Book Review: Providence by Caroline Kepnes

Providence showcases a man who has developed a dangerous superpower and the woman who loves him.

Mild-mannered outsider, John, and popular Chloe were childhood friends. When John is kidnapped, Chloe is devastated. But then he shows back up four years later with a strange affliction. Being in his presence makes people develop nosebleeds, pass out, or worse.

These new powers test not only John and Chloe’s friendship but his ability to be part of the world. His very presence physically harms others. Let’s not even mention what happens when he gets upset. (think The Hulk mixed with Carrie)

Out of necessity, Chloe must stay physically separated from John. I don’t fully understand why Chloe is fine to stay away electronically, though. At some point, I would start asking questions. Forcefully. Annoyingly. Unstoppably. For someone this important in my life, I wouldn’t back off. And couldn’t they still keep in close touch through instant messages and phone calls?

Also, it would have been nice to see more into John’s days as a dark avenger. We gloss over this period in his life as if it’s a footnote. In all actuality, it’s more of a significant change in John, one in which he is perhaps finally fulfilling his new destiny.

Despite these points, Providence is a highly readable book. Kepnes has a talent for playing against character type. Perceived heroes are not so innocent. Victims aren’t always sympathetic. Villains may have good intentions.

Providence is a departure from Kepnes’ previous hit, You.

Whereas You is creepy, Providence has a supernatural element. Even the writing style is different here. Rather than a second-person POV stream-of-consciousness, Providence is more expository.

In You, I almost found myself rooting for the stalker to win. As insane as that notion is, I felt tense when it seemed like he might get caught.

Kepnes is also good at not going for the easy or happy ending. In a perfect world, the stalker gets caught and dangerous powers are magically cured by a fairy princess. But Kepnes’ characters don’t live in a perfect world. They live in one of complicated loyalties and conflicted emotions.

The book defies categorization. Though it has supernatural elements, it’s not necessarily horror. Though it has suspense, it’s not necessarily a thriller. Romance makes a brief, wistful appearance, but not enough of one to claim genre rights.

Let’s just categorize it as mighty fine.

Caroline Kepnes
Published June 2018

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