“That’s how privileged people think: Lie unless you know that you can’t get away with lying.”
Meet Joe. Joe works in a bookstore. Joe believes in love at first sight. He believes that love takes work. And Joe is willing to put in the work.
So when an aspiring writer comes into his store and gives him all the right signals, he knows. She’s the one. Luckily, there’s only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. Her Facebook is public and she constantly tweets, as if she knows she’s sending all the right information to Joe.
Using her tweets to set up a chance encounter, Joe invisibly and effectively maneuvers his way into Beck’s life, removing all the obstacles as he goes. Love takes work. And Joe is determined to ensure that when Beck comes running into his arms, he’ll be there. Waiting.
“It’s Nanticket red, faded to a dusty rose hue, sensitive to the elements, regal somehow in spite of being damaged, just like you.”
This is my second time reading YOU, and just like my first read through, I am intoxicated with Kepnes writing. Joe is one of my all-time favorite characters. He is addicting. Magnetic. Even though you want to turn away, you want to dislike him for all that he represents in what’s wrong with society, you can’t.
I like Joe, not because he’s a good guy, because, holy shit, he’s not. But because he’s such a compelling character. His commentary on society, while warped, is often piercing and insightful. He says the things we can’t. The things we dare not acknowledge even to ourselves. He isn’t right necessarily, but he also isn’t wrong.
“Curtis will be here in ten minutes because he’s supposed to get here at six and he’s never on time because he’s part of Generation Benji, all busy with his fake life in his fucking gadgets, tinderokaycupidinstagramtwitterfacebookvinebullshitnarcissismincorporatedonlinepetitionsfantasyfuckingfootball.”
No matter what the social issue at hand, Kepnes leaves me constantly off balance, struggling with the absolute disgust I feel towards Joe, while admitting, in many ways, his observations are right. Beck is not the victim, necessarily. She is unlikable. Awful. And yet, does she deserve what happens? Does she ask for it? Obviously the answer is no, but Kepnes forces us to at least admit Beck’s own culpability in her actions. She forces us to acknowledge that issues, behaviors, actions, are rarely black and white. That things can both be abhorrent and understandable. Or awful yet defendable.
As a woman, Joe represents everything I both hate and fear in society. How easily we can fall prey to someone’s attention, with nothing more than a simple smile. How society defends offenders and shames the victims. How we are still stuck in this back and forth pull over what women can and can’t do, should or shouldn’t be. There is something about how Joe reacts to the sexuality Beck exudes, which both defends feminism and slut shaming simultaneously. I am appalled at how they both behave on so many levels, and yet, every interaction forces me stop and think about my reactions.
“It’s going to be hard to break you, this hungry public part of you that wants to be noticed and observed.”
The thing I love about this book, is that Kepnes doesn’t offer any answers to the complex societal questions she raises. She doesn’t offer insight, or a path that leads to enlightenment. It is far more real than that. We get the worst of our society. The kind of people that give social media, technology, and humanity in general a bad name. These people exist. Their actions, their choices, their justifications, exist. As long as we are unwilling or unable to confront this reality in the face and have an open discussion about it, they will continue to exist. Which is why I love Joe.
Joe is everything I love in a character. He’s a deplorable human. But, truthfully, those are usually the ones I have the most fun reading. They teach us the most. About our reactions. Our thoughts. Our opinions. And Joe will force you to step back and examine all of that. This is an incredible book. From start to finish, it reads like an addicting compulsion that you can’t stop. I binge Joe. I want more. He’s the horrible entertainment I never knew I needed.
This was our May #awesomeAFbuddyreads book. I realize it’s been awhile, and I need to get better at reviewing our monthly books in a more timely fashion. However, our chats are all still posted, and we had some incredible talks as we made our way through this book. If you haven’t read YOU, and you are fond of devious characters with some seriously fucked up perspectives, you will devour YOU. I highly, highly recommend this book!
If you’ve read this, did you join in our chats??? What did you think of Joe???
Remember, we host a chat, every month, featuring a wide array of genres. This month, we’re reading Alice by Christina Henry. Stop by my Instagram @jenabrownwrites later today for the first chat, up to page 67. And then follow @bookncatsncoffee @hollyslittlebookreviews @jennsbookvibes to join in the rest of the chats, and to keep up every month. They share some fantastic books in between our chats, and you won’t regret giving them some hearts!
3 thoughts on “YOU”
I tried this book 2 years ago on audio and I couldn’t get through it. Made me really uncomfortable. At the time I was using public transportation daily and constantly surrounded by strangers trying to talk to me. Reading this made me check my every move I made around people for months. I tend to struggle with books with a lot of social commentary though. For me, it gets overbearing really quickly.
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I completely understand! It brought the same reaction in me. It makes you stop and think of so many tiny things and it gets super creepy, super fast.
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Totally understand why people find it compelling reading though!