This is going to be, without a doubt, my most personal review ever. So hang on tight, folks ... here goes.
Me Before You seemed to be one of those sleeper hits around the blogosphere. Several of my blogger friends raved about their love for this book (and it was Cass whose review encouraged me to pick up the book). I'll admit that I'm a sucker for a pretty cover and, although the font on this one is pretty, it just didn't invite me in. I went into this book totally blind, knowing that it was a favourite for some of my friends, but I had NO IDEA what the book was about.
In some ways, I wish I had read the blurb before I picked it up, because then I would have at least been prepared. But then again, had I known that this book was about a man who was paralyzed and in a motorized wheelchair, perhaps I might have declined to pick it up. You see, this is why this book resonated so powerfully with me: my dad has the exact same injury as Will (a spinal cord injury between C5 and C6), although it seems like Will has just a little more mobility than my dad has. And when I got to the part where Lou finds out about Will's future plans (but I won't say anymore for fear of spoiling the story), I pretty much cried for the remainder of the book.
Here's my story: in June 2010, my dad was riding his bicycle home from work and a car pulled out in front of him. My dad slammed on the brakes of his bicycle to avoid hitting the car, but the sudden stop propelled him over the handlebars of his bicycle and he broke his neck. It was an accident in the truest sense of the word ... there were a multitude of factors that influenced the fact that the vehicle driver couldn't see behind him when he pulled into the bike lane, but the result of the accident is that my dad is now in a motorized wheelchair. But before you say, "Ohhh, poor Melissa, her poor dad," let me tell you something amazing. My dad is the most incredibly positive man that you will EVER meet. I consider myself a permanently glass-is-half-full kind of girl, but my dad blows my positivity out of the water. He's famous for saying, "I'm still me, just me on wheels," and has really embraced life and all it has to offer, even if it's from his "on wheels" state. And, despite the fact that he was dealing with his recovery and all the medical problems that that entailed (Moyes' descriptions of the health roller coaster that Will experiences is VERY accurate ... I can't count how many times my dad's had a UTI or pneumonia), he was DETERMINED to walk me down the aisle.
As I mentioned earlier, his accident happened in June 2010 and our wedding had already been booked for November 27, 2010. When we look back at the fragile state that my dad was in post-accident, it still seems miraculous to me that he did make it to the wedding. We considered postponing the wedding, but the doctors and physiotherapists and everyone said that it would be good for my dad to work towards a goal. And did he ever work hard! He was there for the rehearsal dinner, escorted me down the aisle and gave a speech at the wedding that made the entire room cry. I couldn't have been prouder of him that day. He is such an inspiration to those around him...he's my daddy, and I love him so, so, so much.
Whew, I'm getting super emotional just writing this review! So, let's bring it back to the book for a moment so that I can catch my breath. Jojo Moyes' has an amazing gift for character development and this is the strongest aspect of this book. Louisa and Will's characters are so REAL that I felt like I was reading about two people that I really knew well by the end of the book. The relationship that unfolds throughout the course of the book is really heartwarming. Plus, all of the secondary characters are so unique and quirky and interesting. My only criticism of the book (which kept me from giving it five stars on Goodreads) is Will's viewpoint of the world. Perhaps it's my own bias because of my dad's experience, but I just wanted to shake him sometimes and remind him that he's lucky to be ALIVE.
I could keep going on and on, but I think this is a book that you just need to experience for yourself. As I tweeted to Cass while writing this review, Me Before You broke my heart a million times over, but that's what a good book does. It's rare to find a book that resonates on such a deeply personal level, but I'm glad that I had this reading experience. It's a little scary to share such a personal review here on the blog ... but I'm hoping that this helped you to get to know me a little better and also hoping that you'll take a chance on this amazing book.