Sunday, 28 June 2015

You by Caroline Kepnes

It’s incredible how much life has changed over the past 15 years; not in obvious ways, for the most part our day to day lives are much the same. But when it comes to technology, primarily social media, it’s a whole new ball game. Everyone uses social media, older people love the way it enables them to connect to old friends and family; it’s a novelty. For young people it’s a way of life; it’s the way they know how to share with friends, it’s the way they know how to connect to the world. The problem with this is that social media is so ingrained in young lives, in all of our lives really; that it’s hard to control it, hard to control what others put out in our names;  more importantly and terrifyingly, it’s impossible to control what other people do with that information. I’m guilty of it for sure, I don’t put a lot of thought into what I put online except to think about whether it will embarrass me or not. I don’t really consider that other people may be interested in what I put out there – that someone may choose to use that against me. My boyfriend on the other hand, he is constantly reminding me that the cyber world is a dangerous place, that there are creeps out there who know how to use social media to their advantage, to extrapolate information and use it against you. And when you think about it, take a look at all that you put out there for the world to see, without even thinking about it…. It’s a little scary.

Social media at its creepiest is the modus operandi of Caroline Kepnes’ terrifyingly creepy antagonist in her debut novel You. Guinevere Beck walks into to the book store where Joe works and his world is flipped upside down. She is perfect. The absolute perfect woman for him, and he will do everything he can to make her see that he is the prefect guy for her. He grabs her name off her credit card, which she uses to pay, instead of cash, so that he can see her name, of course. Joe accesses her facebook and twitter accounts to follow her and ends up being able to figure out her address. Beck, as she is more commonly known, is an extrovert of the highest order. Her apartment faces the street and Beck never closes the blinds, no matter what activities are taking place in there. Joe uses all that he learns of Beck to orchestrate another ‘random’ meeting… the quotations referring to the fact that Joe spends all of his free time following Beck everywhere, making it easy to ‘run’ into her. Beck makes it easy by almost killing herself, giving Joe the opportunity to swoop in and rescue her. One stolen phone later, Joe now has everything he needs to keep tabs on Beck 24/7 and get to know everything about her, via constant life update emails to her 3 best friends. The only problem is that Beck is surrounded by people who aim to keep Joe out; Benji, the rich entitled playboy who is stringing Beck along and Peach, Beck’s rich, entitled best friend from childhood. “It’s amazing how you can see money in people. His chick-smooth hands have been softening for centuries before he was born and his thick hair never thinned from nights in the wind, days bent over shoveling snow or sand or ash. Something about that hair, something about the slope of his nose proves that life is unfair.” Luckily Joe has a plan for them.

This book is creepy to the max! I’m amazed by how many woman reviewed this book said that they liked or identified with Joe. He is one of the creepiest characters that I have ever read. He methodically manipulates events to entrench himself into Becks life, meanwhile telling himself how much she deserves him, how most people might think there is something wrong with him, but really he is just saving her. I think that maybe the fact that Beck is not the most loveable girl makes it easier to feel for Joe? Maybe, that is, if Joe hadn’t done this before. But he’s just looking for love! you cry… What's truly terrifying is how easy it is for Joe to get what he wants. Anything he wants to know about Beck she puts right out there in the open for anyone to see, she constantly tweets about where she is going or what she is doing. The more I read about Beck the more I dislike her and the more I don’t trust her… there is definitely something go on with her that we don’t know yet, and I think that might end up making her and Joe a better pair than one might think!

The truth is though; I am quite enjoying the novel. It’s incredibly well written, and even though Joe is a deviant, he is a well read and eloquent narrator. Beck is an aspiring author and Joe works in a bookstore, so there are plenty of book references, which makes me happy. Told from the point of Joe talking to Beck (in his head); telling her everything that is going on, narrating his life and love to her. It can be confusing at first, but it doesn’t take long to catch on. This is definitely a book of its times though; there are numerous topical references, which I think help make the book as potent as it is, but I’m not sure how well it will translate in 20 years, when the references are no longer relevant.  I have the impression that Kepnes knows this though. The book has way more impact the way it is, and maybe sometimes it’s better to make a huge impact than try to attain longevity? Up to this point I don’t really have any complaints, although there is one point where Joe and Beck are travelling to IKEA and Joe references one of my favourite movies – 500 Days of Summer, which contains a romantic IKEA love scene. Kepnes talks about Joseph Gordon Levitt, one of the main characters, but refers to the other character, Zooey Deschanel as ‘the chick’. To be fair, this only bothers me because Zooey Deschanel is one of my favourite actors! I figure if this is my biggest complaint, it must be a pretty good book.

So. All in all I am really looking forward to finishing this book. There have been some pretty good revelations and twists, and I have a feeling there are some even bigger ones in store. The book is incredibly readable and deliciously creepy. It’s also a bit of warning – be careful what you send out to the world… you really have no idea what’s going to come following you back home.

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