Book Review: Me Before You

If you haven’t read Me Before You, don’t read this because I’m going to pretty much ruin the entire thing.

I saw a preview for the movie about a month ago. It was probably in the theater or an ad that popped up; I can’t remember which came first, but I knew from the moment I saw the preview that I had to watch it. I don’t know why- it was just another romance/drama, but something drew me in and I knew that it was different.

Fast forward to a few days ago, in Target with my dad shopping for a Mother’s Day present, where I saw the book on the Recent Releases shelf and I picked it up without hesitation. Usually, if I want to buy something for myself, I’ll think about it for a good thirty minutes before deciding that maybe I don’t need it after all and then get sad about being a broke college student. Not with this one. I picked it up, and I haven’t put it down since.

Let me start out by saying this book legitimately broke my heart. I’m talking about laying in bed crying so much that I have to stop reading because it hurts too much. In fact, I’m genuinely pissed off (excuse the strong language, but that’s even an understatement) at it right now. Just a few minutes ago, I held it tight to my chest as something precious to me, while simultaneously thinking about how I wanted to chuck it across the room. There have been two other books to ever have this effect on me (thanks The Fault In Our Stars and Delirium, and actually Everything, Everything had a bit of heartbreak as well…I’m sensing a theme in these books), but I still don’t think it felt quite like this.

Maybe it’s because I am starting to understand love and life a little better since reading the others, but it definitely is a conflicting thing (i.e. “why do I subject myself to actual emotional stress and pain over fictional stories and characters when I could just, you know, not?”).

That’s the beautiful thing about reading, I suppose, is that you can get so attached to characters that they feel like extensions of yourself and when bad things happen to them, you feel it too. I will forever be simultaneously in love with and despise Will Traynor, as I will forever see a lot of myself in Louisa Clark. She started out with no drive or ambition, which I always pride myself on having, but I fear anything outside of my comfort zone just as she does, claiming it’s all I need. I hated Will at first, just as she did, thinking “you cannot fall in love with a guy that is so negative and treats everyone like garbage,” but lo and behold, he let his guard down and proved to be a beautiful person. A little too selfish for my liking, but that’s Will, and I think Lou knows that as well (hence the line “How is it you have the right to destroy my life, I wanted to demand of him, but I’m not allowed a say in yours?“).

I went into this book excited, expecting for a romantic story of a woman who loves a man with a tragic disability, but it is definitely not just another love story. Here’s where spoilers start to really come in, so I’ve warned you. Love isn’t even mentioned between the two until close to the end of the book. When she finally tells Will that she is in love with him and drunkenly kisses him, and he tells her that it isn’t enough…you’d better believe I had Lou’s tears running down my face too. The main focus is that Will, who becomes a quadriplegic in the prime of his life, wants to kill himself and everyone that loves him is trying to do all they can to save him. His parents agree to take him to a clinic where they will “help him out,” if you know what I mean, in six months. It’s in this time that Louisa comes around and he goes from a very depressed, mean, horrible guy, to someone who is funny, sweet, and caring. In the end, though, he still decides to go through with it.

It was there that I stopped reading. I don’t know if I will finish. It’s the last chapter I believe, but I refuse to let Will Traynor die. Not only would it kill the part of me that, just in the past few days, has made room for Will, but I want to still hope that maybe he didn’t do it. Maybe he said no at the last moment. Maybe he decided that a life with Louisa was enough.

All signs point to no, I’m aware, but at least there is some glimmer of hope this way.

It may seem dramatic; they are fictional after all, but you become a part of the story as soon as you open the first page, and that’s why I can’t finish the book. This story, these characters, became a part of me, no matter how small, from the moment I saw that first preview and thought “I need to see that.” I’ve been through the heartbreak of losing a beloved character a thousand times, and for some reason, it seemed a little too unbearable with Will.

I wanted him to want to live. I wanted him to hold on. I wanted him to see that he wouldn’t be holding Louisa back. I know this book majorly addressed the topic of assisted suicide, specifically in cases of people with disabilities who were in intense pain or just physically miserable all the time, and never shoved one side down the readers’ throat, I think. I remain on my side that I do not think assisted suicide is in any way okay, but I have questioned it many times throughout the book. That’s what good books are meant to do: to get you to think, to have an impact on you. I have more sympathy and less anger now for those who agree to assisted suicide. Maybe not the people who actually perform it, but for the families who eventually give in and support the decision made, like in Will’s case. I can’t hate his parents for agreeing to take him. As much as I’d like to scream at them for it and even scream at Will, I can’t imagine being in a place so desperate. I would probably want to do the same if I were in his position.

