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You by Caroline Kepnes

Caroline Kepnes book is about someone chasing someone who is chasing someone else.

The narrative perspective is interesting. Instead of following the person who is a victim of a crime, the reader gets to follow the one who commits them. Joe seems to be an ordinary young man who works in a bookstore, who likes Hannah and Her Sisters and are tired of Stephen King. He is rather intelligent. But he has no limits when it comes to getting what he wants, and what he wants is "you". The book is written in a second person perspective and "you" refers to a woman named Beck, who happens to walk into the bookstore and fascinate Joe. The book deals with thoughts, feelings and actions, which all have to do with "you". This perspective is less usual than first- or third person perspective and it takes a while to get used to, but you are drawn into the book and become Joe and Beck at the same time.

The language is vulgar occasionally, and initially it is unclear whether the relationship is about love or just physical attraction. Joe tries to respect and listen to what Beck says, but he always expects to get a physical reward, and sex seems to be the only thing on his mind. Perhaps the author tries to adapt the language of a young man's thoughts, but Joe is like a hormone fueled fifteen year old.

Joe has unreasonable expectations when it comes to Beck. He does not like botox and bronze powder. "You will accept your age and you will be beautiful, unlike Ronnie". It is the common notion that women should not try so much, but still be beautiful. Furthermore, there is a obsolete generalization of women throughout the book, which feels out-dated. It's not just Joe that is a sexist and generalizes women. There seems to be a general contempt for women. Beck is equally negative to women, and eager to distance herself from them. Perhaps it is such a woman that a man like Joe wants. The expression to be like a chick appears several times. Shopping like a chick, whining like a chick and gossiping like a chick. The misogynistic tone makes the boundless, hyper sexual Beck rise above the crowd of impossible women and appear desirable. Most women in the book actually seem to despise other women. A woman customer exclaims that she is not one of ”those girls” who buy Bukowski to be ”a girl who buys Bukowski”. What does it mean? Is it so unbelievable that a woman would want to read Bukowski that she has to justify reading it? Of course, Joe likes this comment. I don’t know what the purpose is, but it’s not very appealing.

It’s interesting that women are portrayed as irrational, while Joe makes no attempt to see his own irrational behavior. There are some contradictions. He attacks a woman, not to mention murdering people, but "would never hit a woman." What he does not like in others, often mirrors his own behavior. He thinks badly of a man who responds to Beck’s obvious emotional crisis by exploiting the situation, when he, in fact, does the same. He has no self-esteem and self-awareness, and no understanding of reality. It is rather normal to justify one’s behavior, but Joe complains constantly, despite the fact that he puts himself in the situation. Irresponsibility and lack of insight are warning signs. His selective empathy, and other psychopathic characteristics, are dangerous. Eventually, there is no limit for what he is capable of.

Facebook and twitter are a large part of Beck’s and her friends’ lives. Joe thinks Beck writes better on Twitter than in her short stories. The book portrays the constant updates as evidence of narcissism. I think it reflects today’s society, and might be good for some people, and an addiction of acknowledgement for others. The author makes it a big theme in the book, and shows the importance people give it. Joe believes that we dive into our mobile phones when we feel insecure and that too much time with it makes us less capable of reading facial expressions. Joe is a character who exaggerates whenever it fits him, but it's still an interesting approach.

The author has humour. Joe thinks that books with psychopaths, for example Stephen King's novels, are for sick readers that don’t dare to act on their thoughts. That would mean that Joe would think readers of this book to be sick, because this is such a book. At the same time, he would never realize that he is a psychopat, or something similar, and therefore wouldn’t regard this book as such a book with sick characters, but perhaps a book with a mistunderstood character. Joe sees himself as healthy, and whatever happens, he never doubt that. He thinks it obvious that it is the world that is wrong. He has a contempt for other people and turns everything to his advantage. It’s interesting to see how a really sick man reasons. Perhaps it's a survival instinct, a strategy to avoid facing himself. There is self-loathing in there, somewhere. The author digs deep into his mind and portrays different levels of thoughts.

The book is appealing, there is no doubt about it. I think that what makes the book interesting is that the reader gets close to the nightmare she has learned to fear, but is safe at the same time. In real life, it is impossible to decide who is dangerous, in advance. Usually, Joe behaves like a normal man, but his thoughts are in a dark place. It is not until he puts his thoughts into action that the public around him regard him as a psychopath, but the reader gets an exclusive insight into his psyche, and the author skillfully depicts his impression of the surroundings while he handles the surroundings impression of him.

The author uses the element of surprise in an intelligent way. Terrifying actions are uttered quite modestly in the middle of a sentence, like when Joe protests when hearing about a burglary, because he knows how it was done. It is obvious to him that he has broken into the house. He doesn’t event think about it before commenting on it.

The book differs from most books with its perspective of a murderer and the second person narrative, but it is not unique in any way. What makes it interesting is the themes such as the deep insight and levels of the train of thoughts of a sick man and the critical view of social media.

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