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Me Before You #1
Description⎮Reviewed Feb. 2016
❤Buddy Listen with Dana!
5 ★ Audiobook⎮ I feel sort of rotten putting a “numerical label of worth” (rating) on this particular piece because it had such an indescribable effect on me. I will admit that the main thing that motivated me to start Me Before You was learning through the movie trailer that it contained a character with a severe disability (quadriplegia). I’m sure that could be a major turn off for others because disability isn’t something that is often spoken about in the open, much less written about!
There has been a major push recently for authors to write more diverse books and I could make the argument that disability should be a primary topic in that discussion because it is something that affects all orientations, races, ethnicities, and cultural backgrounds. It is indeed the largest minority on the planet. I’m not trying to take anything away from other minorities, but disability is frequently glossed over in those discussions and deserves to be addressed.
Speaking of “glossing over”, I was fully expecting the more realistic aspects of Will’s disability to go unmentioned completely or be merely hinted at in a “fade to black” way. I give Jojo Moyes so much respect and admiration for not romanticizing the disability. Given that Me Before You is technically classified as a romance novel, she could have very easily done so. But I am so glad she didn’t. She wrote about Will’s physical discomfort, the daily medical issues he faced, and his frustrations at being stripped of his dignity and free will. She described his hesitance to eat in public (or even go in public) because of the reactions he got from other people and the physical barriers that prevented him from enjoying public events. She showcased how difficult it is for the caregiver/family member to watch a loved one with a disability endure all of this and be able to do very little about it. Most of all, she shined a bright spotlight on the way society still (indirectly) shuns those with disabilities. The characters in this story were more than characters to me because I know that there are millions of people experiencing these same obstacles right now (literally, millions). This story needed to be told.
Slightly Spoiler-y ⬇︎
I think the thing I love most about Me Before You is that we hear from almost everyone’s point-of-view except Will’s. His story is told exclusively through the perspectives of those around him. It’s possible I’m reading too much into this, but I think this could have been Moyes’ subtle way of making the point that Will’s voice largely went unheard after his paralysis. As he said, everyone thought they knew what was best for him, but no one ever actually listened to him. Thus, the reader never gets to listen to him either. I’ve seen reviews that complained about this, but I think it’s a powerful way to make Will’s point. I’ve also seen some readers/listeners lower this book’s rating based on their dissatisfaction with the way it ended. Those readers were likely looking for a swoon-worthy romance where Will and Louisa live happily ever after. Some of them may have even been expecting Will to eventually walk again. Not to sound snarky, but those people really should have watched a Disney film instead. Jojo Moyes’ book was more realistic than that. I have so much respect for Moyes for not sending Will and Louisa off into the sunset together and tying everything up with a pretty ribbon (therefore potentially dishonoring the genuine struggles and sacrifices of those with disabilities).
What Will wanted more than anything was the power to take his life into his own hands. This is something that the non-disabled often take for granted. He wanted to make a choice for himself and for it to be honored. Ultimately, he wanted that even more than he wanted Louisa. This didn’t please many readers because it’s not the choice they wanted Will to make. But that’s the point! Will’s decision wasn’t about what anyone else wanted, readers included. I think part of the point Moyes was trying to make was that we should respect someone’s decision, even if we wholeheartedly do not agree with it. The other part was that everyone has the right to make their own choices in life. Just because someone’s physical abilities have been taken away does not give others the right to take away their free will. My point is: It’s not pretty, but it’s real. To me, that’s worth a lot more.
Narration review: According to Audible, this audiobook had six narrators, although I only remember hearing five. It was told from the perspective of Louisa, Camilla, Nathan, Stephen, and Katrina (and possibly a sixth I’m forgetting). This audiobook perfectly exemplified how to do multiple POVs correctly: Few, far between, and with multiple narrators for maximum character distinction. Aside from Louisa, we only heard from the other character POVs once each, so there wasn’t a lot of flip-flopping to cause confusion. Having multiple narrators, although probably expensive, goes a long way toward ensuring the listener doesn’t confuse character voices. Each of the narrators did a wonderful job of inserting an appropriate amount of emotion into their performances. Well done! ♣︎