But life is precious and I just don’t feel like humans have the right to say when their time is up, because if it were up, you wouldn’t have to take it yourself. I have never been in a position like Will’s, but I have dealt with depression for just over six years, and I would be lying if I said that I didn’t try to take my own life, or that I hadn’t thought about it quite a bit. But I’m so glad I didn’t. I think that’s another reason why I was so involved in this book. I can’t relate to his severe physical condition in any way, and I’m not claiming to understand a situation like that, but I connected with him on a level where he made killing himself sound like it just made sense. That’s why I wanted him to live so badly: because I felt like there was a part of me in him and he was going to go through with killing it even though I so desperately wanted him not to (“How is it you have the right to destroy my life,” or at least a tiny fraction of it, “…but I’m not allowed a say in yours?“)

My head is swirling with reasons why I’m writing this, and I don’t really have a single, clear one. I had such a connection with this book that I still can’t even fully explain. I don’t even know if I’m recommending it or not, because it just hurt to read, but that’s a good thing sometimes. That means it meant something to you, that it said something important. This book said a whole lot of important things with it’s discussion on both living and dying, on the danger of the comfort zone, on real love, on how people change with time and you have to let them go sometimes, on the pain that others can cause you even if what they do has nothing to do with you directly.

If you want to read a book that will bring you on a massive emotional journey, but you’ll likely come out changed in the end, I would highly suggest this one.

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Individuality

It’s a scary thing when you see the effects that others have had on you over time; when you never even questioned certain traits or thoughts you have until, one day, it becomes completely clear in an instant, and seemingly for no reason.

I am tired of thinking that the things I am interested in, the things that I find joy in doing, are not desirable by the opposite sex. Hear me out.

This blog is clearly centered around clothing; every post ends with the outfit I wore that day (with the exception of this series, of course). It’s easy to assume that that means I really like clothes and other “girly” things. Should that be seen as a negative thing? No. Is it? Well…I’m not as sure.

See, I’m extremely hesitant to share what I am currently creating (meaning, this blog and my Instagram) with other people or to let anyone know the amount of time or effort that actually goes into this, because I’m afraid they will think it is shallow. I never care anymore what people think of me because I’ve learned to accept who I am and like my quirks; it’s what makes me an individual. However, I still struggle with just this one thing, and I’m not sure why it matters to me so much. I never wanted to be seen as anything less than someone intelligent and interesting and full of substance, but why do I associate loving clothing and wanting to write about it, with being the opposite of “intelligent, interesting, and full of substance”?

Every guy I have dated had an obsession with gaming, and I’m pretty sure most of them still do. They made videos, talked about it all the time, played with me or when I was in the room, even went to competitions. And that is fine. Even though it’s not my cup of tea, why do I not see that as shallow and a waste of time, but they always saw my love for clothing as shallow and a waste of time? To the point of me subconsciously believing it?

Whether I do this as a hobby or something more, it should not looked down on. I should not be ashamed of it. I should not think, “no guy will like a such a shallow girl.” Dear Lord, I can’t even tell you how messed up that is.

Let me tell you a little story. I rarely watch any “beauty guru’s” on Youtube, but last night I came across the most well-known of them all, Zoella. I watched one video on makeup, then another, and one on quick hairstyles because I am atrocious at doing hair. After that, I stopped myself, not because I wanted to spend my time being productive or because I didn’t want to get sucked into the wormhole that is Youtube, but because I thought “I can’t enjoy this as much as I am; there isn’t enough substance.” Then I thought, “but it’s so interesting…why doesn’t it seem shallow?” After that, I decided to click on one more video, this one being a vlog with her boyfriend. My first thought was, “how did she get a boyfriend who was so okay, and even extremely supportive, of what she does for a living?” No, for the record, that has nothing to do with her looks; she’s freaking gorgeous. I also think she’s incredibly interesting to watch and she does not seem to be lacking in depth. But, do guys see that? How did a guy see past, what I assumed was preset in every guys mind, that they don’t like girls who focus too much of beauty and clothing?

And that’s when I realized, “oh my gosh, I’ve just been dating the same sexist jerk over and over again.” I’m not railing on my exes; that’s not what this post is about, but I will say that I have had plenty of guys give me the impression that I should care about beauty enough so that I look “good” (by their standards), but God forbid I actually enjoy it or spend any extra time on it or want to talk about it. Meanwhile, they can play videogames like it’s no tomorrow.

One thing that a person does and enjoys does not define their entire being. Yes, I love makeup. Yes, I love clothing. Yes, I love bubble baths and attempting to do my hair and hey, I also really like Starbucks. So what? I should not have to apologize for that. I know that I have depth. I know that I am intelligent. I know that God made each and every one of us to have different skill sets, and to love different things.

It’s like when people think art isn’t important. Artists are the ones designing whatever building you are in, they designed those billboards you pass everyday, they designed your iPhone you use everyday, they add life and color everywhere, even if you don’t notice it. We would not survive without artists. Art is everywhere. Plus, artists have passion and drive and something to offer the world, just like I know I, among many other women who are deemed as shallow for being creative, also do.

