TTP Review of YOU by Caroline Kepnes

Second person narrative is a fairly common technique for things like song lyrics, guide books, how-to books and role playing games. You (the most common pronoun in second person narrative) encounter it a whole lot less often in literary fiction. It isn’t unheard of, though. It’s also very definitely not my preference. In fact, I will typically not even bother with a novel if I know that’s how it’s written. Maybe that is shortsighted on my part. I won’t apologize for my taste in books. I will, however, very gladly give credit where credit is due.

A few months ago, a friend of mine sent me a link to a webpage. I don’t remember the details, but someone had compiled a list of ten must-read novels with descriptions of each. I don’t know if they were all psychological thrillers but that was a common theme. One of the Tana French books was on the list. I am a big fan of her work, as you’ll see if you read my Turn the Page reviews of Faithful Place or The Likeness. Tana being there immediately gave the other novels credibility, and that was the main reason I downloaded You by Caroline Kepnes.




As the title suggests, although I didn’t pick up on it at the time, You is written primarily in the second person. I must admit that I almost gave up on the book by the time I finished the first sentence. “You walk into the bookstore, and you keep your hand on the door to make sure it doesn’t slam.” The plot summary sounded really interesting, but second person narrative usually feels so…awkward.   I didn’t know if I could deal with it for the next 440+ pages. However, I could tell right away that the protagonist had some serious issues. I was curious to learn his story. Some other intangible kept me going too. The further I got, the more fascinated I became and the more I realized second person was the ideal voice for the story.

Joe is a bookseller. He’s likewise judgmental, obsessive, compulsive, manipulative, and he’s got some real anger management issues. It’s also possible he’s flat out crazy. He’s fallen in love before… and it didn’t end well. There’s absolutely no reason to think it will be any different this time around. Yes, Joe has a new sweetheart but she’s got a boyfriend, sort of, and a best friend with problems of her own. Of course, if you know Joe, you also know nothing and no one will prevent him from getting what he wants.

You is fascinating, compelling, and one of the most intriguing psychological thrillers I’ve read in quite some time. As I said, the second person POV Kepnes chose for this book is a bit off-putting at first, at least it was for me; but I very quickly got lost in the story. Before long, the flow of the narrative not only felt natural but absolutely perfect. Five stars for this novel. I’ll give another five to the author for winning me over.


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