This blog post contains spoilers about Me Before You and its sequels. Everyone probably knows the big one from the first book at this point, though (I’m late to the party with this review). In this post, I talk about the books and the film adaptation.
Me Before You
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is a love story, but it’s also so much more than that. Louisa Clark is a 26-year-old from a working-class family who is stuck in a routine and a life that lacks ambition. She lives with her parents, has been dating sporty Patrick for seven years and works as a waitress – until she loses her job. This leads to her becoming the helper of Will Traynor, a handsome, wealthy and successful 35-year-old who developed quadriplegia following an accident. He cannot come to terms with the life he’s now forced to live, but Louisa is determined to help him realize it’s still worth living. Will is mean to her at first, but the two eventually become friendly, then flirty, then … (read the book, it’s beautiful).
Me Before You is one of the best and most memorable books I’ve ever read. A couple of years ago, I reread it, and it’s possible that I’ll probably read it again someday. I mostly loved it because of the two main characters and their personalities. I felt like I was falling in love with Will along with Lousia, laughing at his jokes and rolling my eyes at his sarcastic comments. It felt like I was her friend, and she was telling me the story. The book isn’t just your regular romance novel: the love story in it is what makes a horrible situation a bit lighter; to Will, to his family and to the reader. The story is incredibly real because it makes the reader at the same time understand Will’s agony and his intentions and hate him for not staying with Louisa.
The film adaptation of Me Before You
I absolutely love Sam Claflin and couldn’t imagine a more perfect Will. I think he nailed the role, and Emilia Clarke was very convincing as Lousia too. The chemistry between the two was on point, and the filming locations (Pembroke Castle, Chenies Manor House, etc.) were gorgeous. I was also happy to see a very handsome Neville (Matthew Lewis) portraying Patrick. The film didn’t make me feel what the book did, which is nothing new. Reading the book before watching the film is usually a recipe for disappointment.
In the novel, the main plot is well supported by several subplots and relationships between the two main characters and other people. Unfortunately, the film leaves many of these out, which is in a way understandable but still disappointing. The main reason why Louisa is living such a simple and repetitive life is a very important part of the book, but it’s left out from the film along with the rocky relationship between Will’s parents. Will’s story is well represented in the film, but Louisa’s character just isn’t fully explained.
The film was controversial and caused quite some uproar in the disabled community. It seemed like the message was that a disabled life isn’t worth living, and I can see what made people feel that way. In the book, Louisa chats with other quadriplegics online and talks to people who are happy to be alive despite their disability. This was unfortunately left out of the film too. Personally, reading the book, I understood why Will wanted to die despite having enough money, supportive parents and Louisa’s love. He knew what his life was like before, full of adventure and success, and he also wanted more for Lousia.
Will is just one (fictional) person with one view of life, though, just a character from a book that didn’t want to live. This doesn’t mean that this is the way it should be or an accurate portrait of how other quadriplegics feel.
I was very happy with Me Before You, and I was okay with the film. It honestly felt like it was over, complete. I wasn’t expecting a sequel, let alone a trilogy. When I heard about After You coming out, I couldn’t imagine what it would be about. How could this story continue without Will? Louisa’s life had to, however, and I liked her and Moyes’s style of writing, so I naturally read it.
Louisa is in a dark place in the second book, which isn’t a surprise. She isn’t living up to Will’s expectations: she’s working at an airport in London and drowning in misery, still wearing Will’s old sweater (I particularly liked this detail). After falling and injuring herself, she has to move back home and soon joins a support group. Everything up to Lily, the daughter Will never knew he had, seems realistic and relatable. The whole Lily thing is a bit random, though, and just kind of proves that the sequel is slightly forced.
As for Sam, as happy I am that Louisa managed to move on, their love story can’t be compared to the one between Louisa and Will. Sam doesn’t have Will’s charisma, and the chemistry between the two is sort of off. Not that I don’t like Sam, but he’s no Will.
I enjoyed the third book more than the second. This might be due to the fact that Louisa is herself again. However realistic her misery in After You was, I missed her cheerful personality. The book starts well: she takes her chance and goes to New York to work for a rich man, Leonard Gopnik, and his much younger Polish wife Agnes. She finally takes the leap Will spent months trying to talk her into.
Agnes is a very interesting and charming character, and I really don’t understand why her story is left unfinished. That’s what bothers me the most about Still Me. Louisa’s struggle to keep her relationship with Sam going is painfully realistic. I, however, still didn’t care that deeply because the two just aren’t that convincing. The whole thing with Joshua, a guy Lousia dated for a while because he reminded her of Will, was, just like Lily, random. It was another attempt to involve Will, the most interesting character and part of the whole series, in the story.
We do get a stronger presence of Will in the third book than in the second as Louisa is often reminded of him, but with happier thoughts than in After You. Louisa finding her passion for fashion and clothing again in New York is a nice touch and an addition to a happy ending. There’s no denying that I was happy for her. We also get a sense that Will would’ve been proud of her.
I won’t say that I didn’t enjoy reading After You and Still Me because that would be a lie. Moyes is a good writer, and Louisa is a great character. The sequels can’t be compared with Me Before You, though. Me Before You is a masterpiece, while the other two books are just shadows of it, shadows of Will and his charm. I would advise anyone to read the first book and to watch the film if you love Claflin and Clark at least a little bit. You’ll be fine without reaching for the sequels, though.