Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sequels Can Be Risky - But Not in This Case

We've all read books that we really enjoyed.  And then the author/publisher (not necessarily in that order) tries to capitalize on the success of #1.  There have been some pretty epic failures, I would say.  But there have also been some big successes.  Think of World without End, the sequel to Pillars of the Earth.  Pillars was great, and World was almost as great (Pillars top 3, World top 25).  And how about some fantastic trilogies, like Follett's The Century Trilogy, or Tom Rob Smith's Child 44, or John Jakes' North and South.  What  I am leading up to is another sequel, this one from JoJo Moyes.  You all know how much I loved Me Before You.  It was a solid 4/4 (review on 12/10/13).  And now we get a sequel, After You.  Was it category #1 (epic failures)?  Or category #2 (big successes)?  The answer is: BIG SUCCESS.  I liked it a ton.  In fact, for the 1st 275 pages (out of 350), I was enjoying it a lot and was pretty much settling in on a 3.5.  Not too shabby.  But then, like Gone Girl and Alina Sayre's YA fantasy, The Illuminator's Gift, it took off.  The last 75 pages were incredibly riveting and jumped it up to a 3.75/4.  Let me explain.

I emotionally connect with characters in a lot of books (as you well know).  But in After You, I made the connection with a bunch of the characters, not just the main 2 or 3.  Take a look -

Louisa - the protagonist of Me Before You
Lily - Will's heretofore unknown daughter
Bernard - Louisa's father
Mum - Louisa's mother
Treena - Louisa's sister
Camilla Traynor - Will's mother
Steve Traynor - Will's father
Richard - Louisa's boss
Sam - Louisa's possible(?) love interest
Moving On Circle members - Daphne, William, Sunil, Natasha, Fred, and Jake (Sam's nephew)
Donna - Sam's ambulance partner

There are a number of spots where 2 characters, other than Louisa, make a connection. And I teared up as if it were Louisa.  I can't give any details, for obvious reasons, but trust me on this one.  In the last 75 pages, the print on the pages got blurry.  I can't understand it. Must have been a printshop error!

But besides tears, this is a very well-written book.  Sam is talking about losing a loved one. He says: "Like adapting around a hole.  I don't know.  It's like you become...a doughnut instead of a bun."

Early in the book, Louisa is looking down on London traffic.  She sees "the traffic snaking up toward the city, the endless red stream of taillights, an automotive blood supply."

Late in the book, when Louisa and Richard are talking about Louisa's crazy life, Richard says:  "Louisa, is your life always like this?"  And Louisa says:  "Possibly.  Although I'd like to think it's just a phase."  This is simply how Moyes writes.  Every paragraph, sentence, and word fit perfectly.  It's such a treat to read her writing.

And there were the usual passages that triggered cultural references for me:

"I break two fingers on my left hand, and a metatarsal, which pokes through the skin of my foot and causes one of the medical students to faint."  Remember the beginning of the old Jack Klugman show, Quincy, M.E.?  In the opening credits, Quincy is performing an autopsy, and the medical students are barfing, fainting, and every other type of reaction.

"He just said there was no point in us getting emotional as we were never going to last beyond college anyway."  Surely you remember Warner saying that to Elle when he breaks up with her in the movie/musical Legally Blonde (very cool music, BTW).  Okay, I know that this is not exactly literary, but I was reminded of it nonetheless.

Oh, did I tell you that the book is very funny?  I laughed out loud on a whole bunch of occasions.  I won't give you any examples because you would have had to be there.  But I'm telling you that Moyes does a great job of interjecting appropriate humor in the middle of a very serious storyline.

I could keep going...but I won't (is that a standing ovation I just got?).  I think JoJo Moyes is flat out a heck of an author.  And I'm not saying that just because I got to meet her and shake her hand (although that was very cool).  If you liked Me Before You, I predict that you will like After You.  And if you haven't read MBY, then what are you waiting for?


  1. I am so glad to see that you loved this one so much! I am so excited about getting my hands on it.

    1. Not only was After You great, now I'm reading another really good book. It's called Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal. I'm 2/3 of the way through, and it's back-to-back top notch books. I feel very fortunate to read 2 such good books in a row. I'm sure you can relate.