“You” by Zoran Drvenkar


Netflix is slowly taking over my life. I should blog more. I should write more. I should read more. BUT now there’s Netflix and it’s like…I could do stuff, or I could binge watch Supernatural and figure out what the fuss is about. The verdict? Thus far, I am still trying to get over “Bugs”. That probably wasn’t the best episode to watch for a self-confessed entomophobe.
Anyway, the point is that I should have written way more lately, but I have lost my motivation. I’m hoping to get it back soon, seeing as there are a few writing competitions I want to enter. I just need to think of ideas that don’t revolve around paranormal beings.

I finished You last night (called Du in its original German), while I was waiting for Netflix to load (the internet connection in my room isn’t the best). I have wanted to read this book for ages. And ages and ages. The concept of the book just blew me away before I had even cracked the first page. You is written entirely in the second person. And from multiple perspectives. The second person is hard enough to pull off, but adding multiple perspectives? That’s just insane. Throw in the fact that this book was translated from German by a guy named Shaun Whiteside and this book is simply a feat of literature.

On the whole “translated” thing: there are a few phrases early on in the novel that don’t quite sit right with native English speakers, but that’s nearly irrelevant. The language is just gorgeous. I kind of wish I spoke German so that I could read You the way it was intended to be read. If the turns of phrase in this book are this impressive in English, I can’t even imagine how awesome they’d be in their original language.

On the “multiple perspectives” thing: this got incredibly confusing. But I blame myself for that, not the author or the translator. I have never read anything in the second person before. And I’ve only attempted to write the second person once myself. I think I got so confused because of the immediacy of this particular P.O.V.. You’re right there with the character, because it’s as if you are them. So when you switch between characters, it’s hard to shake off the preceding character.
This doesn’t detract from the book, I don’t think (or I could be biased because I thought the book was that good), it just means that you really have to concentrate.

To make my next point, I need to give you guys the blurb. So here goes:

When a snowstorm halts traffic on a German autobahn, drivers are forced to spend the night in their cars. As day breaks, scores of people are found dead. Theories are rife. Was it an argument? Was it drugs, revenge or madness?

At first everyone agrees that several people must have acted together. No-one could have committed such an atrocity alone.

It is only over time that theories come to focus on an individual perpetrator, and the Traveller is born.

As he makes his way across a country gripped by fear, he’s searching for his next victim…


OK, so that sounds like you follow the story of The Traveller, right? Well, you do for the first seven pages. And then another story interrupts: the story of Ragnar Desche, the gangster; his brother Oskar; five teenage girls; and the people who help and hinder them along the way. These stories run parallel for most of the novel. We’ll be reading about these guys and then that particular part of the novel will end (oh, yeah, this book is also broken up into parts) and then we’re following The Traveller through his creepy, creepy journey. Or learning about his past. It isn’t until about three-quarters of the way through You that we figure out how the two stories are connected. And then it’s not until the very, very last page that we realise why the story was told this way. If any other author had attempted this, I’d harangue them for it. But Drvenkar just made it awesome. And satisfying.

The story is pretty dark, I’m not going to lie. Gangsters and mass murderers and abuse and bad parenting and this horrific thing with Taja (one of the five teenagers) that blew my mind and made me feel all kinds of sick. So I don’t particularly want to summarise it. One, because it’s hella grim; and two, because the story is so complicated, I reckon I’ll screw it up.

Bottom line is that this book is amazing. It’s a literary marvel. It’s a tough slog, especially if you’re not familiar with second person narration, like me. But this book is a must-read for every writer or writing aficionado. The way this book is written and structured is like word porn, I swear.

So, I give this book:




About Bec Graham

Bec Graham, 24, was born on the wrong continent. Everything from her burns-like-paper skin tone to her inability to cope with the slightest hint of a hot day suggests she should have been born under the gloomy skies and mild sun of the UK. She hopes writing will get her to her rightful home one day. Failing that, she scans the skies for a spinning blue police box, hoping to catch a lift back to the motherland.
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3 Responses to “You” by Zoran Drvenkar

  1. This sounds so unique! I’ve never heard of it before. I imagine it’s a little chilling to read that someone is coming to murder YOU. Brr!

  2. Pingback: The Alphabet Book Tag | My Infernal Imagination

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