Book Review: You by Caroline Kepnes

Posted February 23, 2015 by Stormy in Books / 3 Comments

You

by Caroline Kepnes

You

Original Publication Date: January 1, 2014
Length: 432 pages
Publisher: Atria

Obtained Via: Bought
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When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

A terrifying exploration of how vulnerable we all are to stalking and manipulation, debut author Caroline Kepnes delivers a razor-sharp novel for our hyper-connected digital age. You is a compulsively readable page-turner that’s being compared to Gone Girl, American Psycho, and Stephen King’s Misery.

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You know when you’re like, “Hmm, I really want to read a book from the villain’s POV? And plummet to the depth of the darkest part of humanity?” Maybe you’re a more innocent person/reader than I am and never think that, but I certainly do. Well, You is the answer to that question.

You introduces the reader to Joe, bookstore worker, and Beck, the aspiring writer. When Beck comes into the bookstore one day, Joe is utterly captivated. He’s charming and flirty, and when he sends Beck on her way, he looks up her name and credit card information and proceeds to stalk her, intent on wooing her to be his.

Originally I had written down that You is entirely in second person, but that’s not true. Joe is the narrator and the reader spends the entire novel inside his head as he stalks Beck, watches her, and schemes. However, Joe addresses all his thoughts to “You”, or Beck. I thought this technique might get tiring, but it really worked to create an even closer intimacy between the reader and the reasoning of Joe’s actions. And as twisted as it is, there is a reasoning behind everything Joe does.

You is the story of Joe’s sense of entitlement. As a main character, Joe is inherently intriguing and pretty much a refutation that a main character in a novel must be likable. Likable he is not, but he is charming, twisted, and intriguing most of all, and his charm is not to be overlooked. Even as I found myself repulsed at Joe’s actions, a few paragraphs later he would make an observation or do something that made me laugh or shake my head in agreement–and then instantly wonder what I had done. This book is not for the faint of heart. It’s a deep, dark corner of a basement and while I highly recommend it, you should only peek in it if you’re not afraid of a few spiders.

There’s just something about Joe. Maybe it’s because some of his diatribes about modern life seem so spot on, or his often great pop culture references, but at times I found it hard to hate him, even when he was having a delusional monologue about how he’s not really the messed-up one in this situation. Then, he’d do something so despicable I found it difficult to imagine how I could ever see him as anything other than vile. I understood exactly how Beck could be taken in by his charm, his wit, and his careful planning.

Obviously, Joe’s narration is completely unreliable, and the book never tries to hide this fact. There’s something almost compelling in his thought process, even when those thoughts are revolting. You could almost read You as an exploration of the entitlement some men fell towards women and romantic attractions–Joe wants Beck to want him, so he does everything in his power to ensure that the romance he pursues founds an open avenue. He stops at nothing, willing to cut out any barrier he thinks stands in his way.

I found You so morbidly mesmerizing that it probably would have been a 5 star read if not for the pacing, which was all over the place. Kepnes is terrific at writing voice and characters, and as far as writing thrillers go, I feel her writing is definitely on the higher end. That being said, the events and timeline of the book seemed to vary wildly. The first 10% was everything an introduction to a thriller should be, and the last 40% was perfect as well. The middle, however, often had slow spots that felt utterly without momentum. There’s a scene in which Joe does something very dramatic, the reader sees the fallout through his eyes, and then it’s just. . . the lower-level stalking again, for pages and pages with pop culture references and pointed words. I kept putting the book down before picking it back up again, which is not what I expect to be doing when I’m reading an engaging thriller.

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You was a fascinating, and sometimes revolting, read. I hated it even as I loved it and at times hated myself a little for loving it. While not a mindscrew in a traditional sense, it definitely plays with the mind and emotions through the unreliable narration. Joe’s a character to remember for sure, charming and vile. 4/5 cupcakes.

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4 Stars

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3 responses to “Book Review: You by Caroline Kepnes

  1. I absolutely LOVED this book. It was so weird and twisted and creepy. Is it weird that I also empathized with Joe in a few places. I know he’s completely evil, but I still kind of rooted for him. There is a sequel coming out in September. I can’t wait!

    • Stormy

      It was so weird & twisted for sure! I (mostly) loved it, beside some of the pacing issues I had. And nope, there were times I totally empathized with Joe too, and then I had a moment of realization like “seriously Stormy, how are you sympathizing with this serial stalker and murderer?” It was incredibly well-written character-wise to even get me to that point.

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