You: Netflix vs Book

Book Written by Caroline Kepnes  

Netflix series Starring Penn Badgley and Elizabeth Lail
Multiple directors.
*Lifetime series initially but was bought by Netflix

The Netflix series You starring Penn Badgley has taken Facebook and Instagram by force (pun intended) since its release in late December. Startlingly, many women have claimed on social media that they would consider themselves lucky to be stalked by Joe Goldberg (Badgley’s character); a murderer with a predilection for well-read women and masturbating in the bushes outside their apartment. Wow…… 

I had read the book by Caroline Kepnes before I watched the series, and I must admit that I’m rarely so gripped by a book on the first page. But this is what You encapsulates; an addiction that won’t quit until you reach some sort of a conclusion. It felt a little like a dirty secret while reading, as though being so engaged in the voyeuristic pages was akin to Joe’s need to know everything about Beck, the object of his desire. You was somewhat of an oxymoron as a book; highly referential of good literature, but leaving you wondering if you should be reading that instead? That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable and well written, because it absolutely was! It just felt a bit like Gossip Girl in comparison to Vanity Fair (Badgley reference also intended). 

The positives of the series are easy to identify; keeping the use of the book’s first-person perspective and therefore providing a psychological insight into the characters; the setting – a New York independent bookshop with a similar atmosphere to a university library, but without the overriding sense of fear and panic (unless you’re a prisoner in the cage of course); and the action line of the plot – which was similar to the book and therefore very engaging. I think the series could maybe have lost an episode or two, as at times my interest was starting to wane, but that could perhaps have been my own fault as I binge-watched them all in one day. 

In defense of the women on social media who are self-admittedly craving Joe Goldberg as a stalker, I felt that Badgley’s portrayal of him in the series was a bit more accessible than the books; they added a young boy character that Joe took under his wing, and therefore softening himself in our eyes despite the fact that he’s clearly a prolific stalker. I personally didn’t like this addition; yes, it made the character of Joe seem more human, and perhaps this was necessary if you hadn’t read the book first, but do we want to make him seem more human? I really don’t think so, as the directors and writers strongly established the neglectful childhood and abusive lessons that Joe learned as a teenager at the hands of his mentor, and therefore I believe that normalising him too much detracts from the impact of him being, well, frankly, very messed up with no proper schema for healthy relationships. And speaking of his mentor, there was definitely a bit of a Dexter-esque vibe to Youespecially in the series. Except that Joe is a little more self-servient than Dexter in that instead of turning his need to kill into a way of ridding Miami of murderers, Joe kills anyone in New York who threatens to get in the way of his and Becks relationship under the guise that it’s for her overall happiness.  

I’ll not provide any spoilers, but I have to admit that I hated the ending. Maybe I’m a purist when it comes to adaptations of book to screen, but I really didn’t like this addition. I felt it cheapened the storyline just to create a hook for the second series, which is unnecessary; as there’s actually a sequel to the book, so clearly already enough of a plot to carry a second series. If the writers turn the end sequence into a hallucination or dream, I’m going to……probably do nothing more than grumble very audibly about it to be honest. In my opinion taking that way out is the easiest loophole for any scriptwriter and this story, ANY story, deserves much better.  

In conclusion, You was a gripping watch, a better read, and it really satisfied the craving for pop drama that we all regularly get. I’d definitely recommend watching if you haven’t already, but perhaps consider reading the book first as in my opinion, there’s nothing more exciting than a book that you can’t wait to turn the page of, and then still having the series to gorge on to fill the gap that finishing it has left in your life!! Enjoy! 

*side note; while the second book in the series; Hidden Bodies isn’t maybe quite as strong as the first book, its still a really enjoyable read. I’m tempted to do a review of it before the release of the second series.   

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