Lifetime has produced an adaptation of a novel I’ve happened to read – it is also available on Netflix! I did think it was a Netflix adaptation (it says Netflix original on the thumbnail!) at first and thought maybe they were stalking me and the books I’ve read, but, moving on…
This one is a series sharing the title of the novel that it’s adapted from: You. Please keep in mind, there will be spoilers in this article so if you haven’t watched the show or read the book, go ahead and bookmark this review for later!
You was written by Caroline Kepnes in 2014 and the novel highlights the obsession a man named Joe has for a girl named Beck (boy meets girl and all that.) He stalks her social media pages, steals her phone, kills her on-and-off-again lover, and best friend, Peach. Put it simply, Joe invisibly takes over Beck’s life and he arranges things so that she is forced into his waiting arms. Also, while looking for links, I found out that Kepnes actually wrote a sequel to You, called Hidden Bodies. I can only assume that the second season of Netflix’s You will be based on the plot line from this novel. I haven’t read the sequel but I’ll be adding it to my reading list, Kepnes is a masterful storyteller and her insight into how people can start to obsess and twist another person’s actions to fit their narrative.
The show of the same name is very similar to the book. Developed by Greg Berlanti and Sera Gamble, while starring Penn Badgley, Elizabeth Lail, Luca Padovan, Zach Cherry, and Shay Mitchell; the show follows the same plot.
Both stories end up with Beck not living up to Joe’s idolization, not to mention she figures out he’s a creep, and he locks her up in the bookstore’s basement book vault. Poor Beck doesn’t survive this experience and Joe gets to move on, knowing he will one day find his true love. /shudders/
One key aspect that is very interesting is that both are shown from Joe’s perspective – though the show does introduce some insight into Beck’s inner thoughts halfway through. He has this crazy, skewed idea of what Beck’s actions mean. She doesn’t mention him on social media? It’s because she doesn’t want to share him, she just likes him that much. It’s an interesting perspective into the mind of a messed psychopath that is so effective you almost feel like rooting for him and also feel like crawling out of your own skin (before he can get it.)
Minor differences include the insertion of poor little Paco, his mom and her abusive boyfriend, there’s no Raj in the book (the guy Peach tries to get Beck to sleep with,) and there’s no subplot with the creepy publisher either.
A major difference also involves Peach’s death. In the book, there is no showdown between Peach and Joe at her estate. I thought the book’s events surrounding her death to be more plausible, Joe kills Peach by hitting her over the head with a rock and then fills her pockets with rocks and attempts to fake her suicide that way.
Peach’s obsession with Beck manifests slightly different in the show: there’s no attempted threesome. Instead, Peach and Beck are trying on some clothes together and Peach shoots her shot, only to have Beck shoot her down. Also – ALSO – that picture Joe finds of Beck in a bathing suit? In the novel, Peach keeps it in her room and it’s sticky. Goddamn it, Kepnes.
Another big thing is that, in the show, Beck catches Joe in the act. This leads them to their break-up and all that fun stuff, while in the novel, she’s completely oblivious the whole time. Another major plot point in the show, Joe’s relationship with his neighbours, doesn’t happen but he does date a girl name Karen Minty in the book. He meets her on public transportation (great way to meet hot and single girls in your local area!)
The ending? Also, completely different – though I did really like the Netflix’s spin on it. In the show, Beck tries to cozy up to Joe by writing a twist on what happened and pinning everything on her therapist. The book? Joe gives Beck The Da Vinci Code to read. There also happens to be ice-cream covered sex but moving on. Beck manages to escape because she pretends to stop breathing as Joe strangles her. She manages to get to the roof of the bookstore and that is where he kills her. Candace also doesn’t have a comeback, in the novel she’s dead as dirt, so it’s a new girl who strolls into Joe’s radar, implying that she’ll be the object of his next fascination.
Is one version better than the other? It’s hard to say, I really think that Netflix did a good job maintain the creep factor and staying true to Kepnes’ original plot. I will say that Kepnes’ writing was truly vivid and, at times, horrific. Also, I understand why they added Paco and the neighbours in. It added an extra layer to the show, enabling Netflix to hit that sweet ten-episode length. It also seemed like it was added to make Joe a little more “human” because he’s nice to Paco – or it could have been Netflix’s way of setting up a future Joe, like how Mr. Mooney groomed Joe into the monster he was? Like maybe Paco might appear later in the series and be as messed up as Joe is, and Joe becomes his mentor? He has already told Paco how to murder and hide a body effectively – is that to set the stage for what Paco will become, or is he out of the picture entirely now? It’s hard to say. If you have an opinion any which way, let me know in the comments – I’m curious to know your thoughts!
Crushing On Joe: What The Heck?
I’m on Twitter (want to follow me? Of course you do, click here!) and it seems like there are a lot of people saying how amazing and sexy and charming they find Joe (played by Penn Badgley,) which is bizarre to say the least (Millie Bobby Brown, nooo!) I get why some people might root for Joe: some people like to see the world burn, some people see this cute guy give some abused, starving kid a meatball sandwich and decide that makes him a nice guy; but it doesn’t. Charisma, charm, and acts of kindness do not a good guy make.
Beck explains it best in the final episodes of You when she tells Joe that (paraphrasing here) “though I may be a cheater and I may have lied, at least I’m not a pyscho.” And it’s true. It’s hard to feel bad for Beck, she seems to intentionally ignore the machinations of others, she lies, she cheats, she’s not the best partner – but it doesn’t mean she deserves to be locked up and then murdered!
Fact: Badgley plays Joe very well. He is a great actor. The character Joe seems to really love Beck… until he doesn’t. He truly believes what he’s doing is for the best – for him, for her – then blames her when it’s not what he imagined. He’s the quintessential psycho living in his own fantasy world, driven by his own obsession and control issues. He’s someone who can trick you into feeling bad for him, for rooting for him, but he’s not a good guy! Like jeez, guys, stop already!
Even Badgley is creeped out that you all are loving on his creep self!
Overall score? I would give the novel an 9/10 and the film an 8/10. I really, truly enjoyed both and can’t wait for the sequel!
What did you think of the novel and the film? Let me know in the comments below!
x P.L. McMillan