Release Date: August 24, 2010
Read it in: 1 day
The Hook:You're surprised at all the blood. He looks over at you, eyes wide, mouth dropping open, his face almost as white as his shirt. He's surprised, too...
Praise: "You is authentic, ambitious, and gripping. A serious book that reads like a suspense novel, the story it tells—of the ways in which we become imprisoned by our own choices, big and small—is both frightening and frighteningly real." ~Lauren Oliver, author of Before I Fall and Delirium
As a reader and a reviewer, one thing that I really try to do is step outside of the genres that I would typically choose-- even if I think I may not like them-- in the hopes that I might be pleasantly surprised.(Side note: I do this with new foods too- I once tried raw, ground horse when I was an exchange student in France. Not a fave.) Hence, while I love the gorgeous covers and female perspectives from many of the books I pick out, I also try to choose some titles that offer something a little different. By stepping outside my "box" every now and then I encounter a broader range of writing styles, characters, and points of view that I might otherwise miss out on...
Well, You was definitely one of those "different" books, and not the kind that I would typically jump to pull off the library shelf. But I did stumble across it and after reading some reviews, I wanted to give it a chance. I ended up spending about three and a half hours reading it from start to finish (it's a really quick read, and as I've said, I'm kind of a slow reader).
Unfortunately, this book was not really my cup of tea. But before I get into why I didn't like You, (You the book- not like, you personally, haha) I do have to give credit to the author for taking such a gutsy leap with his writing style. Benoit chose to write this book exclusively in second-person, which I think helps to bring the reader right into the story and put you quite literally in the main characters shoes. I can only assume that this use of second-person is the reason for the book's title-- Benoit wanted to put "You" in the place of Kyle, the story's protagonist. It's a risky style to use for an entire book, so I have to admire his daring.
The main problem I had with this book was that I just could not relate-- and ultimately sympathize with-- the main character Kyle. Maybe it's because I'm 26 years old, married and busily working at a job I love; but I just couldn't get myself to connect with an apathetic, woe-is-me, slacker-type teen whose goal seems to be to complain about everything and under-achieve as much as possible. Kyle doesn't do well in school, he refuses to get a part-time job, and his observations of the world around him were just so depressing it kind of put me in a bad mood. It's not that I don't "get" what it's like to be an awkward and angst-ridden teenager trying to fit in somewhere, but personally I liked high school and I had a job, so I just don't understand why Kyle was so... well, lazy. Also, while I did make some crappy decisions growing up, my world was not this dark and disturbing. I don't know; maybe I'm just lucky.
The other issue I had was with the character Zack-- I'm sorry, but is anyone really this calculating and sadistic? It just didn't seem realistic to me that anyone would spend this much time and energy trying to ruin people's lives just for the heck of it. Once again, maybe I'm just being naive-- but out of all the jerks from high school, I don't remember any of them being this bad.
Finally, I didn't like the ending to You, for two reasons. 1.) It was too obvious in trying to get you to understand an (equally obvious) moral about the impact of the decisions you make, which just seemed preachy, and 2.) it was too vague. Everything concluded so abruptly that I actually said "Huh?" under my breath and then turned back to the first page to make sure I hadn't missed something. (I hadn't.) I think that Benoit just tries a little too hard to make his message clear about the consequences of bad choices, and then leaves the story completely unresolved-- I guess this could be some kind of plot device, but I didn't really understand it. Plus, the "moral" came across to me as sort of insulting to the intelligence of the reader-- I didn't need to have it spelled out for me like that.
With all that being said, You did have some redeeming points. As I mentioned before, the use of second-person was a creative and daring way to interact with the reader. The writing style was gritty and hard-hitting. While I didn't really identify with Kyle, he did in some ways remind me of Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye, which is an awesome classic that in a similar way is a hit-or-miss kind of book for many readers.