You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes—A stalker romance thriller that's more than a bit jarring, but in a good way.
“Joe Goldberg is done with the cities. He’s done with the muck and the posers, done with Love. Now he’s saying hello to nature, to simple pleasures on a cozy island in the Pacific Northwest. For the first time in a long time, he can just breathe.
He gets a job at the local library—he does know a thing or two about books—and that’s where he meets her: Mary Kay DiMarco. Librarian. Joe won’t meddle, he will not obsess. He’ll win her the old-fashioned way . . . by providing a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand. Over time, they’ll both heal their wounds and begin their happily ever after in this sleepy town.
The trouble is . . . Mary Kay already has a life. She’s a mother. She’s a friend. She’s . . . busy.
True love can only triumph if both people are willing to make room for the real thing. Joe cleared his decks. He’s ready. And hopefully, with his encouragement and undying support, Mary Kay will do the right thing and make room for him.”
When his ex-girlfriend Love Quinn permanently bars Joe Goldberg from any involvement in their young son’s life, Quinn moves to Bainbridge Island, near Seattle, licking his wounds. Joe begins volunteering at the local library, where he quickly becomes obsessed with librarian Mary Kay DiMarco, mother of Nomi, a defiant teenager whose favorite book is Columbine.
Since this is the first Caroline Kepnes book I’ve read, I didn’t realize at the outset that You Love Me is the third novel in a series featuring Joe Goldberg or that there is a Netflix series based on the books. So, I was completely unaware of the character’s troubling backstory. On one level, that was great for me because, in the beginning, I assumed Joe was a “normal” lonely guy for whom I felt a good bit of sympathy given his forced estrangement from his son. But little by little, as the author teases out the fragments of Joe’s troubling past and personality disorder, it becomes clear that Goldberg is not only quite delusional but perhaps more than a little dangerous. This becomes more and more evident as his obsession with Mary Kay grows, and he begins stalking and manipulating her to fulfill his own delusional fantasies. Not to mention his frequent thoughts of committing murder.
Usually a fast reader, it took me several sittings to read this book. That wasn’t because I found it insufficiently engaging, but because this author’s rather unique writing style, at least as used with this book, demands substantial focus. You Love Me isn’t a light, engaging beach read you can skim through because you will miss too many of the more subtle nuances. I attribute that to the author’s method of putting the reader into Joe’s delusional mind by writing the novel in a second-person point of view. Thus, we become privy to virtually Joe’s every thought along with his habit of moderating many of his thoughts when responding to the other characters.
You Love Me is a twisty, creepy, suspenseful, and entertaining read that should satisfy the most demanding psychological thriller fan. Free from the bias that inevitably comes from reading the previous books in the series or acquaintance with the Netflix series, I feel the book holds its own as a standalone novel. For those reasons, I probably rate it a bit higher than others who have reviewed it. On some levels, I think the book is quite brilliant.
You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes was published by Random House and is now available. I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley used for this review, which represents my honest opinions.