Natasha Stevanovich ’17 – Is there ever a point in time where we lose the right to decide our own lives?

Me Before You was easily one of the most powerful books I have ever read. It’s an unforgettable read that will have you thinking long after you’ve finished the book. The story surrounds Will Traynor, who is involved in a devastating accident. Two years later, he is left as a C5-6 Quadriplegic, meaning he is partially paralyzed, but has full head and neck movement and the ability to grasp very light objects.

The story illustrates his daily struggles and the emotional turmoil that has littered his brain since the accident. Louisa Clark, known in the story as “Lou” is hired by Will’s mother to be his caregiver and a friendly companion so he won’t be alone. The story quickly takes a turn once Lou realizes why she’s really been hired and what kind of secrets the Traynor family is hiding. The accident has taken a toll on the whole family, and it’s impossible not to feel intense empathy towards the characters.

The story unfolds quite early when Will attempts suicide because he decided he couldn’t live that way any longer. But, Will comes to a compromise with his family. He agreed to give his family six more months, and then, if he chooses Dignitas, an assisted death organization in Zurich, they will support his decision. This is when the book started to make my blood run cold. This character wasn’t a character anymore. Will represents what so many quadriplegics go through and what some have chosen. The book provided an example of a real story where a high school football player went through a similar trauma to Will’s and explained how his family eventually came to support his choosing to die. Reading Lou’s reactions and Will’s inner thoughts broke my heart.

The path taken by this book was eye opening. It isn’t something that people like to think about, and the story certainly goes against some people’s morals. But it’s something that deserves a voice. These things happen in real life, not just books. Quadriplegics share that struggle every day. Depression, suicide, and Dignitas are all a part of life. An awful part. Lou did everything she possibly could to try and change his mind, and to show him that even though he isn’t the same as he once was, he can still be happy. He can still be Will. But from his perspective, he can’t be. It isn’t who he is or who he wants to be.     

Reading as Will and Lou’s bond grows, and watching them learn from each other was truly beautiful. Will taught Louisa to live, to be herself and take chances. He showed her that there’s a vast world waiting for her to explore. What they had was something so pure and deeply rooted that I often had to put the book down to let the situations and their words sink in. Many scenes touched my heart and had me reaching for tissues. Seriously, I went through a whole box.

The end certainly did not fall short. Sometimes love doesn’t win – or does it? The story took so many twists and turns that the ending was bittersweet. This book presents so many important life lessons: to find your purpose in life, to live for your passion, and never to waste a moment. Some people take everything for granted, and you never know when something or someone could be taken from you. Take each day with a warm heart and a bright smile. Enjoy, grow, and most importantly, just live.

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