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Cinderella with a Twist
Me Before You - Jojo Moyes
Member Name: rosebud2001
Me Before You - Jojo Moyes
Advantages: Undemanding - take it at face value and it'll pass the time on the beach
Disadvantages: Predictable, one dimensional characters, unpleasant leading man, riddled with stereotypes
Will Traynor used to be a high flying, thrill seeking middle class young man. He had it all - good looks, successful career and a beautiful girlfriend. One day a road accident changed everything, leaving him a paraplegic and in need of constant care and assistance from other people.
Lou Clark comes into his life as a carer. Lou is a hard working girl from the poor side of town and at first there is no real common ground between Will and Lou however slowly a bond forms between them as Will comes to appreciate Lou's ditzy warmth. What Lou doesn't know however is Will has already made plans about his future and she has been hired by his mother in the hope that Will may change his mind...
Jojo Moyes has written a book which is, essentially, chick lit with the added bonus of what at first glance seems to be a little controversy in the shape of the debate over assisted suicide.
I must state from the off that I really don't care much for chick lit, being of the opinion that if you have read one you generally find you have read them all; with each book in the genre tending to follow a variation on a theme.
To be fair to Moyes, her writing style is rather good and she certainly knows how to suck the reader in although it took me several chapters to actually get into the story. The vast majority of the book is told from Lou's perspective but for some - rather inexplicable - reason, Moyes has added a few chapters which are told from some other characters' perspective and this doesn't work for one crucial reason.
Throughout the book Moyes almost rams home the message that since Will's accident he feels he has had no voice and he fears that his choices are being taken away from him. Yet she doesn't give Will himself a voice in this book and for me that was a huge turn off as it somehow adds to what I found a rather patronising attitude towards the disabled in the book. Will's carer and Lou's sister both get chapters enabling them to convey a different perspective but Will - who is the leading character - doesn't.
When I was a student I knew a young man who was paraplegic following a rugby accident so I am fully aware of how much paraplegic people rely on the help of others but there was something rather one dimensional about Will and his surly reluctance to attempt any form of acceptance towards his disability. Perhaps because I have encountered someone in real life who genuinely had to face up to this issue I found Will's initial attitude to be very annoying and while as the book progressed and his attitude did improve the fact of the matter was I found him to be such an unpleasant character I really didn't care about him or what his decision was going to be.
I do wonder if the book would have worked better with someone who had lived a life less exceptionally perfect than Will. Moyes goes into great detail in letting the reader know about Will's life prior to the accident - the successful career, the gorgeous girlfriend, the luxury flat in London, the exotic travel and, perhaps most importantly, the physical activities he took part in when he got to these exotic places.
Lou is a far more pleasant character however once again Moyes falls into the trap of being patronising when describing her working class family and her blissful ignorance, and I am afraid to say Moyes' fails to create a working class family that couldn't step out from the realms of "stereotype".
The book's cover is filled with review captions describing the book as "romantic" and I can't really argue with that even if I find that kind of romance rather predictable in a book featuring a disabled leading man. It is to Moyes' credit that she doesn't gloss over the realities of life as a paraplegic but it's not going to be spoiling the plot for anyone to learn that his carer falls in love with him. The thing is it's hard to know if Lou's feelings are based on true love or a desperation to bring him out of his deep depression. Also, to be less than romantic, I couldn't help but wonder if Lou was attracted to the lifestyle of Will's family and their money. Had Will's character been from a less well heeled background this wouldn't have been a concern of course - but then again it wouldn't be yet another variation on "Cinderella" then.
Overall this is a fairly enjoyable and undemanding read which is let down by the one dimensional characters and a plot which tries to add a serious theme to what is a bit of a fairy story.
I clearly hold an unpopular opinion on this book however - almost every review I have read of it has been glowing but if you are expecting a book which is life changing then I am afraid this may let you down. Moyes can certainly write decent enough prose but the predictable plot line and characters which I personally found hard to care about left me feeling decidedly disappointed. Where she let me down the most however was in not giving Will a voice in his own chapter despite ramming the point home that he didn't have one in the book.
Maybe of course I am just too cynical for a book such as this but when it comes to something as deadly serious as life changing disabilities and assisted suicide I don't think predictable chick lit is the place to do it and if this book had been published by Mills & Boon I suspect some of the people who raved about it may think twice.
Summary: A chick lit book that tries to discuss a serious theme but is essentially a fairy tale