The pulpy, suspenseful Netflix thriller You is filled with so many surprise twists, and so many horrifying examples of social media abuse, you’ll be left wanting to delete your Instagram account and trust absolutely no one. According to the streaming service the series has been viewed over 40 million times since being released on Boxing Day, its popularity fuelled partly by ardent admirers of the handsome, psychopathic stalker who happens to be the lead character.
Based on Caroline Kepnes’ fantastically creepy novel, You stars Penn Badgley (Gossip Girl’s Dan Humphrey) as a literary bookstore manager, named Joe. When aspiring writer-cum-yoga teacher Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail) steps into his shop, he’s immediately infatuated (and does what any stalker would do – he Googles her). Joe obsessively finds out everything about Beck; where she lives, where she studied and who her friends are, before manipulating her into a relationship, which quickly spirals out of control with deadly consequences.
It’s a terrifyingly realistic account of deceit. But, as with most productions based on a novel, a couple of liberties were taken by producers Greg Berlanti and Sera Gamble - and they're bound to have a major impact on the forthcoming season 2. Here, then, are the major differences (warning: contains spoilers):
1. Paco doesn’t exist in the book
Nor does Paco’s mother, or her abusive and belittling boyfriend, Ron. In fact, the whole subplot with the neighbours is completely made up by the producers. Perhaps they were added to the TV series to show Joe’s caring, compassionate side? Joe’s relationship with Paco humanises him a little – we see Joe sharing both his food and his precious books.
Joe gives Paco an old copy of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (“It's about a guy who believes in chivalry so he decides to be an old school knight,” he says), The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. “The monster is really cool and scary, but also not really the monster,” Joe explains. Is this how Joe feels about himself? He knows his behaviour is monstrous, yet doesn’t quite see himself as a monster?
2. There are way more pop-culture references
Films, books, music – the novel is littered with them. From Stephen King to EE Cummings, Pitch Perfect to Natalie Portman (Joe thinks Beck has “big Portman eyes” and a “Portman smile”), Kepnes uses a lot of pop-culture references to describe how Joe feels and thinks, which is lost a little in the Netflix’s series.
The references to the film Hannah and Her Sisters (and how Joe’s identifies with Michael Caine’s character), Charlotte’s Web, Closer, Prince and Elton John all paint a picture of Joe being switched on and whip-smart, adding to Kepnes’ plot and further blurring the line between whether we’re supposed to like him (for his perceptive and knowledgeable brain) or utterly hate him.
3. Chana is replaced with Annika
Friends can be hugely influential when it comes to the people you date. After all, your friends know you better than anyone, right? In the series, Beck’s friendship group is made up of three girls; Peach, Lynn and Annika. In the book, however, Instagram influencer Annika doesn’t exist; instead, there’s a similar character called Chana.
Kepnes’s book portrays Peach as separate from Beck’s other friends – almost as if she’s above them. Even the name ‘Peach’ suggests perfection – peaches, at first, are ripe and succulent, but if they become spoiled they can make you poorly. Beck is shown as having two distinct friendship groups – one with just her and Peach, and another with Chana and Lynn.
4. Mr Mooney doesn’t appear only in flashbacks
Netflix’s portrayal in flashback of the cruel Mr Mooney, who bullies and locks Joe in the cage whenever he fancies, was so heartbreakingly icy that I had to put on a jumper and make myself a cup of tea; but the character is a caricature compared with the Mr Mooney of the book. In the novel, he has much more of a salient presence, and we’re not taught to fear him. He clearly has an important role in shaping who Joe is – and who he becomes. And as Joe doesn’t have parents, it’s Mr Mooney’s job to teach him right from wrong.
5. Beck doesn’t keep her psychiatrist a secret
In fact the whole narrative around Dr Nicky and when the events incorporating him take place are a little jumbled. Beck is open about seeing a therapist in Kepnes’s book, and brings him up way before she and Joe are even really a "thing" Dr Nicky isn’t technically a ‘Dr’ either, as he doesn’t have a PhD, and even asks Beck to “stop calling me Dr Nicky”. At the end of the Netflix series, Dr Nicky is framed for the murder of Beck (according to the details in her biography she wrote while locked up in the cage), but we only find out that Beck’s therapist is pinned for her murder in You’s sequel Hidden Bodies.
6. Joe never actually meets Beck at the Dickens festival
He just watches from afar. It’s kind of mad Beck never actually spots Joe – when he’s literally just behind her. It makes Kepnes’ Joe appear like more of a stealthy stalker than the Joe in the TV series (who sometimes comes across as clumsy). At least, because Joe isn’t caught at the Dickens festival by Beck, we skip out on that whole weird family dinner which happens on screen.
7. Peach still tries things on with Beck
There is no getting around the weirdness of Peach trying it on with Beck. Kepnes is an incredibly descriptive writer, and we read – in perhaps too much detail – how Peach makes a move on Beck. But, unlike the TV series, they’re alone. Beck still rejects her though.
8. The showdown with Peach doesn’t happen
Joe kills her at the beach instead. No dramatic gun scene, just him hitting her over the head when she goes for a run along the sand. He still manages to make it look like a suicide though and drafts a suicide note to Beck from Peach’s email.
9. Candace is already dead
Season one ends on a cliffhanger when Joe’s ex-girlfriend Candace turns up at the bookstore. “I think we have some unfinished business to talk about,” she says, before the screen fades to black. It was a clever way to leave viewers wanting more and speculating what might happen in season two – especially as we were led to believe that she’s already dead. Her fate predicting Beck’s, perhaps?
In the book though, Joe kills Candace after she breaks up with him on Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. Kepnes writes, “It wasn't my fault that Candace followed me down to the water's edge and it wasn't my fault that I picked her up and held her down in the water and watched her pass on to the great beyond.” Leaving no doubt in the reader's mind about her fate.
What this could mean for season 2
Following the first series's dramatic ending, it seems pretty clear that Candace will be featuring in the second season. But, with the next series relocating to California – to coincide with Kepnes’ second book Hidden Bodies where Joe heads to LA to start over – it’s possible Candace may not follow him there. The book You ends with Joe meeting a different character entirely, a girl named Amy Adam. And we get this horrible feeling that he’s about to become just as fixated on Amy as he was with Beck.
Perhaps we’ll meet Amy Adam in the second series? So far it seems the season 2 female lead will be a character named Love Quinn, played by Haunting of Hill House star Victoria Pedretti. In the book, Quinn is an aspiring actress from a wealthy family but in the TV show she'll become "an aspiring chef working as a produce manager in a high-end grocery store".
There are many unsolved questions, too, and not all are answered by Hidden Bodies. Will any of the other characters return (given the high death count)? And how will the Paco subplot continue? Does Ethan really have no idea what’s going on in the basement of Mr Mooney’s bookshop? And will the reasons behind Joe’s stalker behaviour be explained? What about Dr Nicky? Will he go down for Beck’s murder? And will Joe’s DNA evidence left in Peach’s house come back to haunt him?