Author: Caroline Kepnes
Publisher: Random House
American release date: April 25, 2023
Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Psychological Thriller/448 pages
Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★
Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes
Tiring of the bookshop in Florida, Joe Goldberg decides that instead of selling books, he is going to write them! To that end, he applies for and receives a fellowship to Harvard, so it’s off to Boston for Joe! How prestigious is that? The fellowship is being led by an actual well-known author, Glenn Shoddy, of Scabies for Breakfast fame. But that isn’t the best part. When Joe meets his fellow authors, of various backgrounds and various genres, his heart goes thump when he spies her, the girl of his dreams…Wonder Parish. Back in love, Joe does what Joe does best – he stalks the girl. To get to know her better, of course.
Wonder works at a Dunkin’ Donuts and loves Coolattas – she drinks them like they’re going out of style. She lives with her father, whom she buys scratchers for on a regular basis. She has a sister named Cherish, who has a little girl named Karidad. Wonder is working on a book called Faithful, and she is afraid to let anyone read it, but of course that has to happen – that’s the point of the fellowship. Not all the authors are as reticent as she is, and some have actually been published, and think they’re better than the rest. Joe, of course, sees through them. And that includes Glenn.
But Joe isn’t stupid, and he’ll do what he needs to do in order to be published, to be acknowledged as the great writer that he is. Even if it means toadying up to Glenn Shoddy, running errands for him, and even biking with him – ye gods! However, even Joe has his breaking point. When he meets Glenn’s wife Sly, who is also an author, having written an obscure and unsuccessful novel called Flour Girls, Joe learns some interesting truths. And knowledge, as they say is power.
But even with the fellowship under new leadership, bumpy roads lie ahead. True crime writer Mary Beth (rhymes with Death) is on to Joe. In a moment of weakness, he confesses all, which she captures on tape. So now she has proof of his dark deeds! So, what will she do with the information? And what will Joe do with Mary Beth? How can he protect Wonder from undeserved criticism, protect and boost her fragile ego, convince her she is a wonderful writer, and make her see that he is the greatest thing to ever come into her life, all while becoming published himself and staying out of prison? Joe has got his work cut out for him.
I think I enjoyed the fourth Joe Goldberg novel even more than the third. How bold of Joe to yearn to enter the spotlight, to reveal himself to the world at large, when he has left a trail of dead bodies a mile wide. Surely that is bound to catch up with him at some point? Or does he lead a truly charmed life? Joe is a delight, as always. I find his taste in women somewhat lacking, but at the same time, somewhat similar. I don’t believe I’ve liked any of them.
If you’re also watching the series, you’ll notice a great divergence, as the series has taken a left turn. I think I stopped watching after the second season because of that, and not wanting to confuse the books with the series. That being said, Penn Badgley is simply brilliant as Joe. I just wish they’d stuck to the books (I have the same complaint in regard to Lucifer and the Witcher series. At least the Witcher followed it for a while, but Lucifer never did. But I digress). Fantastic novel, looking forward to more. I have to believe that at some point, Joe will have to face the consequences of his actions. It will take more than a silver tongue and a strong sense of self-preservation to help him then.