Analysis of MBY: Chapter One


[Image description: A picture of a waving red flag with the text over it:Red Flag Warning Issued]

This entire chapter was pretty much red flag after red flag.

Thank god these chapters are so short, because my energy is limited. I can’t guarantee any sort of schedule however because of my health. I have good days and bad days, and good weeks and bad weeks. Unfortunately you’ll just have to keep tuning back in to see when I post updates. You can follow my twitter or tumblr too for updates. (/plug)

If you’re new please consult my intro.

The first chapter starts two years after the prologue and focuses on Lou, the female lead. It takes the book six pages to say what I can in one sentence: Lou lost her job at a café that she really enjoyed working at because the owner sold it. There, and no need for a two page interlude re-playing the lay-off for no needed reason. This book is already 405 pages in my edition, why is there so much superfluous information? There was clearly no need to pad the word count.

Nevertheless the point of this review is to address the ableism, not my armchair editing (I am literally sitting in an armchair; it’s the only kind of chair I can really sit comfortably in). Apparently Lou’s grandfather lives with the family and appears to have dementia though it hasn’t been said yet (and may never be) why he exactly needs care. He doesn’t appear verbal and apparently needs Lou’s mother to care for him. The family is apparently treading water financially so Lou losing her job does have a significant economic consequence.

So you think she be a little bit more cooperative with the job center.

She lands three jobs (wow I wish I could be instantly hired so easily but my wheelchair apparently prevents that) but they don’t work out for various reasons meant to highlight that Lou is just a misunderstood eccentric with a good heart. She can’t stand killing so she can’t work at a chicken farm, she can’t hoodwink seniors so she can’t work at an energy firm. And in the most bizarre circumstance she gets fired for talking to a small child about happy meal toys.


[Image description: Gif of Tom Cruise making an incredulous expression and subtitled with the word “what?”]

Who would get fired for that alone?

Anyway her quirky failures of course set up for the greatest leap in logic so far; that Lou is qualified to take care of another human being. You can tell she has the sympathy, compassion, and tenacity to fill such a position as her first response to being offered a care giver position is:

“Wiping old people’s bottoms?”

Yes. Her first reaction to the idea of caregiving is “I don’t want to wipe bums!” I am not even exaggerating a little. And man is she obsessed with that. In the following conversation that leads her to applying as Will’s caregiver she mentions it two more times. She also mentions she can’t “cope” her grandfather and that her mother handles most of his care.

Now I understand not everyone is qualified to be a caregiver. It is a difficult job and especially caring for the elderly because they’re frail and often die soon after care starts. I cared for my own great-grandmother that had dementia. And she used diapers. And I would change those diapers. And I would indeed “wipe her bum”.  I understand I probably have a higher threshold of queasiness than other people because give me a pair of gloves and I can do anything. My career field of animal health care is nothing but blood, guts, pus, and shit.

It’s a thankless job often regulated to family members if the person is of a lower economic class. Nevertheless if you can’t “cope” with your own family member’s disabilities, how are you going to handle caring for someone else’s? Why is wiping someone’s bum the ultimate act of degradation? It’s not pleasant but it’s something that needs to be done. You can wear gloves and wash your hands. Your mother wiped your bum when you were a child Lou, keep that in mind.

And here’s the thing (well one thing) that bothers me about the focus of this book. It’s clearly about Lou learning how to “live” but why isn’t the focus about Lou learning to not be such an ableist asshat? The conversation her family has afterwards is very revealing. With her father making the comment to Lou’s boyfriend that basically he doesn’t have to worry about Lou around a quadriplegic sexually. Ableist and sexist, nice. Lou never challenges the ableist ideas her family and boyfriend spout.

And I could understand this if it’s meant to frame how far the character has to go in their development. Yet we already know Lou isn’t going to be asked to do “degrading” things because the job placement officer already assured her she wouldn’t be asked to. So she’s never going to be confronted with the true reality of a disabled person’s existence.

Just like Moyes and Thea Sharrock intend for the public at large.

Can we see why this is a problem?

Lou isn’t qualified to be a caregiver at all. She clearly has none of the skill or wherewithal. If Lou can be a caregiver then a caregiver is basically just a playmate for a disabled person. I wasn’t my great-grandmother’s playmate, I took care of her. I saw to all of her basic needs and comfort.

I understand romance is a genre that works with coincidences. Coincidences, not leaps in logic. For example if Elizabeth had never gone to Pemberley with her aunt and uncle at the end of Pride and Prejudice she wouldn’t have likely ever met Mr. Darcy again and they wouldn’t have had that second chance to rekindle their romance. This isn’t a leap in logic as Pemberley was a grand home and it made sense that Elizabeth’s aunt and uncle would want to view it. It also made sense the servants could have accidentally missed Mr. Darcy’s presence as the home was so large.

However the leap in logic that Lou is an extremely unqualified caregiver yet somehow still winds up with this job is untenable. If Me Before You was just a little quirky romance I could probably forgive a leap in logic. However as the work addresses something as serious as assisted suicide for its male lead, you have to treat the subject with care. I always say an author needs to be in awe of their subject. Assisted suicide, any theme of suicide, must be treated with the clout it deserves. If it isn’t its insensitive and damaging to those who have suffered with it. You don’t casually throw suicide into your plot if you want to write a quirky little romance.


[Image description: Gif of three older female-presenting people. Two are standing with one sitting. One person standing has an exasperated expression and is telling the other person what is subtitled: “That’s not has this works! That’s not how any of this works!”]

We aren’t props in your narrative.

To finish this chapter was basically character “development” if you can call it that as all it really did is highlight what a disastrous situation is to come. We were introduced to Lou, her family, and boyfriend. (Also the boyfriend, “Patrick” is a personal trainer. Yeah Lou has a type too.) Somehow despite being extremely unqualified Lou gets a job interview to care for a quadriplegic in a private home.

And yes I have already read Chapter two and it’s also a doozy. More to come kids!


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