Book Review: After You by Jojo Moyes
‘Write what you know’ is often bandied around as the best advice to aspiring authors, but I think we need to change this to, ‘write what you’re passion about’. That is, don’t give into the whims of what is popular right now, what you think your audience will want to read, or what your publisher is demanding you write.
Obviously Jojo Moyes was passionate about Louisa and Will’s story in Me Before You. Even more obviously, she was guilty of one or all three of those last points in the previous paragraph.
Me Before You was such a fabulous book. I loved it. It’s listed as one of my favourite books. And, like many others I would think, my love for it compelled me to read its sequel, despite the plethora of bad reviews. I wish I would have listened to those reviews and resisted because After You really is a jumbled mess. There’s so many things wrong with it, I don’t even know where to start.
Actually, I’ll start at the beginning and the ending. The ending of Me Before You is perfect. There was no need for a sequel. It was written as if there was no plans for a sequel. Hence this is a major problem with After You. Where do you start with a book when there is nowhere to start? Moyes obviously had no idea either, which led to a severe lack of plot. It’s almost as if she sat down and strung some ideas together and hoped for the best. (Note — it wasn’t the best.)
Let me run through the major plot points so you’ll get the general idea. Louisa continues to mourn Will, Louisa job hunts to escape her idiot boss, Louisa meets cute (sort of) new man, Louisa finds it difficult to be with new man because of Will’s memory (this conflict drags and drags until you want to scream), Louisa meets and becomes a surrogate carer for a teenager and… that’s about it. Oh, and there is the major plot line of Louisa’s mother’s resistance to shaving her legs. (Yeah, I know it was a metaphor, Hazel Grace, but it was still as boring as bats**t.)
Louisa’s parents were such strong characters in the original book. They jumped from the page and I could picture them so clearly. They were funny and so very very real. Their return in the sequel is such a disappointment. Louisa’s mum gets about one good line (to do with a toilet attendant) and Louisa’s father loses every bit of humour he displayed in the original. In fact, he comes across as a bit of an idiot instead of the sweet funny battler we knew.
Louisa’s sister appears again. She was forthright and bitchy in the original. This time her personality came across much more abrasive and annoying. Again, there was no humour in her scenes.
And Louisa herself? If I had to list my favourite book heroines ever, Louisa Clark of Me Before You would have made my top 10. Louisa Clark from After You would not even turn up in my top 100. How a vibrant funny and heartbreaking character like Louisa can turn into such a bore within three or four chapters is beyond me.
The other new character is the teenager Louisa takes in, Lily. Lily was not an awful character but, again, she and her plot were as unnecessary and forced as this book.
Aside from the new boyfriend and Lily, there is a cast of ‘’colourful’’ characters who attend a counselling group with Louisa. I thought they were completely wasted. If I’d been the editor I would have suggested putting their scenes between chapters and/or dedicating a whole chapter for each character attending the session’s life, letting their issues reflect Louisa’s somehow. As it was, these scenes and characters are shoved in willy-nilly. I had no idea who was who (apart from another teenager, Jake) meaning I became attached to none of them and in the end skimmed over these scenes.
After reading Me Before You, I had the urge to read all of Moyes’s other books. After reading After You, I’ve now got the urge to give them all a miss. I remember her changing the book’s narrator oddly in the original book and overlooked it as I enjoyed it so much. She did it again in this novel. The entire thing was written in Louisa’s first person point of view except for this one out of place chapter that switches abruptly to Lily’s perspective. I’m sure there must have been some way to reveal to the reader Lily’s secret/conflict without stooping to this idea.
I must add too, that Lily’s sad back story had none of the impact on me that Louisa’s relating what happened in the maze did in Me Before You. That was one of the most powerful and distressing moments I’ve ever read in a chicklit book but Lily’s story was cliched and the ‘sting’ operation Louisa arranged was just plain ridiculous.
I’ve tried to spend a few moments contemplating how I would have rated this book if I’d read it as a standalone and had not had the original to compare, but I’m still not sure. There’s some irony that I read the book because of the original and I hate the book because of the original.
If you’re strong enough, I’d recommend you don’t read this sequel at all. If you do get the urge, I encourage you to re-read the original. Hell, I’d even lay bets on that there’s fanfiction sequels that are better than this.
Horrifyingly, the book actually ends in such a manner that this could become a trilogy. I can’t even…
A generous 2 out of 5