Monday, June 13, 2016

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

Here are my thoughts on Me Before You, the book and the movie, if anyone is interested. Spoilers ahead.

I really liked the book. I enjoyed most of it, even though Will was a jerk and I could not understand that for awhile. He and Lou's banter was funny, and although some people had a problem with Lou I thought she was a quirky and relatable character. The story progressed nicely, and I thought the character dynamics were strong.

Here's the thing. Obviously I am against suicide, assisted suicide included. I am not downplaying severe depression. It exists and it is debilitating. I understand that after Will was hit by that motorbike that his fast-paced, successful life completely turned upside down and he could no longer participate in the things he loved anymore. What didn't help was his family, either. His sister isn't around (not that I put any blame on her, she's an adult and doesn't have to stick around just for her brother), and his parents' relationship was estranged. Although they love Will, they hardly showed it. They never seemed to try and sit with Will, talk with him, get him professional mental health. Of course these things may have happened behind the scenes, but as far as the book and movie, I could not gather much support from his family. It isn't even that I blame Will for trying to commit suicide. Suicide is an unfortunate reality and I was not surprised to learn that he had already attempted it, or that he continued to have suicidal thoughts. What I did have a problem with, though, was the end.

I thought this was going to be a love story, I was prepared for it, and it truly wasn't. I am not usually interested in love stories anyway so I quickly got over that part. I thought the story depicted how a non-disabled person could fall in love with a disabled-person—that their ability did not matter. It was Will's soul and personality that Lou fell in love with, and I think that Will fell in love with Louisa as well, although he wasn't very great at showing it. This story did not have to have a happy ending, I've read plenty of books that don't. Honestly, I was expecting some medical fallacy to kill Will or that he would pass away from complications from his paralysis. I did not anticipate him to still want to kill himself after all Lou showed him he could do. After she showed him that he could love and be loved back. That he could have a wonderful, fulfilling life and family and career despite his setbacks. It didn't seem that Will even considered any of this. He set his mind on dying and he basically gave up.

Yes, this happens to people. When something tragic happens, they sometimes give up. But it is up to their inner strength and the people they love to pull them out of it, which is exactly what Louisa was trying to do. All I know is if I was Will's parents I would go through Hell and back to try and convince Will that his life has meaning. I would not accept his decision to end his life, as selfish as this may seem. I would not take him to the place where he will be killed. I understand respecting a person's decision, but how could you drive your child to a place where you know he will never leave? He was 30 years old, he barely even had time to live. Just because he can't jump off cliffs anymore doesn't mean that he can't do anything of worth. A drastic lifestyle change, yes, but two years does not seem like enough time to fully pull yourself out of a setback like losing feeling of 90% of your body.

What does this tell disabled/paralyzed people? That you can't do amazing things anymore because you're in a wheelchair? That you might as well give up because it isn't going to get any better? That although you could have a great life, it isn't the life you used to live, so you probably should just end it? Not only was the end of this story not a happily ever after, but it left a feeling of despair and hopelessness. People who are disabled: things can get better. You can do anything you want to do. You have worth and can accomplish amazing things. Your disability does NOT define you. It's never too late, never give up. This story may not have told a story of hope, perseverance, acceptance, or courage, but stories like that DO exist. I am not sure what the message was that this story was trying to send. I know it focuses on Louisa changing herself for the better, but Will did not need to die to accomplish that. (And she also didn't have to realize her potential because a man told her to, but that's another topic). I hope everyone can enjoy this story to some degree, and I hope it hasn't discouraged anyone, both disabled and non-disabled.

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