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.
You is a book with a difference, or at least it felt different to me, reading about it and then reading it (after a very long wait for it to come free at the library). It’s told from the point of view of Joe, the Stalker and it’s quite unapologetic about it. There is no attempt to make his actions seem more reasonable – no calling back to a difficult childhood to explain his actions, which include murder. He is, quite simply, a psychopath – obsessively following and inserting himself into the life of a young woman because he is convinced she is the one for him.
Told from his perspective, she probably is. She is perfect. Beautiful, clever, engaging. Every negative behaviour of hers (she has a lot of boyfriends, always leaves her studies to the last minute, calls on people then drops them like hot potatoes) Joe can see and find cute, or something he could fix if only he was her boyfriend. To do that, of course, he has to turn himself into her perfect man. Finding out what that is isn’t as hard as you might think in this internet age, with Facebook and Twitter and smart phones that hold our lives and can be very useful to people like Joe if you “lose” them whilst sharing a cab. Not that I share a lot online but it’s amazing how quickly he built a profile of Beck, knowing where she was, what she liked, what she didn’t.
For the first two thirds of this book I was completely drawn in to how Joe slowly wove his way into Beck’s life, tuning up at just the right time to save her from herself (as he saw it) and always saying the right thing at the right time. How he identified his “enemies” through her emails and Facebook feed and then got rid of them (because they were no good for her, unlike Joe who could make her happy). Joe’s is the only voice you here. It’s repetitive and convincing. I started to think he might not be that bad after all just misunderstood (till he locks someone in a basement). But no, he’s basically rotten to the core with no redeeming features.
It was this that eventually got to me I think. The lack of redemption. He was never going to learn and there was only one way this story was going to end. With just his voice in my head and no possibility of a happy ending I started to flag. Because he was so driven, his tone was too. There was little change of pace and no self-awareness. I became tired of reading and, for me, the last 100 pages were a slog. I almost put the book down but kept reading in case I was wrong about the outcome (I wasn’t).
It is a shame because it’s not a badly written book by any means. In fact, it’s clever in taking the angle and in creating the character Joe, who doesn’t just lurk but fully inserts himself into Beck’s life. The problem was I couldn’t get away with such a relentless voice and nothing to cut it with for over 400 pages. Take 50 – 100 out and I think I would have been fine. I’d probably have been raving about this book as so many others have. As it is, because of the length and lack of change of page and tone, I have ended up liking vs. loving this book.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
Publication Date: 18th June, 2015
Genre: crime fiction
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