You by Caroline Kepnes is creepy . . . and riveting.
My book club discussed this gem last night, and we had a lot to say about the characters, as well as the topics of stalking and social media.
Readers are in the first person viewpoint of Joe, who directs his narrative at “you” (his obsession, Beck). Joe is clever, interesting, and charming. He’s also a nutcase stalker. He sets his sights on Beck and determines to make her his own, no matter the obstacles. He uses social media (easily) to track her, watch her, and manipulate her.
Beck is not a total victim, however. That’s what I love about this book. The characters are complex: Joe is both relatable and a complete psychopath. Beck is both naive and devious.
In an interview, Kepnes describes the pair perfectly: “Joe is living adamantly analog, selling paper books. Beck, meanwhile, is using Twitter to construct a version of herself that she might become were she not preoccupied with the presentation. Neither way works.”
My book club discussed the arc of the story, and the means by which Joe orchestrates his relationships (both romantic and platonic). I loved how Kepnes gives us just enough of Joe’s background regarding past obsessions and childhood memories to help us understand him a bit — but not enough to fully explain away his behavior.
Without giving away any details, I will just say that this book is an engrossing trip through Joe’s warped brain. Kepnes does an excellent job of creating a character so real that I feel like I might bump into him on the street. Her creation of character depth in general is so perfect that I think about and reference ancillary characters (Peach, Ethan), like they are real, too.
The ending was also completely satisfying for me, which is hard to manage with a plot like this. And I really don’t want to compare other books to Gone Girl, but I will say I felt the same sense of, “How does a sweet-looking author such as (Flynn/Kepnes) come up with such sadistic (and amazing) stories?”
Overall: Completely enthralling and wonderful. 5 stars.