SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT! SPOILER ALERT!
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 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.
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.
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.
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!