Review: After You by Jojo Moyes

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The sequel to Jojo Moyes' hit novel fails to hit the same heights as it's predecessor, but deals with life after loss in a touching manner.

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Spoilers Ahead!

In an age of mass consumerism, it seems every good story spawns another two below-par sequels, almost to the point we question whether the author does so merely to add a few more zeroes to an already attractive bank balance. Think Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, Divergent series – it’s a particular problem in young adult fiction. However, once in a blue moon, we find ourselves with a sequel that not only provides a satisfactory extension of the storytelling that came before, but also enhances it. Jojo Moyes’ sequel to her critically acclaimed novel, Me Before You, fits right into this considerably smaller category.

Although After You fails to hit the same heights as a standalone story, with a less clear sense of purpose to the narrative and a number of characters that ultimately bear no significance to the story, it will fulfill readers keen to discover how Louisa Clark coped, as the title suggests, after the assisted suicide of Will Traynor. For those unfamiliar with the first novel, Will Traynor, an attractive career-driven young man, is struck down in a motorcycle accident at the prime of his life. A shadow of his former self, Will decides to end his life. Hired as his carer, Lou Clark grows increasingly fond of Will, but is left faced with an impossible decision as Will begs her to be with him as he commits suicide.

We return to Lou Clark’s life a year later, to a very different character to the one who stole our hearts with her quirky nature, bizarre outfits and loveable charm. Stuck in a dead-end job at London City Airport after a period of travelling, Louisa struggles with the void left by Will, and is consumed by a sense of failing to live life to the full, as he instructed in his final note to her.

After falling from the top of her apartment block whilst drunk one night, Louisa’s life begins to change once again. An exciting job offer pulls her towards the United States, but someone significant from Will’s past gives her a sense of duty to stay, as does her a new love interest, attractive paramedic Sam. In a novel that intrinsically deals with every fundamental human emotion and entwines them all in a startlingly accurate internal narrative, the reader finds themselves experiencing every twist and turn of Lou’s life as if it were their own story, unfolding in front of their very eyes.

Where some characters would be assertive, or confident in their decisions, Clark represents a more realistic portrayal of human nature in times of stress. Her willingness to be led into difficult social situations for the emotional benefit of others endears her all over again to the reader, and the trials she endures in search of a more fulfilling life guarantees the empathy of the reader, as we associate with the most basic human elements of her character. Themes of love, loyalty and an examination of self-worth are woven intricately around a plotline that includes family arguments, several life-threatening situations, the debate surrounding feminism, dealing with life after loss, the stresses of teenage life, and falling in love a second time. Most significantly, the fresh revelations this novel presents even raises the question; had Will known what the reader does know, would he have changed his mind? That, for some, will prove the most heartbreaking reading of all.

As a story, After You isn’t as strong as it’s predecessor, but it still imaginatively captures not only the attention of its audience, but also demands their empathy. Its distinctively realistic feeling almost clouds the consistently dramatic nature of its story. The character of Louisa Clark manages to almost alienate the qualities we first found endearing, before rediscovering and reinventing herself through her new friends into a different, but equally loveable person. The self-awareness with which the story explores important and in some cases dark themes whilst keeping the focus on the narrative only makes it stand out further in an oversaturated market, and even the casual reader will find themselves satisfied by the next chapter in Louisa’s life. After You may not be as emotionally draining to read as its predecessor was, but together the two form a beautiful story, and certainly not one to be passed over.

After You, by Jojo Myles, and its predecessor, Me Before You, are both available to buy now. See the trailer for Me Before You‘s film adaptation, starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin, below.

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Damian is a second-year History student, aspiring sports journalist and a lover of films and stand-up comedy.

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