Book: Me Before You
Author: Jojo Moyes
Published: 2012 (Penguin)
You know what doesn't work? Convincing paraplegic people that life is worth living by shoving six months' worth of planned activities down their throats when all they want is the comfort of dying. Nothing earns the careful structure of the word more than the shit this protagonist plans for her disabled charge - who, by the way, used to be fully functional and still remembers all that - and reading about it made me actively angry. Because weeks of outings like a day being pushed in a wheelchair by unskilled hands through layers of mud to watch a sport he specifically and explicitly said he'd never liked in the first place at the racehorse track is really going to convince a former lawyer/rock climber that he shouldn't euthanize himself. JESUS CHRIST IN A CHARIOT-DRIVEN SIDECAR, DOES NO ONE LISTEN TO THE GUY, HIS LUNGS AND SARCASM STILL WORK PERFECTLY.
Up to a very small point, I can understand the protagonist's motivations. She's a girl who loses what tiny little life direction she had when the cafe she waits at closes, and she has to take whatever job wants her first, which is companion for said quadriplegic. She's generally cheerful and sort of dreamy and likes her small-town life, so it makes sense that she would be horrified when she found out what her charge planned on doing to himself and that she would make the plans she did to help him.
That makes sense. For a start. But once she gets going, of course he sees through it real fast, and here's the dumb thing - she keeps going and gets super frustrated and convinced that the reason it's not working is his attitude and that everything would be sunshine and roses if he just cheered up. She doesn't think, "Maybe I should adjust my plans to be more like what he can handle and, you know, enjoyed in the first place" or "You know, I should try seeing things from his view and then maybe I'd better be able to figure out what really did make life living for him and bring it back to him in some meaningful, totally-not-superficial way" or at the very least, "My way isn't working, I should try something else." NOPE.
I completely understand why he went ahead and did it anyway, especially considering his living pain and how comfortable that classy Swedish suicide house made him in the end. I'm going to get a little political here and say my version of the sanctity of life includes being able to leave with dignity when you're no longer having more fun than pain.
So I actually did like the story, because ultimately it showed that mercy. And I liked the protagonist's family, which was a messy group of mom and dad and sister and grandpa who were all living together on nonexistent money while still trying to forge their own paths. That was a good anchor conflict compared to the paraplegic guy's trying to get used to being the helpless center of his cold family when he was used to being so happily independent around its edges.
But oh my god, that girl was so annoying to read. I think I'm going to donate this, because since she was the first person narrator, I stayed mad through the entire book and got superficial-at-best glances into the more interesting bits of agony, and she didn't really change in the end, and if you want to read about being trapped in a body with a mind that still functions better than anybody ever imagines, read The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Not this.