Paperback: 528 pages
Publisher: Michael Joseph (5 Jan. 2012)
Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.
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This book. THIS BOOK *breathes heavily like a dragon* okay I don’t understand why these people feel the need to hurt me so?! WHY WHY WHY *rolls into a ball and lays on bed until the pain subsides*.
Can you already see where I’m going with this review? It will break some of you. Tears are guaranteed. You’ve been warned.
So. Where to begin?
I spent a large amount of my time laughing through this book and then the latter half sat at my desk at work – trying not to bawl in front of fellow publicists. Every break I got, any free moment, was spent consuming this book, and boy oh boy did I fall for it.
I’m going to also counteract and say, this was not a spectacular, blow your mind book that will change your life – instead it’s one of those quieter ones (thus more dangerous ones) that make you rethink the concept of life and living in itself. It’s warming, harrowing, and heart breaking – but in a good way.
Everything I read was predictable – but that was one of the perks, that despite me already guessing every twist/curve, it was so enjoyable and additive to read. Will was as sarcastic and douche-bagy as you expect him to be – Louisa was as naïve and determined, and you just knew they would both transpire and come together to become something… more? Don’t even ask, I’m writing this review while at work, typing furiously in an effort to encapsulate all that I feel.
I digress (as always). Okay. Let’s start with what it’s about. Enter Will Trayner - he was living the life. Pretty girl on his arm. A bigman at work. Enjoying trips and dares and adventures until. Until. One morning as Will sets out to get on his motorbike to get to work, his life comes crashing down around him. The irony? He wasn’t the one riding the bike. Will was simply hailing down a taxi when a motorbike rider hit him, and everything in Will’s life came to a halt. The once independent, proud, driven man who was in charge of his own life, was reduced down to a crumpled shell of a man, who needed help from feeding, to going to the bathroom, to even writing his own name. What does that leave you with? Who do you become when the things that defined you, are taken away from you. Are you really the same person after all that, underneath it all?
Bitter, resentful, sarcastic, angry - this is what Will became. Then of course, we are introduced to Lou. With a steady boyfriend, a job at the cafe that suddenly ends, and a family that depends on her, Lou comes barrelling in to Will’s life as his carer. Short of cash but with a loud mouth to make up for it, we see Lou struggle to stick to the job as Will does anything and everything he can to annoy her and get her to leave - she wouldn’t be the first, that’s for sure. And that’s where it really began for me. The moment Will saw her, and decided to produce a prehistoric dinosaur noise in an effort to shake Lou - and then as just as quickly stopping, to offer his name and bid his hello to her. I swear, that scene killed me.
“As we stepped into the room, the man in the wheelchair looked up from under shaggy, unkempt hair. His eyes met mine and after a pause, he let out a bloodcurdling groan. Then his mouth twisted, and he let out another unearthly cry.
I felt his mother stiffen.
‘Will, stop it!’
He didn’t even glance towards her.
Another prehistoric sound emerged from somewhere near his chest. ”
This isn’t some epic romance. Let me just state that. This is also hilarious - let me add that. I found the humour and honesty that both Lou and Will brought to this story to be touching - because it felt real.
I feel like what really hit me about this book, was the choices Will and Lou make, as well as all the other members that are littered throughout the story. I know countless people disagreed with what Will wants and what he does, but I felt like I understood him, his choice, and in the end, the freedom he wanted. As an able bodied person, and maybe even as someone who may have been through the exact same thing Will went through, how can you ever understand how someone feels about it, and what they want to do about it? The internal workings of someone who may have suffered exactly what you have, will never be the same to yours, because every choice and every moment in their life is defined by so many other things, different to you. Will’s choices in the end, are wholeheartedly, absolutely, his own. I just felt like I needed to put that out there. And there’s no shame or even pride in these things - it simply is, what it is. A choice.
There were no sharp corners in this story, no major secret being unveiled, it was even predictable in the plot - but again that wasn’t the point of this story. It wasn’t to take a subject and turn it 180 to bring something new to the table. But rather it was to take a story and add a touch of reality, of love, of hurt, of humour to it. Flawed characters and bad choices that echo the true reality of life, and eventually, death.
The characters were brilliant. I loved Will. I loved Lou. I loved Nathan. The bond that tied these 3 together was honestly heart warming because the deeper message is portrays is that anything done with compassion and love, leaves a mark on a person. True, despite all efforts neither Lou or Nathan could get Will to change his mind, his choice - but they left their mark. They made him happy by living their life alongside him, letting Will encourage them to explore and adventure - even though that’s what ironically they wanted Will to do. But in the end, it was a lesson for Will and Lou. They learnt about life through each other, taught each other to accept and embrace as well as when to fight. I didn’t expect to feel so emotional once I finished the book, and that’s what crippled me and made me wana roll around making whale noises at 3pm at work, in my office.
This isn’t a love story. This isn’t a tragedy. No. This is about the difference between life, and living. And I want you all to pick it up, and cry with me, because nothing makes me happier than seeing you guys getting trampled by a book.