I am studying to be a teacher, I care deeply about the education system and want to give kids a good foundation, I love to draw and paint even if I am not great at it, I am a photographer, I am an avid reader, I am a writer. My favorite conversations are the ones where you have to push yourself and the other person to think deeper, to talk about theories on God and life and everything. I love people despite my extreme introversion, I’m a huge romantic, I have an obsession with everything that is Disney, the beach is my favorite place to think and relax and read, I am absolutely in love with my job at the library. I love my family with my entire heart, and my mom is my best friend.

Does my love for clothing negate all of those things, including everything I did not mention? Obviously not. I am a person, not just some stupid and shallow girl who wastes her time taking photos of her clothes and blogging about them.

I’m not saying that the entire male population has to be incredibly interested in the world of beauty and fashion. All I am saying is that I’m tired of the double standard, and being sexist to my own self because I cared more about if a guy will like me than pursuing something I am passionate about. Here’s the truth, and what dear Zoella and her boyfriend taught me: if he’s the right one, he will see you as an individual no matter what you pursue.

Like I said, I am a romantic. I was the little girl who dreamed of being swept away by Prince Charming. I still want a love story of my own, but I know that it will come when it comes, and if I am trying to be anything other than who I truly am (cue “Reflection” from Mulan), I’ll only be spending time involved in the wrong “love” stories. I will continue to be myself, to pursue what I want to pursue, and love will come when it should. I will not let anyone, including myself, keep me from what makes me an individual.

Again, I want to be completely clear that I am not railing on men. There are both men and women who have equally good and bad traits. The whole point is to remind anyone that they are not defined by one thing they do or do not like. Enjoy what you enjoy without fear of what others think. Also, I wanted to address the sexist idea that I’ve seen both men and women have that certain hobbies or professions a woman takes part in is shallow. If you want to do makeup for a living, if you want to craft or paint sunsets or whatever it is, do it. Don’t let others’ perception of you hold you back.

A New Tradition

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Sunday’s because they’re simultaneously the most fun day of the week and the one filled with lots of stress of the dreaded Monday that will inevitably come in less than 24 hours time. As a kid in school, I liked Sunday because, obviously any day I wasn’t in school was a good day, but all I could think about the entire day was what was inevitably coming tomorrow, and how much homework I had to do that I had put off all weekend. Now that I’m in college and I have a lot more freedom with what my schedule looks like, the days of the week don’t seem to matter to me as much. Half of the time, I can’t remember what day it is. Except Sunday.

Sunday’s used to be filled with the same tradition every single weekend: my family was together. My brother didn’t make plans with his friends, my dad didn’t work, my sister didn’t do homework, my mom didn’t run errands, and I didn’t play alone in my room. Every single Sunday consisted of us hanging out at home for the first half of the day, and then going out to an early dinner to either The Cheesecake Factory or City Pizza and to see a movie. By the time we got home, it would be past my bedtime and I always liked that because I felt really cool for staying out “late” on the weekends.

But kids eventually grow up and everyone gets busier with things that don’t always include one another.

The Sunday tradition that I thought would never end had faded as time went on and life got in the way, and though we still did it on occasion, it wasn’t a tradition. About 3 years ago, however, I asked my mom if we could start going to church. No one else was on board except her and I, but I wanted a new Sunday tradition. Luckily, it stuck and my sister joined in at some point, and now my dad as well. I’m still hoping for my brother to join the party. We go to church every Sunday and we never miss it for any reason except being I-cannot-physically-get-out-of-bed kind of sick: not work, not homework, nothing. Afterwards, we always go out to eat breakfast, usually talking about what we learned in the sermon and just catching one another up on our lives.

It’s something that a ton of other families do on Sunday, but it feels like our thing: only our tradition.

I remember my Humanities teacher once telling the class about how he misses the way Sunday’s used to be: nothing was open, everyone went to church, they ate a meal together at home, and went back to church in the evening. It was something everyone did. He talked about how he and his family still reserve this one day for family time, no matter what. They go learn about God together, they eat together, they talk together, they watch football or whatever is on together; it doesn’t matter what they do as long as they are together without any other distractions.

I think that there’s, not just comfort, but stability in having a day dedicated to family like that. It keeps you all close, and reminds you that whatever is going on in your life to cause stress or whatever the case may be, isn’t as important as it seems. You can take a day to breathe and focus on what really matters.

That being said, and I know it was a long intro (I’m convinced I don’t know how to write any other way), I want to start a new series dedicated my “new” tradition all about God. I center this blog around clothing, but I want to have conversations; I want to do more than simply tell you “hey, look at this pretty thing” and be done with it. I want anyone to be able to enjoy reading, and I want to talk about things that interest me or that I really care about. So, long story short, I’m going to be using Sunday’s to talk about family and God and church and all that kind of stuff, because I talk about my daily life in other posts, and this is a big part of my life. It is my life.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments!


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