After You is the awaited sequel to the wonderful book Me Before You (review). This review will contain spoilers for Me Before You so avert your eyes and stop reading if you are yet to read it!
Summary from Goodreads:
“You’re going to feel uncomfortable in your new world for a bit. But I hope you feel a bit exhilarated too. Live boldly. Push yourself. Don’t settle. Just live well. Just live. Love, Will.”
How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?
Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.
Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future…
For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.Me Before You was an emotionally packed book which I stayed up crying over and then, we have this, which was very… nothing. I understand that Lou was grieving and miserable but this book took everything that made her the amazing character that she was – bubbly, enthusiastic, fun – and threw it in the gutter. I was hoping this would be something uplifting – showing us Louisa coping with Will’s death and moving on but instead it ended up being Will still being the center of her universe even after dying.
It starts off with Lou working a dead end job at the airport bar, NOT pursuing her fashion dream. She lives away from her family, with whom she is not on the best terms, attends group grief counselling sessions and basically hates her life. This is the story of how a complete stranger, Lily, enters her life and changes it.
Being a character driven novel, it is important to feel some sort of connection with the characters but unfortunately, this book didn’t do it for me. Louisa was my favourite person in the first book but she makes questionable life decisions and is so hung up on the past here. Lily was SO selfish and immature and irritating. Sam, the love interest, just fell so flat after someone like Will. He has no depth whatsoever. Lou’s family was as bad as they were the first time, if not worse. They put their own needs before Louisa’s even though she really needs them. I really loved that Nathan was still in the story, although not as much. It was good to see that they were still friends and he gave her the most sensible advice out of everyone else. The story kept trying to connect Louisa to her old life with Will, which was so unnecessary.
The plot was all over the place. It started off with Louisa’s accident, which seemed to exist for the sole reason to introduce her to Sam. There was the Lily “plot twist”, Lily getting avenged (well, kind of), this random action sequence in the end. Like, what? It felt like 5 different books in one, all of them featuring main characters that are not Louisa. You know, the protagonist. Everything in the story was trying too hard to get an emotional response out of the reader. There was a very random subplot of Lou’s mother suddenly wanting to be empowered and not shaving her legs as this great act of feminism. She has one monologue about her daily struggles which was moving but other than that, it was unnecessary and executed terribly.
There are a few poignant moments, where we get to see glimpses of the beautiful writing from Me Before You. Louisa constantly blames herself for being inadequate and not enough for Will to stay alive for her and her monologues about her feelings for him were devastating. I liked that they acknowledged that Will wasn’t the best person before his accident. He did some terrible things and treated girls like crap, and they accept that he wasn’t perfect and do not glorify him. The scenes in the grief counselling group were my favourites – they talk about loss and how to move on and that everyone deals with death differently. Those discussions were very interesting.
This was supposed to be Louisa’s story about coping with the loss of someone so important to her but ended up being EVERYONE ELSE’S story before her own. It’s like she took the title literally and said, “After you!” to everyone else while she was suffering. Lily gets a happy ending, Will’s parents get a happy ending, Lou’s parents patch up their marriage and Lou is left on her own yet again.
I’ve decided to pretend that this book never happened and am going to treat Me Before You as a standalone with an open ending.