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“You”

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This is twice now I’ve watched one episode of a limited-run series, and said “Screw it. I want to be in the know for once. I want to read the book first.”

The first time was when I began the HBO’s “Sharp Objects.” The show was terrible; the took turned out to be revelatory. With “You,” I have a feeling it may be different. I’ve quite enjoyed the first three episodes and I’m happily in this for the long haul. But it’s the book I want to recommend unreservedly!

Let me warn you right off the bat: you may be expecting twists. There aren’t any. It’s pretty straightforward: a woman walks into a bookstore, a creepy guy becomes obsessed with her, and stalks her, and their story doesn’t end prettily. But, honestly, when a book is this clever and zippy and fun and full of life, you don’t need twists. You just need to hop in and go for the ride even if you know where it’s ending. Because, man, is the journey worth it.

“You,” by the Caroline Kepnes is a book that’s full: Full of pop culture references that don’t feel corny and forced, full of humor, full of sex and full of life and all its dull, thrilling, happy, devastating, embarrassing, awful, wonderful moments.

It’s a story about several awful people, but mostly it’s about Joe, a bookstore manager who’s a creepy stalker and worse (much worse), who’s delusional and pretentious and vomits his life’s loneliness and disappointments onto whichever unfortunate woman he’s fixated on at the moment. At this moment it’s Beck, who is narcissistic, flighty, selfish, and deceitful, but very hot and just smart enough to be interesting. These two are quite a pair.

Somehow, oddly, in the face of all their deep deep…deep collective dysfunction you keep rooting for Joe to get the girl. I don’t know why. It’s sick. He’s a stalker, he’s a creeper. He has no boundaries. He is controlling and abusive (even if he’s controlling and abusive from afar). But  you get caught up in his relentless pursuit of this passably intelligent dipshit with daddy issues and, dammit, you just want to see what happens when he finally wins her.

If the story itself didn’t surprise me too much (don’t worry–there are enough juicy bits to keep you interested!) the writing style certainly did. It’s told in almost a stream-of-concious kind of way, as if Joe is talking to Beck, to “you.” And, damn, Joe can be funny sometimes.

After meeting awful Beck’s awful friend, Peach, the architect, awful Joe says

“I know what a fucking architect is and nobody is ever an architect in real life, only in movies.”

When he visits Rhode Island he says of a nurse

“She cackles and her accent is so thick I feel bad for the words coming out of her mouth.”

Joe could also be really surprisingly poetic:

“You’re a romantic, searching for Coney Island minus the drug dealers and the gum wrappers and an innocent California where real cowboys and fake cowboys traded stories over tin cups of coffee called Joe. You want to go places you can’t go.”

It kills me that I was often moved by this psychotic character.

“And I will never again underestimate the power of anticipation. There is no better boost in the present than invitation to the future.”

It kills me that when Joe trapped Beck’s rich, soda-selling boyfriend, Benji, in a basement and made him taste 3 cups of his own “artisanal soda water” and asked him to guess which one was his, Benji said they were all cheap and awful  and Joe said “they’re all yours” and I laughed and was delighted!

But the whole book was a delight and I encourage you to read it immediately and feel bad about liking it.

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