📚 You by Caroline Kepnes

Reviewed Jan. 2020

Narrator: Santino Fontana
Length: 11 hours 6 minutes
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio⎮2014

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Summary

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.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.5 Stars

You was my first listen of the new year (and new decade). I have a 3-month backlog of reviews to write, but I'm starting with You because it was so captivating. For starters, I haven't seen the Netflix series yet, but I do plan on watching yet very soon, possibly before I begin the sequel. I googled the cast beforehand because I like being able to picture them while I listen.

So, not only was You my first full listen of the new year, but it was my first successful listen as well. My listening habits have been severely disrupted in recent months, so it takes something really gripping to keep my interest these days. I wasn't planning on starting You when I did. I had originally planned on hearing it around Halloween, but that didn't pan out. I impulsively started it three days ago and I immediately knew that it was something I could hear in a day if I wanted to. Not because it was short in length, but because it made me want to sacrifice sleep and shirk work obligations just to keep listening. Luckily for me, You is as easy to listen to as it is captivating, so I was able to listen and work.

You wasn't necessarily a scary story, but it did ultimately have a scary effect on me that drove its raison d'être home better than the story did itself. I was initially wary of admitting this, but after reading others' reviews and realizing that the manipulation of the reader was clearly intentional and nearly universal, I am less so. In You, we are dealing with a socio-pathologically deluded main character. We suspect this going in. His thoughts (which we are privy to) and actions confirm and remind us of this periodically throughout the story. We become so intimately connected with the main character (we are literally inside his head) that it's hard to maintain an objective point-of-view as a reader. There's no distance between the main character and the reader. I don't think it's a stretch to say that it almost feels as if we are one with him- carrying out his heinous actions and all. Kepnes manages to lull the reader into a false sense of security by telling the story from inside the main character's head and practically daring us to sympathize with him.

I'm choosing my words very carefully because I'm hesitant to label this particular main character as a protagonist- a literary role most of us are in the habit of "rooting for", which is something Kepnes exploits here. In You, Joe Goldberg is definitively the main character, he may be the protagonist, but he is definitely not the hero. I often fall into the trap of using these terms interchangeably, but that would not work in this situation. Or rather, it should not, and therein lies the trap that Kepnes so cleverly sets for the reader.

I will admit that more than once while listening to You, I found myself subconsciously sympathizing with Joe, even accidentally rooting for him at times. Of course, as soon as I became aware of this, I was disgusted with myself for repeatedly falling for Kepnes' trap. The human mind has an unfathomable ability to rationalize and we are inside Joe's mind, hearing his most intimate thoughts and all of his seemingly (to him) logical rationalizations. But Joe is an unreliable narrator. I knew that about him, and yet I repeatedly still fell prey to Caroline Kepnes' written manipulations. And the scariest part about all of this is that people like Joe Goldberg exist and they can convince you that they are the good guy, because that's what they honestly believe.

This is a book I will be recommending for years to come. There wasn't a huge twist at the end and it wasn't exactly a pulse-pounder, but any book that can make someone question the inner workings of good, evil, and everything in between is something everyone should read.

Narration review: Let me amend that to "...something everyone should hear", because Santino Fontana gave a phenomenal performance. The characterizations he provided were out of this world. He brought Kepnes' is already vivid writing to life even more. I 10/10 would listen to him again and I'm on my way to google his entire repertoire after posting this review. This is an audiobook worth your time. ♣︎

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