Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all doing well. Today’s blog post is slightly different to my usual posts – I’m going to be comparing the book ‘YOU’ by Caroline Kepnes, to the Netflix TV adaptation of the same name. I read the book around a year and a half ago and absolutely loved it – you can find my full review here. I was also lucky enough to interview Caroline Kepnes – you can find that blog post here. THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS – you have been warned! Keep reading to discover my thoughts on the Netflix adaptation…
About The Book.
When aspiring writer Guinevere Beck strides into the bookstore where Joe works he is instantly smitten.
But there’s more to Joe than Beck realises and much more to Beck than her perfect facade. And the obsessive relationship quickly spirals into a whirlwind of deadly consequences …
Release Date: 18th June 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (UK)
Average Goodreads rating: 3.86
My rating: 4.5 stars
About The TV Series.
Obsessed with an aspiring writer, a charming bookstore manager goes to extreme measures to insert himself into her life.
Viewing Platform: Netflix
Release Date: December 26th, 2018
Starring: Penn Badgley, Elizabeth Lail, Shay Mitchell, John Stamos, Luca Padovan, Zach Cherry
Creators: Greg Berlanti and Sera Gamble
Book to TV Adaptation: A Comparison.
** CONTAINS SPOILERS **
I’m going to start off this discussion by stating that the book is very different to the TV adaptation. If you’ve read the book and you’re expecting the series to be as creepy, disturbing and R-rated on Netflix, you won’t find it here. Similarly, if you’ve watched the TV series and you’re expecting the book to be as toned-down and accessible as the show, you will be in for a great surprise. The book is full of swearing, sexual references and vulgar language; in order to be aired on television and to appeal to a wide audience, all of this needed to be toned down and altered for viewing purposes. The rest of this comparison is going to take this point in mind as much as possible.
As a lover of the book, I debated how on earth Kepnes/the creators of the Netflix series were going to pull this off. How were they going to make a character as repulsive and disturbing as Joe in the book? The answer is, they didn’t quite manage this – but that’s okay. Penn Badgley, in my opinion, captures the charming nature and allure of Joe’s character more than anything else – he thinks and does some unspeakable things, but you can’t help but warm to him. In that sense, Badgley was the perfect actor to play Joe. As for the other side of his character – the dark, dangerous predator – this wasn’t captured quite so well. Rather than portraying him as an outright villain, the series frames him as more of an anti-hero, who at times, you can’t help but root for.
Elizabeth Lail is a very good match for Beck’s character, in my opinion. She’s almost exactly how I imagined Beck to be whilst reading the book. She seems like a fairly average ‘girl-next-door’ on the surface, but if you dig deeper you discover that she has daddy issues, enjoys casual sex and regularly sees a psychiatrist, for example. All of these issues were very well portrayed in the TV series – I was surprised to see how many sexual scenes were included, and I appreciated this as they really captured that aspect of her character. Interestingly, the show takes on Beck’s point of view at times, in contrast to the book, and this really helps to flesh out her character.
The plot is pretty similar from the book to the TV adaptation. Most of the narrative was very true to the book. There are some timing changes, for example Beck finds Joe’s box of her private things much earlier in the book, but this is definitely to be expected. After all, they needed to be careful not to show the dark side of Joe’s character too soon, and instead they needed to gradually introduce his evilness, and this also makes for more gradual progression of his character. They also pay more attention to minor characters, such as Beck’s friends Lynn Lieser and Annika Attwater, and this made for more satisfying conclusions to their subplots within Joe’s story.
One aspect that I was more disappointed about was the ending. The end result, that Joe “accidentally” kills Beck, does indeed occur in the book – but in a very different way. The camera shies away from this scene and we don’t even get to see the violent act; it is instead implied by cutting to a funeral scene. I wasn’t hooked during the ending scene like I was during the book, and this is probably due to the lack of drama and action that occurred. The series didn’t have the climactic ending that the ramping tension deserved. But maybe this will be explored further in a second series.
Overall, for a book to TV series adaptation of this genre, this is a pretty good one and I’d recommend you give it a read/watch. I was weary about it before watching, but I’m happy to say that it exceeded my expectations. As I’ve stated previously, the book and the TV series are very different – but I understand that they have to be. The Netflix series has been a massive success, and Caroline Kepnes definitely deserves to be praised for her fantastic story.
Happy reading 🙂