‘I wore my old dresses, my brightly coloured cardigans and satin pumps, and let myself be enclosed in a bubble of happiness, aware that bubbles only ever existed for so long before they popped anyway.’
I said that I’d read this book, right? Well, I did. I didn’t like it. Prepare for me to rant about it. Also, if you haven’t read Me Before You and want to do so, I’d advise not to read this because… well, it’s the sequel. Apologies for pointing out the obvious. Also, you might be better off not reading this one if you thought Me Before You had an ending you liked, really.
The premise of After You is this: Louisa, after the heart-breaking loss at the end of Me Before You, just kind of stopped living. She tried to escape, lost touch with her family, moved to London and got another boring job after the boring job she has at the start of the previous book. Because try as she may, Louisa Clark is not a person to step out of her comfort zone even if threatened with a pickaxe (unless a hot guy practically forces her to). This changes when she a) falls from the roof (which, surprisingly, has pretty little actual value in the plot and serves more as a gimmick excuse for her to not go to the roof again without two pages of fear every bloody time) b) meets Lily and c) meets a hot guy.
I kid you not but all the other subplots in this book felt flat and uninteresting for me. Also, they were pretty unnecessary, because I was just looking forward to finishing the book. In short, Louisa gets a new hero complex and decides that since she doesn’t want to do anything with her life, she’s just going to take the responsibility of fixing other people’s. Yawn. I feel like I’ve read this before. Does she experience the personal growth I wanted? I don’t feel like she did. Moreover, the book is about healing after the loss of a loved one, of course. But where’s the growth?
I actually quite liked Lily’s character; she’s a wealthy brat, full of teenage entitlement and life and laughter and anger. She storms around and stalks around and brings actual emotions to where Louisa continues to be sad. She was probably the first character I actually liked in these two books, well, along with Nathan who has little to no skin around his bones. All in all, she was a pleasure to have around, at first anyway…
I feel the distant need to complain more fully so let me just say that from here -> on out I’m just going to spoil everything that annoyed me, which is most of the book, so…. If you’re interested in reading it (despite my warnings!!!) maybe stop here. Maybe, however, I can just save you the trouble by laying it out for you. Anyway, spoilers, spoilers, spoilers.
So anyway, of course when I liked Lily (who, by the way, is Will’s 16-year old daughter no one knew he had. Surprise! No but really, I was so unsurprised I thought I had already read that on the back cover), they had to screw that up for me by giving her a tragic backstory that mirror’s Louisa’s. At a party, she is drunk and is taken advantage of. It’s pretty boring and used to explain away her bratty behaviour – she’s just not in a good place. All in all it’s not a compelling plot detail and makes me sort of dislike her. Towards the end she also just up and leaves to live with her grandmother (Mrs. Traynor, yes) in what seems like a hasty, once microwaved but still lukewarm effort to explain everything away to be well.
This same working actually haunts most of the ending; it feels sloppy and quick and not at all like the end I wanted. After all the non-pleasant effort I went through while reading this book, I wanted to be rewarded with an epic end at least. Thanks for nothing, kind of.
Also, of course Ambulance Man Sam (he’s the love interest in this one) gets injured at the end in a faux-interesting near-death experience with didn’t feel like anything when I wasn’t invested in a) him and Louisa’s relationship or b) him as a character in general. The thing they had was built quickly out of pretty nothing but sex, and Louisa spent until this moment questioning it. She leaves for New York at the end of the book (for a job she almost didn’t take, which was when I almost bit her head off through my Kindle) and they think their relationship might last the distance. Spoiler alert, love: I don’t think so.
Additionally, there’s this incredibly weird subplot where Louisa’s mum, eternal housewife, has a “feminist awakening” of some sort and the other characters think she’s clearly off the handle for suddenly wanting a life of her own every now and then instead of taking care of everything 24/7, 52/12. What in the world? It also ends with Louisa’s father waxing his legs, at which point the mum decides that maybe this can work after all. It was all just incredibly weird, didn’t add to my experience and honestly made me feel uncomfortable at the patriotism that was touched at but then made to seem like touching at it was actually stupid and the woman should by all means be in the kitchen. What.
All in all, I think I’m done with Jojo Moyes’ books now. I know a lot of people like them and also these two, but they just don’t work for me. That’s pretty weird because I like romance and chick-lit and heartbreak and healing. Guess you can’t always win.
If you read this far, here’s an interesting thing I learned recently that’s not very related: Did you know that most Kindles use E-Ink technology? Probably. Did you know that that technology has a liquid in the screen and in the liquid a film and in the film microcapsules, in which are positively charged white particles and negatively charged black ones? With a negative field applied, the white particles come to the surface and vice versa. This is how the Kindle can have white without a backlight and with a backlight (usually it’s either or) and also that nice black, also why it flashes when you change pages etc. I just thought this was incredibly interesting!