What I'm Reading
The appeal of this psychological thriller is really quite straight forward. An aspiring writer is stalked by a bookshop owner. Sounds like a fantasy to me, but this story definitely is not. Dark and disturbing.
Throughout there are references to other great books, so the author is obviously a bookish sort, and this is bodes well for a bookshop owner. The protagonist is attracted to the young woman immediately and the appeal strengthens when he realises that she is not shallow and superficial, is well-read and educated. As she says to her friends of him: "Different. Hot."
He is very manipulative and crafts himself into the perfect boyfriend by hacking her phone and messages. Two things stand in his way - her pretentious boyfriend and an equally pretentious and neurotic narcissistic best friend.
Novels about stalkers are nothing new, but this approach, from the stalker's perspective, is an original and clever idea. "You" is the way he refers to the woman of his obsession as if he is always talking to her. He is never accountable for his actions (except the good ones) and believes that he is doing nothing wrong, and he explains this to "you". There is effective use of repetition and idiosyncrasies that remain consistent throughout the book, which are there as a reminder that we are listening to the thoughts of this disturbing character. The language and graphic sex scenes are coarse but not cliched; appropriate for a man in his position. But the strength of this approach is that we can see not only the thought processes behind his actions, but the charm, wit and genuinely human attributes making a psychopath rather quite likeable.
The pace drops a bit around the middle of the book, although the purpose is to draw a contrast between the object of his desires and a more conventional girlfriend. She doesn't read, likes popular comedy television shows, is good at and likes to cook and clean. The comparison girlfriend doesn't wear classy underwear either. This parallel between the stalker's attitudes towards this girlfriend and his dream woman's friends' pretentiousness, is a perfect example of one of the major themes in the book. He is just as snobby as they are.
This book in essence is about obsession. The two central characters deal with their obsessions in different but equally selfish ways. It would have enhanced the story if there was something more about the victim and her self-obsessed ways and it may have made the ending less predictable.
However, this is a great read. The author has an undoubted talent and as this was her debut novel, great things lay in store for her. You is of its time: very modern with the phrases and references to social media, but the concepts of obsession will always be current. Highly Recommended.
Published by Simon & Schuster UK on 25 September 2014.