Synopsis: “You’re going to feel uncomfortable in your new world for a bit. But I hope you feel a bit exhilarated too. Live boldly. Push yourself. Don’t settle. Just live well. Just live. Love, Will.”
How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?
Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.
Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future…
For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.
This review contains spoilers for the first book, Me Before You.
(This review contains spoilers for Me Before You.)
(No, really, it does. Massive, nasty ones. If you haven’t read that one, go do that instead. It’s a real joy, I promise you.)
Anyway. With unexpected sequels like this one, I suppose it comes down to whether the sequel adds anything to the original. And I’m going to say this one doesn’t. Like, at all.
I mean, I recognize the temptation to write a follow-up to Me Before You. That one smashed it, a rare combination of being a Goodreads ratings darling and having commercial/bestseller success. It’s an absolute goldmine. Of course you’d want to beat that particular dead horse. But I don’t have to appreciate your treatment of that poor equine corpse. (And if you compare the Goodreads ratings between the first and the second, it’s clear a lot of readers aren’t quite as into it.)
“But that’s just a fairy-tale ending, isn’t it? Man dies, everyone learns something, moves on, creates something wonderful out of his death.”
An interesting sentence, that. Its intention is to explain the “need” for a sequel, when, in actuality, it’s making the reader feel guilty for loving the first book. Or at least liking it enough to appreciate its follow-up. I was already sensitive to criticisms of the first book, because I hate liking things that could be problematic in any way. (I didn’t even like the movie, which drew the most ire, and I still feel guilty! Hit me up on whether or not you think Me Before You is problematic.)
Let me explain my love for Me Before You so I can carefully outline my qualms against this follow-up. Me Before You is quite the love story – I don’t feel emotions very often, and I definitely felt something while reading that book. It made a claim for the humanity of assisted suicide, which is a cause I believe in. And it had a nice theme – we only have one life and we need to live it.
This book was 400 pages of the latter, again. Because apparently, the reader isn’t intelligent enough to infer that Louisa Clark mourned, and then made her way to living her fullest life. No, we had to follow along as she monotonously ambled through it. There was no grand love story. The attempt at social-issue appeal was an alarmingly outdated subplot on a housewife’s introduction to basic feminism that bordered on circus sideshow in sheer goofiness. Also, some heavy-handed looks at, like, violence? Maybe gangs? I think I detected what may have been a soon-removed effort to discuss mental illness.
And there’s the kicker – this book should, at its core, discuss grief and mourning. Instead, it inserts truisms. Its “Moving On Support Group” is a joke, cycled through a repetitive storyline in the hopes it’ll make sense when Lou makes progress. (It doesn’t.)
This made me realize that I don’t even like our protagonist, Louisa Clark. I liked her love interest from the last book, Will Traynor. Or did I? I liked their romance. Or did I? The worst kind of sequel is one that casts an uncertain light on your feelings for the first book. God, I’m so unhappy right now.
I feel bad for my family – in day two (three?) of my post-wisdom tooth surgery recovery, I dragged my swollen face about the house complaining about how I didn’t like this book. My mom, a fellow Moyes appreciator, wisely told me to stop reading it. I can’t, I said, filled with mistaken confidence, and continued: The entire appeal of this book is in the promise of character development. HA, HA, HA. GOOD ONE, ME.
Quirky ol’ Lou completes this book worse off than in Me Before You – even in her state of quasi-full recovery, she’s lost her light, her large personality. She’s like an entirely different character. Really, this felt like reading a wholly different world from the first book.
Most of the story is Lou’s
obsession with devotion to a sixteen year old miscreant misunderstood lovebug. She hangs on this girl’s every word, smokes weed when she’s asked, forgives a series of misdeeds ranging in severity – all for a girl she doesn’t know. She sums up her thoughts on her participation in the pot-smoking with: “Afterward, I couldn’t believe I had been manipulated by a sixteen-year-old. But Lily was like the cool girl in class, the one you found yourself trying to impress.” From a thirty year old. From a grown ass woman. How goddamn gross is that?!
Looks like I’m not leaving the ruination of some of my favorite books by shitty follow-ups in 2016.
Bottom line: If you loved Me Before You like I did, swaddle yourself in that love. Ignore negative reviews, and especially ignore the existence of this book.