Author: Caroline Kepnes
BookSparks summer reading challenge week 6 brought us to Providence, by Caroline Kepnes and I feel like I should probably preempt this review by saying that Providence was one of my most anticipated reads of the summer. I really enjoyed Kepnes’ You, I listened to the audio version and have since told many that it was hands down the most creeped out I’ve been by an audiobook to date. So, while I couldn’t even kind of tell what this book was about by its synopsis, I was eager to dive in:
Synopsis via Goodreads:
Growing up as best friends in small-town New Hampshire, Jon and Chloe are the only ones who truly understand each other, though they can never find the words to tell one another the depth of their feelings. When Jon is finally ready to confess his feelings, he’s suddenly kidnapped by his substitute teacher who is obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft and has a plot to save humanity.
Mourning the disappearance of Jon and facing the reality he may never return, Chloe tries to navigate the rites of entering young adulthood and “fit in” with the popular crowd, but thoughts of Jon are never far away. When Jon finally escapes, he discovers he now has an uncontrollable power that endangers anyone he has intense feelings for. He runs away to protect Chloe and find the answers to his new identity–but he’s soon being tracked by a detective who is fascinated by a series of vigilante killings that appear connected.
Whisking us on a journey through New England and crashing these characters’ lives together in the most unexpected ways, Kepnes explores the complex relationship between love and identity, unrequited passion and obsession, self-preservation and self-destruction, and how the lines are often blurred between the two.
I really loved this book! I’ve seen a few reviews of this one already warning fans of Kepnes’ You and Hidden Bodies that this book is very different and readers should consider themselves warned. But I think that some of the things I loved about Providence are things it has in common with You. Providence made me feel deeply about all of its dynamic, complex characters (likeability be damned!) and I think Kepnes’ ability to make me care about monsters among men, You’s Joe and Providence’s Jon, is something that deserves mention. While their stories definitely don’t parallel, the fact that Kepnes can keep me reading while primarily spending time “in the head” of some seriously dark characters and loving every minute of it really says something.
This book opens with a Mary Shelly, Frankenstein quote and I really think it properly set the tone of the book so I’ll share it with you:
It is true, we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on that account we shall be more attached to one another.
This book is not a thriller, it is part coming of age story, part love story, part mystery and part paranormal monster story: exploring young love, aging love, heartbreak, passion, longing, and human nature and its most basic and its most complex. Jon and Chloe are such readable, realistic children – and I say this as someone who doesn’t love books told from children’s point of view – and they quickly morph in to complicated young adults that perfectly narrate the confusing world they’ve come to know and their pain as they try to make sense of it all. All the while, the narration of detective “Eggs” and his dogged pursuit of a killer and his own, grim home life is the perfect offset and story line to dilute such an intense read.
Also, H.P. Lovecraft fans rejoice! There are so many Lovecraft references in here, some I probably didn’t even catch on to; the title itself and large parts of the story revolve around these references. But don’t worry, I say this as a person who has heard OF Lovecraft, but never read any Lovecraft, and I still managed to follow along and felt entirely involved in the story.
I still don’t know that I entirely understand or agree with the ending, but to sum up: Haunting, captivating, imaginative and genre bending, Providence roped me in and stole me away for a weekend. I won’t soon forget any of these characters, but Jon distinctly has a special place in my heart. If you enter in to this one with an open mind and without expectations for a thriller or murder mystery, per se, I think you might enjoy this one and much as I did!
I can’t wait to see what Caroline Kepnes does next.
Thanks to BookSparks and Lenny Books of Random House for providing me this copy to read and review as part of the 2018 Summer Reading Challenge. While I received this book for free, all opinions are honest and my own.