{Review} What happens After You

After You Jojo Moyes

Sequels are dangerous.

We all know this. Beverly Hills Cop–amazing. Beverly Hills Cop 2–still pretty great. Beverly Hills Cop 3… Let’s not go there. Don’t even get me started on the Matrix disasters. Sometimes it’s better to leave well enough alone.

But even so, when a book really yanks my heart out and I feel like I have experienced something with those characters, I miss them when it’s over. It’s hard to give up that world. I have been known to change my style of dress erratically once I finish a book, trying to make the world of the story continue. Same with films. And audiobooks have even made me change my accent after a long drive. I really fall in.

So when I heard that Jojo Moyes was revisiting the world of Me Before You, I was optimistic. But cautiously so. I did want to know what happened to Louisa. I did want to know where everyone had ended up. Moyes is good with characters. I have wondered about most of those from her books, but Louisa from Me Before You was the one who ended her story at the beginning of a new one.

If you have not yet read Me Before You, this is where the spoilers start. (Go read it right now and come back):

I think one of the reasons this works as a sequel is that losing someone you love is as much about the time you knew them as it is about the time after they are gone.

When I was in college, one of my dearest friends drowned suddenly in an accident. He was a daredevil, much like Will’s character was before his accident. He was a mountain biker who once biked through a Baltimore blizzard to come stay at my house because he was stir crazy. The day before he was meant to graduate college, after a number of days of rain, he took his dogs to walk around a large reservoir to get some air. Partway around, the banks gave way and he fell into the water. He wasn’t a swimmer and the overflowing level pulled him under a rock. His dog tried to pull him out, but she wasn’t strong enough.

I was twenty, and this was the first time I lost someone my own age. This was a friend I had talked with deeply and freely, much like Louisa did with Will. I was lucky, and there were other people who I felt safe sharing with, but there are parts of you that are hard to keep going without the friend that brings them out.

When I opened this book, I hoped it wouldn’t be an easy story. That Lou wouldn’t be married to a French man, living the good life, thinking kindly and distantly of Will. I just wouldn’t buy it. And thankfully, this is not that book.

It’s not perfect, but I still couldn’t put it down. Moyes knows how to write characters that you care about. She doesn’t coddle them, but she doesn’t smack them so far down that they’re unwilling to try anymore either. And in this way, reading her books helps me think differently about my own life.

I won’t give any plot away from this book since there is really nothing I hate more than knowing the story of a book before reading it. But I will say that I think you’ll be glad you read it, if you did. There are elements in it that weren’t present in the first book. It isn’t a rehashing. The previous book is a jumping off point for a new story. Would this book be as big a blockbuster on its own? I doubt it. But when you love characters so much, why wouldn’t you want to visit with them again.

This was the perfect cozy winter read. I got up an hour early and read in bed in the morning to find out what happened next. It made me laugh and it did make me tear up. What more could I ask? Maybe that Jojo Moyes considers a sequel to this sequel? I’m willing to risk it. I think she can be trusted to keep the story on track.

And my friend? I still think about him all the time. When someone says a word he loved to use in a way that annoyed me, when I see something he would have loved. But still, like Lou, I’m grateful for the impact he had. And I can still imagine what he would have thought or done and it helps. Books like this are wonderful because they help, too.

 

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