You Love Me is Caroline Kepnes’s third instalment in the You universe, following You (book 1) and Hidden Bodies (book 2). Book 1 is all about RIP Beck, and book 2 follows Joe and Love (spoiler alert: it’s going to be RIP Love). Where the series outperformed book 1, this novel is absorbing, ending every chapter with a plot twist that turns this book into an absolute page-turner.
You Love Me follows Joe to Bainbridge — an island in the Pacific Northwest near Seattle. He starts working at a library and falls in love with Mary Kay DiMarco. We later learn that Joe was sent here by Love’s father after they bailed him out of jail and paid him off to stay away from Love and Forty (his son).
Ready to start over, he tries to seduce Mary Kay the old-fashioned way by being friendly, interested in reading and books, and connecting with her daughter, Naomi. Mary Kay plays along nicely, although she hides the fact that she’s married to Phil DiMarco, a well-known so-called rockstar. After finding out the Joe way (he did something with her phone, obviously), Joe does everything in his power to separate Mary Kay and her husband. Unfortunately, besides the fact that Mary Kay is doubtful she’ll ever really leave Phil, there’s also a best friend who messes things up — or there was.
This third instalment in the You series created a form of cognitive dissonance in me. I wanted to trust that Joe was ready to start a new life and that he was finally done killing, but Kepnes wouldn’t let me. Every chapter had a Kepnesian plot twist, introducing new characters, accidents, and little ‘errors’ that could give it all away.
Some of those are obvious for Joe’s life, like the number of people who die when Joe is near: Milanda kills herself after he kidnapped her because she tried to kill him, Phil kills himself after Mary Kay and Phill decide to get a divorce, and — MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT — Love kills herself after she tries to kill Joe by shooting him in the head.
There are also a few things left unanswered, which I consider pretty peculiar. First, there’s this moment where Phil refers to Joe as “Joe”, even though Joe ‘investigated’ Phil at his narcotics anonymous meetings using an alias. Then, there is this massive plot twist of Naomi, also referred to as the Meerkat, believing Joe was in love with her. Milenda tried to kill Joe over this as she believed he was lurking at Naomi — Joe was actually lurking at Mary Kay. Finally, there are a few moments that imply that Joe was already in love with Mary Kay before he arrived in Bainbridge, although I’m fully sure I read this correctly.
The settling-down version of Joe gives the reader Stockholm Syndrome, and all his previous sins are forgiven. He has to live without his son Forty — poor man — and the Love of his life (deliberately capitalised) betrayed him twice. He now falls in love with Mary Kay and wants to be the perfect stepfather to Naomi. All is well.
The book excels due to its reference to contemporary media (like TikTok and the way and amount Instagram is used) and the strong characters. All feel normal, creating a feeling of happenstance when Joe enters their lives.
If you’ve enjoyed watching the Netflix show You, you’ll definitely enjoy reading You Love Me. It’s a toned-down version of the first two books, but I feel this was a deliberate choice: Joe has grown up and is ready to settle down. That that doesn’t happen in the end is probably the reason why there’s a fourth instalment in the You series. Don’t look for similarities between the book and the series, as there aren’t any in this book, except that nearly everybody dies.