When I heard that the TV show adaptation of You was available on Netflix, I was instantly intrigued. Getting inside the mind of a stalker sounded oddly exciting. Naturally, I couldn’t watch the show without reading the book first. Now that I’ve finished them both, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the novel by Caroline Kepnes and its adaptation.
**I won’t reveal any information you wouldn’t learn in the very beginning of the book/show.
When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.
There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.
As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.
Without a doubt, my favorite aspect of this novel was the writing – it was just absolutely amazing. You is told in second person, so it’s as if the stalker is talking to you throughout the whole novel. I’ve never read anything like this, and Caroline Kepnes executed it so well. I loved being inside Joe’s head, as disturbing as his thoughts often were. It baffled me how Kepnes was able to manipulate me as a reader – she managed to write Joe in such a way that I almost sympathized for him at points, and it terrified me.
The reader’s inclination to sympathize with the stalker isn’t the only unsettling aspect though. It’s terrifying to think about how easy it is to fall prey to someone like Joe. For starters, because of social media, many of our lives are on display. You shows how easy it is for someone to track down your location and monitor your communication. But what I find even more disturbing is how completely normal Joe seems to almost everyone around him. He easily convinces others that he’s not only normal, but even kind and thoughtful. It really makes the reader consider who they should trust.
The reason I didn’t give this 5/5 stars was that I just felt it was very… uneventful. I understand that the purpose of this book was to see inside Joe’s mind, and like I said, Caroline Kepnes nailed that. As a thriller, I just expected more shocking events and twists that never came. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like nothing exciting happens in this book. There are definitely some exciting scenes, I just felt they were few and far between. This is definitely more of a character-based novel than a plot-driven one, which I think is something important to know going into it.
Overall, this book was really unique and well-written. It wasn’t my favorite thriller ever, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. ★★★★
TV Show Thoughts
The show definitely deviated from the book a bit, but overall I really enjoyed it as well.
My favorite addition to the story line was Paco, Joe’s child neighbor who lives with his drug addict mother and her abusive boyfriend. I felt that the relationship between Joe and Paco added a layer of complexity to the plot. First, we see Joe “grooming” Paco which gives the viewer a better understanding of how Mr. Mooney “groomed” him. But more importantly, watching Joe look out for Paco makes him seem so much more human. The way Joe acts like Paco’s big brother is almost cute and it makes Joe that much more sympathetic.
Another thing that makes Joe sympathetic is how awful everyone around him is, an aspect that was brought to life really well in the show. From Beck to Peach, you feel bad that Joe is surrounded by such self-centered, manipulative people. Most of the other characters’ actions are just so consistently deplorable that you begin to almost favor Joe. In this way, the show is just as disturbing as the book.
I won’t say much about the ending in order to avoid spoilers, but I will say that it was a bit more complex in the show. This makes sense as it has been reported that there’s going to be another season. The finale leaves a lot of questions unanswered, and I will definitely be watching season 2 to see how everything plays out.
The book was really enjoyable and the show did a wonderful job of bringing Caroline Kepnes’ story to life. The actors truly portrayed characters that you can’t help but root for/against and the changes to the plot added a bit of complexity. I would recommend them both, especially to anyone who likes psychological thrillers.
Have you read or seen You? If so, what did you think? Did you root for or against Joe? If not, are you interested in the book and/or the show?