Audiobook Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Movie Rating: 4 out of 5
BEWARE: SPOILER ALERT!
Between starting a new job and moving in with my boyfriend, life has definitely been more hectic than usual! Thank goodness that my book club provides the accountability I desperately need--otherwise who knows how long I'd go without blogging!
Last month's book club selection was the crazy popular Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. We discussed the novel at the beginning of the month, then watched the movie adaptation the week after. Instead of publishing my reviews separately, I'm combining them to better share my thoughts on reading this story and seeing it on the silver screen.
And if you happen to be living under a rock, let me offer a quick and dirty summary: Me Before You tells the story of Louisa Clark (played by Emilia Clarke, aka Daenerys from "Game of Thrones"), a recently unemployed English woman in her mid-20s who takes a job as a caregiver to a quadriplegic man in order to financially support her working class family.
Contrary to her expectations, her client Will Traynor (played by Sam Claflin, aka Finnick from "The Hunger Games") is not an elderly invalid, but an attractive, wealthy 30-something guy who just happened to have the worst case of luck after a terrible automotive accident. Will, depressed that he can no longer live the mobile, active lifestyle he once did, has scheduled his assisted suicide in six months' time. It's up to Louisa to see if she can get him to change his mind. (Spoiler alert: She doesn't.)
First, let me address what's good about this novel. I appreciated that Louisa's character was well-developed and that her relationships with her parents and sister were important to the overall story. Sure, Hollywood was never going to cast a plus-size actress to match her curvy physical descriptions, but the movie depicted her eccentric fashion sense which had made her so endearing in the book.
That being said, although most of my friends rated the book higher, I felt a bit cheated. I had seen the sappy film trailers before I started reading, so I was expecting much more romance in this romance novel. The fact that Louisa is stuck in a dead-end relationship for the majority of the story and doesn't even kiss Will until their final trip together is a massive disappointment. Sure, this could reflect the theme that life is full of missed opportunities and unrealized potential, but ugh--what a bummer!
And while I could write thousands of words about the controversy of assisted suicide and the outrage of the disabled community over Will's ultimate decision to end his life, I will say that the book better addressed Will's autonomy than the film by allowing him much more time to explain his reasoning and having the support of many secondary characters. Yes, Louisa is the protagonist, which inherently limits the story's perspective, but I applaud Moyes for opening the minds of the able-bodied in a respectful manner. I have always supported a person's right to die with dignity, and I wouldn't be surprised if this book positively impacted those on the fence about the issue.
It's not difficult to predict Will's choice, given that there's a sequel called After You, but I do wish that Will could have had his own POV. By ending with the chapter of the Traynor's legal defense, the act felt clinical and detached. Listening to the book on audio may have added to that effect as well. Watching the movie finally brought the tears out of me that were missing before, but that's just because I'm a sucker for love stories.
Readers will feel rushed while watching the film, but Moyes' screenwriting eliminated parts of the story that seemed anomalous in the first place: Louisa's past sexual assault, Mr. Traynor's affair, and the inclusion of Will's sister. I would have much rather removed these elements in the book to make more room for some steamy, intimate moments.
All in all, despite its challenges in accurately representing the thoughts of real-life disabled people, I liked the book. It wasn't nearly romantic enough for me, which is why I only rated it 3.5/5, but I'm glad that I got to learn what all the buzz was about. However, I've heard poor reviews of the sequel, so I'll be passing on that. Thankfully, I just finished a proper romance novel with a happy ending--stay tuned for my review!