Thursday, 24 January 2013

Me Before You

Author: Jojo Moyes
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Type: complimentary E-book
Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Penguin Group/Viking, Pamela Dorman Books, Viking
First Published: December 31, 2012
First Line: "2007 - When he emerges from the bathroom she is awake, propped up against the pillows and flicking through the travel brochures that were beside his bed."

Book DescriptionLouisa Clark is a twenty-six year old woman living a highly unextraordinary life.  Still living in the same small town where she grew up, Louisa lives with her parents and has never had the desire to explore beyond her small town.  She has a boyfriend of six years and a job that pays the bills but Louisa's life is anything but eventful.

When she suddenly finds herself without a job and her family's financial situation is in peril, Louisa applies for a job as a personal companion to a thirty-five year old quadriplegic man.  Having no experience in this field at all, Louisa is shocked to have been hired for the position but grateful for a chance to help her family get back on their feet.

Initially, Louisa's learning curve is quite steep especially due to the fact that her charge, Will Traynor, isn't at all helpful and makes it clear that he doesn't want her there.  Will had once lived a very exciting and busy life.  But his life was turned upside down when, a few years earlier, he was hit by a motorcycle and left in a wheelchair with only the ability to move one hand slightly and therefore totally dependent on others on a daily basis.

The shrinking of his world has never sat well with Will.  Gone are the days of Will in his high powered job, high action sports, beautiful ladies on his arm and spur of the moment vacations.  Now his world revolves around frequent trips to the hospital, daily pain and relying on family and caregivers for even the simplest and most personal daily tasks. With his loss of freedom and his ill health he often takes out his frustrations on those around him with his sardonic and, often caustic, comments.  This does not help to make Lou's transition in her new role an easy one. 

Slowly (and a little surprisingly), Lou learns that Will's happiness begins to mean much more to her than she ever thought possible. When Lou discovers the real reason that she was hired by Will's parents, she takes drastic measures to ensure that she can complete her task within the limited time frame that she has been given. 

Me Before You is the story about two unlikely people who find themselves thrown together in a situation they could never have imagined.  It's a touching and heartbreaking love story that asks the question: What do you do if the one thing that would make the person you love happy, is the same thing that will utterly break your own heart?   

My Thoughts:  I can describe this book in two words: awesome and unputdownable.   This is definitely one of those books that will stay with me for a very, very long time.   First of all, I was surprised at how much emotion this book pulled out of me.  Yes, even I (the woman who rarely cries) teared up and got more than a little verklempt.  This book shocked me, touched me, taught me, and had me sympathize with what quadriplegics deal with on a daily basis.

Admittedly, I do not have a lot of experience with quadriplegia so I'm thankful to this book for educating me.  Ms Moyes takes the reader inside the daily life of a 'quad' (a term used in the book) -- especially out in the public eye.  We're shown, through Will's eyes, how a quadriplegic person feels when people stare or make assumptions and treat 'quads' as 'less than'. They see the wheelchair and the physical disability instead of the person. She also shows the dehumanizing effects on a quadriplegic when others take it upon themselves to decide even the simplest decisions for them.

The storyline is wonderful but it's the characters who truly bring this book to life.  They are written so honestly and authentically that I found myself wondering about them when I had to put the book down -- which admittedly was as little as possible. These are no cookie cutter/one dimensional characters.  You really and truly get to know Lou and Will. 

Lou begins as a naive and rather dull young woman who has no goals in life. She has settled for what life's dealt her and doesn't desire to better her situation.  She's not a pathetic doormat but a character who came off as just not knowing that she could have better.  She's a tough girl when pushed and I love how we get to see her come into her own.

Will is the antithesis of Lou.  He's lived a very full and successful life.  He's a very complicated character and although he is brutal with some of his negative comments and could easily be considered an 'arse' (as Louisa describes him) you can't help but find a glimmer of who he really is underneath all the acerbic comments that he uses to protect himself.  Together Lou and Will bring out different aspects in each other and that is what sold this book to me. 

This book deals with a subject matter that isn't often dealt with and does it in an eye-opening, yet truly human way. I found myself putting my Kindle down just to think about what I would do in that situation, whether I was in Will's shoes or Lou's.  I'm still not sure how to answer that question.  This author doesn't go for the easy shock factor or the sappy tear-fest just to get her readers to shed a tear or two. Her writing is so much more subtle and the relationship between Will and Lou is more complicated and deeper than I would have expected. The emotion between these two characters slowly builds at a realistic pace and I had to stop myself from skimming through several pages because I was that eager to know what would happen to them. Their love story was sweet and yet very deep. They 'got' each other.

Another thing that stood out for me with this book is the way the secondary characters weren't so 'secondary'.  They weren't just used as filler and added tremendously to the overall storyline.  Lou's boyfriend, her family and even Will's parents have their own burdens and issues which helped to make them much more than a typical supporting cast of characters.  Even some of the snarky conversations and sibling rivalry between Lou and her sister were so authentic that I swear I had had similar conversations with my own two sisters growing up.

Jojo Moyes has written a brilliant book that is honest, real and so very, very heartfelt. It's a sad read but surprisingly uplifting at the same time. I found myself laughing at Lou and Will's banter but then tearing up and getting the biggest lump in my throat. A roller coaster ride of emotions to be sure!   It's a book about learning to take chances and not letting one day go by without truly living life to its fullest. It's a book about unconditional and unselfish love and never taking anything for granted.

I cannot recommend this book enough.  I'm giving it my very rare 5 stars.  You simply must read this book!

My Rating: 5/5 stars

Note: My sincere thanks to Ms Moyes, Penguin Group Viking and NetGalley for providing me with this complimentary ebook copy in exchange for my honest review.

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