You Book to Screen. The differences between the show and the book were staggering and surprising. I’d enjoyed the show very much, I’m a big Penn Badgley fan, and I just knew that I had to read this book. I wanted to know just how close the show followed the book and it wasn’t that far into this read that I realized that while the overall plot points are the same, there are a lot of differences. So let’s go over the major ones. Spoilers Ahead!!
Joe. This was a pretty big change, at least for me, between the book and show. In the show, he’s toned down. He’s cute, likable, you find yourself sympathizing with him despite his actions. He’s got his kid neighbor that he cares about, he’s funny and smart. He actively tries to encourage Beck and tries to help her despite how she reacts. He’s still psycho and a murderer but he’s lovable in the show. However in the book, he’s not really nice. He’s not all that lovable, he thinks about sex like all the time. His thoughts are extremely vulgar, using varying words to describe Beck’s lady parts. -wink- He seems to justify his actions at a far higher level of obsession. I didn’t like him, I didn’t find him lovable at all but intriguing and creepy.
Beck. She’s vastly different to me as well. The show making her seem nicer, sweeter, innocent and just wholly wanting to be a writer. The book however, she’s just as fucked up as Joe. She sees Dr. Nicky the entirety of the book and not after Peach or because of Peach. She is a bitch, slutty on a higher level and clearly has a sex addiction. She doesn’t care about anyone but herself and it’s kind of clear that she likes the attention she gets from Peach and Benji but doesn’t actually give a crap about them and knows exactly what they are all doing. She plays people, she’s NOT likable at all in fact I disliked book Beck far more than show Beck.
Paco. There is no Paco in the book. It really is part of why Joe in the show is easier to love, he’s got Paco.
Peach. She isn’t described as the pretty social media designer like she is in the show. She’s not overly attractive, she’s rich though. She’s even more creepy in the book, and she is not friends with the other two of Becks friends either. She isn’t overly distraught about her attack when she was running, and the trip away wasn’t because she was afraid for her life or even pretending, they just wanted to get away. But there is no guy that brings drugs to the party so that Peach and try and get in Beck’s pants. Also she doesn’t ‘attempt’ suicide in the book like she does in the show to get Beck’s attention.
Mr. Mooney. He’s alive and well. No stroke. He just retired. His being moving, gives Joe another stress factor on getting caught with Benji in the cage.
Ethan. Actually isn’t in the first half of the book. That position is filled by a kid named Curtis who is always late and when Curtis gives Joe’s address to Beck, Joe fires him. Ethan is just a bright and cheery as he is in the show, and he and Blythe do get put together and all that jazz.
Candace. Is dead. She broke up with Joe, he asked her to go to the beach, she tells him it’s over and he shoves her head in the ocean and drowns her before throwing her in the ocean to be found as having had an accident and drowned.
Joe and Beck’s actual relationship is also very different. They don’t really connect as well in the book. There is the 8 second Joe moment, but that happens far later in their relationship and it’s in the cage, not Beck’s apartment. They are together for a bit, then they aren’t because he’s so intense and she thinks he’s got issues cause he came too soon. They don’t pick up their relationship again until after Peach is gone.
He starts seeing Dr. Nicky because while they are apart, after the one bad sex night, he sees that she’s seeing Dr. Nicky and wants to make sure, like in the show, that nothing is happening. Of course he likes the guy. He doesn’t pretend to be gay and part of the reason he meets and talks to Karen is because of the mouse in the house thing (which turns out to be something that Beck says to Dr, Nicky that he stole for his own). He finds out that Dr. Nicky, who isn’t actually a Dr., is in love with Beck through all of his dictation tapes were the dude talks about how much he wants her and intends to kill him because Beck couldn’t possibly want Dr. Nicky back when Beck calls and that’s how they reconnect. They have their cute lots of sex thing/dating thing for a bit until she gets distant but that’s just because she’s doing Dr. Nicky and nothing to do with Peach. She isn’t even upset about Peach at all.
