Sunday, February 21, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

    Author Caroline Kepnes introduced readers to the comical and likable stalker Joe Goldberg in her debut novel, YOU. The book is told from Joe’s perspective and begins when he meets the love of his life, Beck, while working at a rare book store in New York City. Despite Joe’s unstable behavior and propensity to turn to murder in order to solve problems, it is difficult not to like him. And while it may say more about me than the book, YOU left me empathizing with Joe more than I probably should. 
     HIDDEN BODIES picks up where YOU left off. Joe has moved on, and the new love of his life is Amy. When he feels Amy betrays him, he follows here to Los Angeles, hurt turned to anger, in search of revenge. But despite some ups and downs in the beginning, he finds a new love in Love Quinn. He soon forgets about Amy and forges ahead with his new life and Love. Of course he can’t leave all his old habits behind, and kills a few people, but real growth can be seen in Joe, as demonstrated here as he worries about the murders of two women New York:
“I think the justice system should see where I am now, how far I’ve come, all the good I have to lose. They should stop prodding into my past. It’s so vengeful, so middle school, the way they want to boil my entire life down into these two dead girls.”
Author Caroline Kepnes
     HIDDEN BODIES is a solid follow-up to YOU. All of the best aspects are there, along with some genuine growth in the Joe Goldberg character. The story is also told in the first person, from Joe’s perspective, and provides dark humor in the ramblings and ups and downs of an obsessed madman; maybe a JD Salinger meets Carl Hiassen, am I right or am I right? (Sorry, HIDDEN BODIES inside jokes…)
     In addition to a good story, Kepnes seems to enjoy poking a little fun at the fine people of Los Angeles and their aspirations, which at first offend Joe before he realizes he has some of his own.
     Just as soon as you might think Joe has forgotten about his mission of finding Amy and seeking his revenge, she is delivered to him, fate, as it were. Will his new life, success, and realized dreams be enough to save her?
     A good measure of an author’s talent is how well readers can relate and empathize with characters, especially those that are bad, broken, evil. In both YOU and HIDDEN BODIES, Kepnes did that, and I often found myself torn between Joe and his victims, who are also presented as real people, lost and damaged, and wanting them both to live happily ever after. On second thought, what fun would that be?

Kepnes, Caroline. Hidden Bodies, Atria/Emily Bestler Books, February 23, 2016.  
ISBN-13 978-1476785622

An advance copy of Hidden Bodies was provided to The Thirty Year Itch via NetGalley. No compensation was provided for this review. 

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