Me Before You: One Reader’s Opinion

me before you cover


It’s 5:30 in the morning right now. On a Saturday. And thanks to the little dude in the next room who woke me up to inform me that he’d gotten sick all over his bed, I’m awake.

I’m awake and I can’t fall back to sleep.

I can’t fall back to sleep because I keep thinking about this book I finished listening to last night.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.

I didn’t like it.

I know. I know. I’m in the total minority. People LOVE this book. I mean, as I sit here right now there are 10,400+ reviews on Amazon and the average rating is 4.6 out of 5. I’m not super great at math or anything, but that’s a darn good score.

I get it.

Jojo Moyes is a brilliant writer.

And the audio. Well, listening to a British accent for 13+ hours is definitely NOT torture. I love British accents. I’m slightly obsessed with British accents. I think I drove my meme-obsessed husband mad because while listening to this audio, I developed my own British accent, evidenced by this meme he texted me the other day.


It’s going to take me some time for my inner dialogue to stop sounding like a plucky girl from London.

I feel like I also must say that I read this book because I saw the movie trailer.

After having watched Love, Rosie, I became a giant fan of Sam Claflin. He was absolutely charming in his role as Alex, and not too shabby as Finnick Odair, either.

Anyway, I saw the preview and I thought, “Oh, this movie looks heartbreakingly wonderful!”

I’m weird like that. I actually like sad stories.

I’m okay with people dying at the end.

This seemed right up my alley.

I downloaded my copy from audible and stuck in my ear buds and began to listen to what I thought was going to be a romantic love story.

And at first, I fell in love. I fell in love with taciturn, distant Will Trainer. I fell in love with the aimless but spirited Louisa Clark.

I listened raptly as their relationship changed from antagonistic to agreeable.

I smiled and cheered when Louisa began to break through Will’s barriers.

And then it happened.

The thing.

The BIG BAD AWFUL THING, I’ll call it. (BBAT for short.)

We learn why Louisa was hired.

We learn that Will Trainer–who lives life in a wheelchair as a quadriplegic thanks to a motor accident–has plans to take his life via physician-assisted suicide (PAS) after having already tried and failed to take his life in a less dignified manner.

We get a heart-wrenching glimpse into his mother’s perspective, who desperately doesn’t want her son to do it, but is at a loss for options.

Louisa Clark is her last hope.

This was the point where I started to get squirmy. This was the point where I started voxing two of my friends who had already read the book intensely passionate, angsty messages that basically went like this …

“He’s not going to do it, is he?”

“Surely, he’s not going to do that.”

“Please tell me Will Trainer is NOT GOING TO DO THAT.”

“Oh my gosh, if they fall in love and Will actually goes through with it, I will NOT BE ABLE TO DEAL.”

Louisa Clark (or just plain Clark, as Will calls her) finds out about this plan and after a strong initial reaction, decides she’d going to stop him from doing the BBAT. Thus begins a string of adventures (some painful, some beautiful), all meant to convince Will that his life is worth living.

Spoiler alert. Just in case you didn’t notice the blaring red one up above.

It doesn’t work.

Louisa and Will do fall in love. Louisa tells Will it was the best six months of her life. And Will, oddly enough, returns the sentiment. It was the best six months of his life, too. He admits that he could live a good life with her.

But it’s not enough.

And so, off he goes to Dignitas (a facility in Switzerland) and ends his life.

Okay. Look.

I get it.

I get that this is beautifully written and makes a reader feel all the feels. I admit that the only reason I didn’t cry is because I’d purposely gone into shut-down mode for the sake of self-preservation and all that. I get that Jojo Moyes takes the reader deep into the mind of a man who goes through with a decision many of us don’t agree with, and she has this way of getting you to understand it. To sympathize with it. To break over it. To really see it.

I get that in life, love isn’t always enough.

But you guys.

I still don’t like it.

I really. Don’t. Like it.

In fact, as soon as I reached the epilogue and Lou opens the letter Will wrote before the BBAT, I texted one of my friends, “I hate this book!”

And I’m trying to figure out why.

Why this intense visceral reaction of dislike?

At first, I started thinking it was this agenda. Jojo was trying to romanticize euthanasia and I wasn’t going to swallow that pill. No, ma’am. Not me. I don’t like books with agendas.

But I *think* (this particular opinion is still formulating) that was just my anger talking.

