Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Michael Joseph (24th Sept 2015)
11 hours, 6 minutes
How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?
Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.
Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future. . . .
For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.
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I’m not the type of person who can just walk into a bookstore, park myself on the many chairs available and just … read, you know? I have to be at home or so engrossed on the train home (which totally happened with Saint Anything and The Catastrophic History of You and Me) - that’s how I read, in my little bubble. But there I was last week, wandering around Waterstones to kill time when After You caught my eye. It’s been on my ever so teetering to-be-read pile since I heard news of a sequel, but only that day did I pick it up - and there I sat getting so engrossed in the book that I ended up reading 7 chapters there and then before wondering how odd I must look to the Waterstones staff, this little girl in the corner who just refuses to leave hour after hour. Before someone panics and assumes I read the whole book whilst sitting in the store without buying it, relax - I did indeed make the purchase and rush home to read the rest. So here’s the review, that’s how it goes right, you read a book and you spew your thoughts on it? Chyea, let’s get to it.
The predecessor to this book, Me Before You, was an absolute scorcher of a book, and most reviews you look at for After You will just remind you of how amazing that book was. What does this mean exactly? It means that After you has failed me in short. I take a deep sigh as I write this review because I honestly do wish the words I’m about to spew weren’t true - but alas, they are.
Find the review for Me Before You here for your convenience, as well as the review for The One Plus One, another book by JoJo Moyes which surpasses even Me Before You.
It’s true, I was so engrossed in this book that I sat in store reading it, but once I got home and continued to read, and after having finished it, I realised that it was just, you know, an okay book, a good book even, but it goes without saying, if you’ve read Me Before You, After you will just not be enough. Not as thrilling. Not as exciting. Not as tormenting. Not as beautiful. Just not as. (Is the word as losing all meaning to you too? Yeah, me too. As as as as).
The world left behind to Josie after Will is bleak - that man taught Josie how to live because he had very little left of it on his own - and yet the promise she made to him, to live, live well without him is a promise she just couldn’t keep. Bumbling around, trying to find her foothold in the world after it collapsed when Will left, Josie can’t even say she’s trying to be honest. Josie is obviously missing Will, but is it just me, or could no one actually feel her grief? Her character just felt like it dropped out of her from the Josie she was, there was nothing left of her in this book. I just expected there to be some fire in her at least or just something, anything, that would bring life to her character. She spent this chunk of her life with Will, who actually taught her how to live, it wasn’t just for the sake of helping them both get through the ordeal, but from Will, it was a gift, to remind her that she was blessed to have a life he no longer could - and yet after him, when she was meant to continue living, actually living, she wilts and withers away. I get that without Will, she’s lost and hollow, but I dunno, I just expected there to be some saving grace in the whole situation.
The plot itself felt weak, a twist that was thrown in there just for the sake of it, and I for one didn't like the twist at all. I’m going to stop there in case I give away any spoilers. If you remove that twist from the story, literally there’s no substance left in the book, it’s just Josie working, missing Will, without the “twist” element Sam the paramedic wouldn’t even be in the story because the whole “fall” scene wouldn’t have happened. That doesn’t leave us with much in the end really, in terms of storyline, just reappearances from old characters like Josie’s family, Nathan who also looked after Will and even her ex Patrick. Not great to be honest.
As for the other characters - I liked Jake - and that’s saying A LOT given that he’s not even one of the primary characters in this book, but just a kid that comes to the support group Josie’s father makes her join. Imagine that, of all the first and secondary characters in the story, I take a liking to this one kid who barely makes an appearance. I liked Sam too - at the time of reading this I was binge watching my way through Grey’s Anatomy, and there’s this guy, Matthew the paramedic who is unbearably cute in the show. Whenever I read about Sam, I imagined Matthew (played by Justin Bruening). It worked out well for me in my head, maybe the image of Matthew actually made me like Sam more? LOL anyway I digress - I feel like Sam was one of the few fleshed out characters in the book, his protective nature and the fact he’s a paramedic also made me like him more, goes with the whole strong, I-man-I-protect image LOL
As for the writing, it felt like a shadow of what Moyes is capable in my eyes, as both Me Before You and The One Plus One were stunning in prose, poetic and beautifully written - eloquent, but After You lacked that charm, it just felt like a story being told, not really felt. I say this because at no point in the book did I even feeeeeel a glimmer of choking back a sob, or anything remotely touching enough to bring me to tears. It was fine to read, don’t get me wrong, still well written enough to warrant reading, but not the standard I had come to expect from Moyes.
Overall I think this book was doomed from the start - those who love Me Before You will keep reiterating this, but it’s so true - but unless you were going to come out with a book more amazing and explosive than what you already wrote, then writing a sequel was just not going to work. Me Before You should have stayed as a standalone - don’t get me wrong, After You wasn’t bad at all, I did enjoy it still, but it will always be eclipsed by its predecessor. Will and Josie’s story should have been left at the beautiful turn we saw in the previous book. I know others had this desire to see what happened to Josie after the book finishes and for them After You may be just what they’re looking for - but for me, I loved not knowing what came next for her after all was said and done.