Me Before You & After You by Jojo Moyes

As soon as I watched the trailer for the upcoming film, "Me Before You," I immediately developed stereotypical girly feels about it. I mean, c'mon, it's got Khaleesi (Emilia Clarke), Finnick Odair (Sam Claflin), Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), and freaking Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle), so how could I not like it?!? For those of you who don't know who those actors and characters are, study up. I swiftly purchased the book by Jojo Moyes so I could read it before the film's June 3 release, and I finished the book as quickly as I started it, only to find out that a sequel had just been released! My review of both books follows, because I thought it made the most sense to discuss them both in one post.

SPOILER ALERT: Try as I might to avoid them, I cannot seem to find a good way around spoiling plot lines. Proceed at your own risk.

Me Before You
Louisa Clark gets a job taking care of Will Traynor. Will, before becoming a quadriplegic from a motorcycle accident, was a hot shot businessman who traveled the world and lived an adventurous life. Louisa, however, has never really left her hometown and has lived in a rut, even though she has a unique and bubbly personality (and wardrobe). Louisa finds out that Will intends to perform assisted suicide within a few months. She takes it upon herself to prove to Will that life is worth living, thus taking them both on a series of adventures where they both learn more about themselves and grow closer. And duh, they fall in love. 

SPOILER. Regardless of Louisa's valiant effort to convince Will to live, he opts to follow through with his suicide. Although he loves Louisa, he feels as though he cannot go on because he cannot live and love her the way that he wants. Louisa isn't understanding of this at first, but she eventually accepts Will's decision and is there with him during his final moments. It's absolutely awful, and you're left with a sense of emptiness and begin to ponder the meaning of life. Feels. In the end, Louisa realizes that she should live and constantly do and try new things, for her own sake and for the sake of Will's memory. 

My biggest take-away from Me Before You is that we cannot center our life around others. Louisa becomes a woman obsessed with keeping Will alive, and when she cannot accomplish that task, she is consumed with grief, with guilt, with nothingness. Without Will to center her attention on, Louisa loses herself. That's not a way to live, and Will realizes that if he lives, Louisa will always be focused on him and not herself. I see this problem in real life fairly often - people don't know how to live for themselves. I don't think it's selfish to do things for yourself instead of others (within reason, of course), and I do think it's dangerous to put all of your eggs in one basket. If those eggs are lost, then what do you have left? 

I really enjoyed Louisa and Will as characters, and the story was very good. Was it chick-flick-y? Yes, but sometimes that genre is necessary for your system. The end leaves you so incredibly hollow that you're not really sure what to do after finishing the book, and your husband wonders why you're moping around the house. However, if the book had ended any other way, I don't think it would have been as impactful, so I'm interested in watching the film in June and seeing if they follow Moyes' devastating plot.

After YouThis sequel picks up about eighteen months where Me Before You left off. Louisa is - SPOILER? - taking Will's death incredibly poorly, and isn't doing much living. She drinks a lot, has a job she isn't passionate about, and is generally lonely. Eventually, she starts going to a grief counseling group, meets a new love interest, and also meets (gasp) Will's daughter that he didn't know existed. Shenanigans ensue, and eventually Louisa learns how to live again, for herself instead of others.

Until you start reading After You, you don't understand just how vital a character Will was to the original story's enjoyableness. Even though After You doesn't take place from Will's perspective, he's the most relatable and likable character in the book. Without him there, the sequel struggles. Moyes tries to make Will's daughter similar to him in his stubbornness and moody personality, but she lacks redeemable qualities like his love of movies and well-intended sarcasm. Louisa's new love interest appears to be "practically perfect in every way," which leaves him with no depth. The book focuses a lot on these two new characters, at times a lot more than it does Louisa, and they are not compelling enough to fully draw in the reader. Me Before You's secondary characters - namely Louisa's parents - are also given more prominent roles in After You; their story is amusing, but there is still a Will-shaped hole in the book. Maybe I got too attached to him and am not giving the sequel a fair shot, but that's where I stand. Will's shadow hangs over Louisa throughout the book, and it also hangs over the entire story itself. Moyes does a good job at portraying grief realistically, though. I always get frustrated with stories where characters move on from a death so quickly, and I was pleased that Louisa was given the time to grieve and move on - which is ultimately the general plot of the entire book.

When the book ended, I didn't feel anything like I did with Me Before You, and even though I'm sure there will be another sequel, I am not as excited for it as I was this time around. I'll still read it, though, because that's who I am as a person. Oh well.

In my humble opinion, I would recommend Me Before You if you're in need of a good emotional drain (in the best sense of the term), but I would skip out on After You. It does not possess the character and plot strengths that its predecessor has and leaves the reader longing for the return of Will Traynor - just like every character in the books is doing. Have you read Me Before You or After You, Hipsters? What did you think?

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