You by Caroline Kepnes

In brief: Joe meets Beck when she comes to buy books in his store. Little does Beck know that this will be the start of a dark tale of obsession, desire and creepier things…

The good: The story and its characters really get under your skin to the point where you can’t stop reading even though you’re tired and your eyes hurt.

The not-so-good: Took a little bit to get into before I was hooked.

Why I chose it: Was sent it by a friend.

Year: 2014

Pages: 422 (ARC)

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Setting: America, mainly New York City

My rating: 9.5 out of 10

I know that You is not released until 25th September (Australia/US/UK) and I generally don’t publish reviews until the book is available, but man! You need to know about this book NOW! I really believe this book is going to take off into the stratosphere – it’s that powerful and that creepy. Set your alarms now!

At first, you might feel a bit jaded about the premise of You – a very dark tale of romance, obsession and going to absolutely any lengths possible to secure the affection and attention of the one you adore. This book comes to you from the first person perspective of Joe, a bookstore manager in New York. Before you get all swoony over that, let me tell you a few more things about Joe. There’s a cage in the basement of the bookstore. Perhaps for rare books, perhaps for other activities. Joe’s store has a sign marked ‘Fiction F—K’ (heh heh). Joe doesn’t like people buying Dan Brown books Joe serves Beck at the counter of his store as she buys books by Paula Fox and Spalding Gray (thankfully okay in his bookish sphere) and it all starts from there, a name on a credit card.

Joe starts seeking Beck out online (you will definitely rethink your Twitter/Instagram/Facebook use after reading this book) and comes to her heroic rescue one night. The pair start a relationship that is never easy, but never boring. I would say that Joe is consumed by Beck, but he’s really consuming her, although she doesn’t know it. It’s creepy, icky, dark, twisted, obsessive and absolutely, completely addictive. Having everything from Joe’s point of view makes the whole story that little bit more twisted as he justifies reading Beck’s emails, watching her in her apartment and following her into the country. It’s very difficult to know whether to sympathise with Joe when Beck stands him up or want to have this twisted guy put away. Because as the relationship gets more and more tangled, both Joe and Beck reveal more of themselves. It’s not pretty, but it’s compulsive reading.

At first I thought this would be your usual stalkerish fare (I sound like I’m a connoisseur of the genre, but hey, everyone who has read Gone Girl is an expert, right?) as Joe ‘followed’ Beck virtually, finding out where she would be via emails and social media. This bit went on a little bit too long for me and at first I couldn’t see where the story was going to go. Then Joe and Beck started a relationship and Joe got somebody into his cage and the whole plot just lifted to manic, read-all-night stage. Beck’s not the sweet postgraduate student we thought she was and Joe…he’s still got a lot of things to reveal about his character. I loved the way Joe spoke and thought – for a guy with Big Issues, he’s got a wry, dark sense of humour that had me laughing at his observations (and then feeling guilty at the blunt, rude things he’d said). There are a lot of great one liners in this book, some to do with club soda (please don’t tell me the origin of club soda waters are really a thing), some with reading tastes and some with the general population. There’s also some good made-up words, like ‘everything-ship’ (when it’s more than just a relationship). Kepnes also does a great job with how this generation overshares (hello, Twitter hashtags), casual use of the f-word and sex.

If Joe is an odd character, Beck is too, but in a completely different way. For Beck, it’s all about Beck. Everything revolves around her, her needs, wishes and wants. Beck wants a married man? Beck gets a married man. Beck lies and schemes to get what she wants in an incredible way. It’s interesting that Joe chose her as the object of his affections, because her reactions to some of his gestures are not going to be that of the average girl. It’s just one of the reasons You is so addictive.

Blunt and confronting, You is a book that is unique in its telling and its main character. You won’t forget Joe and Beck once you’ve read them and this tale of crazy between two distinctly odd people.

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2 thoughts on “You by Caroline Kepnes

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  1. You make this book sound fantastic, Sam! I can’t wait to read it. I’ve seen the Gone Girl comparisons, and I just love those “stay up all night” kind of books. Thanks for spreading the word about this one!

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