Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Me Before You (and a Giveaway!)

I recently accepted an offer from Penguin to receive a review copy of Me Before You, the new novel by Jojo Moyes. Apparently quite successful in the U.K., it's being released here in the U.S. at the end of the month. Billed as an unexpected love story between an ordinary girl and her wealthy, moody, wheelchair-bound boss, it sounded like a novel that would have a Beauty and the Beast dynamic, or maybe even some hints of Jane Eyre and Rochester. Since that would be right up my alley, I jumped at the chance to preview the book.

After reaching the final pages, possibly with slightly puffy eyes, I can safely say that Me Before You was not at all the novel that I was expecting. It's a true tearjerker without being a "downer", which, to my mind, most often connotes characters who are bleak, depressing, or unlikeable. That's not at all the case in Me Before You, with its vividly drawn, immensely sympathetic characters who just happen to face a tragic fate. This is the kind of book that offers a good cry, yet also delves into some serious and potentially controversial issues.

As the novel opens, twenty-something Louisa "Lou" Clark is jobless and living a very small, very ordinary life in the town where she grew up and still lives with her family. As a last resort to find work, she takes a job as a paid companion/ caregiver to Will Traynor, a thirty-something quadriplegic. Will had lived a very flashy, high-powered life until a sudden traffic accident left him in a wheelchair, practically homebound, and very bitter. Although initially resistant to and critical of Lou, Will slowly thaws to her personality. And while she cheers him up and takes him out of his own head, he in turn broadens her horizons, introducing Lou to new books and music and encouraging her to think about her future more that she's wont to do. Just as their friendship starts to take off, and just as we get hints of deeper romantic feelings between them, Lou discovers that Will has plans to end his own life, and has even gotten his parents to agree to take him to an assisted suicide center in Switzerland at the end of a six month waiting period. Lou's mission then becomes to do everything she can to show Will that he can still experience a life worth living. As the novel starts to approach its conclusion, we're left in suspense, wondering, along with Lou herself, if her efforts will be enough to change Will's mind.

The only qualm that I can point to in the entire novel is a small piece of Lou's characterization. Her narrow horizons at the beginning of the novel manifest themselves through a limited knowledge of many cultural and life experiences, which makes sense, but also through a limited knowledge of how to use a computer. During a scene in which Lou visits the local library to research and plan an outing for Will, she actually seems to be using a computer for the very first time. For a novel set in the mid-2000's, I just didn't think this was plausible, no matter how small of a place one comes from. That's really just a small, nit-picky complaint, though, in the face of what's an overall emotional, engrossing novel.

(Just for fun, I'm already casting the film adaptation in my head. The role of Lou is still up for grabs, but I have Johnny Lee Miller in mind for Will and, in an unexpectedly dramatic turn, Jemaine Clement as Will's New Zealand born healthcare aide.)

And last, but not least, since the nice people at Penguin also sent me a second galley copy of Me Before You, I've decided to spread a little holiday cheer and try my first ever blog giveaway! If you'd like to win a copy for yourself (and if you're a U.S. resident), just leave a comment below by 11:59pm EST on Thursday, December 20th. I'll randomly choose and announce a winner next Friday, December 21st.


  1. Coming from a small community where many people don't have internet access, several children in my class only have been exposed to computers through school. I don't know of any school without computers for kids to use though, so you are problaby right about it being not possible to be completely clueless about them.

    I loved the picture of Mollie and Olive with Santa yesterday.

  2. Jealous that you get review copies from Penguin! I usually get offers from the sketchiest presses.

  3. I'm throwing my name in the ring! This sounds like a wonderful heart warmer. Just the thing to read for the new year.

  4. This sounds like a great read!! I'd love to win this :)

  5. Well, I got here just in time. I've been part of the same book club for about six years running now and we're always on the hunt for good books. This book - and your wonderful review - would definitely intrigue the girls in the group. Thanks for the review and the opportunity to win a copy of the book!
    PS~Thank you also for stopping by. Lovely to have you.

  6. I never win anything, so here's my chance! Can I hire you as my personal 2013 literary guide? You can "prescribe" the books that I read, and ensure that I met my Goodreads goal?!?!?!?

  7. Wow. Thank you for your honest, well-written reviews. I really appreciate them. (This book sounds too much of a tear jerker for me, so please don't include me in the giveaway. I just wanted to leave you a note.)

  8. I would love a chance to read this as well. Please count me in!



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