Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Let's Talk | Me Before You Criticisms

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Back in February I finally picked up Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I had initially been put off by the hype but I really wanted to watch the film as I love Sam Claflin. When I finally did get around to reading it, I really enjoyed it, and I have a mini review if you want to know more of my thoughts. After finishing the book though, I was looking through some of the reviews on Goodreads and was quite surprised by some of the comments I was reading. I found it very interesting to read the opinions of people who were looking at the story differently to myself, in particular the views of readers with similar disabilities to that of Will Traynor in the book. I had some thoughts of my own while reading those that I wanted to share and discuss.

Let me just start by saying I am definitely not trying to say that the opinions of others are wrong or invalid, and I am most definitely not trying to insinuate that anyone was wrong to be offended by this book. As an able-bodied person, I can't see the issues in this book the same way that those dealing with these things every day can. If someone was offended by this book, which many people do seem to be, I am in no position to tell them they are wrong and would never try to. These are simply my thoughts from what I have seen in my experience.

WARNING: SPOILERS - The remainder of this post will contain spoilers for Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.

For anyone who doesn't know, and isn't bothered about spoilers, Me Before You deals with the topic of assisted suicide. Will Traynor, a previously very active young man, wants to end his life following a motorbike accident which caused a spinal chord injury, resulting in quadriplegia. 

For the majority of people, this biggest issue they have with this book is the idea that the main theme of the book is that life with a disability is a life not worth living. Firstly, I really don't believe this is the message the author intended to portray. Obviously if that is the message you took from the book, I can't tell you that is wrong, I just don't believe that was the intention. 
Secondly, sadly that is the opinion of some people in that position. Yes, the vast majority of those in a similar situation to Will do adjust to their circumstances and go on to live a full, happy life, however this one character is not alone in his views. I work with patients dealing with all kinds of disabilities, including those with life-altering spinal injuries. Nothing will ever prepare you for the moment a 16-year-old tells you they "don't want to live like this anymore" and just want to die. Of course it is my job to help these people through these situations and encourage them to go on living, but sadly it is the case that some people just can't adjust to their circumstances and would rather die. I accept that this is not the case for the majority of disabled people, but it is for some.

I've seen various negative reviews of this book by people living with quadriplegia, which are completely valid opinions, but I also found this blog post, written by a woman with quadriplegia, which talks more about this things I have mentioned. 

Also, I have seen some complaints about it being poorly researched as it talks about a C12 spinal injury, which isn't actually a thing. However, that definitely isn't what my book says so I'm not sure if that is just a misunderstanding? I'm 99% sure it talks about Will having a C6/7 injury, although I can't find the page to check for sure.

I could go on but I don't want to turn this into an essay. I can see why aspects of this book may be seen as problematic, and with such a controversial topic like assisted suicide there are bound to be harsh critics of this book. In my opinion, I think this is a topic that needs to be discussed as it is something that people are dealing with. As is mentioned in the article I linked, there are many able-bodied people all over the world contemplating suicide right now, so why should it be so appalling that a disabled person would do the same?

I sincerely hope I have not offended anyone with my views on this topic, that was not my intention but I do apologise if I have done. Like I said, I am not trying to tell anyone that their opinion is wrong or invalid, these are just my thoughts on the things I have read.

What were your thoughts on Me Before You?

Sophie :)


  1. I haven't read this book yet, and I don't read a lot of Adult, so I'm not sure I ever will, but I agree with what you're saying. I think right now there's a push to show everything a CERTAIN WAY-- which usually means an inoffensive way, but IMO books that deal with serious, tough issues are not going to be a universal experience. I'm not paralyzed, so I don't know what it is like, but a HS friend of mine was in a car accident and was considered a quadriplegic and she had a bad time after that. She ended up dying and I honestly think that's what she wanted. So as much as we want to think you could be paralyzed and everything turns out great, it's not always the case, and I want to read about all sides of stories, not just the good sides.

    1. Exactly! There is a huge emphasis on diversity at the moment and reading books featuring characters in a number of different circumstances, which I completely agree with. Yet it seems to be that it is only acceptable if that is featured in a certain way, like you said. This book may not feature a disabled character in a way people would like to be reading about, but this is reality for many people.