Unless you live under a rock, you’ll have heard of You – whether this is the book version or the extremely popular Netflix adaptation which came out earlier this year. I must admit I committed a cardinal sin – I watched the adaptation before reading the novel. *goes and hides* Despite already being familiar with the story, I still really wanted to read the book and relive all the thrilling and creepy moments all over again.
Joe Goldberg is handsome, charming and ready to fall in love. And when aspiring writer Guinevere Beck strides into the bookstore where Joe works, he is instantly smitten. He knows he has to see her again. So Joe does what anyone might: he looks Beck up online, and learns everything he can to set up another chance to meet her. Their chemistry is immediate. It seems like the perfect romance.
But there’s more to Joe than Beck realises…and more to Beck than Joe could ever guess. Their relationship soon spirals out of control and the darkness they unleash will have deadly consequences for everyone in their lives.
Given that I already watched the Netflix adaptation I was familiar with the story and characters but I was still utterly obsessed with this book. I literally started it on a Saturday morning and finished it the same evening, that’s how into the story I was. I find darker stories so fascinating and there is no shortage of that in You.
The most mind bending part of this book and I’ve seen many other reviewers say the same thing: How likeable Joe is, at least from an outsiders perspective. Now hang on, you might be thinking, how can a murderous, stalking, psychopath appear likeable? Well, let me fill you in, Joe is an intelligent, handsome and charismatic 20 something who works in a bookstore. He’s perfect on paper but unfortunately he comes with major baggage in the form of a deeply obsessive personality and a tendency to murder those who get in his way. Yikes right? I have to give major kudos here to Caroline Kepnes, for writing a character like Joe who does such terrible things but yet some part of you is still intrigued and almost excited to see what happens next.
I think the use of perspective in this book works so well, we’re always reading through the eyes of Joe – so we get a skewed view of events as he’s an extremely unreliable narrator. Being able to see through his ‘eyes’ so to speak, also allows a reader to view the depth of his depravity and obsession, which is deeply uncomfortable at times. Especially as Joe is so crude, this may put some readers off given how sexual and raw the language he uses is, but for me this just added to the realism and is indicative of how an individual like Joe may think.
Another reason I enjoyed this book was because of how current it felt. Joe uses social media as a tool to stalk Beck and it’s so realistic! All he has to do is find her twitter and email and he gets so much information, from where she lives to where she hangs out in her free time. While I’m not one of those people who share their entire lives on the internet anyway it’s still quite eye opening to the potential dangers. Although I don’t think anyone expects someone like Joe to use all this info against them but it’s always good to be smart.
While I don’t have a rabid hate for Beck, the way some people seem to. I can’t say I liked her either, and that’s okay! Female characters are allowed to be complex and unlikeable, just like anybody else. Although she definitely irritated me to no end, I see more hate for Beck than Joe and that’s just ridiculous. Beck is clearly a person who has a lot of issues and while Joe views her through rose tinted glasses, it’s pretty obvious she’s not everything he says she is. Beck is needy, manipulative, selfish and makes a string of bad decisions, especially when it comes to her relationships.
The pacing in the book is relentless and because of the nature of the story it feels especially tense, even in the quieter moments. Joe’s narrative is constantly moving, he’s always trying to stay on the ball and thus as readers it’s quite an intense experience. While I wouldn’t say the book is predictable per se, it’s sort of obvious that there can’t be a happy ending. If there had been, it would have been odd. Saying that, there is a sequel which I have yet to read so I wonder how the story continues…
Overall, I can definitely say the Netflix adaptation lives up to the source material and both versions offer something unique and thrilling. You isn’t for everyone but if you enjoy darker stories with a relentless pace and an unusual narrator then this would be perfect for you.
★★★★★ – 5 Star rating
Until next time,