Me Before You & After You by Jojo Moyes: This Ain’t A Love Song

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Since these books have been in the spotlight for the last few months, what with the motion picture for Me Before You releasing in June; I wanted to talk about this book for a little bit; everyone else seems to be.

My interest in Me Before You started off through the film when I was scrolling through YouTube one night and had somehow ventured over to the trailers of films yet to be released. As a Khaleesi and Finnick fan (if you know, you know), I couldn’t resist peeking at the trailer. I was in tears at around:

“You can’t change who people are.”

“Then what can you do?”

“You love them.”

I bought the book off Amazon not long after.

But I’m not writing this post to gush about how hard it made me cry and how I fell in love with the characters (I did cry absolutely disgustingly, though) as there’s more to this story than what meets the mainstream media eye, so I wanted to share my take on what these books were trying to say and what the film didn’t.

Louisa Clark is portrayed to be quite the nobody, this is the role we as the reader are encouraged to see her. She gets a job (because she just needs the money; not in a selfish way, but because her family is dependent on her) working as a carer and companion for Will Traynor, a 30-something gorgeous lad who was tragically hit by a motorcycle and left a quadriplegic. Before his accident, Will was an adrenaline junkie; the type of guy who jumped off cliffs and all sorts. As the story comes along we learn that Will is a bit of an arse, quite snobbish and angry, and Lou is the one to bring him down off his high horse, with what can only be judged as her “commonness” and simplistic ideals. Will is astounded that she has never watched a film with subtitles and starts on the road to making her more cultured, in his words; “You only get one life. It’s actually your duty to live it as fully as possible.”

In the midst of all that; Louisa is trying to make his life a bit happier as we discover he is depressed and has attempted to commit suicide in the past. Will is trying to teach this girl about all the living she could do. We find out that Will has been in contact with Dignitas, the assisted suicide establishment in Switzerland, and that he wants to end his own life. Full stop. From here, Louisa sets into action a plan to show him all the best parts of living and fun things to do, to change his mind.

Now, in the film, that is essential the plot of the story and the heartbreaking event is that they fall in love along the way. But the book, I feel, tells an entirely different story. Whilst I was reading I was overwhelmed by the idea that, contrary to popular belief; this was not a love story. Films and books nowadays have the very untidy habit of categorizing too easily as either Romance or Not Romance, as if thats all the matters in the world and there are no other important story arcs to be explored.

I feel this book tells a story of awareness more than it does of romance.

Whilst on her mission, Louisa takes them horse-racing through which they struggle to find parking; and when they do there is little access, not a place to eat almost privately as Will can not feed himself, as well as the general treatment of the disabled.

When it comes to the British, we seem to find it difficult to get over our bewildered embarrassment of not knowing how to act, what to talk about and how to conduct oneself around disability not to mention how to deal with the challenges that the disabled community are faced with. In Me Before You, we are enlightened on the struggles of everyday life; wheelchair access being an everyday task; the lack of support through activities and social life, leading to a very lonely existence; like Will. I’m not saying this is the case for every member of the disabled community, but simply that it does happen and surely we’re a bunch of clever enough people to do something about it, right?

For myself, that increasing awareness has opened my mind that little bit more to a society within our own,  pushed into the corner of the room like a broken toy we don’t know how to fix and so is forgotten.

I feel that this message was lost in the film portrayal; the idea of fluffy romance masking a much more thoughtful perspective. However, the case of disability awareness was not the only lost cause in the film and frankly. I feel this one was blocked out intentionally. Putting it lightly, I’m not a happy bunny at all (pokes tongue out with a frown).

Probably the most heart wrenching part in Me Before You is when we find out, on one of their adventures that takes them to the maze by the castle nearby, that a younger, live-life-to-the-full Louisa was raped by a boy. This traumatic experience made Louisa lose confidence in herself; she no longer wants to go off into the world, but would rather stay at home to what she knows. Our initial interpretation of Louisa being a simple girl: obliterated. No woman who has been violated to that extent could be thought as straightforward.

Simple. As. That.

I think that really hits home with the whole life lesson of:”don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” In this case, a woman.

