Kate’s Review: “For You and Only You”

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Book: “For You and Only You” by Caroline Kepnes

Publishing Info: Atria Books/Emily Bestler Books, April 2023

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.

Where You Can Get This Book: WorldCat | Amazon | Indiebound

Book Description: Joe Goldberg is ready for a change. Instead of selling books, he’s writing them. And he’s off to a good start. Glenn Shoddy, an acclaimed literary author, recognizes Joe’s genius and invites him to join a tight-knit writing fellowship at Harvard. Finally, Joe will be in a place where talent matters more than pedigree, where intellect is the great equalizer and anything is possible–even happy endings. Or so he thinks, until he meets his already-published, already-distinguished peers, who all seem to be cut from the same privileged cloth.

Thankfully, Wonder enters the picture. They have so much in common. No college degrees, no pretensions, no stories from prep school or grad school. Just a love for literature. If only Wonder could commit herself to the writing life they could be those rare literary soulmates who never fall prey to their demons. There is so much they’re up against, but Joe has faith in Wonder. He will sacrifice his art for hers. And if he has to, he will kill her darlings for her.

With her trademark satirical, biting wit, Caroline Kepnes explores why vulnerable people bring out the worst in others as Joe sets out to make this small, elite world a fairer place. And if a little crimson runs in the streets of Cambridge who can blame him? Love doesn’t conquer all. Often, it needs a little push.

Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!

I am fully aware that I have been obsessed with Caroline Kepnes’s “You” Series since I read “You” and “Hidden Bodies” in 2016, to the point where all of the “You” audiobooks have become insomnia fighters for long nights of anxiety driven sleeplessness. Yes, I do indeed put in my ear buds and listen to Santino Fontana talk about super creep and obsessive psychopath Joe Goldberg as he stalks women and inserts himself into their lives while slowly destroying them. Apparently this is relaxing listening to me.

I am fully aware this probably means I’m deeply traumatized, it’s fine. (source)

So quite obviously I was waiting on pins and needles for the fourth book in the series, “For You And Only You”. And I was so, so lucky to get a copy from NetGalley, and there was much rejoicing. I had so many questions and theories about what was going to happen in this book, as when we left Joe in “You Love Me” he was about to be widowed and was running his own book bar in Florida, ready to fall in love again. So when I read that this one was going to take place in Boston? WHAT? But I fully trusted Kepnes to bring me there and to convince me, and what do you know? She did.

I think that what continues to impress me about Kepnes and her “You” books is that even though there is a very clear set of expectations of formula for each of these books, she still manages to make it feel fresh, interesting, and unpredictable. You can be certain of the following things in these books: Joe is going to be a loner, he’s going to start to obsess over a woman who is emotionally unavailable for whatever reason, and people in the way of his obsession are probably going to start dropping like flies at his hand (granted, in “You Love Me” he wasn’t the direct cause of the deaths in that book, he was just a domino effect). I was worried that this was going to feel repetitive by book four in the series, and yet I still was fully on board and I was still completely hooked by the story, the characters, the plot twists, and the overall twisted cynicism and dark humor of it all. These books probably aren’t for everyone, but I feel that Kepnes always knows how to pull the satire out of some pretty unnerving subject matter and themes, by finding the hypocritical undersides of supposedly enviable lives (be it being young and single in New York, to uber wealthy in L.A., to small town cozy on Bainbridge Island). This time the target is the hallowed halls of Harvard and the academic life of ever ambitious literary authors. I’ll admit that I WAS disappointed that we didn’t stick to Florida, as there were so many things that I feel like could have been SO satisfying with that as a backdrop (especially since 1) Joe’s old boss Mr. Mooney retired there and I love that horrible old man, and 2) Florida right now has so many issues I would have loved to see Joe just lose his mind there), but hey. I’m fine with lambasting elitist Harvard culture as it exists within Boston’s many backgrounds, and Kepnes really nails it. Joe clearly is desperate to fit in, as while he has always had a chip on his shoulder about those more privileged then himself, he thinks that the is just as good as them and needs them to acknowledge it. This time it’s because of a book he wrote that he thinks is genius, and he needs their validation. You just know that’s going to go poorly.

Joe is still Joe, and I will spare you all from going on and on about why he entertains the hell out of me once again, so let’s focus on our other characters. While the cast of characters don’t really outdo the assholery of previous characters (who could be worse that Peach Salinger? I’ve yet to see it), there are plenty of cutting bites at snooty authors and those who aspire to that. Part of the appeal of these books is that everyone sucks so when Joe starts going HAM on them it feels over the top enough that it’s not distasteful, and the nastiness of just about everyone is pretty well done here. I found Wonder, Joe’s love interest, to be especially grating, probably my least favorite of Joe’s love interests (yes, worse than Beck), but I did think that the due diligence is done to make her the way she is. But most everyone else was grating in a fun way so that you are really enjoying the ups and downs as Joe plots against them but is also annoyed by them. A major stand out for me was Sarah Beth, a fellow member of the fellowship who wrote a thriller novel before the workshop, whose interest in a true crime podcast about a body found on Bainbridge Island (oh Joe, did you REALLY think you could get away with all your bullshit? I love that we are starting to see some of these things start to catch up to him) puts a serious thorn in Joe’s side. She is weird and probing, and she also caught me by surprise a few times as she and Joe start a cat and mouse game between themselves while having to work together in their writing group. Perhaps it treads to farfetched territory at times, but I really found it fun.

“For You and Only You” continues Joe’s reign of terror through the lives of unsuspecting victims and the jerks that surround them. I hope that there are more Joe stories in store. I shall be adding this one to the middle of the night insomnia treatments, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Rating 9: Joe is back and I’m still fully on board. This series still catches me off guard and keeps me enthralled and engaged, and I’m still all about following Joe as he rips lives asunder all in the name of love.

Reader’s Advisory:

“For You and Only You” is included on the Goodreads list “Books Written By Scorpios Will Be The Death of Me” (it was too funny to pass up).

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