After You is the sequel to Jojo Moyes’ tragi-romance Me Before You. I don’t read a great deal of chick lit, but the latter was a book club pick for my reading group back in December 2012, so I dutifully read it and subsequently rated it 2 stars. I’m going to be honest, when I first heard there was a sequel out, I assumed the person telling me was joking and laughed quite a lot. Given that we’re four years on from the publication of Me Before You, and there’s now a film adaptation out (and that, well, it would be hard to review this book without mentioning pivotal events from the former), I think it’s okay to come out and say the dude dies at the end. This is a sequel to a romance novel where the love interest is already dead. On that basis, After You isn’t quite your typical chick lit.
That doesn’t do an awful lot to elevate it, however. We open on our bereaved protagonist Louisa still trying to adapt to life without Will in it. While she’s been left enough money to go out and make something of her life, she’s instead wound up in a dead-end job, and spends most of this book trying to come to terms with her loss, deal with one last major surprise from Will, and tentatively move on to a new relationship.
In its favour, After You made for easy listening, and Anna Acton’s narration was a perfectly serviceable accompaniment to household chores. But it never really stirred anything in me. There were few sparks of the old, fun Louisa, and while I enjoyed her relationship with teenager Lily, her new love interest Sam felt flat and forgettable. And so much happens to Louisa that it’s just hard to take it all seriously. The only character who feels particularly real is her incredulous boss, whose reaction to her falling off a roof, being involved in a shooting and having a lost love who took himself to Dignitas, is about what you’d expect if you tried telling your own boss that. Even a side plot which involves Lou’s mum finding feminism and ceasing to shave her legs feels less like character development and more like Moyes just turning her into a totally new character.
Overall, if you enjoyed Me Before You and want to see how things turned out for Lou, by all means go ahead and read this book. Just keep your expectations low, and don’t hold out for too much moving realism.
[Read from 13-30 June 2016]