My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This review was originally posted on my blog: My Bookshelf Dialogues
What this book is about:
Louisa Clark – of the mature age of 26 – has recently found herself unexpectedly unemployed. It is of no surprise that in our society, her parents and sister urge her to go out and find a new job as soon as possible. Louisa’s income helped her family tremendously and without it, the Clark family will be facing difficult times. Lou is willing to try everything. She event tried to work at the chicken factory which sounds approximately as horrible as it was. In her desperation, she decided to go to an interview for a carer position of a C5/6 quadriplegic named Will. Neither Will nor Louisa know that this job will change their lives forever.
Today we are reviewing Me Before You. This is the first book in the Me Before You duology and follows Louisa Clark as she goes through an emotional and mental journey with a quadriplegic man named Will. The story reads mainly from a first person perspective as Louisa but there are also smaller chapters reading from a first person perspective of other characters. I also listened to the audiobook as I read along which is narrated by a small cast of characters in wonderful British accents. This is an adult fiction book dealing with a heavy topic.
I went into this story expecting too much and at the same time not expecting nothing at all. I think a lot of people would share my initial hesitation to go into a story that has actually become extremely popular. By now a lot of people have heard of the story or seen the movie trailer and have, in some way or another, an idea of what they are getting themselves into. One of the main disadvantages here was the title. The book is called Me Before You and since the second book is already out and it’s titled After You, I was already very predisposed as to the progression of the story. But I was in for the ride. I mean, if you have great writing skills and you can make me feel all the devastating emotions then please, be my guest.
‘Go on. Open your mind.’
‘Because I’d be uncomfortable. I feel like…I feel like they’d know.’
‘Who? Know what?’
‘Everyone else would know, that I didn’t belong.’
‘How do you think I feel?’
Well, this is not the mind-blowing experience that I was hoping to go through; more like, a pleasant, interesting, fast and also sad story.Unfortunately, I wasn’t swept by the force of my emotions and I didn’t cry my eyes out as many other readers seem to have. I’m choosing to attribute this to the author not punching me in the gut and not to my own apathy. I will explain myself. This story of a quadriplegic or heavily disabled person who needs a carer who comes and utterly changes his/her life forever has been told many times over (e.g. the movie: You’re Not You) so what makes this book special? In my opinion, nothing. This went from beginning to end exactly the way I had guessed.
When he listened to music he wore an expression of intense concentration. Most of the time, it was as if Will were not wholly present, as if there were some part of him struggling with pain, or memories, or dark thoughts. But with music it was different.
On top of that, I had issues with the characters and the story itself. While Nathan was my favourite person to follow, Will and his family but also the Clark family felt disconnected. And Lou..she was just there to complain and stress out all the time. Lou’s story just repeats itself after a while, she just ponders over a problem over and over again until she finds a solution. She wasn’t all bad, mind you. She was funny and had a lot of potential to be loveable if she wasn’t so annoying. And Will was just Will. He had a very flat personality even though the author was trying to multiply the levels of his character by repeating how sporty and athletic and adventurous he used to be.
I sat there, as the bus’s tired old engine snarled and juddered beneath us, and had a sudden sense of time racing, of losing whole chinks of it in my small journeys backwards and forwards along the same stretch. Round and round the castle. Watching Patrick go round and round the track. The same petty concerns. The same routines.
My final complaint involves the untold story of an adventurous, outgoing guy who became quadriplegic. Will suffered a sever injury in such a degree that he lost all sense of his arms and legs. He is utterly dependent upon other people to survive. He needs someone to feed him, clean him, and help him regulate his bowel. And although we do get a small glimpse of his medical carer, Nathan, and his job involving Will’s “maintenance”, we never get to see Louisa caring for Will’s more personal needs. How does a young woman feel when she has to change a grown man, clean him and see see to his every need because he can’t? That part would have been the punch in the gut that I would have appreciated in this story. But I didn’t get it…What exactly does living with quadriplegia involve? I had to go online and do some research to see how interesting this topic is.
The worst thing about working as a carer is not what you might think. It’s not the lifting and cleaning, the medicines and wipes and the distant but somehow always perceptible smell of disinfectant. It’s not even the fact that most people assume you’re only doing it because you really aren’t smart enough to do anything else. It’s the fact that when you spend all day in really close proximity to someone, there is no escape from their moods. Or your own.
I understand that I a lot of people probably disagree with my thoughts on this one and I can definitely see how a person would love this story. I also enjoyed it, it got three stars from me. I haven’t read many stories about disability and I certainly haven’t read many romance books. And the books that I have read from that genre usually don’t appeal to me, but this one did. I am also very, very excited to watch the movie and I have the feeling that it will be much more devastating than the book.
‘You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.’
So yes, this is the dark side of something that becomes overhyped. You expect to be dazzled, to be brought to your knees or laugh until you cry and at the end you are left disappointed. I would recommend this book to people who are into romantic stories and enjoy chick-lits and in general to fans of fiction. If you think this book will be too much for you..it might be. It wasn’t for me, but it definitely deals with some very sensitive topics that I don’t want to spoil right now. The movie trailer is probably a good indicator of what the book is going to give you, so if you watch that you can decide if you’d like to proceed with the story of Lou and Will.
Here is the movie trailer of Me Before you:
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BookDepository: Me Before You