Now in the film; not a blip of this was mentioned. This made me quite annoyed at how we as the audience were now being suggested to view the duo. Tragic Will, who lived so much, explored and conquered the world; never again. Sweet, simple Louisa, who liked crazy clothes and makes a banging cup of tea, enchanted by our much lived and cultured Will. Nothing about how Louisa had all means of exploring the world, nor how safety and security was taken away from her in her own skin. Why wasn’t this message screamed loud and clear?

We live in a generation where we are standing up as individuals for our voices to be heard and because we believe that it will make a difference. We’ve seen it happen; gay marriage being legalized in the United States, and we’re seeing it now through #BlackLivesMatter which is taking social media by storm.

I just felt like we were being coaxed into this adoration of Will and that Lou, and whichever achievements she conquered herself, could never compare to Will, that this idea of worship and oggling of him is encouraged.

A slap in the face for equality. *Bravo*

Rant over.

 

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

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This book is literally The Fault in Our Stars meets Looking For Alaska ALL OVER.

Reading this was like a blast from my very angsty past, with slamming doors after breakups and Facebook posts I would have fangirled over it in my early tweens.

For a young reader, full of angst (its okay!) this is your ticket out of here.

An easy read which I started and finished today, as a means of escape (ANGST), this book was great. The story was and interesting twist on two ideas merging together.

The plot, at times, felt patchy and the ending gave me the impression of trying to be like so many other teen novels… I was upset by the lack of closure; with little positivity and a bucket full of hormone filled, almost epiphany quotes to sum it up. I wanted to know how our characters ended up. Also, wanted to know more about their backstories with lead them to their fates.

An okay read.

Neh.

 

Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan

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When I started reading this book this morning, I had to Google the word “Tristesse”; I never took French at school or ever in my life. So yay, I learnt something new today. It means “a state of melancholy sadness”, by the way, which sums this very short novel up quite suitably. With my copy only owning 108 pages to its name; I got through this spot of literature quite quickly on the train. Also, why does train station coffee just taste of cardboard?

Bonjour Tristesse was a very interesting short read; absolutely perfect for a train ride to Brighton, actually; just in case you were heading that way!

I find it always challenging reading a translated novel and on more than one occasion feel like I’m missing out on the real essence of the literary talent being expressed; as if I’ve walked into a room just as the punchline of a really funny joke is being told and I’m trying to laugh along. And so, I’m sad I won’t be able to read this with all the rights it deserves; sometimes language barriers do that; and as much as a translation may try, at times there simply isn’t a word which is the absolute equivalent to another in a different language.

The story was a interesting take on the mind of a 17 year old girl, who’s idea of love, passion and physical desire were extremely unconventional of its time; the mid 1950’s. This story is definitely a prime example of glorious Freud’s Oedipus complex, so lover’s of all things Freud (and frankly messed up), this is the book for you! Wracked with tragic selfish, jealously and a bitter desire for instant gratification; the reader is able to jump inside of the mind of Cécile, and watch any and every temptation rule her entirely.

To be fair, Cécile is exactly who my parents brought me up not to be.

However, I can related to Cécile from the view point of always separated parents and the prospect of many step-parents through both of my parents various relationships. I have been put in the same boat of Cécile and whilst reading Bonjour Tristesse I couldn’t help but form a kinship with our narrator; but by no means does that entail I have to like her.

I’ll give it to Françoise Sagan, who was only 18 at the time she wrote and published this novel: talent.

To add, this book is a train wreck for feminism with phrases such as “find you a good husband who will treat you well” which are almost accepted; and only occasionally challenged in Cécile’s whimsical persona; half hearted and exploratory.

An interesting read!

“I was nailed to the sand by all the forces of summer.”

I’ll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

6/10

Before I read this bright book, I had been bathed in many praises of the novel from online Bookstagrammers, and the cover kept popping up all over my feed. So I read a little bit about it; seeming like a typical YA read, marking similarities to John Green who I hold in high praises. But the cover was pretty; I could’ve done with an easy read so I dove into my poor student pockets once again. *sighs*

I read this ultimately summer novel back in November (yeah), and I promise you, I was engrossed by around page 3. I’d like to appreciate this book not just as a piece of writing but as such a creative piece visually. I mean, look at those pages!