I don’t think Jojo wrote the book to advocate for PAS anymore than my Gifting Series is an attempt to indoctrinate young minds with right-wing or left-wing ideology (it’s been accused of both). My political opinions pretty much start and stop with “Trump is repulsive”. At this point in time, I don’t have much else to say.

I really think Moyes was just exploring the life of someone who chooses PAS.

And really, if my beef is with the suicide, how then can I like Romeo and Juliet? I don’t mean to spoil anything here, but um, they both kill themselves.

And here we come to it.

The thing that really gets to me.

Romeo kills himself because he cannot live without Juliet.

He can’t live without her and she can’t live without him.

They can’t bear to live without love.

Will Trainer can’t bear to live, period. Even with love. He has it, but this love isn’t enough to keep him alive. Lou isn’t enough to keep him alive. Love isn’t enough.

Look. I get it.

That’s life.

And in life, love doesn’t conquer all. Sometimes it just isn’t enough.

I get it. I really do.

But this isn’t life.

This is story. And story is supposed to be BIGGER than life.

I want story to be bigger than life.

I especially want love stories to be bigger than life.

I want love to win.

I want love to conquer all.

I want love to beat all the odds and change a stubborn man like Will Trainer. I want love to not just be enough, I want it to be MORE than enough. I want it to convince him that life is worth living.

Color me romantic, it’s what I want.

But it’s not what I got.

Me Before You wasn’t bigger than life. It was just … life.

Real, raw, broken life.

Which is why I think so many people love it.

And why, ultimately, I don’t.

Because it was only part of what’s real.

I think behind every great story is a deeper, bigger truth.

Stories are never just stories.

Jesus knew this. It’s why he used them to teach. He used them all the time. Being as He’s God and all, I think he’s got pretty good insight into the human psyche. Story speaks to a larger truth.

There’s this giant narrative unfolding all around us. One that is true.

And stories–the kind that I apparently prefer–reflect that deeper, bigger truth.

The whole thing.

Why does my heart long for LOVE to win?

Because love ultimately did win.

On a cross 2000+ years ago. Love won. Despite what everything popular in our world might say, love CAN and DOES change a person. Love CAN and DOES change lives. At least, the right kind of love. The perfect kind of love. Please hear me on this, lest I start spreading dangerous ideology. I’m not talking about the kind of love we can give at all. I’m talking about the life-giving love of a God-man who died a brutal death all for love.

Why did my heart recoil at the ending of this book?

Because that’s part of the big narrative, too. We’re a broken lot, walking around in a broken world. And sometimes we’re dealt crappy hands and we just .. we don’t know how to deal. We don’t want to deal. That’s life.

But see.

It’s only PART.

There is so so SO much more.

Something infinitely better than that particular end. Where a bloke decides to stop living because he doesn’t like the hand he’s been given.

I guess I want the books I read to point to the more. And this one didn’t. At least, it didn’t for me.

Tell me, what did YOU think?

Let it be known, I love talking books. I love that we all come to stories with our own thoughts, beliefs, opinions, preferences, life experiences. So even though the story has the same words to everyone who reads it, it’s a totally unique experience to everyone who reads it. So please, chime in!

23 thoughts on “Me Before You: One Reader’s Opinion

  1. I so totally agree with you. I had serious mixed feelings about this book — although not, in any way, conflicted feelings. On the one hand, this is a compelling, interesting, well written story that is nearly perfectly structured and kept my interest and investment all the way through. It also, on the surface, does a good job presenting the quandaries of a serious moral issue.

    But even with the gray areas of the issue aside, what drove me nuts was that Will ended up as an insufferably selfish, arrogant jerk, who placed his own needs and his belief that he wasn’t owed anything less than a “big” life over the needs of everyone around him. He left ruin in his wake, and he–did–not–care. It’s been a long time since a fictional character has made me this angry.

  2. Jessica

    So I read the book and was captivated but angry at the end for the same reasons you were. Also it was at the time the girl Brittany was going to end her life and then said she wasn’t and did anyway. So I’m sure that didn’t help either. Yes it makes us sympathize and the argument is that people shouldn’t have to suffer but suffering is part of life. It’s what we do with our suffering that we should focus on. Do we give in and say forget it and end life or embrace it and try to make it something more. Like you said in the video at church we have hope in Christ not hope in people or cures or other things. Unfortunately we are in the minority and I fear the day society kills us because we are too expensive medically or just of no use because we are old.

