It’s only fitting that I start off this month’s book reviews with a romance. And if you want a romance that will throw you into conflict and probably break your heart, then Me Before You is something you should read.
The synopsis (via the back of the book):
“Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living and exceedingly ordinary life — steady boyfriend, close family — who has hardly been farther afield than her 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 he is not interested in exploring a new one.
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, Lou sets out to show him that life is still worth living.”
I shouldn’t have been skeptical of this book, because Sara Lily has an excellent record so far and this is the last of the novels she mailed me, but I was. I’m always a bit wary of romance novels, because I write them and I hate reading a novel that I end up thinking “I could have done better.” (Not that I think I am better, but that I go through the novel thinking “why didn’t they do this instead?” or “that sentence should be rewritten” and etc. I have an editorial mind when reading.)
I needn’t have been so afraid to be disappointed, though!
Louisa Clark is the girl who is left behind and sitting in the shadow of those around her — her sister Katrina, who is considered the “smart” one, her boyfriend Patrick who is obsessed with training and fitness — and has no aspirations in her life. She likes her quiet little existence and boring little village, and doesn’t want to leave it. But when her job at the cafe where she’s worked for years is suddenly taken away, she is forced to find a new vocation. Not only for herself as income, but as the one in her family who can support them all. She is pressured to take a job caring for Will by her sister, who needs someone to pay school fees and who reminds her that her newly-unemployed parents desperately need someone to take the worry off their minds about money.
After the first day, she hates her job. Will hates her, she is bored out of her mind, and she doesn’t think she can take six months of caring for a man who sits staring out the window and has no desire to do anything outside of his home.
But then one day, she decides not to put up with his crap. And then, after overhearing a private conversation between Will’s mother and sister, she realizes that she has been hired for a very specific purpose, and she only has six months to fulfill that purpose.
So, she sets out to make the next six months the best Will has had since his accident, to show him that even being wheelchair bound he can have a wonderful life, and to convince him that it’s worth living even when he needs someone to do every single thing for him.
Spoilers ahead, if you hadn’t already guessed his plans and I might also give away the end of the book. You have been warned.
As she figures out things they can do and ways to make him see how wonderful life is, Lou realizes she’s falling in love with Will, and Will feels the same. But, because of his plans to end his life at Dignitas (a real place, I had no idea), he is reluctant to let Lou throw her life at him in this way and constantly encourages her to widen her horizons. Through the book, he doesn’t know that she knows his plans until the very end.
I was really conflicted about the whole Dignitas thing. A central theme in Louisa’s journey to figuring out how to convince Will to live was a few people (and Will himself) saying “but it’s not your choice to convince him to live; it’s his choice to live or die.” Assisted suicide was the last thing in Will’s life that could be 100% his own decision, and through the novel he is fighting to keep the right to choose to end his existence. And I was conflicted about that.
For the novel’s purpose, it was a really good conflict to have and I was actually really satisfied with the ending because it was realistic, and I am also a sucker for a romance that ends tragically. Will didn’t change his mind in those short six months, despite falling in love with Lou, and that’s pretty real. I doubt someone who was paralyzed and wanted to end life would really change their minds after years of mental torture and absolutely hating that they could no longer be the person they were before — especially since that person was active, rich, respected, had many friends, and lived a very big life.
But obviously I am conflicted about assisted suicide. Any suicide. I just have to put it out there; it makes me so sad that for some life is so utterly hopeless that Dignitas actually exists to help them end themselves. That is such a deep, dark place one has to be in to make that decision.
Earrings (old) c/o Oasap | everything else, thrifted
So as a tragic romance novel, I loved Me Before You. It was sweet, considerate, thought-provoking, and just a really entertaining read. And my conflict about Dignitas totally does not negate the fact that I want to go see the film when it comes out! (Side note, I finished reading the book and only a few days later realized they made a movie. And I think they cast it really well!)
Last but not least, on a whole different note, you’ve probably noticed my new theme by now. And if you don’t follow me on Social Media (WHY NOT: Insta, Facebook, Twitter) then you wouldn’t know that Lyndsey designed it and she is brilliant! She offered me a blog makeover as a Secret Santa gift, and I could not be more thrilled with the results. The header is hand-painted by her, and she did such an awesome job of working off of my inspiration board and my tagline to create something that is 100% me, from the colors to the mushrooms to the owl to… just everything. It’s so good!
So, go tell her how amazing she is. Because she deserves all the praise!