Nobody not even the rain, has such small hands.E E Cummings
He is well-versed. Handsome. Charming. Works at a bookstore. Loves books. Takes their reference quite so often. And yet, he is a loner, who doesn’t have many friends. No, wait, Joe doesn’t have any friends.
He is an introvert. Unassuming. At least on the surface, not in his mind. He thinks too highly of himself. Takes pride in reading people. Did I forget anything? Oh, yes…he is also a stalker who kills.
Now, I don’t want to know if you have watched You on Netflix. Truth be told, I discovered Caroline Kepnes on Netflix. But trust me on this. It really doesn’t matter if you have watched You and its sequel, please, please do read the book. It’s so much better. So without much ado, let me tell you why by giving a glimpse of our narrator and protagonist, Joe Goldberg.
You smile, embarrassed to be a nice girl, and your nails are bare and your V-neck sweater is beige and it’s impossible to know if you’re wearing a bra but I don’t think that you are. You’re so clean that you’re dirty…”
This is what he prattles when he meets Beck Guinevere in the bookstore where he works as a store manager. She is pretty, polite and cordial. So she smiles, says hello, listens to him kindly as he talks about the digital invasion and the death of physical products and human interaction in book and music stores.
Right after this brief, casual encounter and harmless banter, he becomes obsessed with her. Quoting the great American poet E.E. Cummings, he says love needs work.
Keeping this guiding principle in mind, he gets to work. By stalking her online — religiously following her tweets, instagram and facebook feed. Standing in front of her apartment, day and night and keeping an eye on her. Breaking into her apartment and searching her laptop and by stealing her phone.
On the other hand, Beck as her own demons to fight. She is amorous, has a rich boyfriend Benji who doesn’t care about her. His interest in her being limited to getting into her pants.
She has a group of girlfriends. And one among them, the rich, pretty, bitchy and temperamental Peach is in love with her. Peach much like Joe can go to any length to keep Beck close.
Beck pretends she has no family and that her father is dead. But, later we learn that her dad is very much alive, remarried and is quite happy with his brand new family. Also, she might be having an affair with her psychiatrist, Dr. Nicky.
Joe too has his secrets. He abandoned his parents, who never looked for him. He had a girlfriend named Candace and something terrible happened to her. He started working at a bookstore where the sadist and deranged shop owner Mr. Mooney locked him in the store’s basement in a glassed cage. He was only a young boy, then.
Both Joe and Beck are troubled. So when they find each other and get into a whirlwind affair, all hell breaks loose. To protect the pretty mess Beck is, Joe does everything and much more to become her knight in shining armor.
Well, not quite. We don’t live in medieval times. And love doesn’t equal obsession. Caroline Kepnes agrees too and she proves it through her riveting story.
But, but, I must confess that I did empathize with Joe for the most part of the book, even when he was on a killing spree — mainly due to his sense of humor and quick-thinking; until the very end, when I had to abandon him. Or, risk questioning my sanity and lack of a moral compass.
That doesn’t even for a second mean, I detested Joe’s character in any way. If anything, I loved what Kepnes did with him. She made him crazy, selfish, dangerous and yet so damn likable.
In fact, I became a bit impatient with Beck and her wayward and inane ways, blaming her for her predicament. Until, I realized what Joe was up to. It was then that I saw him for what he was — in turn feeling a sense of despair and helplessness for Beck. Or for those who seek love passionately, with every ounce of their bodies and souls.
That’s what Joe wanted. That was exactly what Beck craved for too — in this gloomy, doomed, honest, modern, romantic tale.
- The amalgamation of first and second-person narration. Brilliantly executed. A lesson for writers and joy for readers.
- Joe Goldberg. His character. His quirky ways. His witty and honest voice.
- The underlying humor, even in the most dire of circumstances. Sample this. “I am stunned because some of the pages have never been turned; I know my way around a book. I think you skipped entire pages, you brainless phony. When you asked me where I was in the book, you were cheating. The most romantic time of my life was a hoax.”
- Pop and literary references.
- The premise which dangles somewhere in between love and obsession.
- Peach. What an interesting side character!
- How Joe gets away with everything.
- How easy Beck makes it for him to stalk her.
- The constant prattling of Joe. Maybe, including Beck’s voice in a place or two would have given us a respite from Joe. And made us understand Beck better.
Watch the trailer of You