I often enjoy books where you have at least one character for whom you can enthusiastically root. Caroline Kepnes’ You is not one of those books. You is the story of Joe Goldberg and his obsessive love for Guinevere Beck, a sexy writing student who happens into his bookshop one day. Joe is smitten from the beginning, and lucky for him, Guinevere Beck is a pretty unique name and soon he is off and running on his foolproof plan to get more Beck in his life.
Let’s just get this out of the way. Every single character in this book is incredibly annoying and by the end of the novel, you’ll be rooting for everyone to die in some mass explosion. Alas, they do not (spoiler). Let’s start with our “hero” Joe. The novel is from Joe’s point of view, almost written as a long love letter to Beck. In any case he doesn’t go into too much detail about his past but you get the impression his childhood was not idyllic, he didn’t come from money, and he didn’t have any interest in higher education. As an adult, he has a huge chip on his shoulder about people having gone to college while he didn’t. Aside from that Joe is a completely blank slate. You know right off there is something not quite right about him, and he eventually details a little more about his last relationship with Candace and how it ended (not well for her). Once he meets Beck he molds himself into the kind of person she would want to date. Speaking of Beck, she is even more irritating than Joe. Her name is Guinevere but she hates that so she asks people to call her Beck. Ugh. She is incredibly sexy and attractive and she knows it. She manipulates friends and lovers into doing what she wants, lies all the time, and is completely narcissistic. Beck has a group of girlfriends – Peach, Chana, Lynne I think – who are all pretty terrible. Peach especially is a spoiled rich kid harboring a dangerous Beck obsession of her own. The other two aren’t featured as heavily so they get a bit of a pass.
The plot in and of itself is gripping. This book is a page turner. I am not sure why there has been this trend over the past decade but I can think of a ton of books I’ve read that all center on unlikeable people but are all difficult to put down (Gone Girl, Cabin in the Woods, The Girl on the Train). You is no different. You will probably hate everyone in the book but you’ll keep reading anyway. I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to anyone in particular’s demise but I admit I was devouring the book in anticipation of it. I think my major quibble with this novel is I find it hard to believe that no one really notices how much of a psycho Joe is. I find it hard to believe someone with that level of cray hides it as well as he seems to think he does. There is a sequel to this book called Hidden Bodies; I’m interested to check it out if only to see if we get to learn more about Joe and potentially see him pay for his offenses.