Can a sequel really live up to its name? A Study of After You by Jojo Moyes

After you

“It is important not to turn the dead into saints. Nobody can walk in the shadow of a saint.”

― Jojo MoyesAfter You

 

As the line quoted above upholds, nothing good ever comes from romanticizing the past. When it comes to sequels, there are two deciding factors as to its success: liberation and limitation. If a proper balance isn’t struck, the very story that drives them forward can also stop them dead in their tracks. The author has already created their secret weapon by finding an audience with the first book. By the time they write the follow-up, fans are just itching to know what happens next. The true test lies in whether that author chooses to use their powers for good instead of evil, knowing that either way, people are going to read it.

You may recall my most recent blog post, which discussed the success of Jojo Moyes’ New York Times best selling novel Me Before You. Now a major motion picture and one of my favorite reads this year, it’s a testament to true love’s devotion paired with its shocking ability to spur personal growth. Our heroine, Louisa Clark, says goodbye to us in the final pages of Me Before You sporting a new found confidence and a desire to suck the marrow out of life, as if looking at life through new eyes. Suffice it to say that when I opened up to the first page of Moyes’ sequel After You, I had a lot of expectations in mind.

I revisited Louisa Clark in the opening chapter of After You expecting to hear all about her wonderful adventures after gaining a new lease on life. Used to the sunny, chipper demeanor that became her trademark in the previous novel, I was immediately thrown off balance when her thoughts became solemn, depressing and utterly hopeless. Without Will, she had become barely a shadow of her former self. It follows that one’s happiness would deteriorate after (SPOILER ALERT) her quadriplegic boyfriend decides to end his life–but she was a willing participant, and totally aware of the consequences.

Though her glumness rivals the likes of Eeyore, she’s still the same old Lou underneath. A new love interest comes and picks up her broken pieces (literally–early on in book two she falls off a five-story building) and reminds her what it’s like to be loved for who she is. Perhaps Moyes was writing more meekness into Lou’s character on purpose. Could it have been meant to expose her dependence on a male presence in her life? If so, I’m a little disappointed in the lack of originality. I’m not trying to draw any huge conclusions here, but everything turns around as soon as she finds a new boyfriend. Just sayin’.

Still, I see why Moyes had to make a change for the worst in Louisa before she could have her get better. She couldn’t remain static and blissfully happy in the wake of the death of who she believed was the love of her life. No, life had many more obstacles for her to walk through before she could regain that sense of belonging that Will had given her, and subsequently taken away.

I was beginning to fear that this would join the graveyard of the other disappointing sequels, lost beneath the shadow of their sparkling predecessors. Things were looking bleak for Louisa, and honestly, she seemed pretty hell-bent on keeping it that way. That is, until an unexpected surprise literally showed up at her front door and flipped her world upside-down…again.

If you’ve read the first book but have yet to read this one, you may be wondering how the heck Moyes could make more of this story without the delicious witty banter and sarcastic commentary of Will Trainor. Well, I was too. But I’ve seen the other side, and I have to say it was still worth it.

The introduction of the mystery character (not telling!) brings out a whole new, never before seen side of Louisa. It’s strange at first, and I remember thinking quite often that she didn’t seem like the same person she had been in the previous book. But how could she be? If I had been through what she had been in book one alone, I would surely not be able to get out of bed in the morning. And that’s not even counting the horrors that accompany the Irish dancing wig that she wears for a large portion of the novel.

In short, Louisa Clark is a much stronger character than she seems in the beginning of book two. Was the sequel as good as the first? Sorry, no. I wish I could say it was. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth reading.

If you ask me, sequels have a very unfair place in the world. I often wondered while reading whether I would have liked After You better if I hadn’t been constantly comparing it to something else. Standing alone, I think it could hold its own…but like most things in life, I guess we’ll never know.

 

Margeaux Sippell, Intern

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