Sunday, November 15, 2015

Book Review: "Hidden Bodies" by Caroline Kepnes

Full disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review. Many thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for making it available!

Holy crap, this was one roller coaster ride of a book!

Last year, Caroline Kepnes' You pretty much hooked me completely, as it introduced New York City bookseller Joe Goldberg and his love/obsession with Guinevere Beck. That book was also a pretty wild ride, and a testament to Kepnes' writing talent as she made you care about a character whose actions weren't quite admirable. (To say the least...)

In Hidden Bodies, Kepnes brings Joe back, and kicks up the story a few more notches. After his relationship with Beck ended, Joe figured he was destined for a life alone. And then beautiful, quirky, mysterious Amy Adam comes into his bookstore and intrigues him pretty much immediately. They're on the same wavelength intellectually, the sex is mind-blowing, and her refusal to embrace any form of social media—where Beck's life was an open book—enamors her to him even more. But just as he's ready to propose, and completely leave Beck behind, Amy disappears, leaving Joe hurt, angry, and betrayed.

The clues Amy left in her wake leave Joe with only one option, no matter how odious it may seem to him—he decides to move to LA to find her. It's not long before Joe finds himself face-to-face with all of the quintessentially LA stereotypes he had only heard about—from the bookstore manager/aspiring actor/aspiring screenwriter to the aging comedian, the gossip columnist who just wants to be loved to the narcissistic talk show host. But try as he might, Joe cannot find Amy, and his obsession about finding her grows ever stronger.

But then Joe finds Love. Literally. Love Quinn, the do-gooder heiress to a grocery store fortune, steals Joe's heart and introduces him to a world of privilege and, well, love, that he never dreamed of. Joe knows that Love is his destiny, and if there are some bumps along the road to eternal happiness, well, a guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do to ensure he gets the life and the love he deserves, right? No matter what.

Even more in this book than in her first, Kepnes so fully occupies Joe's character in every way—intellectually, emotionally, sexually—that I had to keep reminding myself that this book was written by a woman. Even when the plot gets a little bit unreal from time to time, there is not a false note in Joe's character, and once again, I found myself rooting for him at the same time I was disgusted by him. I really had no idea how Kepnes would tie up the plot, and that doesn't happen for me with many books.

Is this a realistic book? I hope not. But it's utterly entertaining, and I was completely hooked from start to finish. I just let it devour me as I devoured it, caught between wanting to finish it quickly to end my suspense and wanting to savor it. This isn't a book for everyone, but if you like books about seriously flawed but fascinating characters with a penchant for sex, violence, and foul language, pick up these books. (And while you don't have to, I'd recommend starting with You, the first book in Joe's story.)

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