#ReadwithIBC | Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes
As with all book clubs, a great part of the joy of our Imaginary Book Club is reading together and discussing books we’ve all read. Each month the Read with Imaginary Book Club (#ReadWithIBC) series features a discussion post on a book, along with a feature of the book we plan to read next month. Read (or re-read) along with us and share your thoughts in the comments!
Join us this coming month in reading a great book to get us into the summer – Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty. Our discussion will go up the first week of June.
They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .
Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.
Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.
A Love Story for this generation and perfect for fans of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?
Austyn: Okay, so the first thing that struck me about this book was how REAL Louisa’s character was. Like her first outing with Will was full of good intentions and completely disastrous. That was such a realistic moment because people who aren’t familiar with the complexities of travelling with a quadriplegic could easily plan a venture and then be stuck in the mud, literally and figuratively.
Kate: I agree, Austyn! I also like how we got to see her progress as far as working with a person with a disability; at first she tries way too hard to act like everything is status quo and she can just plan any old trip, but she quickly realizes that she does have to change her way of thinking to work with Will. So we get to see her problem-solving skills develop over the course of the story, which I thought was neat.
Austyn: I LOVED the interactions between Louisa and her sister, Treena. As one of two sisters I could definitely see their fights and make ups happening. It was one of the best sister representations I can remember in a book.
Whitney: I did love how the sisters were presented (even if Treena seemed a bit of a caricature of the ‘fallen’ to me).
Kate: As someone with six sisters, I can definitely relate to the relationship between Lou and Treena! Although I probably fought over things like the Smallest Bedroom Debate more with my little brother than anyone. 😉
Whitney: I did really appreciate that Louisa was a very relatable person – she wasn’t perfect in any way, but she was trying to be a good person. Actually, most of the characters were pretty well grounded in what real people are like.
Austyn: The relationships between characters were very realistic too, though in the case of Will’s family I thought they were done to almost extreme stereotypes.
Whitney: Yes! I felt like the author was actually pretty unfair to Will’s family. It was like none of them were given permission to be normal humans responding to a really difficult situation in the same way that Louisa’s family was overly forgiven for their own mistakes.
Kate: I definitely think we could’ve have used more of the chapters written from their points of view. We only got a few here and there, maybe only three or four total? I thought they helped round out these characters a lot, but it’s like it was all saved up for their one chapter, and by then you were already like “I hate this person.”
Austyn: I also really liked the chapters from the other perspectives, but I also really appreciated that there was never a chapter by Will. I enjoyed the change of pace and little window inside these other characters, and I think it was brilliant that she never chose to write from Will’s POV. It kept with the whole idea of his life being his own and yet everyone else is trying to influence it and change it.
Kate: I hadn’t thought about it that way, Austyn. I kept wanting to hear from Will, even just for one chapter, so that I could see what his internal struggle looked like. Especially after he starts to really care for Lou. I was so glad that he didn’t end up changing his mind, because it would have just been too sweet, but I think I needed just a glimpse into what he was thinking during the six months.
Whitney: I’m so glad that there was no simplistic moral resolution with Will changing his mind and deciding life was worth living because LOVE. The biggest problem I had with the book was how predictable I found it. As soon as we were through the first two chapters, I knew exactly what was going to happen. I have to admit that I didn’t really enjoy it very much simply because I felt like there were no surprises. It felt really formulaic to me. Designed to pull at the heartstrings at precisely the right moment. If Moyes had changed Will’s mind at the end, I would have been even more disappointed. Leaving it the way it is, you get a little more of the moral ambiguity of physician assisted suicide.
Kate: I agree with you that it was pretty formulaic. I have to admit that I already knew how it was going to end when I started it (hazard of librarianship: major spoilers on ALL the things) but I still ended up loving it. Which really surprised me!
Austyn: I’m sure every book club that has read this book has discussed physician assisted suicide, in this case from the group Dignitas. I liked that Moyes didn’t take a black and white approach to this. It must be an incredibly difficult decision for a person to make, and almost more difficult for his or her friends and family to cope with. This book really showed that.
Whitney: I appreciated that Louisa’s perspective showed how challenging that decision can be for loved ones. You could feel her going back and forth on the issue herself, and see her perspective changing as things went on. She never really changed her mind, but Moyes did a good job of showing how she was processing things.
Kate: I definitely found this to be the most compelling thing about the book, even more so than Lou and Will’s relationship. I found myself changing sides every few pages while I thought about how I would react to being in Will’s position, then in Lou’s, then in Mrs. Traynor’s, etc. Even though I generally settle on Will’s side, the whole thing definitely had my wheels turning.
Austyn: It was a lot of Louisa and Will’s mom going “You’re upset because your life is different from before, but you can still have a good life,” and Will explaining to them that a good life for him was not one where he had to rely 100% on other people, and where his condition could never improve.
Whitney: I can only imagine how hard that situation would be for everyone involved.
Austyn: My grandpa is a strong supporter of “Death with Dignity” and it really focuses on quality of life.
Whitney: In a way, Will was fortunate that he had the ability to present his perspective and fight for it. Not everyone has that opportunity.
Kate: So true. Although I have to wonder if that would somehow be worse, knowing that you’re fully able to make your own choices but that no one trusts you to make them anymore. And knowing that if someone else overrules your decision, there is physically nothing you can do about it. Either way…such a rough situation. *understatement of the year*
Austyn: I also REALLY liked that in the end Louisa’s love wasn’t enough to change Will’s mind. I think we are told so often that love can fix everything (which I am a staunch opponent to), and it was refreshing to see a plot where love could not and did not fix everything.
Whitney: Well, kinda. She did place a bit of a nice happy moment at the end.
Kate: I liked the end because it showed that love can change everything without “fixing” everything.
Final verdict: Would you recommend this book to a friend?
Austyn: Absolutely! I thought it was so real, and very very well written. Heck I might even watch the movie just to see if it does the book justice.
Kate: Yes, but mostly because I’m so surprised at how much I liked it. Although you definitely have to be in the mood for it…
Whitney: Nope. Ultimately, not a fan. I had way more fun discussing it than actually reading it.
Don’t forget to grab a copy of Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty for our June discussion!
Got an idea for a book we should read next? Share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.