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You Were Never Really Here

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  2,911 ratings  ·  402 reviews
'A striking and powerful noir debut' - Daily Mail

'Fast-moving, agreeably violent and perfectly pared-down' - Spectator


Joe has witnessed things that cannot be erased. A former FBI agent and Marine, his abusive childhood has left him damaged beyond repair. So he hides away, earning a living rescuing girls who have been kidnapped into the sex trade. Now he's been hired to'A
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Paperback, Movie Tie-in, 112 pages
Published February 22nd 2018 by Pushkin Press (first published January 6th 2013)
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manelich It continues past where the book left off, and follows Joe "finishing the job", so we get more time with the other characters although I don't think…moreIt continues past where the book left off, and follows Joe "finishing the job", so we get more time with the other characters although I don't think we learn anything significant that isn't in the book. (less)
Leslie I highly recommend reading the book. I saw the film first and was intrigued and had many questions. I read the book (less than 100 pages) and several…moreI highly recommend reading the book. I saw the film first and was intrigued and had many questions. I read the book (less than 100 pages) and several questions were answered. I would love a sequel!(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,911 ratings  ·  402 reviews


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Meike
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa, 2017-read
Re-watching the movie while waiting for "Joker" to finally hit theaters!
Joaquin Phoenix made me read this! :-) I think the guy has an amazing ability to seek out great roles in edgy, unique films with unusual storylines. For his lead role as Joe in "You Were Never Really Here" (in some countries released under the title "A Beautiful Day"), Phoenix won the Award for Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival 2017, and director Lynne Ramsay collected the Best Screenplay Award.

The movie is based on Ames' no
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Peter Swanson
Apr 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've always admired Jonathan Ames for how funny a writer he is. And now it turns out he can write a cold-blooded thriller, as well. I'm very annoyed and very impressed.
Sam Quixote
Apr 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If revenge is a dish best served cold, Joe (the main character of this story) is serving up some icy entrees. If this story were a person it’d be lying passed out face first on the floor of a dive bar in a puddle of various human (and some inhuman) liquids, covered in cuts and bruises and, upon hearing your approach, would stagger upright, spit out a tooth, take a double shot of whiskey and lurch outwards to pick a new fight with anyone. The shadow of death and hopeless despair hangs over this s ...more
Ammar
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Novella
Made into a movie
Ex soldier
Ex fbi
Now Pi
On a mission to find a kidnapped daughter
Her father is a senator
It goes downhill ....
♥ Sandi ❣
3.5 stars

A soon to be released movie, this book is crime noir at it's best. Our protagonist, Joe, is a former Marine and former FBI agent who now is a man for hire. His specialty is finding young girls sold into the sex trade. He is called into a very unusual case and once he has his hands on the targeted girl, things seem to come unwound.

I had not read Ames before, but believe that he usually writes humor. If that is the case, he has hid his cold blooded thriller image very well. T
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Kate~Bibliophile Book Club
This novella packs a punch in its short pages! You Were Never Really Here opens with some action and the pace never stops until the end. I had no idea what to expect when I started it, but by the end I was wishing it was a full novel because I didn’t want it to end.

I’m not going to lie, I was drawing comparisons with a certain Mr. Child and his Jack Reacher character while I was reading this book. Joe is very similar to Reacher which in itself if was enough to make me want more.
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Paul E. Morph
Jan 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this one; I was utterly gripped throughout... right up until the ending... or, rather, the lack of an ending.

I suppose you could argue this abrupt ending was dramatic and ominous but I just came away feeling like the author got bored with the story and couldn't be bothered to write anymore. Knowing what I know of Ames from reading his non-fiction I find this entirely plausible.

