All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

on August 25, 2016

Hidden BodiesHidden Bodies (You #2)
Caroline Kepnes
Simon & Schuster AUS
2016, 400p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Joe Goldberg is no stranger to hiding bodies. In the past ten years, this thirty-something has buried four of them, collateral damage in his quest for love. Now he’s heading west to Los Angeles, the city of second chances, determined to put his past behind him.

In Hollywood, Joe blends in effortlessly with the other young upstarts. He eats guac, works in a bookstore, and flirts with a journalist neighbor. But while others seem fixated on their own reflections, Joe can’t stop looking over his shoulder. The problem with hidden bodies is that they don’t always stay that way. They re-emerge, like dark thoughts, multiplying and threatening to destroy what Joe wants most: true love. And when he finds it in a darkened room in Soho House, he’s more desperate than ever to keep his secrets buried. He doesn’t want to hurt his new girlfriend—he wants to be with her forever. But if she ever finds out what he’s done, he may not have a choice…

A couple of years ago, I read You by Caroline Kepnes, a novel told from the point of view of Joe, a young man who fell in love, stalked his prey obsessively, using her very visual presence on social media to track her movements and also to woo her. Things went bad by the end of that novel….very bad. But even though Joe is a psychopath, I couldn’t help but sympathise with him at times, which was a weird feeling. There was something about Joe in You, a kind of sad vulnerability of a man who just wanted to be loved, but kept picking the wrong sort of people to love him.

The reason You worked for me is because it made me feel that sympathy for Joe. I’d actually kind of forgotten about there being potential for a sequel until Hidden Bodies turned up on my doorstep, quite a few months ago now. Finally I decided to see what Joe was up to, to see if the sequel could reproduce that mixture of emotions in me – horror at what Joe is but also that strange sort of feeling where I want him to win. I want him to triumph, which literally means Joe getting away with murder.

Sadly for me, Hidden Bodies did not give me that same sort of internal conflict that You did. In the sequel, Joe has begun a relationship with the girl who turns up right at the end of You and he’s trying to avoid slipping back into old habits something made easier by the fact that his new love has very little online presence, unlike his old love. But when Joe is viciously betrayed, he makes a decision not to take it lying down. He moves from New York to California in search of revenge and from there, things kind of…..spiral.

I enjoyed the first part of the book, which was Joe in his new relationship, panicking about the one mistake he thinks he made during the events of the previous book. He’s a good narrator, he’s intelligent and insightful and he claims he loves but I don’t really believe that’s the case. Joe is narcissistic – he wants, he obsesses, he needs or desires but I don’t think that he ever really truly loves. In having a relationship, Joe is almost trying to reassure himself that he’s ‘normal’, that he can have these traditional interactions, belong in society. But there are always things simmering under the surface, ways in which he trips up.

When he’s betrayed, I did feel for him but that all began to evaporate the second he moved across the country. I really lost interest in the book when the setting changed and the more Joe immersed himself in the California scene, the less I enjoyed it. Especially as he just seemed to snap in a way, immersing himself in his psychopathic ways with the smallest (most ridiculous) provocations. The addition of the characters of Love and Forty (yes those are actual people, twins nonetheless) just drove the book even further down for me. Everyone Joe meets is conveniently rich and not really needing to work traditional 9-5 jobs. They play around at screenwriting or acting, take drugs and party. To be honest, this section of the book was really boring and I actually abandoned it for 5 or 6 days before finally deciding to finish it. It seems that this book was also left quite open for another installment of Joe and his ‘adventures’ as well as he’s in quite a precarious position.

I think that Joe really got off track after arriving in California. Suddenly it becomes all about Love and Forty and their never ending family dramas and it distracts him from his original purpose. So much so that he eventually just gets over it and can’t even be bothered when an opportunity for revenge pretty much drops into his lap. I didn’t really enjoy ‘new Joe’ who went around willfully murdering whoever annoyed him and attempted to justify it in various stupid ways. It just didn’t seem as believable or intriguingly sympathetic as before….perhaps too much of a good thing? Or maybe California just warped Joe into an even more disturbing version of himself, it’s hard to say. I just felt he had less in the way of awkward vulnerability in this book and was more cold blooded and ruthless.

The writing is good and Joe is an interesting character but his complexity in this novel seemed less developed and explored. In the end it seemed that Joe functioned on autopilot, dispatching those that were a bother or threat and his bond with Love never really convinced me. I found them quite boring together and because that looks quite cemented, I don’t think I’d rush out to read a third book in this series.

5/10

Book #161 of 2016

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One response to “Review: Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

  1. Gwendolyn says:

    Eek it makes me sad to see a 5/10 rating because I have this on my TBR shelf and I adored You. Joe was such a creepy bastard. It was weird though because I would start feeling sorry for him and have to remind myself that he was a creepier. He was written really well in that way.

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