Warning: The following text contains spoilers to the book and film “Me Before You” (“Et Helt Halvt År” på Norsk). Please do not continue to read if you don’t want to know how either book or film ends.
I’m going to reflect on this story like I did when I read it; by drawing lines from the plot and characters to my own experience with a wheelchair user who did not want to live. My Papa.
Because of his story, I had a pretty solid suspicion on how things between Lou and Will would end. I also knew it because everyone kept telling me how much they bawled their eyes out (I actually didn’t while reading, even though catching me watching the trailer makes my Nan think I’ve broken up with an imaginary boyfriend. Blubbering Mess Anonymous next).
Once I finished the book I felt empty and angry with Will for not giving him and Lou more time. I needed answers for my frustration and googled interviews with JoJo Moyes like one questions Higher Powers when they lose their beloved; why did he have to go?
I found many discussions and comments saying things like the book is not a romance. Will should have lived. Will had to die. Will should have died of natural causes (Anticipating what I did, I still hoped this would be the case while reading).
I would like to address those points in my review.
This book is a romance. There is next to no doubt about that. But I think it’s not just a romance and it’s central theme is not about finding love. I think it’s about choice.
Ten year old me understood the matter of choice. When I was told my Papa had ended his own life, I accepted that he had made his choice and mine was to go on with my life. The anger and resentment didn’t come before the ten years anniversary. It didn’t come before he couldn’t come to graduation; before I realized how much easier the world has made it to keep in touch across the world and have disabilities due to new research and social media. If he had only waited. At this point I’d begun to crush (quenched it, twisted it and shoved it up-) my understanding of his choice, until I read Me Before You.
Some called Will selfish. Yeah, he was, and so was my Papa. But pot meets kettle; I’m selfish too if I hate and label my Papa for choosing to be free from the pain and ghosts of the past (he too was an adventurer, living life to the fullest, and handsome man who had the ladies swooning) instead of choosing to live and see me grow up. Instead I’m choosing truce with the part of him that’s still alive within me. It doesn’t make it less sad and it’s definitely not easy. But to anyone who are struggling to understand someone’s choice to leave I’d say, and I’m quoting my Nan, my Papa’s mum, that they “should read Me Before You, because it will explain it”. It will explain what Reason understand, but which the Heart does not.
Will had to die. One way or another, or else the book wouldn’t have affected us like it did and caused the awareness it does if the story hadn’t been awfully realistic. Believe me, I too needed Will to live; needed the book to say “Love conquers all”. I wish he had died of natural causes, and I needed Lou’s love to be enough to make him want to give them that extra time (Team Love). But it wasn’t about Love. It was about choice. Will’s death marks the countless number of characters and real people that leaves the world a darker place, and it’s a tragedy, after choosing between the choice to live past disappointment and obstacles and the choice to give up.
Like my Papa, Will made his choice. It came after the looks, the fears, the limitations, the physical pain and the damn image of himself that he poured too much into, but it came and he went. It left us empty, as if we’d lost a loved one, and for that Me Before You is a precious piece of work reminding us to weigh our choices so that we can live as best as we can – and respect, even if we don’t agree, the choices that others make with their own lives.
I’ll give you a quick film review. I really did like the film, the actors were perfectly cast. The only things I did not like was that they cut the scene with the maze which was significant for Louisa’s character. Moreover, I’m steadily getting annoyed with the film industry for making their films such fast paced. Me Before You have depth building from the details. Time is of the essence and precious. It’s about the little moments rather than the big ones. But, instead of lingering at the scenes so that we have a chance to connect, the film just rushes through one scene after the other. If you had not read the book from before I’m afraid you’d struggle to be equally connected to Lou and Will’s relationship. That’s not me saying “don’t watch the film” though. You should definitely watch the film. And read the book. Which order is up to you, but do it and see a different life through someone else’s eyes.