My rating: 3 of 5 stars to Jojo Moyes‘s After You, the follow-up to Me Before You, which was a very popular book made into a movie earlier this year. The “After You” sequel is good (not as good), but for a different reason. Many folks complained about the need for this second book, and with the first one being made into a movie, it may have been a required follow-up as opposed to a story that yearned to be told… either case, I did enjoy it. Let’s dive in…
The book opens about 18 months after the first one ends, which was when her patient and soul-mate, Will Traynor, committed suicide. (If you are reading this review, it’s not really a spoiler as that’s the whole point of Me Before You — how will she handle the tragedy of being with him… and if you haven’t read Book 1, stop now and go back and read it even before this review of Book 2. You can also check out my Book 1 review in the link below).
Louisa (the girl who fell for Will) has been on the outs with her family due to her role in Wil’s suicide, and she took a year off to travel and try to move forward. Of course, it never happens, and she goes back to the quiet and sheltered life she had before she met him. When she accidentally falls off her roof, it sets into motion several challenges for her to face. Some think she tried to kill herself. Some think she is rotting away her life. She goes back to a very sad job where she’s yelled at by a nasty boss all the time. She tries to get better by going to a self-help group for people affected by a loved one who died. She meets the ambulance medic who saved her after the fall. She gets a job offer to go to NYC. And she meets Lily, the secret daughter Will had that no one ever knew about. While Louisa tries to figure out her life, she learns all the lessons she needs to be able to move on… but when it all comes together in the end, and she has to make a choice on her own future, will she be able to? (And that’s for you to find out when you read the book… I can’t give a spoiler away, right?)
1. Lou is a fantastic character. She’s flawed which makes her real. She’s whiny yet she stands up for herself. She’s smart and she makes dumb decisions. She’s got potential but she lets it waste. We can all find a piece of Lou’s personality in our own, which makes reading about her and understanding her actions all the more interesting… because you can question whether you would have done the same thing or made a different decision. She’s quite relate-able… on may levels.
2. The plot is great, especially as a follow-up to Me Before You. It could have gone in many directions, e.g. a trial/lawsuit from the family or the government for her role in his death, a barrage of press harassment, the anger of her family, etc. Instead, the book gives us an 18 month break from the last one, and its inherent immediate reactions to the death, which also allows the reader time to grieve and want to see Lou move on. So… the plot had room to be widely open, but needed to be connected to the first one — a mysterious unknown daughter — while over-played in movies — isn’t so common in books… and I enjoyed watching it unfold.
3. It’s witty. Dialogue is on-target. Characters are bold but also complex. The story is consistent. It holds interest. It retains some of the sadness of the first book but brings you to a middle / average level of how you feel about the pain… and leaves you thinking “these people are real.” And that’s what I enjoy in a book. I don’t want to feel harsh and judgmental of character actions, or find myself in love with something perfect that doesn’t really exist… yes, literature is often supposed to take you out of reality and into something fantastical where you feel magical… but for me, the very nature of fiction does that — I enjoy the great sweeping arcs of magic, but when the story is simple and beautiful, it’s even better.
I don’t believe there should have been a follow-up to Me Before You, and I’m a serial-fictionist… as well as a lexiconnoisseur neologist (apparently, I make up words like serial-fictionist). The first one was so good as a stand-alone, I don’t want to compare anything to it with the same story and author being involved. Perhaps if I just picked up After You, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much without knowing what happened to Lou in Book 1. Book 2 (After You) is a good story with good writing, but there wasn’t anything special about it, hence why I have it a 3. If I hadn’t witnessed her struggle in the previous book, it wouldn’t have been as powerful in this book to watch her recovery.
So… with it getting a 3, and with me not having anything truly remarkable to say about it, I’d recommend it to folks under certain conditions:
1. If you read Me Before You, you should read After You. If you love Louisa and her family, then why wouldn’t you want to read another 350 pages about their life… it’s like having a friend who lives far away and just happens to be in your town and may never be again for years. It’s there… It’s a day’s read. It’s enjoyable. It just isn’t the same as it was the first go around. But you still want to know “how is that friend of mine different these days…” – so go see that friend.
2. If you love the author’s style, read After You. It’s a well-written book and has a few good characters you will root for.
3. If you can accept the original is the best, and know that you won’t always get the same vibe and attraction to its successors, then you probably have an open enough mind to check out what happened in her later years.
But if you are looking for an amazing follow-up with an absolute blockbuster of a story and ending to Lou’s life… you will be somewhat disappointed. After You is a slice of what happens to her in a 3 month period set nearly 2 years after the first one ends. It’s nice. It’s a good read. But you won’t walk away with the same level of emotions as you did with Me Before You.
If you’re curious to know more about this reader and writer, check out my profile on this site or you can go to my personal website at: https://thisismytruthnow.com