Saturday, November 28, 2015
Joe is an unassuming guy you see working in a bookstore. He first sees you in the F-K aisle of the fiction section. You both have a slightly flirty conversation while you buy some books and then you leave. You are mostly likely dismissive of the incident, but he isn't. It sticks in his mind as he obsessively Googles every tiny fact he can find about you. He knows about your blog where you write stories about thinly veiled events in your life. He finds your apartment and watches you from across the street. You don't have curtains, so it's easy for him to wear different clothes and watch your most intimate actions for as long as he wants, unnoticed by you or your neighbors. You are also unaware that he has been in your apartment, hacked into your computer, stolen your underwear, and invaded your most personal space. You are now dating him after a few more very convenient meetings and you have no idea what he's done.
You is from the point of view of Joe, creepy misogynistic stalker. Of course he views himself as a completely normal guy. He realizes that people on the outside would see him as creepy and disturbed, but he dismisses it as a misunderstanding. If they knew him and his situation, they would think he was as normal as he did. The narrative creeps under your skin because he seems to have no idea how horrible he is. Everything is nonchalantly described: Joe watching his object of affection Beck in her most intimate moments dressed up in a suit across the street from her apartment; Joe following her every move when she's away from him; Joe kidnapping her current boyfriend, holding him in a cage, and sending offensive tweets so she will break up with him. While Joe idolizes and worships Beck, he's also quick to condemn her behavior if it's outside his imagining of her and act as if he has to educate her. Throughout his tale, women frequently do not figure well. He is always more knowledgeable and wise while they just need to be educated. None of the negative events in his life are ever his fault and this isn't the first time he has done this level of stalking, nor will it be the last. After a while of reading from his narrative, it's easy for his insane behavior to be normalized. When things start going well, I found myself rooting for him a little, at least until he did the next creepy thing or made a particularly offensive comment about women. I love books like this because you see right into the mind of someone who is horrible and you see how and why they justify doing the awful things they do.
The object of his affection is Beck, real name Genevieve. She isn't perfect. Actually, she's a bit of a mess. Her boyfriend is an annoying narcissist who treats her life garbage. Her best friend lies constantly and tries to separate Beck from everyone else in her life. It's a crazy random happenstance that so many horrible people are in her life. Adding Joe to the mix just pushes it over the edge. Seeing into her short stories, emails, blog entries, and text messages gave an honest view of who she was. She does things that everyone does, but hopes no one knows about: lies about what she's doing, lies to get what she wants, blows people off to spend time with other people, and talks about people behind their backs. It's a bit jarring to see so much about one person and makes me wonder what someone would think if they had that access to all of my things. I like that she isn't portrayed as perfect, no matter how much Joe wants her to be. She's just a normal girl with a whole lot of crazy people around her.
I had a few problems with the novel. It takes an extreme suspension of disbelief that Beck is some sort of crazy person magnet. She did have some fairly normal friends (who of course she always dismissed when seeking help), but the biggest figures in her life where the narcissistic boyfriend, obsessive Joe, and hypochondriac best friend. The other problem was that Joe's obsessive tendencies could have been pushed further for me. For much of the novel, he's just doing invasive things like snooping. He obviously has the capacity for more, but doesn't reach it very often. I expected the level of John Fowler's The Collector, but it fell quite a bit short. I hope the next book, Hidden Bodies, raises the creep factor to eleven. Overall You was enjoyable and well written, but a few things pushed believability and it could have been way more disturbing.
My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins