You by Caroline Kepnes

You_CKepnes

You tells the story of Joe who works in a bookstore. One day Guinevere Beck – ‘Just Beck!’ – enters the store and his world. Joe is enchanted, to say the least, and his obsession with Beck begins. He starts stalking her, watching her, following her. One night when she is particularly drunk she falls on the tracks of the New York subway and Joe saves her life. After that chivalrous act he expects her to get in contact with him but she is not as thankful as he’d hoped. Joe finds out Beck is still unhappy in love with Benji, a shallow and superfluous upper class brat. Joe realises if he wants to get closer to Beck he has to remove Benji from her life first. Unfortunately Benji proves to be only one of many obstacles blocking Joe’s way to Beck…

You features a huge amount of references, mostly to books and movies. However, if you are not a bibliophile, a fan of Woody Allen or someone who has ever heard of/seen the movie Pitch Perfect you might miss out on a lot of it.

It’s very impressive and entertaining to read how accurate Kepnes brought Joe’s thoughts to the pages in the first person. Also, You includes a lot of explicit sex (scenes) and it struck me as odd that many readers are still shocked and/or put off by that.

The story takes many surprising directions and there is more than one revelation about the characters that you won’t see coming. Though for my taste I found it too much of a convenience that the bookstore where Joe works happens to have the perfect holding cell built in the cellar – complete with a toilet!

The major problem I had with the book is that the nicest character, the protagonist, is actually stalker Joe! All the others, especially the women, are utterly neurotic, lying, self-obsessed, soulless arseholes and I am really not exaggerating here!  Beck, the subject of Joe’s affection, has to be one of the worst cunts ever and truly proves that love really is fucking blind!

Want another example? There’s a girl who used to work in a bookshop and she ‘took’ books home with her after work because ‘aren’t you supposed to read books when you work there’? She also underlined sentences and passages she liked best and put the books back in the store to be sold because ‘who wouldn’t like to buy a book where the important things have already been highlighted’? And she totally couldn’t understand why she had been fired.

The despicable characters are the reason why I mostly stayed detached from the story instead of being involved! Kepnes surely created most of the characters around Joe to be such vile idiots so the readers would appreciate Joe even more, as he is actually the most normal of them all!

You partially reminded me of Paul Cleave’s brilliant and superior thriller ‘The Cleaner’, which is also told in first person and the protagonist is a serial killer. Cleave, however, manages to make the killer Joe very likeable despite the people around him being nice and normal human beings.

Sadly I predicted right from the start how the story would end, which is a shame, as a different one could have made You even better. You is definitely a different, unusual and in parts compelling read and well written yet it’s not the outstanding and inventive thriller like it was advertised.

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