You by Caroline Kepnes: Review

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 This review was originally published on 1/14/15.

You, was easily my number one book spot of 2015. Although this declaration may seem quite premature, I completed this book almost one week ago and still find reasons to discuss it with EVERYONE, everyday. Allow me to preface this love letter to this novel with the fact that You is quite possibly one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read.  It’s also very sexually explicit, so that can be a bit much for some readers. You was funny, romantic, twisted, deplorable, and aggressive all in one effortlessly combined package. It certainly is not a book I find myself recommending to people that found Gone Girl disconcerting – but to the select few that I know share an affinity for the darker plot lines in life, I’ve been berating them with the need to read this book. The ones that have—all adore it as much as I.

I also feel the need to say that I have absolutely no problem admitting that throughout this book, I was equal parts petrified, and enchanted by the main character. You see, Joe is an expert stalker. Not the kind of boy that lounged about near your locker in high school, hoping that you would notice him. That is simply child’s play compared to what Joe is capable of. Joe’s the I-hide-in-your-closet-and-watch-you-breath type of stalker.

As a reader, I knew that my love for Caroline Kepnes, Joe, and You was sealed in the first chapter. When Joe sets eyes on his newest obsession, Beck, browsing the F-K section of the bookstore he operates, he makes the following statement.

“You’re flirting and if I was the kind of asshole who Instagrams, I would photograph the F-K placard and

filter the shit out of that baby and caption it: F-K yes,

I found her.”

Caroline Kepnes captures the art of stream of conscience

writing, and makes reading Joe’s thoughts and processing was an absolute pleasure. Now don’t get me wrong, Joe’s a complete psycho. I mean, textbook case psychopath and homicidal freak. But the way that Joe thinks, and rationalizes every single decision that he has made, as a reader I felt empathetic!! It’s amazing!

I recently compared this book to Gone Girl to a friend on Instragram. She said that Amazon recommended the book to her based off of her love of Gone Girl, but to me there is no comparison. Reading Gone Girl for me was interesting, I adored the thrill of the story but I hated that none of the characters really had any redeeming qualities. I found myself really wanting horrible endings for almost everyone in the story. The exact opposite it true of how I felt reading You.

No matter how much wretched, disturbing, wtf, moments I read—I still held out so much hope that Joe would change, that he could really be happy with Beck, and that they would have a happy ending. A really jacked up happy ending, but that they would still have something good.  I found myself laughing out loud at more than one point at horribly innapropriate times. I mean, when someone has a guy trapped in a cage it’s likely not good form to laugh at him being tortured…but Joe made me! Which is crazy, and if you read You you’ll totally understand. Caroline Kepnes made me root for, take up the mantel for, and want to encourage a real villain. Which is crazy talented, and I would love to sit down with Caroline and just learn how all of this blissfully orchestrated craziness poured from her brain and onto the page.

I loved:

  • The social media woven into the story. Reading Benji’s tweets, and the emails to and from Beck and her gals really made me laugh and kept the story so real.
  • Joe’s description of Ikea- “It smells like body odor and Febreze and baby shit and farts and meatballs and nail polish and more baby shit—doesn’t anyone get a babysitter anymore?”
  • I can’t believe I am saying this, but I loved the second person narration. I usually find it poorly done, but Caroline Kepnes…is a wizard.
  • Any scene where Joe would elude to the fact that he knew that the things he was doing were crazy, although necessary.
  • The writing, oh my heavens, the writing was amazing.
  • That Caroline Kepnes is writing A SEQUEL!!!!!!! !@)#(!@#!!!

Loved not so much:

  • I really wanted more of the normal daily happenings when Joe and Beck are in their relationship. In my head it was super normal and great, but it would have been really great to see that more illustrated.
  • I’ll never be able to check out at a locally owned bookstore the same way, ever, again.
  • That we have to wait until September (or earlier, please Netgalley!) to read Love to see where Joe is now.

This book was one that I literally could not put down.  It has a magnetic pull that I was powerless against. My friend and coworker recommended this to me to read, and when she did she mentioned that the book was, “ like Gone Girl times infinity. Mixed with some Stolen. Everything my heart needs.” Jamie, you have never been more right in your life.

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