Books to the Sky

“Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high. How I love them! How I need them! I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.” ― Arnold Lobel

You: A Novel

on January 18, 2016

you-9781476785608_hr

At the end of the year, there are always book lists and I love making my way through them. This list on Bustle of 9 Books That Will Keep Your Attention Until The Very Last Page was one of the most interesting I’ve seen. You: A Novel by Caroline Kepnes is the first that I’m reading from the list, partly because Stephen King is quoted saying that it is “Hypnotic and scary – totally original.” Told from the viewpoint of stalker-turned-boyfriend Joe, this book is disturbing, fascinating, and so very well written. 

Joe is a man who knows what he wants and knows what he has to do to get it. And what he wants is the girl that just came into his bookstore. From her offhand greeting and her choice of books he knows she is the one. She is everything he has been looking for and he can tell that she must know it too. Clearly she wants him to know her name (Beck) and find out more or she wouldn’t have used her credit card. Joe uses that knowledge to find everything there is to know about Beck, getting closer and closer to her. All of the effort pays off when they finally begin dating and Joe knows all that Beck needs and gives her the gift of being the perfect boyfriend.

This book is a work of art. Straight from the beginning the author leaves you in no doubt that Joe is a bad guy. Bad things clearly happen around and because of Joe and you hope that Beck will escape his attentions. However. Knowing that you shouldn’t, you still find yourself rooting for Joe on occasions. There are times you feel so sorry for him and have to remind yourself that he is monstrous. Joe is scary and relatable all at once.

The world of literature and books is woven throughout everything the protagonist does or thinks. Quotes appear strategically throughout the novel, particularly one from e.e.cummings. As unsettling as You is, there is something magical about the way Kepnes writes. It draws the reader in and holds on.

Here, about Beck’s ex:

“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.”

And here, about Beck:

“You like to be rocked and lullabied and sedated and our conversations about your short stories and your classmates always end with me telling you how special you are, how talented, how jealous they all are, how clearly better than them you are and you get taller as the clear disposable plastic salad bowl gets emptier and I mean it when I say it and you’re lucky that what you want to hear is what I actually think”

In the week since I finished reading this novel, I have found myself thinking about it at odd moments. I definitely want to read more from Caroline Kepnes.

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