Thursday, October 15, 2015

"After You": Not as Enjoyable as Me Before You

Before I begin explaining the title of this blog post, I want to first emphasize the fact that I love Jojo Moyes books.  They are witty, charming, romantic, and I always look forward to reading them.  Actually, I get a bit giddy when I have a Jojo Moyes book in my hands at the library check out.  Because I only discovered her books a year ago, I've been catching up on Jojo Moyes books, and I even went on binge in the summer to prepare for reading her latest novel, "After You." And, I actually went to Barnes and Noble and finally used the gift card my sister sent me in June for my birthday to buy "After You" the day it was released.

What makes Jojo Moyes books so lovable stems from the fact that they all have the same sort of plot structure which involves the following:
A working class girl who is extra ordinary but doesn't really know it falls on hard times.  She meets a more wealthy or more seemingly put together bloke who is always dashing but he struggles with flaws of his own. The two fall hard for each other, but they both need to overcome incredible odds or their own inner demons in order for everything to work out.

The female characters are usually bumbling in one way or another, but also extra ordinary in one way or another.  At the heart of the heroine is always kindness.  Add a romance, a cast of supporting characters who enhance the charm and wit of the plot.  Finally add more dips and bumps in the road than the average human being can handle and have the characters work through those dips and bumps by falling hard but always brushing themselves off to overcome.

Moyes writes the kind of books that make me want to bury myself in my couch, grab a big cozy blanket, light a candle, grab a cup of tea and then get lost in the story.  She is a master of rom com and it's no wonder she has a legion of fans who adore her books.

I am a dedicated new fan which is why I couldn't help but be disappointed in the sequel to "Me Before You."

I want to apologize to all of you who are Jojo Moyes fans and loved this book.  I wanted to love it.  I really, really did, but I didn't.

Here are my reasons:
1) I love the character Lou, and I loved her relationship with Will Traynor in "Me Before You" BUT I feel like she grew so much in that novel and she didn't just take a few steps back, she took leaps and bounds back in the outset of this book.  She chose to work at a crappy job (and then stay there), she chose to live a life of isolation, and then she chose to wallow.  All of those things seemed out of character to me of the Lou that I watched grow in "Me Before You." I get that she was devastated by the loss of Will, but I just expected more from her.

2) I wasn't thrilled with the addition of Will's daughter that he never knew existed.  This seemed like a strange twist in the story and for me it didn't work.  Lily felt unfinished and hurried as a character which is odd coming from a master of character creation like Moyes.  I did not like the "Lily backstory" chapter where the reader learns why Lily is so surly and so unpredictable.  It didn't fit for me and felt thrown in. The angst was too much. The situation that she struggled against too improbable.  Her mother was too evil to be real, her step-father's business associate too creepy, and the reconciliation of the whole Lily situation seemed too tidy.  If a strange teenage girl showed up on your doorstep, would you really allow her to just live there without consulting the mom? Would the mom really be that unfeeling that she abandons her altogether because she's too much trouble?

3) The shooting scene with Sam and Donna was too farfetched.  That's all I'll say about that.

4) The entire situation with Lou's job at the airport bar.  From the costume to the boss to the staying on to help.  It all felt contrived.

Because the two main female characters were in situations that I wasn't crazy about, I had problems loving the entirety of the book.  That's not to say that I didn't love parts of it.

Here are the things I loved:
1) I loved the character Sam.  What's not to love about him? He's a handsome, caring man who loves his nephew, his job, and he's building a house from the foundation up.  He's open with his feelings and wants to be in a committed relationship.

2) I loved the conflict between Lou's mom and dad.  Her mom wants more freedom and her dad wants everything to stay the same.  The fighting led to funny moments and the only time I actually got teary eyed while reading (which is saying a lot because usually I'm a mess by the end of most Jojo Moyes books).

There's more to love, but those were my favorite things about it.

For the hardcore fans of Jojo Moyes, I know they will be entertained and most of them will disagree whole heartedly with my criticisms.  I haven't read all of her books (that's why I consider myself a new fan).  The upsides: I read it fast.  I didn't cry a bunch.  It was a little enjoyable and somewhat touching, but it definitely did not grab me the way that other Jojo Moyes books have.  I will continue to read Jojo Moyes with hopefulness that her next novel will be way better than this one.

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