Book Review: YOU by Caroline Kepnes #ReadWomenMarch

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March 09, 2016
Have you ever experienced that feeling where the moment you become aware of something, you suddenly see it pop up everywhere, all the time? Let's say you had no idea an author called Caroline Kepnes existed but then you stumbled upon this review and suddenly you start seeing her name and/or books mentioned everywhere to the point where it feels like it's stalking you?

Well, that's happening right now.

When I posted my review of Perfect Days, I mentioned that I had yet to read a crime fiction book written from the perspective of the perpetrator which I had always wanted and it was awesome! Clearly I'm not well-versed in crime fiction because suddenly these books are everywhere and after going years without finding one, I have now read two of them in the span of a month.

Needless to say, it was pretty awesome!

In YOU we follow Joe, a twenty-something bookseller at an independent bookstore in New York City. He's a snarky dude who spends his day silently poking fun at customers who shame-buy Dan Brown's books while trying to hide them among classics and other literary choices. But then one day a young woman named Beck walks into his store and Joe is immediately taken with her, so much so, that he starts coming up with ways to get to know her and become a part of her life, trying some very unsavory and extreme methods to achieve this.

He stalks her, is what he does.

It doesn't help that Beck is probably the least private person in the whole world, giving Joe plenty of opportunity to get to know her and plan his next move.

The way this story is told (second person narrative) took me a while to get used to. "You did this, and you did that and you don’t understand that I’m being a creep because I love you" was tiring to read at first but once I got a bit into the book and the plot kicked off, it stopped being so distracting and actually worked in favor of showcasing how delusional Joe was in his intentions and his love.

It also helped to give the book this unique and funny view into the mind of the psychopath. When I read Perfect Days, I felt that everything just happened too fast. One day he’s meeting the girl, the next he’s kidnapping her and it doesn’t give you time to assimilate all of these terrible things that are happening. With YOU, it’s the total opposite. Joe has no problem taking his time to make his “relationship” with Beck appear to be progressing naturally and normally, to the point where he even starts believing that the way he’s doing things is the perfect way to start this relationship with Beck.

It was also funny because throughout the book, Joe gives non-stop social commentary on modern living, especially in New York and by the more privileged, mocking their lifestyle and the terrible choices they make. My favorite thing about it is how much I ended up agreeing with some of the things he said; I found myself highlighting some of my favorite passages and nodding along to some of his thoughts and explanations, even though the things he was trying to reason were terrible, no good things I would never think are okay... And yet!

You have to commend Caroline Kepnes for making you sympathize with a crazy stalker.

Well, not sympathize. I never really felt sympathetic to Joe or his cause. His relationship with Beck was dumb and superficial and his obsession was over who he wanted Beck to be and not who she really was, so I had a hard time caring about whether or not he would get the girl. His personality and the thrill of figuring out what terrible thing he would be doing next in his attempt to get the girl was what kept me reading to the very end.

YOU is a very character-driven book and I think because of that, the plot suffers a little bit, making it less of a thriller or a mystery for me. The one thing I didn’t like about this book was the ending, which I could see from a mile away and I spent the last 100 pages hoping it wasn’t going to turn out the way I thought. It was boring and cheesy and I found myself thinking, ‘oh no, here we go again’ which is not a thought you want readers to have when you have a sequel in the works.

This is forgivable, though because the characters do make up for it. There’s the main character who’s not the typical one-note bad guy; he’s charming and funny and sometimes he even makes you want to root for him, psycho that he is and all! Then there’s the victim who successfully subverts the victim trope by being a horrible person herself. Not saying that she deserves having this creepy guy stalking her, of course, but usually the victims in these type of stories are meek and soft-spoken women and Beck is the opposite of that. She’s just as narcissistic as Joe and thrives on the attention she gets, which in a way helps and encourages Joe in his stalking.

These characters, even the secondary ones, aren’t perfect. They have issues and flaws and redeeming qualities and it all plays a part in the plot and how Joe uses their own faults and graces to ultimately get what he wants.

Ending aside, I did love this book! Almost 500 pages and I flew through it in like 3 days, which is a feat in and of itself considering what a slow reader I am. The writing is so fresh and fun that it makes you forget what a long book it is and Joe will keep you captivated with his funny quips and delusions all the way to the end. It was very entertaining and creepy and I can’t wait to see what Caroline Kepnes has in store for us in the sequel!

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