After You (Me Before You #2)
Penguin Books AUS
Copy courtesy of the publisher
**Note** – this book is the sequel to Me Before You and if you haven’t read that, it’s a must before reading both this book and this review as there will be spoilers for Me Before You.
After You picks up about eighteen months after the end of Me Before You and Lou has bought herself a flat with the money Will left for her and works in a bar at the airport. She’s done some travelling but she hasn’t as yet, managed to live up to Will’s words for her:
Don’t think of me too often. Just live well. Just live.
Will and the decision he made still consumes her. She’s not even on speaking terms with her mother, who can’t seem to forgive her for the role she played in what happened. People whisper about her. They judge when they weren’t there, they weren’t the one who spent six months with Will, living his existence. Lou still can’t get over Will, still hasn’t been able to move on.
Me Before You ripped my guts out. I’m not sure I’ve ever sobbed so much reading a book in my whole life and I’ve read thousands and thousands and thousands of books. For a while after it I couldn’t even think of it without wanting to cry. It’s safe to say that it’s a book that has stuck with me, as has the character of Lou. Will has found his peace now, he got what he wanted. It’s Lou and his family who were left behind to deal with the fallout of public perception and to pick up the pieces of their lives. When I heard that Jojo Moyes was writing a sequel to Me Before You, I was equal parts anticipatory glee and trepidation. In some ways, I found Me Before You the perfect novel because of its lack of a perfect ending. It felt like on one hand, I wanted to see Lou find happiness in the future. She deserved it. But on the other, I wasn’t sure what ending I wanted for her and whether or not that could be delivered. I can imagine there was probably quite a few people feeling the same way. It was impossible not to become invested in Will and Lou in Me Before You. But once it came out, there was no way that I wasn’t actually going to read this!
I don’t think there was ever going to be a book after Me Before You that would satisfy every single desire for every single reader. I loved being able to catch up with Lou again, to hear what she’d been doing since Will died and whether or not she’d managed to begin living her life again, begin moving on. Lou is still in a pretty bad place at the opening of the novel – she has a flat she hasn’t even bothered to decorate that doesn’t even feel like home and a job that is merely a sort of marking time. She doesn’t seem to have many, or any friends, and is disconnected from her family. She still keeps in touch with Nathan, Will’s former carer who now lives and works in New York. He’s her connection to the past, the one she can briefly mention Will to without having to wait for the disapproval, for the judgement.
A chance arrival of someone on her doorstep gives Lou some purpose, suddenly she has something, someone that she wants to fix. There’s no denying that Lily is a troubled person, who has probably had a pretty miserable upbringing with her social climbing, perfectionist mother. And I can understand how Lou would latch onto her, want to be the one to help her. But Lily was a hard character to like and she kept intruding on the story a bit too abrasively at times. She’s a teenager and typically selfish and nasty at times, and maybe I just felt so fiercely protective of Lou after everything she’d been through that anyone who was going to treat her like dirt whilst expecting help and a free place to live, was always going to get on my nerves. I willed Lou to have a spine, to stand up for herself, to take her future in both hands and even though Lily seemed to be the thing giving her purpose, she was also the thing that was most holding her back.
It was always going to be hard to introduce someone new for Lou but I really liked Sam and I thought the mistaken identity shortly after they meet properly made for some funny reading. Sam was laid back and easy-going, the sort of guy who doesn’t take much maintenance really, which would definitely be different for Lou. Even with meeting Sam though, Lou is still living in the past, not really moving on from Will but always looking back to her time with him. It’s something that she needs to learn to let go of, to sever that connection without forgetting him, but stopping making him the person she talks to in her head. She needed a bit of a wake up call to figure out what she had standing in front of her now and not to let it slip away.
I think, overall for me, After You was a very satisfying follow up to Me Before You. Lou went through a lot in this book, but you could see her coming out the other side. It wasn’t a perfect ending, and things weren’t tied up neatly in a bow but I feel this was very much the right choice. Life isn’t perfect and Lou still had a way to go on her journey. But as a reader, you could see her future. You got an idea of what she was going to be doing and who was going to be waiting for her when she came back and she needed to do that, to spread her wings and get her life back again. She’d spent far too long just treading water, just going through the motions of life and not at all living up to the words that Will had left for her. At the end of this book, you can see her embracing them and that things would be getting better. It wouldn’t be right away, but it’d be there. After You didn’t destroy me like it’s predecessor but it definitely gave me what I needed for Lou.
Book #149 of 2015