  3. Tari Faris

    OK I’ll admit it, I haven’t read the book. I almost did when the trailer came out. But I’m a spoiler person. (I know – that’s awful. But honestly help me enjoy books more. But that’s a topic for another time) So with the mix comments on Facebook on the trailer, I set off to find out why everyone was up in arms about this book. Like you said, I don’t really mind sad endings if I can get behind them. I think your comments summed up what I was feeling also but couldn’t describe. Because I guess a love that’s not worth living for or giving giving up all I thought I wanted for, is it really the type of love I want to read about or watch. I love that’s not willing to sacrifice personal wants– to me is not love. That said, the trailer does really look good. Perhaps I watch, it stop it early, and mentally create my own ending. I’ve done it before LOL benefits of being a writer is the mental rewrite.

    1. Tari Faris

      Sorry for all the typos. I have to stop trying to comment on my phone. Lol

    2. Katie Ganshert

      I want to make up a different ending! And I really am not sure if I’ll be able to resist watching the movie. The trailer, I think, really misrepresents what the books is actually about. The trailer made it look like a really cute, adorable romantic (albeit emotional) love story. That’s not what we get in the book.

  4. Katie, this is fascinating. I’m so glad you took the time to tease out why you didn’t like it. I can see some of your points, even though I disagree. We read through the lens of our own experience and my background is as a hospice social worker. For the majority of my patients, hospice was the natural conclusion of their disease’s inevitable declines. But there were some who longed to live in a state where PAS was legal. I can never forget the conversations I had with these fine people. While I will always sing hospice’s praises, there are some declines and diseases that are horrid no matter how good the comfort measures may be. And I can 100% understanding someone wanting control over the end, even if I wouldn’t make the same decision, nor would I have felt comfortable helping them make that decision. Will arguably had a better quality of life than all of my patients, even though he wouldn’t have seen it that way. So even though I wanted Louisa to be enough for him, I could understand why she wasn’t…because that reflected the reality of some of my former patients. Love doesn’t always conquer all. For me, this book illustrated why it’s important for us as a society to talk about death, dying, illness, and so on. We have to start facing the reality of our mortality. Had Will grown up and lived in a society that did a better job of this, I don’t believe he would have made the same decision. But because he grew up believing there were no limitations, he could not ultimately accept the irreversibility (not a real word but should be) or the shift in his future ambitions.

    1. Katie Ganshert

      Irreversibility should totally be a word. 🙂

      I get that this book was real to life. I saw that, 100%. I guess I realized through reading it (and my utter disappointment with the end), is that I want books that are bigger than the broken life we’re living here. I want a book that hints at the something more that’s every bit as real as all the broken stuff.

      Love your perspective as a hospice social worker!

  5. You found my thoughts with your comment, “Choosing death. Choosing defeat. But then spinning it like it’s not defeat but a great option.” I was let down by the author because she created a characters who I liked and sympathized with, then turned him into a coward who couldn’t deal with his life so gave up on it. I guess it’s a character arc of sorts…in the reverse direction. Despite how well it’s written, the story was a disappointment to me and not one that I will recommend to anyone else.

  6. Yes.

  7. Tiffany

    Katie, I love what you said, and I completely agree. Since I knew from the beginning there is a sequel called Me After You, I didn’t have hope for long that he would live. I still wanted it to happen with everything in me though. And pretty much for the reasons you mentioned. So, I loved 98% of it and hated the last 2%, and I wasn’t sure how to rectify those two feelings. Which is why I think I love what you said. You have explained perfectly what I couldn’t. Thank you! As a sidenote, I also plan on seeing the movie.

    1. Katie Ganshert

      I knew without a doubt he was going to die. Right when I picked it up, for all the reasons you mentioned. I was just shocked when I found out how he wanted to die, and then even more shocked that it was actually going to happen that way!! I was sure it wasn’t going to go down like that. That he wasn’t going to choose death. There’s the thing too. Choosing death. Choosing defeat. But then spinning it like it’s not defeat but a great option, the only option he could “live” with. That made me cringe.

      1. Tiffany

        Yes! Thank you again for properly articulating my feelings. He had lived his life with such vigor, but he was now unwilling to admit/accept that he still could. I know his accident would be life-changing for anyone, but I expected more from him. I mean, look what he did for Clark!

