REVIEW: You by Caroline Kepnes & Lifetime’s You

You may have noticed my absence recently. Life has been a bit tough for me lately. Though, I have managed to get some reading in, the posting has been slow. The motivation to write was lost within the passing of my grandpa (my dad’s dad) and my depression, which took the opportunity to rear up in my emotional destruction. Of course that turmoil deserves a post of its own when I’m finally ready to write it down.

Moving on from the doom and gloom, it is time to let you know what I have been up to. When I heard about the show, You, coming onto Netflix, I was intrigued. When it finally arrived, I watched the first episode before I found out that it is based on a novel by Caroline Kepnes. I knew that I had to read the book before I could continue, so I requested it from the library. What follows are side by side reviews on You and You, the novel and the show.

A couple of things first:

I wondered how to go about doing a dual review for the novel and show of You. There are so many different ways that I could accomplish what I want for this review. I have decided to go with the approach of considering the pros and cons of each version. To finish the post off, there will be some **SPOILERS** as I consider my favourite and least favourite changes from book to show.

Full disclaimer, I have not read Hidden Bodies, which is the sequel to You. There may be changes that were made that were born from this second book. Based on this, I will not be able to make any considerations on that.

You by Caroline Kepnes

Book Cover

For those who have not heard of this book or show, here is a quick synopsis: the story follows Joe Goldberg, a bookstore manager in New York, who meets Guinevere Beck when she wanders into his work. He is instantly entranced by her and begins obsessively stalking her to find out how he can insert himself into her life. Moving from her stalker in the shadows to her boyfriend has obstacles though and he is more than willing to move them out of the way, no matter what it takes. And sometimes, it takes a life.

So what did I love about this book?

  • It is written as ‘second person’ narration. I do not remember ever reading something in with this point of view before, so this was something to behold. It was well done and it fits perfectly with the title.
  • The story line kept me on the edge of my seat. While I did not read it all in one night, I did fly through it. I wanted to know what Joe was going to do next and whether or not Beck would finally realize that he is a total creep.
  • Even though it is Joe’s obsession, I like that the novel focuses on Beck and her life through him. This isn’t a narrator telling us about their own life, but rather someone’s existence viewed through the eyes of another.
  • There is a sex positive message that is hidden in the beginning of the novel. While Joe does not like that she is having sex with someone else, he does not care that it is a woman having sex freely, only that it is Beck. On top of that, it normalizes female masturbation. That is all hard to see since we are looking through Joe’s creepy point of view as she stalks Beck. However, we still read about a woman masturbating without any indication of disgust.

And what did I dislike?

  • Joe seems to be able to get away with whatever he wants and Beck does not appear to be bright enough to catch on to all the red flags. While it is an accurate situation in the every day lives of women, it is frustrating to read from Joe’s point of view like he is a hero.
  • When I reached the end, I did not feel like I had actually reached the end. I was wondering where the rest of the pages were for a bit. That was before I knew that there was a sequel, but I was not in love with the first book to go on to read the second. Part of me feels like Beck’s story is not complete.
  • *Minor spoilers* My biggest problem with this book is that I do not believe that it does enough to condemn Joe’s actions. He stalks her and has the chance to save her, so he does. Then he has an ‘in’ with her. He removes obstacles and is rewarded with her attention. While I believe that most readers will recognize how dangerous all this behaviour is, I am concerned about the reader who thinks it is romantic. “If he is watching me all the time, he can come to my rescue.” It is the new version of Twilight. All I wanted was for Joe to get exactly what he deserves. My disappointment in this regard is why I will probably never pick up the second book.

Lifetime’s You

Official Show Poster

Pros of the show:

  • The show gives the viewer glimpses of Beck’s life that Joe is not privy to in the novel. Beck gets her own narration at time that is reminiscent of Joe’s. She is allowed to exist outside of his world.
  • Any time I get to see the scenery and sets come to life, I love it. The beautiful and bright glass cage are wonderfully contrasted against the dark brick basement.
  • The casting was great. Penn did an amazing job of bringing Joe to life. I don’t think I have ever gotten over seeing him in Gossip Girl and dealing with that internet menace. Now, he is the menace and he is perfectly suited to bring the character to life. He is able to pull off the right amount of creep, while not being so creepy that no one would go near him. He is able to Ted Bundy himself, using his charms to lure someone into his trap.
  • The cinematography was incredible.

Cons of the show:

  • Like the book, Joe seems to be rewarded for his stalker behaviour in the form of time with his victim, Beck. There are so few people who actually catch on to call him out and no one really listens even then.
  • Most of my cons actually have to do with the differences between the show and the book. See the next section to read more.

*SPOILERS* Comparing the Novel to the Show:

My favourite changes:

  • The addition of Paco. He is an adorable child who lives in the apartment next to Joe’s. His character is a bright addition to a dark show.
  • Beck ends up having a mildly successful writing career, even having two books published (one postmortem). It shows that she does have some talent and is not simply toiling away. She does actually spend time writing and we get to see the fruits of her labour.
  • The inclusion of Beck’s point of view. It gave greater insight into her life that we could not get from the singular narration of Joe.
  • I love that we get greater insight into Beck’s friends’, Lynn and Annika. I would have included this as a dislike since they changed Chana into Annika, but the show allows us to get to know these women, who were previously little more than placeholders.

My least favourite changes:

  • The addition of Paco. While I love this little guy, he humanizes Joe’s character by simply existing within the world of the show. This is frustrating because it distracts from his stalker and creep factors.
  • Joe is less confident in his abilities as a murderer in the show. Benji’s body does not stay in the cage until he is forced to deal with it. Joe handles it right away and without any of the self doubt that he shows in the book. I think they also use this in the show to make Joe not seem as bad (look, he can barely deal with the guy he killed). In the book, Joe has no qualms about dealing out death and taking care of the bodies in his wake.

You can purchase You here and watch a trailer for the show here.

Have you read the book? Seen the show? What did you think? Anything you would add to my lists? Let me know in the comments.

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