Review: You by Caroline Kepnes

4 out of 5 paranoid stars

So this was a mindfuck. I haven’t read a book quite like this. It’s the first time I’ve read an erotic thriller that really was an erotic thriller – not in a titillating way. And there isn’t even that much sex in it, but the main character refers to almost everything about every female character in regards to sexual acts. He’s very obsessed, I mean that is what the whole thing is about. His obsessions. I don’t know how to describe it. It didn’t make me roll my eyes, like it was being cheap and tawdry, the sexual part of it was an integral part to the psychological makeup of the characters. We all know sex sells. And many erotic thrillers rely so heavily on the sex factor they don’t flesh out the characters. They want to shock and disturb instead of tell you a story. And I was disturbed. I hated just about everybody in it, but I read it in two days and I loved it. The main character is a misogynist psychopathic kookoo nutcase. The female main was a promiscuous manic pixie dream girl (read: slut.) Understand that I would not use that word, but that is the word that the main character just assumes we will fill in –  it’s part of the main character’s seriously effed up POV that we receive these impressions, and this story is all about POV.

 This is told in 2nd person – usually the realm of the college student, the MFA candidate, the “special snowflake”. Writers are warned away from it again and again. This is how it goes:

Writer: “I’m gonna write a story in 2nd person.”

Professor, Creative-writing teacher, Agent, Editor: “Ho, don’t do it.”

Writer….does it….

Professor, Creative-writing teacher, Agent, Editor: “Dammit.”

But in this instance, 2nd person worked. We are inside the head of our friendly neighborhood psychopath, Joe. Joe works in a bookstore and has since he was a kid. He never went to college because college is for monied, toe-sucking, New Yorker reading sheep who couldn’t form an original thought in their Ivy-League, pampered heads to save their life. Or so Joe thinks. Joe has some issues. Joe tends to get a little obsessed with people, often resulting in terrible results for those people. He is addressing You, or the girl of his latest obsession, Beck. Her first name is Guinevere but who wants to be called Guinevere? (cue laughter). Guinevere comes in to the store and she’s flirty, sexy, likes attention, pays with a credit card when she had plenty of money in her purse, and she does this so Joe will know her name because clearly, she wants him. *wink*

So while Joe is telling us, or You, about this encounter, you think wow, what a douchecanoe. He’s the kind of guy who thinks every girl wants to get with him. But you learn that Joe is kind of a psychological Sherlock Holmes, or probably more accurate, a Hannibal Lecter. It’s like he can see inside people’s heads and read them. Or maybe he’s making all this crap up and he’s just an arrogant prick who THINKS he can see inside people’s heads. But before you know just how freaking nuts Joe is, he seems really insightful, clearly intelligent… but at some point, this boy’s cheese fell off his cracker, hard.

It’s difficult to review this one because it’s one of those where people say you should go in blind. I actually agree about that for once. All I knew was this this was a thriller told in 2nd person. A lot of people were really turned off by the nature of the book, I’ve seen that in reviews. Joe is a douche when it comes to women, it’s like he falls in love with his idea of them, and anyone that doesn’t want to fuck him must be a bitch. He’s a psychopath and a misogynist, but he also has these tendencies to put Beck up on a pedestal, while enjoying her feet of clay. It’s like he knows everything about her, and he loves it. For him, a woman is little more than a life support system for a vagina and the terms whore, bitch, slut are thrown around a lot. The language is also very sexual even when we aren’t in sex scenes – there aren’t too many of those, but they do happen and they are fairly graphic. Let’s just say this is an adult novel. Normally, the misogyny and the sex would really turn me off but this didn’t. It made me uncomfortable and made me think and pushed my buttons –  but I thought this was all handled well. I mean you know the guys’s a nut, you are inside his head. You don’t agree with what you’re reading. But I still wanted to know what’s going to happen!

The one place where the novel could be a little better would be Joe’s background. I felt like it was lacking a lot of the psychopath building blocks that led him to the way he is. I mean, there were some but I would have liked a little more. There are also a network of real jerks around Beck that get in the way of their relationship. I can’t talk about that too much, but it really was done so well. Let’s just say, this girl attracts a lot of weird people.

I hate to be vague but this was such a great read. I went back and forth between horror and fear – afraid Joe was going to get caught, and then going WHY ARE YOU ROOTING FOR THE PSYCHOPATH? It’s a trip.

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