Synopsis: 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!!!!!!
Dun dun dun.
I only know one way to like music. That is when you hear a song and you’re instantly like, Holy shit this is THE SONG, and then you are fully unable to listen to any other music, everything else pales in comparison, you can only listen to this one song on an endless loop until you’re eventually so sick of it that you can’t even listen to it for approximately twelve calendar months.*
*This really seems like a sign of my healthy mental functioning.
I’m currently in this cycle with the song “You,” by the 1975. (Which, as a side-note, is a band I refuse to listen to purposefully because I find it really pretentious and I think their fans are super like, Oh, you like a song by the 1975? That’s cute. I knew about them before their EP released. Yeah I picked up a conch shell that washed up on the shores of northern England and I listened to it and out from it emerged the dulcet tones of pre-label signing the 1975.)
It’s really inconvenient to use “the 1975” in a sentence. Inconsiderate band-naming: add it to the list of why I’ll never be an intentional fan of theirs.
All of that is to say that the same-named song to this book added to the already-heady experience of reading this book.
And boy was it heady.
I am really hard on all books. My average rating for 2017 was 2.7, which is truly dismal. I’m aware of that. I’m probably cynical and bitter and I’m definitely critical, it’s true. But it’s all especially true when it comes to thrillers.
I only like thrillers if they scare me. And, as someone who is scared of heights and things jumping out at me and walking at night and murderers and mice and robberies and bugs touching me and germs and the alarm system in my apartment that randomly, arbitrarily speaks in a robotic woman’s voice, it doesn’t seem like that’d be a high bar to reach.
But books rarely scare me! And the amazing, fabulous, world-changing and life-redefining news is this book creeped the sh*t out of me.
Caroline Kepnes is a genius. She figured out something basic and elemental and applicable: People are the most scared when they think that a scary thing – even if it’s not the scariest possible thing – could happen to them.
And what happened in You is creepy and sometimes disgusting and visceral and awful…and so, so, so, so possible.
We follow Joe. Joe is a man in his mid-to-late twenties who works in a bookstore. He loves to read; he’s kind of technologically disengaged; he’s a bit pretentious and New York born-and-bred; he’s a high school dropout but pretty consistently the smartest guy in the room.
Kind of a dream guy on paper, if I’m being totally honest.
One day, a woman walks into the bookstore – she’s exactly Joe’s Natalie Portman-esque type. They flirt at the register. It’s a totally normal interaction.
Except then Joe looks at the name on the credit card. And he Googles. And he stalks Twitter, and Facebook, and Google Maps, and he knows her address and her friends and her plans and where she’ll be and who she is and where she went to college and her job and he can read her writing and he has access to hundreds of pictures and her favorite movie and the books she loves.
Even easier because this girl, Beck, always has her windows open in her safe neighborhood full of the unsuspicious rich.
So Joe pursues Beck. It’s just a little simpler, because he can read her emails and visit her therapist and buy club soda from her druggie old-money lover.
This book is, in other words, a nightmare.
I’d imagine it’s really polarizing. This book exposes a lot about what might shame us. It’s hard to admit that sometimes you catch yourself rooting for Joe. It’s even harder to admit what you’d do if you were Beck. Because for me: I’d flirt with the guy at the bookstore register. I’d be pleasantly surprised to see him coincidentally later. I’d be flattered by the extent to which he’s into me. It’s really doubtful that I’d ever suspect him of hoarding my old phone or stealing my high school yearbook.
Which is to say: I’d fall for Joe, and his traps.
And what could be scarier than that?
Bottom line: One of the best thrillers. Period.