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Book Review – Me Before You

I don’t know.

That’s my initial thought.

I just don’t know. 

I don’t know how to feel about this book at all.

Alright, I guess I should just label this an UNPOPULAR OPINIONand move on. 

Here we go.

I didn’t like this story, I hated every single one of the characters, and I found the overall concept to be a little depressing.

Essentially this is a story about Louisa, a girl with no dreams or aspirations, and a personality that, without sounding completely bitchy, is only evident in the way she dresses, and Will, a crippled, former ladies man and business tycoon, who can’t seem to find a single thing about his life that makes it worth living now that he is confined to a wheelchair with only limited movement in one appendage, his arm.

Now, I’ve read a lot of reviews on this book. The unpopular opinion seems to revolve around the idea that Jojo–the author–is in some way saying that disabled lives aren’t worth living. 

NOOOOO. That is not at all what Jojo is saying. Jojo, before all else, is doing an extremely good job of explaining how hard disabled life is from the perspective of a rather daft, quirky late twenties care taker, who was fired from a cafe job and because she has no experience in anything else, decides, I will care for this crippled human being as long as I don’t have to wipe his ass.

There’s no wiping of any asses, so don’t worry about that. There are catheters, bed baths, the like, but nobody is wiping anybody’s ass. In fact, this book keeps it classy, considering the content, there is a lot about it to admire.

Jojo is a writer, a brilliant writer at that. My personal favorite line from the book was:

“His mates swayed gently around him like aquatic plants.”

Every line is sort of like this; it paints an extremely vivid picture, and because of that, I couldn’t stop reading. I mean, Christ, I finished it in a swift three days.

But I still didn’t like it.

*SPOILER ALERT*

I hated the ending. 

The ending sucked. Will’s mind was made up from the beginning, he wanted to die, and he would wait the six months his cold-hearted mother begged him for, but he wanted to die and would die, and that was that.

Louisa obviously falls in love with Will and Will, I don’t know, I mean I think he falls in love with her, he’s certainly beguiled by her, but falls in love? I don’t think he would have allowed himself to, so then of course Louisa basically gets dumped in this excruciating, “You’re not enough for me to enjoy my life so I’m going to kill myself but these last six months were cool tho” way, perhaps the worst way one could get dumped. And she does learn some things about herself and it’s supposed to be this heroic sacrifice, but it was arguably depressing.

WARNING: NECESSARY RANT COMING

I’m pretty sick of men always thinking they know what’s best. “I’m gonna limit you because of my disability” and “you don’t want to be with me because I’ll take advantage of you” and blah blah blah. JESUS. We get it! You think you know us better, but don’t you understand that just as you’ve made your mind up about yourself, we’ve made our minds up about ourselves and what we want, and if we want to fall in love with you and get played by you it would be cool if you would just let us. But if what you’re actually saying is you don’t want us and this is an easier way to let you down, then how about SAYING THAT INSTEAD. It’s hard to know what the reason for this is, some boys want to be chivalrous and they think that saying shit like “I’m a player you could do better than me” is chivalrous, when, let’s be honest here, the girl isn’t just gonna be like HAHAHA k thanks for telling me I’m over you already.

RANT DONE

Back to the book. It is beautiful. Because the characters talk to each other with this sort of understanding of who the other is and it, again, paints a very vivid picture.

I wouldn’t have changed much about this book, it is what it is, and it’s going to go on and still be what it is. Jojo did a brilliant job explaining why these disabled lives are so hard to live, all of the thoughts, the way that Will pulled back sometimes and had good days, bad days, horrible days, almost great days, it was all very real.

Louisa… I don’t know. I didn’t find her to be very real. No dreams or aspirations? K, yeah, I can’t believe that for a second. She’s just… immature. She really is, she’s a tad bit self-centered, even though she’s caring for this person and devoting all of her time to him, she is self-centered, and she has a hard time seeing multiple perspectives, which made her character very frustrating. 

She had some admirable moments though.

I also thought she fell in love with Will rather quick after realizing she sort of liked him, which mind you, wasn’t a realization that happened until the last, like, one hundred pages of the book. 

But her fucking boyfriend. What an idiot. I hated Patrick’s character, in fact, I don’t understand why he was in the book at all but to show how terrible Louisa is at understanding herself and what she wants. And that is, I suppose, why she was so terribly hard to like. She has no idea who the hell she is. No idea. And sure, Will does the only thing he can in his current state, he inspires/forces her to realize that she doesn’t have to be a dum-dum her whole life, but it’s all sort of stuck behind this blind canopy she sees the world through and as a result I was like sort of laughing at the end because she is just so caught up in her own blissfully ignorant webbings that I worried she may never get out.

She had no depth, and the horrible thing is that this girl was gang-raped, and I feel as though she didn’t really learn much from it. I feel like she just started wearing different clothes and stopped making a conscious effort, and I really hoped that she would tap into that more, try to understand how she could take what had happened and turn her life in another direction, but I don’t really think she ever did. She did go back to the place where it happened, and she did talk about it with Will after he saved her from said place, but built on it? Accepted it? Tried to heal from it? I don’t know.

And don’t take the way I’m talking about rape too personally, I have deep deep sympathy for rape victims everywhere. As a woman myself, I am in an active fight against the callous way women are taken advantage of. But I’m also a pro-therapy activist, and have done as much healing as I can, and so I have a hard time reading stories, even though they are just that–stories–when I know that there is a way to heal the turmoil.

But anyway, I hate to sound like I think I know everything, I don’t want to come off that way at all. I don’t know everything, and I pick up books like this to learn, and I learned a lot from this book. Namely about life and how easy it is to take movement in your fingers and feet for granted. I do, after all, have legs that carry me everywhere I want to go, and that is a precious gift.

So again, I want to applaud Jojo for making sure I at the very least walked away with that in mind. 

Now let’s talk about a few more things.

The pacing was a little hard, of course everything moved nicely, but nobody’s falling in love until the end of the book, or realizing they have feelings until like the last one hundred pages, so it made it a bit frustrating. I had it in my head that I was going to be reading about love, a love that is so strong I might be crying from it.

The fucking parents of both Luisa and Will suck. I hated them hated them hated them and I understand why Will is so unable to accept a life in a wheelchair and Luisa is so keen on living like a doormat. They have NO guidance, Luisa’s mom is like this avid cleaner and Will’s mom is an avid gardener who doesn’t want anyone to see her gardening. Will’s dad is a cheating scumbag who is equal parts judgmental and equal parts lousy and Luisa’s dad is just fucking oblivious. 

I loved Louisa’s sister though. And I loved their relationship. Very very realistic girl and very very realistic sister-sister relationship. This was, perhaps, the most realistic of them all. 

Patrick. Fuck you, Patrick. 

Okay. 

Lastly, I want to talk about the language. The setting of the scene was always impossibly perfect. She did an amazing job making sure you were seeing this story in your head, even though, I don’t necessarily want to stay up night seeing it in my head. She also did an amazing job with the dialogue. These characters were witty, quick, temperamental, and each one managed to stay as themselves, nobody meshed into anybody else, I think she kept them very authentic.

My rating is based on how good I thought she did at telling the story mixed with how much I disliked the characters and the story itself. Above and before all else, this woman is an incredible writer, no matter how unlikable I found her book.

Rating

34/38

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