11 Books About Stalkers and Obsessives for Fans of “You”
Netflix is making a second season of the psychological thriller series, but until then, read these
Netflix’s You premiered in early December and, three months later, it continues to inspire a whole generation of single millennials to set ALL their social media to private. Based on Caroline Kepnes’s eponymous novel, You thrusts viewers into the mind of Joe Goldberg, a mysterious bookstore manager who falls quickly in love, and from there into dangerous obsession with NYU grad student Guinevere Beck (who everyone just calls Beck). From Beck’s daily schedule to her circle of friends, Joe leaves no corner of her life untouched in a twisted quest to become her one and only. To the delight of You fans everywhere, the series has been greenlit for a second season with spoilers already dropping. But until then, here are eleven books that will satisfy your fix for stalker plots.
You All Grow Up and Leave Me by Piper Weiss
In 1993, Gary Wilensky, a once-beloved tennis coach, attempted and failed to kidnap a former student, 17-year-old Jennifer Rhodes. Rather than be arrested by encroaching police, he shot himself. In the wake of his suicide, Piper Weiss, one of Wilensky’s tennis pupils, thumbed through police reports, articles, interviews, even Wilensky’s own words, to find answers. Who was Gary Wilensky? How deep was his obsession with his young female students? And most importantly, how was it possible that she could mourn such a deplorable figure? The result of meticulous research and self-exploration, Weiss’s You All Grow Up and Leave Me explores the complex, Stockholm Syndrome-like relationship that can form between a charming but disturbed mentor and a young charge navigating through the insecurities of adolescence.
Looker by Laura Sims
Dejected by her failed attempts to get pregnant and her impending divorce, an English professor begins spying on her next door neighbors: a glamorous actress, her screenwriter husband, and their three beautiful children. Projecting the happy ending that eluded her on the also unnamed strangers, the narrator’s choices become progressively more erratic — stealing her neighbor’s possessions and beginning an affair with one of her students. Looker blurs the lines of reality, encouraging readers to question the narrator’s reliability as she chronicles her protagonist’s descent to self-destruction.
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
Eileen is stuck. Still living at home in “X-ville,” Massachusetts, Eileen dreams of a buzzing life in New York City. However, as the sole caretaker of her abusive, alcoholic father, she is seemingly destined to remain…stuck. This changes when the beautiful Rebecca begins as an educational specialist at Moorehead, the all-male juvenile detention where Eileen works. Instantly infatuated with her new co-worker, Eileen’s fascination becomes the catalyst to both the novel’s bloody conclusion and freedom from her small-town life.
My Education by Susan Choi
At the center of Susan Choi’s coming-of-age story is a salacious affair between Regina Gottlieb, a newly-matriculated grad student, and Martha Bordeur, her professor’s wife. Anxious as she begins graduate studies, Regina finds validation as a TA for the charismatic but disreputable Professor Nicholas Bordeur. Although initially attracted to her mentor, she falls hopelessly in love with his wife and the two begin a sexual relationship. As the courtship deepens, Regina’s devotion approaches obsession, all things — school, friends, health — coming second to Martha.
Eastman Was Here by Alex Gilvarry
Once a Pulitzer Prize finalist, Alan Eastman is now a washed-up wartime reporter awaiting his second divorce. Desperate to restore his marriage and reclaim the fame he enjoyed 20 years earlier, Alan departs for Saigon having agreed to cover the final days of the Vietnam War. Equipped with a narcissistic protagonist, a strong female counterpart, and witty dialogue between the two, Alex Gilvarry’s Eastman Was Here shows how far — literally — someone is willing to go for both personal and professional relevance.
Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens
Eleven years ago, Lindsey Nash grabbed her infant daughter Sophie and ran. Drunk and angry, Lindsey’s abusive husband Andrew followed her, causing a car accident that killed an innocent woman. Lindsey successfully escaped, starting a new life with Sophie in Dogwood Bay, British Colombia while Andrew began serving a decade-long sentence. Now Andrew is back, seemingly changed, and eager to reconnect with his daughter. Lindsey is skeptical and, as strange things start happening, fears her ex will stop at nothing to reclaim what he lost all those years ago. Complete with flashbacks and a surprise twist, Never Let You Go will change the way you look at obsession narratives.
Oola by Brittany Newell
In Brittany Newell’s debut novel, Leif, a 25-year-old writer living lavishly as the house-sitter for his parents’ wealthy friends, and Oola, a 21-year-old free-spirited artist, begin a whirlwind romance after their paths cross at a London rave. As their relationship intensifies, Leif attempts to pen a novel about his new muse. However, his endearing project becomes a disturbing fascination when Leif takes the term “creeping” to a new level, studying Oola as she showers, collecting her hair and nail clippings, and tallying the number of men who ogle her.
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Rachel Watson is a divorced alcoholic who becomes obsessed with a couple whose home she passes during her daily commute. Heartbroken over her failed marriage, Rachel becomes obsessed with the happily married strangers, both of them representations of her deepest desires…until one of them goes missing. In a debut full of twists and more interconnected subplots than a soap opera, Paula Hawkins uses what is initially a delusional, unreliable protagonist to expose a web of infidelity, abuse, and murder.
Coldwater Canyon by Anne-Marie Kinney
In Anne Marie Kinney’s Coldwater Canyon, Shep is a Desert Storm veteran who lives haunted by memories of combat. He meets a young actress, Lila, and, crippled by the loneliness of civilian life, becomes convinced she is the daughter that he conceived before the war. A victim of his own delusions, Shep follows an unknowing Lila to Los Angeles, desperate for cure to his isolation.
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
John Shade, recently deceased, was a professor at Wordsmith College. Charles Kinbote is Shade’s colleague who, in an act of admiration, writes commentaries to the latter’s final work, a 999-line poem. A lot of things become clear about Kinbote over the course of his accidentally revealing footnotes (Nabokov is often praised for creating the ultimate unreliable narrator in Humbert Humbert, but Charles Kinbote leaves him in the dust). One of the revelations: Kinbote’s fixation on Shade goes well beyond the bounds of normal professional admiration.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
The inspiration for one of Disney’s most underrated movies (listen to that soundtrack and tell me I’m wrong), The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a tale of lust-fueled obsession. Like its Disney counterpart, the novel follows a cast of diverse characters: the cruel and conservative archdeacon Frollo, the disfigured and lonely bell-ringer Quasimodo, the enchanting dancer Esmeralda, and the sympathy-driven soldier Phoebus. But unlike its family-friendly adaptation, Victor Hugo’s Hunchback leans into Frollo’s unhinged pursuit of Esmeralda and how his obsession leads to not only his death but the deaths of most of the main characters.