He does date Karen, who is white in the book, but that doesn’t last not because he cheats on her with Beck like in the show but because he doesn’t want her when he reads in emails that Beck misses Joe and just wants Beck so he ends it and goes after Beck who’s off with Peach. He also briefly meets a chick named Amy that he feels kind of connected with while he’s with Beck who seems to be getting distant but we don’t see her again until the end of the book.
Benji does die via peanut oil in coffee. Joe does burn his body, the big difference here is that he puts all of what’s left of Benji in an Ikea box, takes him on a ferry to a safety deposit box that Benji stashed stolen goods in. As far as I could tell, Joe leaves that box inside the deposit box while taking a red ball cap from the box. There was no conversation with Beck or close encounter with people in the woods like in the show.
Peach’s death in the show is the biggest departure from the book to be honest. In the show, after Peach finds Joe in her house, they fight with the gun involved and Joe shoots Peach (off screen). In the book, he grabs her on the beach while she’s running, basically suffocates her in the sand while also hitting her in the head with a rock before loading her pockets with rocks and dumping her in the ocean. There is no fancy suicide note on her laptop like in the show. Joe texts Beck from her phone that she’s leaving because Beck wasn’t interested in her. They find her body later and assume she offed herself because of the rocks in her pockets.
Beck did die at the Bookstore. She found a box of things he’d taken from her. Her yearbook was even in there, no Benji ashes or teeth though so her freak out is simply based on his having her things. That’s about all that’s the same. He puts her in the cage, she plays him of course but he doesn’t give her a typewriter to write. There is no story that she comes up with as his ‘way out’ to get him to trust her. In fact, they read Dan Brown together, and then they bang. And after that, she tries to escape but he finds her and while she’s telling him just how shitty she really his, he chokes her until he thinks she’s dead. She tricks him again but then he smashes her head into the wall and she’s done-so. He does use Dr. Nicky as the murderer, but he buries her in the woods, not on Dr. Nicky’s property.
One of the most interesting changes is when everything happens. To break it all down would take forever. Benji dies after the bed is made and bought, Joe and Beck don’t have sex until after he learns about her father. Joe dates Karen before Peach dies. He does go to where Beck and Peach are, gets beat up by Curtis and friends before he leaves as revenge for getting fired, gets into an accident on the drive there, hides out in someone’s pool house only to be found by a nice cop that takes him to the hospital where he is stitched up, goes back to Peach’s place and gets in only to leave right about the time Peach hits on Beck and gets rejected and then hides in a sand dune near a pier until he can attack Peach.
Joe and Beck don’t have their perfect relationship bubble until well after Peach dies. There is no ‘break up’. There is no ‘cheating’. Peach dies while Beck is still at her house, she doesn’t leave first. Since Beck didn’t actually want to be a writer, there was no posthumous book of hers that detailed how Dr. Nicky did it, Joe just submitted emails she wrote as proof of Dr. Nicky’s obsession to point the finger in his direction and the most she got was in the paper.
The book ends with Amy coming back looking for a job and he declares that she was going to become his girlfriend. Obviously the show ended with Candace being alive, Paco going to Cali and Joe being sad about Beck.
The differences were really surprising but to be honest I found that the book was far better than the show. While I loved the show, the book really took you on a ride. You could think that Joe was just crazy because he sounded crazy as he talked throughout the book to Beck, his ‘you’, and you didn’t root for him like I found myself doing in the show.
The characters in the book were more complex in my opinion and their motivations were real, they were real because they put on masks and were fake to everyone else. Beck isn’t innocent at all and she didn’t really pretend to be in the end. You don’t really like her but you find her ability to manipulate those around her interesting to see what happens next.
I look forward to Season 2 of the show and seeing how they take their version of these characters into that book’s plot. I also look forward to reading the sequel to this book, ‘Hidden Bodies’, to see what happens next to Joe.
Read the book! It’s so worth it! Binge watch the show! It’s so worth it! Read the book and appreciate that the show is it’s own thing and you can thoroughly enjoy both of them.
Comment if I missed anything important or what you thought about the show vs is book, which did you like better?