July 12, 2016
After You by Jojo Moyes (Sequel to Me Before You)
After You is the story of Louisa “Lou” Clark struggling to move on after the death of her quadriplegic love, Will. She connects with newcomer Sam, but things get more complicated when Lily, Will’s unknown teenage daughter, shows up.
I really liked Me Before You, my only criticism (if you would call it that; I’d call it more an observation) being that I felt most of the characters were clichés. Likewise, I really liked After You, though my qualifying “observation” would be that a lot of it was a bit unbelievable.
Given Lily’s long-tumultuous relationship with her mother, and her proximity to Will, it felt unlikely that Will would never have known about her and she would have only shown up after he was gone. But OK, could happen that way, I suppose, and pretty much the premise of the book. Then there was Lou meeting Sam, who happened to be the paramedic who once attended her after an accident outside a small grief support meeting. Also unlikely, but again, OK, it’s a story after all.
But I didn’t buy the scene where Lou and Sam got back a phone with a picture Lily was being blackmailed with, and a great white was jumped in the scene where Lou accompanies Sam on an ambulance call (after he was already being disciplined for the same thing) to what turns out to be a drug/gang ambush. That’s when you’re going to talk about your relationship? Sam “forgets” to drop Lou off where he had initially decided to? And mostly, no police? The call was for a stabbing victim in a known rough area, and one ambulance shows up? Maybe it’s just that different where I live, but if someone falls in the shower here, it’s like a veteran’s day parade for all the emergency vehicles racing to the scene. I also don’t see suspects who “merely” stabbed an enemy hanging around to shoot a paramedic, I see them hauling ass at the first sound of a siren. So I couldn’t really take any of it seriously, though ironically, I was also going to be pissed if Sam died, which would have actually been much more realistic than him living given his injuries.
And yet. Again, I did really like the book. You can’t help but like Lou, Lily was a trip when she wasn’t an outright bitch, and sometimes when she was, and Sam was totally hot. I also loved Lou’s parents, I don’t care if her mom was a cliché, she was hysterical, and I loved what felt like an honest portrayal of Will’s mother, Camilla, whose life was utterly shattered by Will’s death.
I was definitely absorbed in the story, willing to suspend more than one book’s share of disbelief, and I love the main messages of the book, ones I feel personally connected to every day: One, there is no blueprint for grief; everyone has their own journey, and no one else gets to judge. And two, we’re all scared shitless, but it’s worth it to live—and love—as bravely as we can.