Review: Providence by Caroline Kepnes

My Rating: 2 / 5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A propulsive new thriller about the obsessive nature of love when an intensifying relationship between best friends is disrupted by a kidnapping.

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.

My Thoughts:

The plot of Providence is not one I’d usually go for. But I’d heard great things about Kepnes’s writing and this book was a much buzzed book for this summer, so I thought I’d give it a try. The kidnapping storyline was interesting but never fully resolved. The point of view shifts every chapter and it would have helped to hear more from the teacher who kidnaps Jon. I realize that part of Jon’s struggle was in not being able to talk to Jon about what happened, but the reader still needed to know more. Personally, I don’t like when stories are too ambiguous. I prefer when authors actually acknowledge the character’s motivations.

I also think there were big pacing issues throughout the story. Providence starts off pretty strong but all of a sudden Kepnes introduces a new character, Eggs, who is a police officer. To be quite frank, it felt like the story came to a crashing halt once Eggs appeared. It was impossible to connect with Eggs on any level. His entrance into the story felt too abrupt and out of place. From there, Providence becomes a different book. Chock full of references, nods, and allusions to H.P. Lovecraft, Providence is a story that doesn’t know what it wants to be. Kepnes tries to explain the Lovecraft references, but as a reader who has never read Lovecraft, I’m sure I missed a lot. I’m struggling to understand why Kepnes thought this particular story should be told. The story just sort of…ends. What was the point of all this? Why did Jon, his friends, and his family need to suffer?

On Goodreads, this Providence is being categorized as a thriller. But I’m not sure I’d agree with that classification. It’s like this book wanted to be a thriller but never fully connected with the genre. Providence lacks the pulse, drive, and intensity of a thriller. It’s certainly not a mystery, though, and I don’t think there are enough sci-fi elements to put it squarely in that genre, either. I can appreciate Kepnes’s attempts to blur genres but, ultimately, I don’t think it was successful.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I thought this book was okay. It’s considerably harder to review a book that’s only okay because there’s a lack of extreme feeling one way or the other. This was my first Kepnes book and I’m hesitant to read her first novel, You, just because Providence was so lacking. Although I understand that the two are incredibly different from one another, so perhaps You is the better novel. There was something about this book that made me want to keep turning the pages and finish, but I think I wanted to know the point of the story. And unfortunately, there isn’t a point. I would not recommend this book.

This book is…



a mix of thriller and sci-fi



Publisher: Lenny

Genre: thriller

Page Count: 400

ISBN: 0399591435

Available here from IndieBound.

Are you excited to read Providence? What book would you recommend with sci-fi elements?

I am an affiliate with IndieBound and as such, receive a tiny commission should you choose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!

4 thoughts on “Review: Providence by Caroline Kepnes”

  1. Great review. I thought Kepnes’ YOU was really well-written but also unsettling, but this sounds like a total reversal of that. I’ll probably skip it.


      1. Emma Donoghue is an author whose books all feel like they’re written by totally different people… I’ve read three of her books, I think? and each feels completely different from the other. This kinda makes me want to get into a longer discussion about whether that strengthens their author “brand” or if it’s always a gamble to pick up one of their books. I’ve enjoyed each book, but it’s not what I expect based on the others I’ve read…


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