Me Before You

Book review by
Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media
Me Before You Book Poster Image
Moving story of a quadriplegic and his quirky caregiver.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 7 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Extensive information on the life of quadriplegics, including treatments, medications, pain, deterioration of their condition, difficulties in getting out and about, the way relationships can change, and emotional states. Some discussion of the book The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature by Matt Ridley and theories around sexual selection and the survival of the human species. The issue of death with dignity is an important part of the story, with the pros and cons represented.

Positive Messages

Push yourself to realize your full potential, even if you're afraid to take risks. You can love and support someone, even if you don't agree with his or her choices. Don't let one bad incident define you. Always be open to try new things. Keep an open mind when dealing with difficult people: You never know what emotional battles they're fighting. Never settle for complacency. Note: Will represents a view that life isn't worth living if you're disabled, which many find problematic and/or offensive. But Lou fights hard to promote the opposite message.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Louisa has a lot on her shoulders, but she's optimistic and tries to see the best in people. Will is a tough character to like at times, yet he opens himself up to Lou as he hasn't with anyone else. But some readers may find it offensive that he believes that life isn't worth living if you're disabled. Nathan is a good caregiver to Will and a kind coworker to Lou, and he always has an easygoing, understanding attitude. Both sets of parents have their problems, but their hearts are in the right place and they all want what's best for kids and their love for their kids is clear. Treena often annoys Lou, but she comes through when the chips are down.

Violence

Man gets hit by a motorcycle, which leaves him a quadriplegic, though the accident isn't shown. Domestic dispute with a woman screaming at her husband and throwing his belongings out a window. During a shouting match between siblings, the dad throws a newspaper at his daughter's head. Character recalls a gang rape, but it is described in general terms and not graphically.

Sex

Characters kiss a few times. A scene takes place after two characters clearly have had sex. Sex is discussed a few times but not in detail, including how frequently a couple has sex, whether a quadriplegic can have sex, reference to a lap dance, and brief non-graphic description of one sexual encounter.

Language

Swearing is infrequent. Some British swear words: "arse," "bloody," "bugger," and "wanky." Other profanities include "f--k" and its variations, "s--t" and its variations, "bitch," "Jesus," "God," "damn," "piss," "d--k," "d--khead," "t--s," and "crappy."

Consumerism

All brands and media mentioned are for scene setting: Blackberry phone, Lego, Marks and Spencer store, Next catalog, Old Spice, Disneyland, and Disney World. Also mentioned are the movies The Little Mermaid, Local Hero, My Fair Lady, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,  and The English Patient; TV shows The Simpsons and Mastermind; and the play Pygmalion.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

All the adult characters drink socially at various points: in pubs, in their homes, and at a wine tasting. Characters encounter extremely drunk men at the horse races. Lou has a flashback to getting drunk and smoking pot as a teenager. Lou's dad gets drunk at a birthday dinner. Lou gets drunk inadvertently at a wedding because she didn't know the drinks were alcoholic. Characters drink to excess at a resort.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Me Before You is about an unlikely relationship between Louisa, a working-class British woman, and Will, a quadriplegic living at his wealthy parents' estate. Will is facing a serious decision about his condition, and Lou, his hired caregiver, tries her best to get him to make the choice everyone else wants. The two main characters learn a lot from each other, especially about opening yourself up to different ways of thinking, but many -- especially in the disabled community -- have found the portrayal of Will and his point of view problematic, since he's presented as feeling that life isn't worth living if you're disabled. Although it's not marketed as a young adult book, it has teen appeal, and it's been adapted into a film that many teens will see. All the characters drink socially, including to excess on a few occasions. There's no smoking; marijuana use is mentioned in a flashback; and there's little sexual content beyond flirting and kissing. One character recalls being raped, but it's not described in detail. Characters swear, using British terms such as "arse" and "bloody, as well as "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "piss," and "d--k."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byKali19 May 25, 2016

Another movie that gives the message that it is better to be dead than disabled

I am pretty furious at the excellent review given to this book and movie by Commonsense Media. How many more movies do people with disabilities have to endure a... Continue reading
Adult Written bykristineb1 March 15, 2016

Be careful.

While the writing is witty and engaging the swearing really ruined a lot of this story for me. It is excessive. There is swearing that adds to the character o... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bysamsvil February 5, 2016

Strong Feelings

Me Before You is amazing, the author takes you on a journey that will leave you far from where you picked up the book. However, I think that 14 years old is a l... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byStarGazer- June 20, 2016

An amazing book, but covers serious topics

I first decided to read this book after seeing the trailers for the movie. Going into it, I expected it to be the typical, lighthearted, predictable romance sto... Continue reading

What's the story?

Louisa Clark has no aspirations to seek a life outside her small British town. She lives with her parents, works at the Buttered Bun, and sees her boyfriend of six years a few times a week. When the cafe closes, she finds herself out of a job. Because of the recession and her limited job experience, she's forced to take jobs that don't appeal to her. One of these is as a companion to a quadriplegic man who lives on his parents' estate near the town's castle. It's only across town, but socially it's a world away. Will, the man she's hired to look after, lived an exciting, successful life in London before an accident left him in a wheelchair. The two get off to a rough start, as Will resents anyone who tries to make decisions for him or doesn't understand the depth of his anguish over his condition. Chatty, quirky, funny Lou eventually breaks through the wall Will has built around himself, and a lovely relationship develops. The biggest issue is a decision Will is making about his life and future.

Is it any good?

It's impossible not to fall in love with the characters and story in this deeply emotional and insightful novel. Me Before You tells the story of a man and a woman in a small British town: One is confined there, and one has confined herself there. Readers might think they're getting into a romance, but instead they find themselves enmeshed in a beautiful, emotional, and suspenseful novel. No character in this book is a cliche, not even minor characters, such as an ex-girlfriend of Will's who easily could have been a stereotype. The story's told mostly from Lou's viewpoint, with a few chapters from the viewpoints of other characters, with the notable exception of Will. Lou has a great voice as a character. She has a lot on her shoulders, but she's charming and funny, especially when she babbles nervously. Will is more of a cipher as he confronts major problems: confined to a wheelchair, living with pain, missing his old life, and not knowing when or how badly his condition will deteriorate. Author Jojo Moyes provides an eye-opening look at what quadriplegics have to deal with on a daily basis, physically, emotionally, and socially. Also addressed is the issue of death with dignity. That said, the book has stirred controversy for offering what some consider a stereotypical portrayal of a disabled person who feels that life's not worth living because he's disabled. 

Me Before You will move many readers to tears, but not in an overly manipulative way. In addition to the humor and emotion in the book, the suspense is gripping. Moyes doesn't telegraph the ending at all, which will have most readers on the edge of their seat.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Will is portrayed. Do you find his view of being disabled problematic? Can you see why disabled people might? What do you think about how disabled people are portrayed in the media generally? Do disabled characters tend to come off as stereotypes rather than complex individuals?

  • Stories about characters with serious illnesses are popular. What makes them so appealing? Which others have you read or seen in the movies?

  • Right-to-die and death-with-dignity laws have been covered in the news. How do you feel about this issue? Do you think people should be able to make those decisions for themselves? What are some instances where you think it's a good idea and some where it might be a bad one?

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