Still, as I said, right up until the somewhat lack-lustre ending, this was abso
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Libby
'You Were Never Really Here,' by Jonathan Ames is a really dark book about a young girl kidnapped by the mob and used for prostitution and the man, Joe, who's hired to save her. Joe is damaged and fully aware of his derangement. Former FBI and former Marine, the culprit of Joe's aberration is an abusive father, dead during the telling of the story, but readers will know that the abuse lives on in Joe's psyche. Joe is a hired gun, who works on the wrong side of the law. Rescuing girls that have b ...more
Eric
Dec 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After watching the movie of the same name and ending up befuddled over what was just seen, I then read Jonathan Ames' novella You Were Never Really Here and was pleasantly pleased with both.

Be forewarned, both are with graphic violence. Also, if one intends to watch the film, I would suggest reading only about half of the novella. And to be honest, I would do the reading before watching the film. Unfortunately, aspects of the film are too ambiguous and reading half of the novella explains away
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Tosh
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-bought
For such a bleak narrative, it was a joy to read Jonathan Ames' "You Were Never Really Here." Only 97 pages, there is not a wasted word or phrase in this book. I know Ames admires the work of Richard Stark, and clearly, he learned from the master. Ames is mostly a humorous writer of essays and fiction, so the noir writing is a new avenue for him. It's a perfect example of how to tell a tale. I don't want to get into the plotting of this story, because that's for the reader to know and enjoy, but ...more
Etienne
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3,5/5. Action packed novella that won’t slow down for the entire reading. That would be the kind of read I would like to share with my father, he would have love it, if he was a reader. For myself alone, this was an entertaining read. The action is always well described and the plot is captivating without being truly original. There are two things I didn’t like. First, the writing seems nearly adapted for a movie or a tv show, no surprise they did a movie with (going to watch it soon enough...), ...more
Michael
170918: intense. that is the best 97 pages i have read this or many other years. i call it poetry because it is so stripped down, language minimal, plot simple but complex, concise but emotional, basically everything i love in poetry. is there a sequel? i do not know. i think i have to watch the film...
Pavellit
Dec 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After watching the movie and then reading a very creepy, dream logic, hidden meaning theory about the mom-son relationship and many other aspects I couldn't wrap my head around this and it kept me thinking for days, so I decided to read the book . After finishing Ames’s novella I couldn't help but smile because it turned out that it was a classic case of over thinking and taking pieces of a movie to form your own theory. Anyway, the book includes 100ish dark, gritty and tight pages which are rea ...more
Mitch
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dude works outside the law to rescue sex trafficked girls. Shit goes sideways. Dude has a hammer.

Imagine Jack Reacher but terrifying and faster.

I read the whole thing aloud to myself.

It's 90 pages.
Lou
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
Visceral breakneck pace straight down the line in cinematic style, starts with some nice characterization of this ex-marine and ex-FBI fixer, whose choice of weapon against assailants is a hammer, and builds up with the situation of taken and the task to be undertaken, all plays out in the need for successful return of a young daughter to her Senator father.
Straight to the meat not so many details, economy of words and pages that hook you into a effective little thriller that can be read u
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Raven
Jul 27, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a change of pace and authorial style, I also read You Were Never Really Here by Jonathan Ames, a novella that runs to 87 pages and soon to be a feature film starring Joaquin Phoenix. Joe, a former FBI agent and U. S. Marine, harbouring the memories of an abusive childhood, and the violent events of his recent careers, now has largely dropped out from society, earning a living tracking down and rescuing young girls from the grip of the sex trade. Now he has been hired to save the daughter of a ...more
Tom Mooney
Not really sure what the point of this was. It's a fairly decent set-up to a mob revenge story... and then it just ends. It's like the first part of a much longer novel.

Certainly doesn't work as a book on its own as far too much is left hanging and 97 pages isn't really long enough to explore the many plot strands, not to develop characters properly.
Rod Brown
I saw the movie a few months ago and was quite disappointed by it. But the story at the root of it seemed like something I should enjoy, so I was surprised and intrigued when I saw this novella sitting on the library shelf. I hadn't even known the movie was an adaptation.

