foremost a friendship. There is surprisingly little overt romantic scenes or skinship – instead, the thing which warmed my heart most was the connection and implicit understanding between them. They did not get to their common ground easily, Lou had to fight her way past Will’s defences, while Will had to work to gain her trust and acceptance – especially regarding his momentous decision. Although there were challenges every step of the way, I stepped away from the book feeling that these two were perfect for one another.
As mentioned before, the book is not all romance. In fact, the majority of it is focused on the idea of living life to the fullest, and about the choices which shape who we are. It dealt with some of the more sensitive topics with respect and bravery, and although I could not agree with all of the book’s decision – I’ve come to understand where it came from. This book was a true delight, and I can only hope that the movie does the novel justice.
If you are hesitant to approach Me Before You because of the overwhelming hype or prejudice against its appearances – learn from my mistake and go introduce this book to your life! It’ll be worthwhile if only for the conversation and thoughts it will spark!
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