All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: You – Caroline Kepnes

on October 13, 2014

Caroline Kepnes
Simon & Schuster
2014, 422p
Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster AUS

When graduate student and aspiring writer Guinevere Beck comes into the bookstore where Joe works, he is instantly fascinated by her. Known simply as Beck, Joe thinks she’s everything she’s ever wanted. When he gets her name, Joe has all he needs to unlock the details of her life.

In this day of twitter, facebook and instagram, all Joe needs is a laptop or smart phone to know what Beck is doing at any given moment. In no time at all he’s managed to track down where she lives and stands outside her apartment watching as she lives her life uncaring of the open curtains. Joe uses the information on her whereabouts to be in the right place at the right time, saving Beck from a dangerous situation. But Beck is enamored with a man named Benji and Joe can see that for them to truly be together, Beck must get over Benji and therefore, Benji has to go.

Soon Beck and Joe are dating, in a way although it’s a constant game of cat and mouse. Joe is always aware of Beck’s untruths because he’s reading all her email and message correspondence, something Beck has no idea about. And the more he gets to know about Beck, the more he uncovers her lies, her deceptions and her betrayals. All of a sudden, Beck is not the perfect partner he has imagined.

Once Joe couldn’t live without Beck. Now that the cracks are showing, the powerful obsession might have a deadly ending.

You has been generating a pretty steady buzz around my twittersphere and with the runaway success of Gone Girl lately, it’s no surprise that it’s been pushed toward fans of that novel. But You is different to Gone Girl and for me personally, a better book. I think what makes You fascinating for me is that it’s told all from the perspective of Joe. The reader’s insights into Beck are limited to what Joe shows us as well as her often unreliable messages and emails to her friendship circle. At the beginning of the novel, it’s not much of a secret that Joe is going to be clearly, a bit disturbed. So there’s almost like a preemptive sympathy for Beck, before you even really begin. At first, she seems like a normal post-grad student living in New York, struggling with her writing, fascinated by a douchebag bloke that’s like someone we all know.

But the further I got into the story, the more that idea started to unravel. Beck is, above all things, a compulsive liar. She lies about pretty much everything, to everyone. She’s an exhibitionist, seemingly unaware of her open curtains, the fact that her nipples are visible when she’s not wearing a bra but it’s quite obvious she cannot be unaware of these things. Beck’s world is populated by drama: the on/off friendship with benefits with Benji, the overt neediness of her friend Peach, daddy issues, Beck has the works.

This book is a clear example of how visible we all are in this age. For example, Joe manages to wrangle Beck’s address from a tweet she made about her building when she moved into it and her constant updating of where she is allows him to basically follow her around the city and she has no idea. We probably all think that we’re a lot more careful than we are, regarding our whereabouts and how much information we give out online but are we really? Reading this book, I actually posted an update that it disturbed me on twitter, which totally plays into the current trend to inform the internet of what we’re doing every second of the day. If I went back through my twitter or instagram history, it would probably freak me out how much I give away – people know I’m in Melbourne, that I’m married with two kids and with probably very little effort could figure out which part of Melbourne I’m in and where I tend to go for my holidays. It’s entirely possible that if I were younger and single like Beck is, that I’d be providing a whole lot more information on nights out with friends, or whatever of where I am and what I’m doing. But I don’t tend to check into my lounge room when I’m at home with my kids! When I was going out drinking with friends, things like facebook and twitter didn’t exist so there was no real way to alert the general population to where you were unless you specifically rang them on your brick Nokia phone and told them. It made me realise just how easy it is now for people to know where you are without you having any clue. The ease with which Joe finds out things about Beck is truly disturbing – but he does go further than most in terms of stealing her phone and using it to keep track of her emails and messages. However it’s done with appalling ease and Joe is able to get in and out of most aspects of Beck’s life with the same ease.

My feelings reading this became conflicted because as much as Beck is a victim of Joe’s obsession, she also feeds it, manipulates him (and others around her) and plays into dramas and situations that almost make you want to anticipate an unfortunate end for her. The further into the book I got, the more I sort of wanted Joe to “win”, which made me feel a bit uncomfortable in a way because what am I doing cheering for a psychopath who thinks nothing of dispatching anyone who gets in his way? Maybe that’s because I spent so much time with Joe I started to feel a sort of Stockholm Syndrome affection for him, almost feeling sorry for him every time Beck managed to screw him over in some way or another again even though Joe was doing horrible things himself! I appreciated the way I kept going back and forth with my sympathies between the characters – both of them had their interesting features. Joe was articulate, well read and very smart. He was from a poor background and never got the chance to go to college and there had been clear parts of Joe that I believe were nurtured, rather than being a part of his nature. You is very clever this way – from the premise it feels as though it should all go one way, that you should feel one way. But throughout the book, all of that changes and I enjoyed my internal conflict a lot.


Book #207 of 2014




One response to “Review: You – Caroline Kepnes

  1. Deborah says:

    It’s an interesting read isn’t it? I also particularly like it because it was from Joe’s POV and he seemed quite logical at times. The biggest weakness for me is that I really disliked Beck.

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