Instantly liking both Noah and Jude, as they turn from the innocent kids you just want to protect and watch live a happy life, into dark and twisty teenagers who are just so lost and who you want to save. There is an certain theme of mystery against the storyline, where our narrators lie to each other and even to the reader; so that the most heartfelt betrayal is felt by both the characters and readers.

No, seriously; there’s a part where I gasped and yelled into my empty bedroom: “WHAT?! NO! HOW COULD YOU?” It’s brutal, trust me.

There are so many characters in this novel; few, if any, being truly happy. All of our characters have issues; big, oh-that’s-so-tragic issues. I’ll Give You The Sun is about broken people who when together can survive. Yes, yes cheesy I know; but true.

*Rendition of High School Musical’s ‘We’re All In This Together’

I’ve veered, a little.

This book fascinated me on a personal level as well; in regards to twins. I’ve always wanted a twin; being an only child for 11 years, and my mum being half a set of twin. I’ve always been in close proximity to them and the frankly weird crap that goes on between twins. Jude and Noah would give each other a piece of the world; for example; “I’ll trade you the moon and stars for the ocean.” They owned the world in their minds; hence the title I’ll Give You The Sun.

“”I love you“, I say to him, only it comes out “hey.”

So damn much,”he says back, only it comes out “dude.””

My favorite quotes from this book go on forever.

“This is what I want: I want to grab my brother’s hand and run back through time, losing years like coats falling from our shoulders.”

I don’t feel I’ve given our author enough credit here. This book is beautifully written with metaphors and similes which stopped me in my reading tracks to actually think about them and smile. This book, I felt, was a little young for me and would have rocked my 13 year old world; but still; effective none the less.

“”He has a very strange face; I don’t know if you notice. God was very drunk when he made him. A little bit of this. A little bit of that. Brown eye. Green eye. Crooked nose, crooked mouth. Lunatic smile. Chipped tooth. Scar here, scar there. It is a puzzle.””

I enjoyed this one; I really did. There was a questionable decision at the end but I can overlook it if I try hard enough.

Reading this felt like what I imagined being in the mind of a stoned artist would feel like.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

 

Ahoy, SPOILERS AHEAD.

So, I’ve read the much-read Red Queen and… it really was quite enjoyable for a wind down read after probably the most intense set of exams I’ve had. It was simple and gripping and easy YA reading.( How much red and read can I get into this?)

At first I was ready to accept a classic romance story much along the lines of Cinderella, I had written it off already, accepted it; but boy, was I pleasantly surprised.

IT WAS SO MUCH MORE.

This needs to be said:

This may contain romantic notions but by no means is this a romance novel.

And it was savage at times, to be fair. A lot of hardcore killing what with the last lines of the book being “I will kill him.” Very cheerful. Altogether not a bad read. I knew I would love Cal from the moment he said “Thief” with surprise. And I just knew we couldn’t trust Maven. I just knew it in my gut.

I found myself finding symbols which represent other dystopian novels, and honestly; this is like a really funky fanfiction of them all. Which is enjoyable if you’re not looking for a serious read.

So, yes I will be investing in book two; Glass Sword. Another author I shall now damn for raiding my poor student pockets of funds. (Help me buy books; I’m poor. 😦 ).

Oh, and I’ve just discovered a few novellas. Double damn you, Aveyard.

I was team Cal from the beginning and I hope that picks up again and at the end, her and Cal live happily ever after. Here’s hoping.

But I hope we get some more Kilorn action out here. And I am literally a representation of Mare’s (who’s name I want spelled Maree) geeky friend who’s got a mega crush on her big brother, Shade. I like Shade. Shade hasn’t done much except exist but I like Shade; Shade’s good. Looking forward to some more Shade action.

Seeing as this isn’t Game of Thrones and I can’t ship incest to ship Maree and Shade… although there was a book or two between the Mortal Instruments Series in which we did ship Clace when they were brother and sister…well.

Definitely Team Cal up in the house.

6/10

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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8/10
I was really excited to read this book. I bought it before entering hardcore study mode for my IGCSE’s and was counting down the days until exams finished and I could delve into my books again and this was at the top of the pile.
What a lovely read.

