I decided to pick up YOU by Caroline Kepnes when I heard it was being made into a TV show on Netflix this year. I was curious to see how they would transform this kind of story into a show, due to the content I’d been warned about by those that had read it. And I was overwhelmed by the compelling and chilling narrative that I eventually dived into.
“When aspiring writer Guinevere Beck strides into the bookstore where Joe works he is instantly smitten.
But there’s more to Joe than Beck realises and much more to Beck than her perfect facade. And the obsessive relationship quickly spirals into a whirlwind of deadly consequences…
A chilling account of unrelenting, terrifying deceit, Caroline Kepnes’ You is a thriller more perversely clever and dangerously twisted than any YOU have ever read.”
The book is written from Joe’s perspective, the friendly, seemingly normal bookseller. When he first meets Beck he is curious, attracted to her straight away. At first it didn’t seem so strange, the attention he paid her, the stream of thoughts and opinions and wants that he expressed inside his own head. It doesn’t seem particularly terrifying that he admires this woman, a beautiful female who admires the same books and quotes from texts he held above the typical bestsellers. There is an instant connection.
The narrative is mundane but it’s clear there is something else, something underlying the curiosity and the fancy between the characters and wow, was I impressed with the turns Kepnes took me on. She created an understandable, even pitiable character and made him equally detestable. His initial flattery devolves into crude, patronising remarks that he somehow manages to sound complimentary. It was fascinating to experience his justification of the things he thought or said, and the actions he took throughout the novel. He was so well written and it was confusing to appreciate a character I didn’t like. Fantastic writing.
As the novel escalates, it’s easy to overlook horrifying circumstances, to fall into the reason of Joe’s character. The relationships between Joe and the people in his life develop and become toxic the more you descend into his thought-processes. You overlook his actions, you strive to understand the secrets and wrap yourself in the suspense, to jump from chapter to chapter in search of Beck. The plot rises so effectively that when a cliff-hanger moment presents itself I was ready to throw myself over the edge every single time.
Beck, as a character, is so strangely compelling that you find yourself resonating with the obsession of other characters in the novel. I understood the fascination, wanted to learn more about her, that I was willing to look past so much of what Joe does, just to see how her personality would challenge the coming scenes. I was completely taken in by her, by the strangeness of her story, the half-truths and foggy reality that she so effectively wears like a beautiful outfit. People fall into her, are captured by her smile and her woven narrative. But of course, the entirety of Beck’s being is being projected through Joe.