Let’s take a look at Me Before You by JoJo Moyes from a writer’s perspective.
This post may contain spoilers.
Me Before You* by JoJo Moyes
When I finished this novel, I didn’t want to review it; I wanted to reread it.
Quote from New York Times reviewer Liesl Schillinger
It is easy to agree with that sentiment.
Louisa Clark is an unremarkable young woman who is a bit adrift in her life. At twenty-six, she still lives with her parents, grandfather, and sister, Katrina (Treena). She has a boyfriend, Patrick, but he seems far more interested in running than in her. When she loses her job at a restaurant, she answers an ad for a companion, where she meets Will Traynor. Will was left a quadriplegic when he was hit by a car. He lives with his parents and has a nurse named Nathan.
Louisa takes the companion job, but struggles at first. Because this is a romance, Will serves as the “lost soul” archetype. He is brooding and tortured, often ignoring Louisa or taunting her. Eventually, he begins to warm up to her spunky personality.
When she learns that Will intends to kill himself at the end of six months, Louisa decides to try to convince him that life is worth living. Will she succeed?
Narrators/Point of View
Louisa Clark, the protagonist, narrates the most of the book from the first person point of view. About half way through, however, some of the chapters switch to other character’s points of view, including Will’s mother, father, Nathan, and Louisa’s sister. It was a bit startling to hear from different characters so far into the book, but Moyes felt it was necessary to add more depth to their stories.
The change of narrators may be significant because many of the books picked by the computer algorithm for The Bestseller Code challenge list have alternating narrators or voices.
There is much to savor in Me Before You. The writing is smooth and without pretension, which makes it effortless to read. Jojo Moyes pulls readers in and takes them on an intense emotional journey. It is hard to put the book down once you start.
The issue of assisted suicide adds a lot of depth to the story and takes it well beyond the typical romance. What inspired the author to explore it? In the back matter, Moyes reveals she has two relatives who require constant care, but it wasn’t until she read about a young rugby player who committed suicide after he was left quadriplegic by an accident that she decided to tackle the topic.
As a side note, Moyes isn’t the first novelist to have a quadriplegic character or to explore the difficult topic of assisted suicide. For example, Jeffrey Deaver’s main character Lincoln Rhyme is a criminologist who has only limited movement. In the first novel of the series, The Bone Collector (1997), Rhyme has contacted a doctor to evaluate him as a candidate for assisted suicide. Almost immediately, however, he is drawn into a case and he puts it off.
In Me Before You, some of the “smaller” aspects of the story are especially well crafted. The tension between Louisa and her sister is one example. When Louisa asks for Treena’s room when Treena goes off to school, a battle of words ensues that rings so true to anyone who has a sibling. It is pitch perfect.
Although it is a bittersweet, heartbreaking romance, the writing in Me Before You hits all the sweet spots. It is a wonderful example of how to craft a novel.
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The next book is number 61. The Choice by Nicholas Sparks (2007) – Discussion begins April 30, 2018