Hidden Bodies (You #2) by Caroline Kepnes
Genre: Adult – Thriller.
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books.
Pub. Date: February 23, 2016.
Joe Goldberg is no stranger to hiding bodies. In the past ten years, this thirty-something has buried four of them, collateral damage in his quest for love. Now he’s heading west to Los Angeles, the city of second chances, determined to put his past behind him.
In Hollywood, Joe blends in effortlessly with the other young upstarts. He eats guac, works in a bookstore, and flirts with a journalist neighbor. But while others seem fixated on their own reflections, Joe can’t stop looking over his shoulder. The problem with hidden bodies is that they don’t always stay that way. They re-emerge, like dark thoughts, multiplying and threatening to destroy what Joe wants most: true love. And when he finds it in a darkened room in Soho House, he’s more desperate than ever to keep his secrets buried. He doesn’t want to hurt his new girlfriend—he wants to be with her forever. But if she ever finds out what he’s done, he may not have a choice…
Personal Enjoyment: ●●●●○
Writing Quality: ●●●●○
You by Caroline Kepnes made my Top 10 of 2015 list, but I wasn’t necessarily thrilled at the prospect of a sequel. The first book was an unforgettable experience, told from the perspective of Joe Goldberg, a seemingly average guy addressing his extended monologue to “You,” the girl he loves. The gimmick, while charming for the first 400 pages, didn’t seem the type of thing to carry over into a multiple-book series, and I was happy with the uneasy non-ending that You had provided. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I thought.
Regardless, I was disturbingly attached to Mr. Goldberg– stalker, murderer, bookseller, Nice Guy– and put in my pre-order after only momentary hesitation.
Thankfully, Caroline Kepnes did away with the “You” gimmick and adopted a more straightforward storytelling style. Her portrayal of Joe is magical (of the black magic variety.) Regardless of all the terrible things Joe did or said or thought, I still wanted him to come out on top. I would honestly shell out another 30 dollars for a 400 page scene of Joe Goldberg watching paint dry, I have that much faith in this author’s ability to capture my interest.
In a way that felt very Angeleno (to a non-Angeleno, of course), Kepnes wove in pop culture tidbits (real and imagined), to bring Joe Goldberg out of his pretentious New York intellectualism and into the fame-hungry bowels of Los Angeles. Still, I would be interested in seeing how this book holds up in ten years time, as pop culture is ever changing and some references felt slightly dated even on release day.
You kept me on the edge of my seat; because of its unique storytelling, so much of the action was focused on and addressed to “you,” to the point where you as a reader forget there is a narrator in the first place. Over and over again, I fell into that trap and would forget to wonder what Joe was doing that he was a witness to all of “your” actions. When I did find out where Joe had been or what he had been up to all that time, I immediately wished I could forget. That said, Hidden Bodies didn’t so much feel like a re-hashing of You as the anti-You. There were long periods of Joe on his own, struggling to acclimate to the Los Angeles way of life, followed by brief anticlimactic action scenes. It was like the book version of made-for-TV movie sequels set in another city where the whole plot is watching the various characters react to new things and shout their catch-phrases. You know. For the first 200 pages, I was just… bored.
The best part of the first half of the book was the introduction of Delilah– and those of you who have read the book are probably groaning. Hear me out: Delilah was fucking brilliant. Delilah is outspoken and uncontrollable. She is easy to write off, which is the mistake that Joe Goldberg made after fucking “don’t-fuck-Delilah.” But Delilah is also the only character who sees Joe’s behavior and recognizes it as abnormal. She gives us permission to step outside of Joe Goldberg’s egotistical narration and view him from an outside perspective. Fucking. Brilliant.
The remaining 250 or so pages of Hidden Bodies genuinely convinced me that Joe Goldberg (stalker, murderer, etc.) was worthy of love (*ahem* Love, as it were). I wanted him to be happy and successful, and I was nearly convinced that all of the bodies left in his wake could just be written off as unfortunate collateral damage. Every time he didn’t kill someone who got in his way, it felt like I was justified in wanting a happy ending. Look how much he’s grown! He didn’t kill any people in this chapter!
My only other quibble was that the relationship felt like insta-love or a Carly Rae Jepson song: “Hey I just met you, and this is crazy, but do you want to come on an extended vacation with me and my family even though you could be a murderer and totally are but hey I just met you so I don’t know that…” Cue catchy tune that gets stuck in your head for the next three years.
A month after finishing this book, my feelings can only be described as… conflicted. If you’re looking for more Joe Goldberg, I say definitely pick this one up. It’s got all his snark and every bad habit, as well as an ending that made me beg for more. But if you are looking for the intense and unique reading experience that was captured in You… you’ll be sorely disappointed.