In the age of social media, we're now getting social media thrillers and horror shows. Lifetime's new series YOU seems to be in that camp. Is YOU based on a true story? Viewers may want to delete their Instagram apps after watching this.
YOU is actually based on Caroline Kepnes's novel of the same name. Kepnes has not publicly said there's any inspiration from real life, so the audience can rest easy. YOU, which was released in 2014, follows Joe Goldberg, a seemingly "normal" independent bookstore owner. The titular "you" is Guinevere Beck, with whom Joe becomes obsessed (the entire book is written in the second person).
After meeting at the bookstore, Joe looks up Guinevere (whose friends just call her "Beck") and immediately finds her social media accounts. He sees that she plans to go to a Brooklyn bar that night — and meets her there for a "chance" encounter. From then, YOU becomes a chilling tale of stalking and control. In a 2015 interview with Pop Sugar, Caroline Kepnes discussed YOU and her writing process. Apparently, creepy characters like Joe stay with her after she's done writing — but he isn't the only obsessive person she's written. She told Pop Sugar, "I've written a lot of short stories about people who are similar, but those are obviously much shorter, and then you're done."
YOU has gotten comparisons to Gone Girl, another relationship thriller. When discussing how social media has changed the dating landscape, Kepnes told Pop Sugar in 2015:
There's such an anxiety now, thinking that we know everything about everyone — and we don't — and thinking that if you're upset with your life, well, it'll make me feel better to project happiness. These devices and all the networking allow us to have such a discrepancy between what's real and what we're projecting.
It's safe to say that the "knowing everything about everyone" element will be a part of YOU the TV series. Showrunner Sera Gamble told Entertainment Weekly she doesn't believe Joe is different than most people living in 2018. "If you’re a bit of a romantic, you might believe in bending the rules in ways that are more socially acceptable, doing a little light social media stalking," Gamble said. "It’s just that Joe takes everything so much further."
That's for sure. Judging from YOU's GoodReads reviews, readers couldn't put the book down because Joe and Beck's story is so intense. Even Gamble wasn't sure how to feel about the characters when she read it herself. "I found myself intermittently rooting for [Joe and Beck] until almost the very last page,” Gamble told Entertainment Weekly. "I was fully aware that it was not in line with my feminist view of the world, but what it taps into is something that is very deeply ingrained in me and I think a lot of people in our culture, which is a deep belief in the love story."
While YOU was written in the second person, the TV series has a bit of a different perspective. The audience will be inside Joe's head through voiceover, but they'll also be able to see him within the world of New York City and interacting with Beck as well. Unlike in the book, where Joe has most control of the narrative, this is more omniscient. Readers who breezed through YOU in one night will not have the same experience with the series, but I bet it'll be juicy enough to keep their attention week after week. New and old viewers can be assured that while YOU may be terrifying — and inspired by the current world we live in — it was not, in fact, based on an actual true story.