YOU by Caroline Kepnes
After reading Caroline Kepnes’ thriller YOU, I have a few questions for the author.
- After graduating from college, did you live in NYC?
- While living in NYC, did you visit an independent bookstore and meet a charming if quirky man who worked there?
- Did you become romantically involved with that man?
- Did your boyfriend have an almost uncanny knowledge of your preferences, interests, and whereabouts?
- Did your friends and ex-boyfriend start mysteriously dying, leaving you increasingly isolated and reliant on him?
(If you answered yes to any of these questions, PLEASE call the cops ASAP.)
All jokes aside, Stephen King said it best when he called YOU “Hypnotic and scary … Totally original.” This book packs a punch—I was absolutely glued to all 424 pages of it.
My (somewhat) facetious questions above outline this story’s twisted, terrifying plot. A recent college graduate, aspiring writer Beck meets eccentric Joe Goldberg in the local bookstore where he works. Joe is immediately enamored by Beck, and Googles her name. From Beck’s constant stream of Twitter and Facebook updates, Joe learns all about her: her interests, her friends, her frequented bars and hangouts. He systematically stalks her and molds himself into her “dream man”—nothing will stop him from having her to himself.
The plot of YOU is inherently disturbing, but Kepnes’ writing style makes this a deeply disarming read. Told from Joe’s point of view, YOU immediately draws the reader into Joe’s twisted mindset. Joe views everything that Beck does as a sign that she must want him, from her friendliness towards him during their initial encounter in the bookstore, to the fact that she DOESN’T talk about meeting him on her social media accounts. It takes serious macabre creativity to convincingly portray how a narcissistic personality like Joe would view the world, and Kepnes hits the nail on the head. Joe is totally believable, and utterly terrifying.
While I was reading YOU, I could only think how easy it would be for someone with a mindset like Joe’s to believe that a polite, friendly stranger was seriously into him or her. That's part of this book's power: its events are frighteningly plausible. Joe views any common courtesy that Beck pays him as a sign of her attraction to him; I know I have certainly given strangers similar courtesies without intending for them to carry any deeper meaning. I can almost guarantee you will walk away from YOU questioning your (seemingly insignificant) interactions with strangers in your daily life.
All in all, YOU is a compulsively readable, quietly terrifying thriller. This book won’t haunt you with blood and gore, it will haunt you with possibilities. That man you were friendly to at the grocery store? That woman you smiled at on the subway? Dare I say it… your significant other? We might never really know what they’re up to.
BONUS: Joe’s story continues in HIDDEN BODIES, coming in February 2016 from Atria/Emily Bestler Books! I absolutely can’t wait to see what trouble he will get into next.