Adult Fiction Books contemporary Crime fiction mystery suspense thriller

Caroline Kepnes’ “Hidden Bodies” reveals another dark layer of the human psyche

Joe Goldberg returns in Caroline Kepnes second novel Hidden Bodies, the sequel to You, which is now a hit series on Netflix. Only this time Joe is dealing with the aftermath of killing Beck and the three others that got in his way in his quest for real love. This time he wants a do-over. He wants it to go right this time and he thinks he’s learned from his mistakes. But has he?

Continuing the tone from You, Kepnes brings us another highly addictive story that leaves us on the edge of our seat. But by now we know what Joe is like and we know all about his narcissistic tendencies, so we’re already fearing for the poor souls that are certain to cross his path. We’re almost fearful starting this second book, because we know what he is capable of. But this novel does not end the way it’s expected to.

In the compulsively readable sequel to her widely acclaimed debut novel, You, Caroline Kepnes weaves a tale that Booklist calls “the love child of Holden Caulfield and Patrick Bateman.”

Joe Goldberg is no stranger to hiding bodies. In the past ten years, this thirty-something has buried four of them, collateral damage in his quest for love. Now he’s heading west to Los Angeles, the city of second chances, determined to put his past behind him.

In Hollywood, Joe blends in effortlessly with the other young upstarts. He eats guac, works in a bookstore, and flirts with a journalist neighbor. But while others seem fixated on their own reflections, Joe can’t stop looking over his shoulder. The problem with hidden bodies is that they don’t always stay that way. They re-emerge, like dark thoughts, multiplying and threatening to destroy what Joe wants most: true love. And when he finds it in a darkened room in Soho House, he’s more desperate than ever to keep his secrets buried. He doesn’t want to hurt his new girlfriend—he wants to be with her forever. But if she ever finds out what he’s done, he may not have a choice…

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I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed it’s predecessor. It still had the same tone, and the same Joe, but it felt… different. I still liked it, just not with the same ferocity as I did with You. In Hidden Bodies, Joe reminded me more and more of Ted Bundy with some of his characteristics. The way he was loveable, charming, and incredibly sweet on the outside – the most unsuspecting serial killer.

In You, he captured and killed people, but he did it for what he thought was the good of humanity. And he always gave them – what he thought – was the chance to redeem themselves and learn from their wrongdoing and their mistakes. Had they done that he would have let them go and given them a second chance. But this time in Hidden Bodies, he seems to just take out people who cause problems for him and people who know or find out too much. In being so casual and careless with these killings, we lost a part of the essence that made Joe, Joe. It was also nothing like the second series on Netflix, which irritated me.

Saying that, it is another clever and powerful book with another poignant message. This time around Joe is surrounded by other people who do terrible things: people who hurt others, take drugs, take advantage of others, lie, and even (possibly) hurt animals.

In this way, he becomes convinced that what he does is OK, that his actions are acceptable because he is doing them for what he believes are noble causes and honourable reasons. And when he meets Love, the girl he decides he wants to spend the rest of his life with, who manages to forgive him for all his wrongdoings – as she seems to do with everyone in her life – it only cements this idea further.

The thing about Joe is that he really believes that everything he has done, every move that he’s made, he’s done for love. It’s sad, but it’s also incredibly twisted. This warped view of what love is and what love entails. It’s the most important thing to him. It outshines everything else in his life.

“The real horror of my life is not that I’ve killed some terrible people. The real horror is that the people I’ve loved didn’t love me back.”
― Caroline Kepnes, Hidden Bodies

In You, Kepnes used Joe to portray the terrifying warning in social media and how it leaves us incredibly vulnerable to stalking, as well as how today’s society has cemented completely wrong ideals about romantic relationships, and therefore increases the possibility of danger and abuse that people face.

With Hidden Bodies, Kepnes adds to this to reveal another dark layer of the human psyche. This time, she uses Joe (as well as Love and Forty and Delilah) to tells us of the warnings of accepting people’s wrongdoing.

The message this time, is this: Human reason can excuse any evil which is done in the name of love and righteousness.

People can justify the things the do wrong by saying the were doing it for love, or because they thought it was for the better good. However, that does not stop it from being wrong, and we do not need to accept someone’s toxic decisions just because they believe they are doing it for the right reasons. This is the way real life tyrannists have managed to get people on their side. We do not need to accept that.

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