Review: You

Confession of a book-buying addict: I have quite a few books on my shelves that I haven’t read yet, and it doesn’t stop me from obtaining more. I’m definitely going to read them all, eventually, but I’m also addicted to borrowing books, and I always feel that I should read those first. But this last week I found a few days with no borrowed books left to finish and I picked one off of my own shelf for a change. I grabbed You by Caroline Kepnes.


About this book: The prose is written in first person, allowing the reader a front-row seat to the craziness of Joe’s mind, but he directs most of his thoughts to “you,” a girl called Beck, who he is instantly obsessed with when she walks into the book store he manages. Some of his thoughts are so normal, so mundane, and his joy over small victories in winning Beck’s attention are endearing, but it takes only a split second for the narrator to cross the line from hard-working average Joe looking for love, to a stop-at-nothing fanatic who will lie, cheat, steal, stalk, and even kill when the mood strikes him. He is desperate to work his way into Beck’s life and heart, and alternates between trying to impress her and trying to hide from her the lengths he’ll go to to have her. It’s story about the difference between truly wanting someone, and wanting who they are on the surface–who they pretend to be. Surface-Joe and surface-Beck may have made a great pair, but as they learn about each other, they must decide if what’s on the surface is worth all the trouble stirring underneath.

“I point him to Fiction G-K and I think of the time I saw you in Fiction F-K and what a fool I was in the days after. I have rearranged the shop; I couldn’t look at F-K anymore. I genuinely believed that reshaping the shelves would make it easier to live in the world without you, the world I built with my own two hands, the world that won’t allow me to tell you that I know you stole your Ritz robes from Peach. I still get flashbacks. I still cringe. I am eating again, but only because I hate fainting. Everything has been an exercise until now…And I will never again underestimate the power of anticipation. There is no better boost in the present than an invitation to the future.”

Reading this book is like being stuck in a fast river current. It’s so easy to follow that you don’t have any choice about staying in it, and couldn’t escape it if you tried. Sometimes the view is beautiful, sometimes it makes you fear for your life, and even when it finally dumps you in the lake at the end of the journey, you’re stuck in the water until you swim all the way to the shore and find another book. Except there’s a sequel, Hidden Bodies, which will probably feel a lot like you’ve just turned around and walked along the river bank for the sole purpose of jumping back in to be lost to the current again (I’ll post a review as soon as I’ve gotten my hands on it to read). Whew. That was a bit of a long and convoluted metaphor, but “addicting” didn’t quite seem sufficient to describe this book. Also, it leads into the next excerpt, which is a metaphor of sorts. Before you read it though, a warning: this book is super sexual. It’s not the only thing that Joe wants from Beck, but it’s definitely high on the list, and always on his radar. Even when he’s not directly thinking about sex, it’s there. Case in point:

“The problem with books is that they end. They seduce you. They spread their legs to you and pull you inside. And you go deep and leave your possessions and your ties to the world at the door and you like it inside and you don’t want for your possessions or your ties and then, the book evaporates. You turn the page and there is nothing and we are both crying.”

My reaction: 5 out of 5 stars. The plot is intense, and the writing brings the reader straight into Joe’s thought process, but at the same time makes you, the reader, feel as though you are being targeted when he does something particularly scary. It’s like he’s talking right to you, and you want to be afraid of him, but at the same time you can sympathize with him. This book is wonderfully uncomfortable, and Joe’s opinions about modern culture draw you in because you know what he’s talking about. The frequent commentary about literature makes you want to run to the nearest bookstore and read everything, but the stream of Joe’s thoughts and the fear of running into an ordinary-looking bookseller like him also make you want to swear never to enter a bookstore again. This novel will have you feeling all kinds of everything.

Further recommendations:

  1. The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll would be a great read if you like potentially doomed relationships with more than a hint of death behind them and an NYC backdrop. For more info on this one, check out my review for it here.
  2. Gillian Flynn’s novel, Gone Girl. I know this one is getting a bit old and if you haven’t read it you’ve probably seen the movie, but I kept thinking that Joe would make a great match for Gone Girl’s Amy. It would be really interesting to see what would happen if someone put those two in the same room. Would there be any survivors?

Coming up next: In my reprieve from borrowed books to read, I also got around to finishing (almost) my review of Sara Blaedel’s The Forgotten Girls, a creepy murder mystery that I couldn’t decide whether I liked or not. Stay tuned to find out what I decided, and why I was on the fence!

Let me know if you have any questions, comments, or recommendations for me! And don’t let life keep you fro reading. 🙂

The Literary Elephant

Update: you can find my review of Kepnes’ sequel to You, entitled Hidden Bodies, here.     P.S. there may be spoilers there for those of you who haven’t read You yet!


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