09
May
19

“Whoever said running in the morning gives you energy never had a day job that involves customer service.” CBR11 Review 22.

Unknown-2You was a bizarre reading experience for me.

I had heard of the show on Netflix, and was sort of aware that it was based on a book. I think I knew that it was about a sociopathic stalker, but honestly, didn’t care to know any more than that. I didn’t think it was for me.

And then.

Well, I have this friend. She’s extraordinarily talented and has been getting some amazing jobs as a director recently. She’s been doing episodes of Queen Sugar, The Red Line, Station 19, How to Get Away with Murder, For the People, and the new LeBron James show on HBO. And then I heard she was also doing episodes of You season 2. Because she is amazing and unbelievably talented (SERIOUSLY, HAVE YOU SEEN QUEEN SUGAR? SO. GOOD. There is no show on TV that is more beautifully filmed.) and I want to support her in any way that I can, I decided to read You so I could get a feel for it before her episodes came out.

And, well, then I saw that Santino Fontana, aka, the first and best and only Greg Serrano, narrated the book on Audible, and downloading it seemed like a no-brainer. (I told my friend that Fontana was the narrator, which she didn’t know. Her response “WHAT? BEST GREG? HELL YEAH.”)

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Yikes.

You is unlike any other book I’ve ever come across. Sometimes so uncomfortable that I had to shut it off for a few minutes, and sometimes laugh out loud hilarious, but always horrific and upsetting, You is the story of Joe Goldberg and his unhealthy obsession with Guinevere Beck, a young woman who appears in Joe’s bookstore one day. From the very beginning, we know something isn’t right with Joe, and as the story goes on, we realize just how absolutely wrong things are.

But, the thing is, Joe isn’t the only horrible person in this story. EVERYONE is awful. Beck is a terrible person. Her friends – particularly Benjy and Peach – are the worst. Dr Nicky is a really irresponsibly selfish doctor and an awful person. And Mr. Mooney, Joe’s “supportive” mentor should be behind bars.

We get small glimpses into Joe’s past: abandoned by his mother, ignored by his father, abused by his father-figure. Joe cannot handle rejection and refuses to accept it by any means necessary. He looks back on the time that Mr. Mooney locked him in a cage in the basement of the bookstore fondly, thinking that Mr. Mooney did it out of love, trying to make a man out of him. CLEARLY something isn’t right.

But on the surface, Joe seems perfect. Handsome and charming, well-read and funny. He may not have an Ivy League education, but he’s as smart and eloquent as anyone around him. He’s a doting boyfriend who loves to listen and always knows just what to say. It certainly helps that he’s stolen Beck’s phone and reads all of her emails and texts, so he knows exactly what sort of response she’s looking for even before she says anything.

The book reminds me a lot of American Psycho. Shockingly appalling actions from an unapologetically deranged narrator mixed in with bizarre pop culture commentary, but this time its told in the second person. Which, to be frank, annoyed the crap out of me. But as much as this story upset me and horrified me, at times I couldn’t stop listening. And that is all thanks to Santino Fontana.

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I’ve listened to a lot of audiobooks. Some are good stories that are made better simply because of their narrator. And conversely, some are great stories but the narrator simply isn’t up to the task, and brings the story down. In this case, Santino “BEST GREG” Fontana delivers the single greatest narration I have ever heard. He makes Joe charismatic and funny and scary and disgusting. And he even made me pity Joe sometimes EVEN THOUGH JOE HAD LITERALLY MURDERED PEOPLE FOR MAKING HIM ANGRY. I cannot praise Best Greg’s performance here highly enough. He is intoxicating. My only complaint: Joe Goldberg does not have the opportunity to sing at any point. If you hire Santino Fontana, you get him to sing, dammit.

Bottom line: I don’t know if I liked this book or not. Joe is a living nightmare, and everyone around him is human garbage. But, Caroline Kepnes is witty and smart, and Santino Fontana is a god among narrators. I just downloaded book two (that I guess season 2 is based on?) and look forward – in an uneasy and upset way – to listening to more of Joe’s adventures, this time in Los Angeles, where I’m sure he’ll find some horrible people to spend time with.

 

 

 


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