What am I reading: You by Caroline Kepnes

Damn, this book.

Let me back up: Netflix recently released a show based on this book. I hadn’t heard anything about the show until my friend Becky told me about it. Her exact words were “Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Watch ASAP.” Since we have similar taste in tv and she’s not normally this insistent, I was intrigued.

Seven hours later I was most of the way through the first season and a little bit obsessed with the show. It inspired so many feelings: disgust, intrigue, recognition, horror. It’s what a really good psychological thriller is supposed to do.

The man character is a man named Joe who manages a book store. The ‘You’ he refers to is a woman named Guinevere Beck, just Beck to her friends. It’s written from Joe’s perspective as a sort of love letter to Beck. The audience is privy to Joe’s inner monologue but he’s not addressing us. The story takes us through their initial meeting, first date, relationship challenges. It follows the same story arc as other romantic comedies, which Joe mentions numerous times. The difference is that Joe is using rom-coms to justify his utter disregard for acceptable boundaries. I won’t go into details because spoilers, but he does some insane shit. He’s also super hot so I can kind of see why some of the red flags are overlooked.

Holy shit, Penn Badgley. Sploosh.

I should also mention that I didn’t read this; I listened to the audiobook. Part of my plan for my smart year is to maximize my time, so I’ve been listening to books while I work and do other things. Multi-tasking! For the last year or so I’ve listened to podcasts while I work, so I’m used to listening to people talk while my focus is elsewhere. Music puts me to sleep, people talking makes me more productive apparently.

So the actor reading this audiobook is Santino Fontana. He played Greg on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and he’s fantastic and I was completely in love with him the minute the camera hit him. That show involves singing, dancing, comedy, the works, and he nailed it. Narrating this book and being Joe is a total departure from that role, since Greg is a generally decent person and Joe is… not. Fontana adds an extra level of sinister with the way he reads the book, and I love it. Highly recommend the audiobook.

That’s right handsome, I’m talking about you.

The biggest thing about Joe is that he doesn’t know how awful he is. He doesn’t know that he’s a misogynist or that the things he does aren’t ok. He really thinks that he’s a great guy and the ideal boyfriend, exactly the kind of man he thinks women should want. He’s been very careful to make himself into that person and wants everyone to think he’s that person. I’ve known so many men like this in my life that it hits close to home. It’s also relevant to what’s happening in the world right now, with #metoo and conversations about toxic masculinity and partner violence. He’s cold and calculating with a thin veneer of charming, and when he doesn’t get his way things go badly.

There’s a lot to unpack with the book and the show and I can’t do it justice without spoilers. The show stays pretty true to the source material, but they have taken a few liberties, not always for the better. If you enjoyed the show, check out the book. It’s better, meaning so much worse.

Note. or trigger warning, or whatever you’d prefer to call it: there are fairly graphic sex scenes in this book, along with extremely strong language and lots of cursing. The violence isn’t as graphic as the show’s, but it’s still present. If nudity, sex, violence and all of the swears aren’t something you’re into, this likely isn’t the book or show for you.

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