You, by Caroline Kepnes

You is a fascinatingly sinister novel following the obsessive Joe Goldberg. From the instant the quirky, aspiring writer Guinevere Beck enters the bookstore where Joe works, he is determined to make her ‘his’ – at any cost.

I absolutely loved this book. I had heard great reviews about You so I was already intrigued before picking up a copy, but Kepnes completely captured my attention from the first page. I am not exaggerating when I say that I struggled to put it down. Even when I wasn’t reading, Joe Goldberg lurked in my mind. The tagline on the cover encapsulates the mood of the novel perfectly: He waits. He watches. He follows. The story is frightening but irresistible.

Kepnes delves deep into the dark side of love and addiction, and produces a truly impressive novel. The narrative felt really authentic, as if it gives a genuine insight into the mind of a stalker. Joe’s attempts to ‘get to know’ Beck through her social media accounts and by monitoring her digital communication were entirely plausible. Also, the numerous incredible plot twists did not feel overly dramatic nor convenient for the purposes of weaving the plot to a satisfactory conclusion.

Kepnes must be commended for her depth of character creation as, many times, I found myself completely wrapped up in the world from Joe’s point of view. I often stopped short when I realized I was rooting for his success and agreeing with his chilling arguments against other characters.

Another great aspect of Kepnes’ writing was the depth of insight into the other characters she allowed the reader to gain. She explores even the supporting characters’ motivations and mental states, making the story increasingly captivating. Her character descriptions also pull the reader further into the mind of Joe Goldberg because the insights she includes are consistent with the elements of each character that Joe finds relevant. Furthermore, I found the cast of characters unique. I think it would have been very easy for Kepnes to paint Joe as a twisted stalker preying on an innocent girl and those around her; however, the reader discovers that no character is ‘perfect’ or entirely ‘good’.

One warning for any potential readers of You is: there is sexually explicit content and graphic depictions of violence. Though I definitely blushed a few times on the tube whilst reading this book, afraid a fellow commuter would catch a glimpse of a particularly risqué paragraph, I felt that all of the explicit description was necessary to the story. I was really impressed by this as I often feel that the themes of violence and sex are exploited to make a plot more sensational and controversial.

You is a particularly relevant book for this generation as it highlights the danger that most parents warned against when we were growing up: the danger of online communication and profiles. Though this warning is often met with eye rolls, Kepnes demonstrates how much can be discovered about someone through their online profiles and how seemingly harmless information can be exploited for sinister and manipulative purposes. Joe Goldberg is a terrifying reminder of the importance of passwords and privacy settings.

Overall, Kepnes had me hooked from the first paragraph to the back cover (and I am still thinking about her characters weeks after finishing the book). This novel was seductively menacing and, in my opinion, pure genius.

The most frightening yet gratifying moment was when I turned the last page to find the announcement of a sequel…

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