Huge thanks to the lovely folks at Penguin for providing me with a review copy of this new release!
I’ve had JoJo Moyes’ books on my radar since this time last year when I spotted them in Hawaii. The covers jumped out at me, and a quick scan of the blurb told me they’d be right up my alley. I don’t read as much as I used to, so when I do read, the story needs to be engaging, with characters that intrigue me straight away, and happily, her books tick both of those boxes! I coincidentally had Me Before You on my iPad ready to read when After you appeared on my doorstep courtesy of Penguin, so I spent the last two weeks buried in back to back JoJo Moyes.
This next part contains spoilers for the plot of Me Before You, so be warned!
After You is the sequel to Me Before You. The first novel tells the story of Louisa Clark, a waitress in a small English town who suddenly finds herself unemployed when the cafe she’s always worked in closes. With limited options, Louisa takes a six month contract job as a carer for Will Traynor, a handsome young quadriplegic furious at the world he has to live in since he was hit by a motorcycle and paralysed. After overhearing a conversation between Will’s parents, Louisa discovers the six month contract is in place because Will plans to commit assisted suicide at the end of the six months in Switzerland. After an eye-opening six months in which Louisa desperately tries to open Will’s eyes to the possibilities of still living a fulfilling life, albeit in a wheelchair, they fall in love. But it’s not enough for Will – the book heartbreakingly ends in the days and weeks after Will successfully ends his life with his family and Louisa by his side in Switzerland.
After You has just been published, three years after we first met Lousia Clark. Louisa has finally moved out of her family home and into a flat paid for by an inheritance from Will. She’s traveled around Europe, adhering to Will’s orders for her to live her life, and she has a new job. However, it turns out that all that travel wasn’t actually that fulfilling, especially when she spent much of it missing the man she had barely had a chance to fall in love with before he committed suicide. And she can’t bring herself to make her flat feel like a home by unpacking and buying furniture. And her new job? It’s at the airport bar. She’s stuck, once again, but this time she knows it. After a horrifying accident at her new flat, Louisa starts attending a grief support group in the hopes that her family will realise she isn’t suicidal, and also because she realises that she’s just not moving on from Will’s death. Besides missing him with every heartbeat and each breath she takes, she hasn’t been able to reconcile her feelings of grief and anger at what he did, at her realisation that her love for him was not enough to keep him from wanting to die.
As she goes about her mundane, quiet life working at the bar and attending the grief counseling group, a knock on the door one night brings Will Traynor right back into Louisa’s life in the form of a teenage girl called Lily – Will’s teenage daughter. Louisa discovers that none of Will’s family know Lily exists, and Lily’s arrival forces them all to deal with the repercussions of Will’s actions yet again, which is both infuriating and a ray of light in their sea of grief. Lily’s behaviour seems to be that of a typically misunderstood teenager at first, but as she becomes more and more moody and erratic, Louisa is forced to delve deeper into Lily’s world to try and figure her out. At the same time, a chance meeting with one of the paramedics who helped save her life gives Louisa the opportunity to begin dating properly again, adding to the emotional turmoil she feels as she deals with her grief.
As with the first book, After You is compelling and totally readable. Moyes is skilled at writing a character who is deliberately wishy-washy when it comes to decision making without making Louisa unlikable or irritating. We get to witness not only her reluctance at pushing through her grief and fear, but also her maturation as she understands that she needs to confront her ghosts to move past this awful phase in her life, determined to live her life the way Will wanted her to. The familiar cast of characters is on hand to act as her physical subconscious, telling her the tough things she doesn’t necessarily want to hear – Louisa’s parents and sister, as well as some entertaining oddbods in her counseling group keep things light and funny when it’s needed. The story weaves between Louisa’s journey and the mystery of Lily’s appearance evenly throughout the novel, and Moyes has done a wonderful job of letting us check in with Louisa as if she were an old friend we were worried about. The story is universally relateable – love, loss, and family drama are things every one of us has experienced, and it’s nice to see an old friend get an ending that is something of her choosing, full of promise and possibility.
After You is available from Penguin Books for $32.99AUD. It’s a great read, and if you enjoyed Me Before You then you’ll definitely love shutting yourself in a room and reading this cover to cover!
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