Book Review You
“You should own what you love.”
Joe Goldberg is in love with Beck (first name Guinevere, can’t blame her for going by her last name). So naturally, he tries to woo her and that starts with research. The kind of research that involves watching her and hacking her email, and that’s just for starters.
You, an absolutely brilliant debut (!) novel by Caroline Kepnes, is about Joe and his pursuit of Beck. It’s also about Beck and her friends, who we get to know intimately through their emails. It’s a story of obsessive love and it is in so many ways recognizable. Isn’t therean element of obsession every time you fall in love?
The book starts like this:
"You walk into the bookstore and keep your hand on the door to make sure it doesn't slam. You smile, embarrassed to be a nice girl and your nails are square 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 and you murmur your first words to me - hello - when most people would just pass by, but not you, in your loose pink jeans, pink spun from Charlotte's Web and where did you come from?"
And right there, I was hooked.
The whole book is like that — it sounds like stream of consciousness, but it isn’t. Underneath this writing that describes exactly what Joe is thinking, which like with most of us can be a bit rambling, is the most pristinely tight writing. From a technical and artistic point of view, this author is one of the best I’ve ever read.
And it all gets much better by the narration in the audiobook. Read by Santino Fontana (such a great name), who appears to have been born to read this book. At no point does he falter, there are no re-reads that gets copied on top of the original, yet sounds sort of different. And more than that, he doesn’t read the book. He becomes Joe, embodies him, and this stream of consciousness writing sounds like Joe talking. Fontana’s inflections are perfection, disturbed, subtly conveying Joe’s emotions, whether he is smiling and happy, or enraged. Fontana also perfectly captures the accents of young women in the emails from Beck’s friends. And I could go on. I have read a lot of good audiobooks, but this man is at the very top.
Alternately creepy, chilling, and heartbreaking, You is one of the best audiobooks I have ever heard, and maybe one of the best books I’ve ever read. It does feel a bit weird to so highly recommend a book in which the protagonist is such a strange, disturbed man. And it is deeply strange to realize that you come to care about him, like him, forgetting how disturbed he is. And then you are reminded and that feels even stranger, but you can’t put the book down — it has sucked you in so deep that you need to know what happens next.
I devoured this book, and when it was over I was both relieved and disappointed. Relieved because of the intensity of the experience, and disappointed because it was hard to let go of a book that had been so amazing.