I was recommended this book by a friend who is a sucker for a good love story. She told me I absolutely had to read it. Knowing I don’t mind spoilers and also knowing that I hate sad endings, she told me the ending. He dies. Why in the world she recommended this book to me is a mystery because romance novels are not what people believe I ever even set foot near. Also, sad books? I avoid them like the plague. I think that for her, it was one of those books that you absolutely adore and just need to share with someone. So I read the book for her — and damned if I wasn’t crying by the end; despite repeatedly telling myself not to get attached.
The author wrote amazingly. I knew the ending but I had hope, the main character (Lou) made me believe, that everything would work out; it had to. I found myself believing that love, that Lou, would be able to convince him that his life, though different from what he had imagined, was worth living. Will is a quadriplegic. Lou is hired to look out for him for six months. It pays over minimum wage and despite not seeming qualified, Lou is hired. At first they don’t get along, Will is resentful of having someone watch over him all the time, essentially a babysitter. Eventually they begin to figure each other out and Will encourages Lou to try new things and Lou in turn gets Will out of his shell. Lou never views Will as a burden. She learns to match his sarcasm and humor and they begin to get along. This quickly turns to love. Amazingly, none of this felt forced and the novel was the perfect length with a very well set pace.
Here is the issue, a ways into the book, when Lou is beginning to feel something more for Will (she is not fully aware she is falling in love, or at least is not yet willing to admit it might quickly turn to become love), she overhears that Will is planning on going through with assisted suicide. The six months Lou has been hired for are months his parents negotiated with him, hoping to be able to change his mind before the end. Lou hears of this and makes it her mission to “save” him. She plans excursions to try and get him out of the house, experiencing life and trying to make him realize that his does not have to be over. When they are about a week away from his final day, they are at the end of a ten day long vacation and she admits to loving him, to knowing what he plans on doing and she asks him not to. She tells him she wants him and that he has profoundly changed him and she has a hard time imagining her life without him being a big part of it. He tells her that he can’t do it, he feels like he is living half a life, a very painful half and that he is not changing his mind. He tells her he cannot offer her everything and would fear that one day she would resent being with him and his limited capabilities (although she assures him that that won’t happen since she knows what she is getting into. He remains steadfast. He wants her to support him, allow him the decision to end his life if he wants to and not have her hate him. Initially, she is angry but in the end, she accepts that it’s his decision and comes to be there with him when he passes.
There is a lot of controversy regarding the ending (in real life). Some people are angry because Will died and they feel that the book was essentially saying that it is better to die than have to live as a quadriplegic. Others hated/liked that it brought up the subject of assisted suicide. Some people were happy to finally have representation. Will is a main character and this book not only became a movie but a lot of people were anxiously anticipation it. Some people in the quadriplegic community went to see it with the sense that finally they to had made it to the big screen, they were being represented and not hidden away. Some of those same people felt cheated with Wills death being the way it was. Whatever side you happen to stand on, this book got people talking; about quadriplegic people and assisted suicide and the morals and rights of an individual. Creating conversations about current issues and ideas, that is a good thing, necessary even. A lot of the conversation has died off as new movies and books have since come out with different messages and ideas but hopefully we will see more representation and views on all the subjects in this book in the years still to come.
I give this book a 4.5 stars.It is amazing but 5 stars is for books I have reread and I am probably never going to read You Before Me again because it broke my heart (I miss Will) and I am not up for doing that again. (On Goodreads I gave it a 5 star rating because half stars aren’t allowed. Also, because I all around loved it and I learned things from it; which is always the sign of a great book!)