Monday, July 17, 2017

A Change of Ocean... If Not of Murderously-Maladapted Mindset

Most of us, I suspect, find it a generally-acceptable bit of fun to be obsessed with something (or, oftentimes, with someone). 

With things, it’s easy to get sucked into, say, the quest for the primo Pinot Noir (for what, after all, is an oenophile, if not one who is obsessed with all things wine). Or, maybe it’s the search for the holy grail eyeliner (the one capable of creating that sexy cateye, but which never fades, smudges, or runs), or the precisely-fitting pair of jeans that make your backside look flat-out HOT (and price, by the way, be damned). The most badass motorcycle (complete with exhaust upgrades, custom paint job, and chrome accessories) that money can buy. Or finding a righteous Les Paul—preferably previously-owned by someone who reeks of cool—that feels like it’s just been waiting for you to come along and hold it in your arms.  

When it’s someone, it seems perfectly natural if the person you’re fascinated by is in the public eye—especially when it’s the sort of celebrity that the consensus of print, online, and televised gossip-mongers push on us non-stop. (The Kardashians, en masse [for reasons I will never, ever understand]. The British Royals [whom we, stateside, view as quite exotic and novel]. The latest barely-legal [or not even, in many instances] rail-thin fashion model, whose every sartorial choice must be dissected and treated with slavish regard. Etc.)

Rarely does the quest to find/obtain the perfect thing get us into any real trouble… short of going deeply into debt, taking up too much of our time, or—perish the thought—some sort of theft. 

Obsessions with people, on the other hand, can go all sorts of wrong… particularly when the someone in question is not famous by anyone’s definition, but is, instead, just a regular Jane/Joe. 

Such is the case in Caroline Kepnes’ You (briefly reviewed here), which follows a-not-really-“regular”-at-all Joe’s increasingly-crazed pursuit of his fantasy girl, Beck, to some very, very dark places. (Like, the darkest.) So, if you haven’t yet read You, that’ll be your first order of business, because Hidden Bodies is a continuation of that story… 

___________________________________

When fate provides bookstore employee Joe Goldberg the opportunity to leave all his bad memories of New York City (and the Northeastern seaboard) far behind and start anew by relocating to sunny Los Angeles, he wastes no time in taking fate up on her proposition.

After all… it’s not like any of his relationships in the Big Apple have ever really panned out (an understatement of epic proportions which you’ll get, if you recall what happened in You), or as though he has any other ties binding him. His most-recent girlfriend-cum-obsession, Amy, recently moved out to L.A.—after ditching him in a reaaaaaally unacceptable way (not that Joe’s the sort of chap to be down with rejection, anyway)—which makes giving up four seasons for palm trees that much more appealing. And, not to put too fine a point on it, Joe has become a very jittery guy, always looking over his shoulder for the (ehemliteral) bodies (yes, plural) hidden in his past. So yeah, a fresh start definitely seems like a stellar idea.

Of course, that’s pretty much what everyone who makes the move from wherever to LaLaLand starts out thinking…

Things do progress about as well as can be expected… when moving to a huge new place without knowing a soul or having any prospects. Joe finds a crappy (but semi-convenient) dive apartment in Hollywood, so at least there’s a roof over his head. He gets a job in a bookstore (no, the marching tide of electronic media still hasn’t completely wiped out brick-&-mortar purveyors of books on either coast… yet). He makes a few friends (well, okay… acquaintances would be more appropriate; this is L.A., you know, where true friendships are rare and not at all quick to blossom). He even happens upon his ex, Amy, not too long after arriving, which seems fortuitous, as they have--erm--unfinished business.

More importantly, though, Joe falls in love… in a way he’s never done before. Sure, his usual m.o. of obsession is there, but this time? There seems to be something more, which is a totally-new experience for him. And, miracle of miracles, it seems like Love (the given name of his affections, I kid you not—L.A., remember??) is pretty darn enamored of him, as well. 

He also manages—through his new lady love (erm, Love)—to get himself set on a potential new career path: screenwriting, with her crude, garrulous brother, Forty, as his writing partner.

Of course, this is Joe we’re talking about here, and a leopard can’t really change his spots (at least, not that easily)… meaning things are bound to go sideways FAST.

________________________________________

The fun in Hidden Bodies, as in the earlier You, is that Joe is such an unusual character. He’s the guy who—at least in literary (as opposed to in-the-flesh, all up-in-your-business) form—is impossible (for me, anyway) not to like and root for… all while feeling vaguely horrified at myself for succumbing to his appeal. He’s an anti-hero, to be sure… but one who feels and believes things so strongly, that I can’t help but kinda-sorta want him to come out on top …regardless of, you know… All. Those. Bodies. (however well-hidden).

For me, Hidden Bodies was even better than You (which I thoroughly enjoyed, so that’s truly saying something). The first book deftly laid the groundwork for Joe’s character—giving us glimpses into his past as well as providing plenty of new examples of how his unapologetically-psychotic mind works—and left me wanting to see what would happen next. 

Hidden Bodies obviously fulfills that craving, but it also doles out a lot of insightful observations on Life in L.A.—from the crazypants entertainment industry, to the woo-woo culture of rich artsy-fartsy types, to the bleakness of actually living in Hollywood (which is a world apart from those buzzing-with-paparazzi events and imagined glamour of any sort, really), to the sort of desperation so prevalent in a place utterly caught up in the quest for fame, to… well, the list goes on. (Suffice it to say that only someone who lives or has spent a fair amount of time—and not as a tourist clad in rose-colored sunglasses, mind you—in the City of Angels can make such observations.)

So, Hidden Bodies scores big on multiple levels with me, and, bottom line? Caroline Kepnes is now on my "must-list". :) 


~GlamKitty (who, yes, lives in L.A.)