Title: After You
Rating: 5 out of 5
After You is essentially the sequel to the much more popular book Me Before You, which is why I decided to write a review on this instead of the first book.
The story follows after the death of Will Traynor in Me Before You: how Louisa Clark's life is two years after, and the challenges she faced while still cradling a broken heart. You would think that the two stories are well tied in together.
But it's not. As my friend Ley would put it, it's like reading a whole new different book.
True, the characters are still the same: There's still Lou and her colourful family, a bit of the Traynors, and a few dialogues with Nathan. However, all the characters have reached a certain level of maturity, or in some aspects, a great change, in After You. Lou has the most developed character in the book, making me miss the cheerful, bubbly, slightly stupid Lou in Me Before You. But I guess that's the thing about grief: it changes your life profoundly.
New characters are introduced, mainly . . . SPOILER ALERT.
Will's love child, Lily.
Oh, he didn't know. Nobody knew, in fact, before Will's death; only after.
So Lily. She's such a character. She's the typical angsty, moody teenager with daddy issues and a strained relationship with her biological mom. Most of the time while reading, she got on my nerve. But as the story unfolded, I had come to love Lily despite her quirks.
Lily, I think, was a metaphor of Lou's struggle in coming into terms with Will's death and her involvement: That what might be something hard to accept at first, might be the exact thing you need in order to lead a new and better life, without the person you've lost. With Lily, Lou was able to have a purpose in life, not anymore drifting through the days with zero motivation.
Then there's Sam, Lou's new love interest, who I think is the pole opposite of Will. I believe Jojo Moyes purposely created Sam's character as such, so that Lou can see what she's missing, and so that Lou can finally forgive herself for not saving Will from death—a fact she acknowledged sometime at the end of the book when she was nursing Sam back to health after a near-fatal accident.
Plot-wise, After You is nicely paced: sometimes fast, with so many unexpected events unfolding; sometimes slow, especially during scenes where Lou is depressed, introspective, or simply unwilling to participate in life. The book brought me a plethora of feelings at different pages: surprise, worry, thrill, annoyance, anger, sadness, and the best I've felt, a feeling of happiness and contentment that all is well.
After You is a book I'd recommend even for those who haven't read the first book. It's not your typical romance book where everything is steamy and lovey dovey. After You isn't really a love story: it's a story of mourning, of life after the death of a loved one, and most importantly, of moving on.