Saturday, October 25, 2014

Book Review: "You" by Caroline Kepnes

You often hear from actors that villains are more challenging to portray than those characters that are inherently good, because unless the character (and the movie) is utterly campy, they need to be complex enough in order for the audience to be interested in them.

The same holds true in books—I'd imagine that at times, creating "bad" characters might pose more of a challenge, since in order to keep the reader's attention (and perhaps at least a little sympathy), the character has to be more than just evil. If that truly is the case, Caroline Kepnes did an excellent job in her new book You, because she hooked me completely on (and even had me rooting for) a character who did completely odious things.

The day that Guinevere Beck walks into the New York City bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he is instantly smitten, by her sexiness, her intellect, and her sense of humor. It doesn't take long for Joe to convince himself that Beck is the one meant for him—and all he needs to do is convince her of that fact. He does his research (some of it is actually legitimate) and he begins to understand what makes Beck tick, and he plots his course for how he can get her to fall for him.

While Beck is attracted to, and intrigued by, Joe, she is far more complex than he realizes, and there are a number of obstacles that stand in the way of a potential relationship. There's her occasional not-quite-boyfriend Benji, and her needy best friend Peach, for starters. And she has issues. But none of this detracts Joe from pursuing his goal of a happy ever after with Beck. No matter what he has to do.

This is a book about the fine, sometimes blurry line between love and obsession, and how nothing is quite what it seems. It's both a fascinating social commentary and a true page-turner about infatuation, and not letting anything stand in the way of what you believe is your destiny.

You is (the grammarian in me winced when putting those two words together in a sentence) truly a testament to Kepnes' exceptional talent, because in lesser hands, you wouldn't care about Joe's pursuit of Beck beyond being troubled by it. But there are times when you can't quite figure out which character is more unsympathetic, and times when you're actually rooting for Joe to win Beck over. (Other times, not so much.)

I really enjoyed this book in a can't-look, can't-look-away type of way. I thought the story was a bit more drawn out than it needed to be, but I was utterly fascinated (and repulsed) by Kepnes' characters. This is one book I'll be thinking of for a long while...

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