Rated Reads

Me Before You

by Jojo Moyes

Rated: High

Lou has just lost her longtime job working at a little cafe in her small town in England, and after some time of difficulty trying to find another suitable job, she shows up for an interview as a caregiver to a man in a wheelchair. She’s sure she’s not qualified for that kind of work, so she’s surprised when the man’s mother offers the work to her. Her parents and sister, with whom she lives, are especially pleased with the good pay.

Will, the quadriplegic, isn’t exactly who she’d expected to be taking care of (she doesn’t have to do the “heavy lifting”; a nurse takes care of most of the medical stuff). He’s only in his mid-30s and is pretty obnoxious to Lou; she’s sure he hates her and can barely make it through the first day. But her family desperately needs her income, so she keeps going.

Will has a wealthy family and had a high-powered career, and he traveled extensively and pursued lots of interests before the accident that made him entirely dependent on others. He’s understandably bitter. Lou feels self-conscious around the “posh,” including Will and his parents, and has rarely ventured outside of her small community. Even at 26, she doesn’t have any aspirations for the future. Will frequently prods Lou to get out of her comfort zone and live a fuller life, even as he stews about all he’s lost. Very slowly and gradually, the two very different people get to know each other, and they become nearly friendly.

Then Lou finds out some shocking news about Will and changes her approach to the job entirely. She devotes all of her time to her goal, but will it, could it, possibly be enough to change Will’s plans?

I so thoroughly loved this book. I felt that I was getting to know Will and Lou as they got to know each other. Moyes shares with readers what Will’s life is like and the reactions he has to all of the indignities and pain he goes through. What’s perfect about her writing is that she doesn’t make Will out to be a victim; she makes him a full personality, even while detailing so much of his life as the victim of a C4-5 spinal cord injury. Other characters who pass through the story may pity him or mistreat him in some embarrassing way, but readers get to know him without becoming those other characters. Lou is also just as well fleshed out, and once they become friends, even finally fall for each other, the relationship is that much more satisfactory and true.

The novel is great at peering into the life of someone who has been injured seriously and lost much of their mobility and independence, but it never swings into maudlin territory. The end left me absolutely choked up, but the story never went for any cheap emotional shots. Every word earned that heartfelt lump in my throat, and I’m sure the story of Will and Lou will stick with me for a long time.

Rated: High, for 10 uses of strong language and lots more uses of moderate and mild language, including British cursing that Americans won’t find offensive. Sex happens in the book and is referred to, but there are no details.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

2 Responses to Me Before You

  1. Ella R says:

    “Me Before You” seems like a beautiful book! I’ll definitely keep an eye out for it-thanks for sharing.
    Some good choices on your site and a thorough reviewing style. I’m currently getting most of my suggestions from bookreportradio(dot)com-the radio show highlights new books each week(this is one of this weekend’s featured books), author interviews and audio book excerpts. It’s also a nice resource to have and if you’re interested, you can find the station guide and schedule on their website.

  2. […] read Moyes’ Me Before You, I was eager to read this newest book, and it didn’t disappoint. It started a little slow, but […]