Jennifer Niven has really captured the personalities of her characters superbly and on more than one occasion, as usual; I was reduced to tears. I fell in love with Finch. I literally FELL IN LOVE. You get connected and the first lines he speaks are such different ones compared to the usual dramatic stuff, his lines captured me.
I was hooked, and I mean, HOOKED by around page 5, at which I was curled up on the sofa and shouted to my mum in the kitchen:

“MUM THIS BOOK IS GONNA BE SO GOOD. LISTENTOTHISPART.”
I have recommended this book over and over again to anyone who will sit next to me long enough and have marked it as a book I intend to keep forever. I find it hard to hate any characters here.

“The future can be uncertain, but that can be a good thing.”

is my Instagram bio and stolen easy from this book.
BUT MY FAVORITE QUOTE
GOSH.

Has to be this one because after I read it I stopped, smiled, read it again, then wrote it on my wall.

“He doesn’t look up, just reaches for my hand and keeps reading. I can feel the apology in his fingers.”

FEEL THE GODDAMN APOLOGY IN HIS GODDAMN FINGERS.
By The Angel…
I loved this book! Go and read! I’m not asking; I’m using a bloody imperative sentence mood! GO AND READ THIS.

I feel like this book is infinitely important to our society and the growing awareness of mental health issues which in the past have been disregarded and thrown to the side with the label ‘crazy’. The fact this is classed as Young Adult, opens up doors to a new generation, one I feel; more aware of our identities than the previous generation.

I write this in the light of Niven releasing her second novel Holding Up The Universe in October later this year, which is on my to-buy list; from her writing in All The Bright Places I’ll definitely be investing more into her writing.

http://www.jenniferniven.com

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

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5/10
I can’t say I fell in love with this book as soon as I opened the front page, or as soon as I read the back of it. In fact, I did quite a shallow thing and purely bought it on the basis that the cover was pretty and I had seen other people reading it. Maybe that was what made me read it, because even those who had read it had not rated it extremely well; and for me, whenever I see a book that has been given bad reviews, I see it as a challenge for the book to impress me. Tell me something different.
However this wasn’t exactly the case. Unfortunately. The story line and plot is all a bit jumbled and not organised (I think), in the best way it could’ve been. The choice of language at times was questionable.
Nevertheless.
The idea of making the reader really question the world, what really matters and what’s really important is brought across in a superb manner. It did bring a tear to my eye. And it did make me have to flick back through the pages to just make sure that actually happened. It made me giggle.
It’s an okay book. Not the best I’ve read, not the worst.
However I always do congratulate a writer bringing a tear to my eye so bravo Mr Tommy Wallach! And I must also say, the idea in itself for a young adult book about living life and realising what is important makes us look at ourselves and what we would feel and do and who we would spend our time when everything came to an end.
It reminds us how to live.

 

But hey! If you’re anything like me; go ahead and read it, challenge my review by all means.

Happy reading!

The Gallagher Academy Series by Ally Carter

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7andhalf/10
Now this book series I do hold quite close to my heart.

I first started reading about Gallagher Girls, (with a vague idea of some bloke with the same name who sung Wonderwall (MAYBEEEEEEEEEE), a song my dad loves-such a lad), with I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have To Kill You back in 2006; I was 8 years old when there was only one book available at that point. I loved it. The next year the next book was out and so on. The final book was released in 2013; I was 15 years old. I loved it.

Now I’m 18, ten years on (WAIT WHAT?) from when I first picked up the book with Cammie and Josh, Bex and Liz, and gorgeous Zach and Mr Solomon.

I have no regrets; with each book; it just got better.

I have grown up with these characters. It’s funny and serious. It’s young and mature. It’s risky and cautious. It’s almost the response towards Alex Rider; this time American, female and a lot less grumpy than Alex. It approaches the idea of being a spy in SUCH A COOL WAY. Every girl I know who has read it I’m sure dreamed even a little bit of being a Gallagher Girl. It’s definitely a girl-power book.
So, to all those starting this series, give it a chance! I know six book series can seem daunting but they are easy reads; each easily in a day. Read it in the car or in bed.

Actually, don’t read it in bed because if you’re anything like me you’ll end up telling yourself off for seeing the sunrise whilst whispering ‘Just one more chapter…’

An addiction had begun.

And for once, I didn’t mind how this series ended. I felt it was appropriate and entertaining and just right.
GO AND READ.

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