I spent a lot of time last weekend chattering about getting to see Jojo Moyes and Emilia Clarke, have them autograph my brand-spanking-new copy of Me Before You and then get into an early screening of the movie.
As I am a sucker for a good tearjerker and a closet romance-lover, it’s no surprise that I adored the book. (That’s not to say I didn’t have some issues with it, but more on that in a minute.)
And because I get so attached to and protective of the things I love, when I started seeing posts earlier this week that had negative points of view, I was horrified.
On the one hand, I could understand about 20 percent of what the author of that piece is getting at, because I had a few issues myself with the book.
On the other hand, though, I wanted to scream at this person, “Do you not understand the point of books?” in all caps and with multiple exclamation points.
[WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. DO NOT CONTINUE READING IF YOU DON’T WANT A LIGHT SPOILER.]
Here’s the thing: the book deals with assisted suicide. That was my issue: suicide. As someone who has been suicidal, I have very strong feelings about assisted suicide, and I didn’t like that the book touched on it, even though I never got a good sense of whether Moyes was trying to say “assisted suicide is good” or “assisted suicide is bad.”
It’s always hard for me to read books where people deal with suicide, but especially ones where others had a hand in it.
I was surprised to find that the major controversy was less about that and more about the portrayal of people with disabilities. Because Will Traynor is suicidal and also quadriplegic, critics claimed that the book is saying disabled lives are not worth living.
And here’s where I come in, yelling about not having a proper understanding of how books work: Jojo Moyes is not saying disabled lives are not worth living. Will Traynor, a character, deeply flawed and different from his author, is saying his disabled life is not worth living.
Y’all, there’s such a divide between those two things. Me Before You tells one story, about one disabled person, one man who wants to end his life.
Will wants to die because he has been bereft of his passion, which just happens to be moving about and doing wild and crazy things with his body (like cliff-diving and stuff). I don’t get that. I’m not a huge fan of that.
But I do have a passion, and if I lost the ability to pursue that passion for any reason, I might feel similarly to Will.
Nonetheless, the book does not imply or teach that disability is a death sentence. It does not lecture, or preach, or moralize. It simply tells a story.
A heartbreaking, tear-jerking story, but a story nonetheless.
If you can’t see that…you might need to go back and study what books really are.