****Mild Spoilers Ahead****
The problem with Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is that what it intends to deliver and what it does deliver are two very different things.What it presents is a story about a young, working class woman who ends up in a job as a carer for a quadriplegic and they both end up learning more about themselves and what it means to live life fully. What it actually is is a story about a young working class woman who ends up in a job as a carer for a wealthy, vapid quadriplegic which allows her to live a life she would never have been able to before. The poor/average woman who finds a wealthy man who jets her around the world and buys her luxury clothing items which she had previously mentioned in passing is a tale as old as time in the “chick-lit” genre. Those stories, though, don’t pretend to have a moral.
When Louisa Clark loses her job in a cafe she has to quickly secure another one to support her family, for which she is the sole earner. The job she finds is as a care giver for Will Traynor, a young and handsome quadriplegic with a bad attitude. Of course, she softens him up and when she learns that he wishes to end his life she attempts to change his mind by taking him on various adventures funded by his insanely wealthy parents. Okay. Even if we take out the extremely problematic idea that people are better off dead than handicapped this book still leaves us with a lot of problems. First of all the idea is that the characters change each other but this isn’t true. Will changes Louisa but absolutely refuses to learn anything from her. Secondly, there was a bit in the middle where I thought that the book was going to make an interesting statement about classism and ableism but then it…didn’t. Louisa is thrilled to be making £9 an hour which she uses to support her sister, nephew, parents and grandparents so when Will suggests she needs to live a fuller life it is actually mind boggling that we are supposed to nod in agreement with him. Certainly someone who is supporting their family and living in a council estate isn’t going to jet off on African safaris, attend classical music concerts, enjoy fancy restaurants every weekend or take up sky diving and yet we are supposed to accept Will’s criticism of Louisa for not “living fully”. Secondly, we are told of a traumatic bit of Louisa’s past that has hindered her from being more adventurous but instead of encouraging her to seek help, both Will and the book suggest she should just get over it. Those problems aside, the writing I found to be hit and miss. There were parts that I thought were genuinely good, excellent even. If this book had just been about the life of Louisa and her family I would give it five out of five and read all of it’s sequels. However, for no clear reason at all Will refers to Louisa as “Clark” like an old-timey business man and Louisa refers to Will by his full name. Some bits were filled with absolutely useless facts (Louisa uses hand sanitizer!) But the thing that really annoyed me was the fact that while most of the book is told from the perspective of Louisa some chapters were from the perspective of other characters. This gimmick not only didn’t reveal new information but made the characters seem like completely different people altogether.
In conclusion: this book seemed like it wanted to teach us something, but that something seems to be that dying is better than being handicapped and poor people should feel bad for not “living more fully”.