  8. I loved this, Katie. I had such a hard time with my feelings over this book, too. I let myself sob over the ending. I hated it, but liked it at the same time. And it was so hard for me to put that into words, so whenever someone asks me if I liked it, all I can say is that I did and I didn’t. I prefer the happy, love wins endings, too. I kept hoping beyond hope that his love for Lou would change everything for him. 🙁

    I adore Sam Claflin, too. He was exactly who I pictured when I was reading this book, so I was happy to see that he was cast in the movie. It will break my heart to see this played out on the big screen, but I plan to go. I will probably be a great big blubbery mess, though.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

    1. Katie Ganshert

      I’m not sure I’ll be able to resist the movie. Call me a masochist! 😉

  9. Okay, I’ll play.
    I loved this book and I hated it for all the very same reasons you did. But ultimately I have to say it’s one of my all time favorite books. I am a deeply emotional person, and I hate being deeply emotional. I hate crying and avoid showing emotion in public – okay so now y’all know I have issues – but this book – wow, I was sitting on the couch sobbing. And that never happens. I think it was a totally genius storyline for the very reason it evoked a multitude of mixed emotions, and everyone wants to talk about it. And as an author, you know that’s gold. So there’s that. The writing was brilliant, characters were just lovely because I think we can relate in some way to all of them, but yes, then the end comes. And where is the hope? I think you’ve hit the nail. IS there really any hope at the end? We don’t know for sure whether Lou will get on with her life or whether she’ll go back to her mundane existence – um, well, I suppose that’s because Moyes intended to write a sequel – but Katie, I agree with you – if this had been a novel with even a bit of God and faith in it, we may not feel so let down at the end. But it’s not. It is what it is, and I have to say for the most part, when you pick up an ABA book, that’s what you get. There is an emptiness because the author cannot fill it with grace or mercy or any type of salvation experience. Perhaps I am generalizing in a huge way here, but I read a ton of ABA books and I don’t go looking for a Christian message in them. I don’t think we can even compare the two, it’s apples and oranges when it comes to a faith message. Which is why Christian fiction exists and why we should strive even harder to put out stellar stories that can cross the lines and reach a broader market, without selling ourselves out to do it. Have I gone off topic? Not sure. LOL. But all that to say, I get it. And I love your heart. And I think this is a great discussion. 🙂

    1. Katie Ganshert

      LOVE THIS!

      First of all, there’s this: And as an author, you know that’s gold.

      Um, yes.

      And second of all, I hear wha you’re saying, and while I agree in part, I also disagree, too. I never expect a Christian message or anything like that from non-Christian authors. But I do think so many books speak to this BIGGER story without the writer even knowing about the bigger story, because it’s written deep down in our hearts. That longing for something more and better. Harry Potter. The Matrix. Lord of the Rings. None of those are meant to be religious fiction, but they tell of redemption, of hope, without trying.

      Girl – have you read Epic by John Eldridge? I so resonate with this book, and I know you will too. It’s super super short and packs a powerful punch and will make you SO passionate about the power of story. It’s basically like sitting in on an Allen Arnold class. 🙂

      1. Oh, I will have to check that out!! Yes, I see your comparisons and yes, some books do have a lot of hope even if there is no Christian message. And this book just didn’t. Although, I’m not sure, because wouldn’t Lou have learned so much through her experiences. And the old Tennyson quote comes to mind – better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. 🙂

      2. Katie Ganshert

        You should totally read it! Super quick read! Then let me know what you think. 🙂

        Yeah, I get that. Part of me can actually see it. That if we’re just looking at it from Lou’s perspective, there could be hope. She changed. She grew. Her horizons were broadened. But I think that’s one of my struggles, too. Why is it better for her horizons to be expanded than it is for her to make a life with the man she loves?

  10. I love your thoughts on the book, and I especially love the way you explained what was really missing… Let’s skip the sequel, shall we? 🙂

    1. Katie Ganshert

      Thank you for listening to my angsty vox messages! Lol. Love you, friend!

    2. Actually, I quite enjoyed the sequel. Okay, I’ll admit to thinking it was pretty contrived, but again, a good story. And a happier ending, if that helps. 🙂

  11. I loved the characters, I hated the ending. I sobbed BOTH times I read it. My book club already has plans to see the movie with copious amounts of tissues and chocolate.
    Even though I wanted it to turn out differently, I think the author made me *feel* the characters so deeply that I think positively about the book.
    In full disclosure, though, I couldn’t get through the sequel, and that was disappointing.

    1. Katie Ganshert

      I’ve heard a lot of differing opinions on the sequel. Some loved it. Some couldn’t read it b/c the first book wrecked them so profoundly. Some tried it and quit. Some though meh. I find this so fascinating!


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