Not a typical love story, Me Before You tells the story of the narrator, Louisa Clark, an ordinary young woman, and Will Traynor, a wealthy quadriplegic. The book presents challenging ideas on the meaning of life, the morality of assisted suicide, and the importance of family relationships. Because of the controversial subject matter, this book is suitable for older high school students. When teaching Me Before You, you might consider having students keep a journal of their reactions and thoughts to each of these themes as they find examples in the story.

Throughout the story, there are numerous details of Will's daily life as a quadriplegic, from planning accessible activities to eating with assistance. Students who do not have experience with disabilities may find these passages informative on the routines of people who have physical disabilities. Conversely, students with knowledge on the subject may be inclined to share their experiences or compare them with those in the book.

With the release of the 2016 movie, there has been a lot of backlash by the disabled community on the depiction of disabilities in the book and film saying the story presents the lives of those with disabilities as worthless. Both the author and the director of the film strongly disagree with these statements and emphasize the story is meant to show the importance of personal choice. For good classroom discussion, teachers should present the arguments on both sides and have students research and debate on the subject.


Key Facts:

  • Length: 448 pages
  • Publication Date: 2012
  • Lexile Measure: 810
  • Recommended Grade Band: 11 – 12

In a fictional British town, Louisa Clark finds herself unemployed after the closure of the local café. Desperate for work, she accepts a position as a caretaker for a man with physical disabilities. Enter Will Traynor, the bitter, cynical millionaire who became a quadriplegic after a traffic accident. At first, Louisa is annoyed by Will's apathy and moodiness, but she soon learns a terrible secret: Will plans to commit suicide by the end of summer. Racing against time, Louisa makes it her mission to convince Will that life is truly worth living, and in the process, she finds herself.

Content Warning: Me Before You contains profanity and controversial themes, such as suicide, sexual assault, and adultery.

Your students will love:

  • Louisa and Will's dynamic relationship
  • Learning the nuances of modern British society

Students may have problems with:

  • Understanding the experiences of people with quadriplegia
  • Controversial topics like suicide and sexual assault

Objectives for Teaching Me Before You

  • Identify the arguments made by each character about Will's desire to end his life.
  • Recognize literary devices used in the text, such as foreshadowing, imagery, and symbolism.
  • Compare and contrast Louisa's emotional limitations to Will's physical limitations.
  • Discuss the importance of accurate representation of minority groups in media.
  • Analyze the differences between British social classes; compare the lifestyles and actions of Louisa's family and Will's family.
  • Explain how Louisa's sexual assault has affected her personality and character.

Key Elements and Techniques

  • Allusion
  • Conflict
  • Dialect
  • Foreshadowing
  • Imagery
  • Point of View
  • Symbolism

Themes and Motifs

Morality — The novel shows different arguments about the moral implications of Will's right to suicide and the blurred line between right and wrong decisions.

Related Works:

Life and Existence — Though Will is cynical about his own life, he makes an effort to persuade Louisa that her life has meaning; she just needs to seek that meaning.

Related Works:

Family — Louisa's relationships with her parents and sister help shape her character.

Related Works:


  • New York Times bestseller (2012)


There is a 2016 movie starring Emilia Clarke and Sam Claflin. Critics of the movie, especially those representing the disabled community, say the film conveys offensive messages about the integrity and the importance of disabled people, arguing that Will's choice to end his life presents the idea that disabled lives are not worth living. Both director Thea Sharrock and author/screenwriter Jojo Moyes deny these claims, saying the main message of the film and novel is to "live boldly" despite challenges or limitations.

External Resources

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