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Book Club: After You

Wednesday, January 6, 2016



As part of my 101 in 1001, I've pledged to read 100 books in 1001 days. My first book was After You by Jojo Moyes. After You is the sequel to Me Before You, and I was excited to learn about the next chapter in the main character's life. 

Me Before You follows Louisa Clark, a girl from small-town England living a humdrum life with no passion. She takes on a catering job, and ends up caring for a young, handsome millionaire who, due to a car accident, is a paraplegic. Will, the man under Lou's care, was once a jet-setting, adventurous playboy. Confined to a wheelchair, he is surly and depressed. More than that, he has decided upon doctor-assisted suicide. 

I have mixed feelings about both books. They both keep you hurtling towards the conclusion in that can't-put-it-down kind of way, despite the mediocre plot. Let's face it: Me Before You can only go one of two ways. The budding relationship between Louisa and Will is interesting, and Moyes has a lovely writing style. After You has a few more plot twists, and intertwines the dynamics of several families in a compelling way. I did connect with Me Before You, but I think this was mostly because Will reminded me of one of my exes. I also empathized with Lou's "I don't know what I want to do with my life, so I'm going to play it safe and stick to what I know" personality, which she maintains through both books. There is one aspect of Louisa's character development that I was thoroughly disappointed by, which I'll discuss at the very end, since it contains spoilers. 

Both books also have very open-ended conclusions. What will happen to Lou next? This lack of closure was the most compelling reason for choosing to read After You

Overall, would I recommend them? Yes. They're interesting stories and the zip along easily. Not quite light enough for a beach read, but great for a plane ride. (Am I the only one who gets super introspective on plane rides? Yes. Okay. Then read this in bed.)

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SPOILER BELOW

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One of Louisa's main character traits is that she is a loner. She dresses blandly, distinctly un-feminine. She eschews the immature boys and the vapid girls in her town. I loved this aspect of her personality. She is her own person, ignoring other people's opinions. She only talks to people who truly interest her. Halfway through the book, we learn that her dismay at femininity came from being raped a few years ago. First of all, the book does not delve into the complex emotions associated with this kind of trauma. Secondly, I am tired of this trope! "Girl Deviates From Social Norms Due to Massive Trauma, Not Her Own Volition." Stop. STOP. Stop writing books where the female characters choose gender-neutral behaviors because of trauma (Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, I'm looking at you). Yes, rape is a disgustingly pervasive part of our society and it should be discussed. But don't use it simply as a weak form of character development. 

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