Indeed, reading the story was much better. It is a straightforward crime noir that reminded me of Richard Stark's Parker and Andrew Vachss' Burke novel series. A damaged man does good things by way of bad means. The
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Riya
Jun 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was a little apprehensive about reading You Were Never Really Here. Too often stories that deal with these sort of subjects devolve into torture porn and not being familiar with the author I didn't really know what to expect. Gladly Ames stays away from disturbingly graphic images and instead his word choice got the point across without disrespect.There are plenty of twists and turns in this action packed short and I was left wishing there were at least 200 more pages. Now that is how you know ...more
Bracken
Apr 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is good. Hardboiled like crazy.. It walks right up to the edge of parody, but never seems to slip over. I can see where people are disappointed because the end hints at much more story to come and has an unresolved goal, but I think as a character study it's satisfyingly complete. The author trips hard on one bit of lingo that the character would definitely use differently, but it's far from fatal to the narrative. Overall, a decent, quick read.
Dimitris Passas
Mar 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I want to thank NetGalley and the publisher for providing a free e-book of this rather short story, which is action-packed, dark and a really quick read -you can read the whole book in one sitting-. The central character, Joe, is an ex-marine war veteran with a history of familial abuse who is hunted by the memories of the monstrous atrocities he witnessed in the battlefield. Joe now works as a ''blacklist freelancer'' in cases of abduction. Joe likes to think that his work restores some kind of ...more
Steve
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Construction workers, Parker fans, John Wick
Ex-marine, ex-FBI, "special jobs" specialist Joe is a more complicated and tormented character than Richard Stark's Parker, but he has the same kind of violent and calculating velocity when action is required. Joe's jobs involve rescuing kidnapped young girls from the sex trade. He's very good at what he does, but he wonders, at age 48, if he's slipping. He's even contemplated suicide. More than once. His latest job involves the missing daughter of state senator. He takes the job, but something ...more
Andy Weston
Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Originally published in 2013 Ames’s noir thriller has come to prominence in the last two years after the republished Pushkin Vertigo edition, and more recently, the film tie-in version. Whether the soon to be released movie version will do justice to this brutal and engaging book we will see, but I can’t imagine it will have such an effect.

It’s not a new framework that Ames chooses, a 40 year old ex-Marine and FBI agent, from an abused childhood, who now hires his ‘skills’ out in New York for j
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patty
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, read-2018
It ended suddenly and I wanted more.
Jim
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Throughout Point Blank and in moments in every one of Richard Stark's Parker novels that followed, the protagonist becomes single-minded, menacingly violent vengeance machine. Ames takes this familiar formula and strips it down even more in making Joe: a man with a hammer and bottomless reservoir of rage. Not bad if conclusions, character development, and human feelings don't matter.
Daniel Vlasaty
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Man this little book packs a punch.

I’ve never read Jonathan Ames - but I’ve seen BORED TO DEATH - and this is not the type of book I’d expect from the creator of that show.

Short and dark and violent. I thought it was great and I’m now very excited for the movie
Coolbrain
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this is two sittings but could’ve easily done it in one. A thrilling, gritty read.
Jan Dale
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stunning!
Ana
Slight detour from my “scheduled” TBR, but I had to read this one!

I went to see the film at a friend’s invitation knowing only that it starred Joaquin Phoenix. Good enough! 30 minutes in and I was transfixed by Phoenix’s performance and Jonny “Radiohead” Greenwood’s soundtrack, to find out at the end that the film had been adapted by its director, Lynne Ramsay, from a novella by Jonathan Ames. Quite the trip this one was!

I was fascinated by the Phoenix’s character, Joe, a walking paradox -
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Mary
Joe is a former FBI agent, a decorated Marine, who now lives with his elderly mother, and hires out for jobs that require his special skill set. I burned through this book like it was on fire. The writing is compelling and spare; dark and gritty. Noir at its best. Jonathan Ames just moved to my list of favorite authors. A lot of reviews seemed to complain about the shortness of the story and the sudden ending. I think it's near perfection and highly recommend it for anyone who reads thrillers. ...more
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Jonathan Ames is the author of the books The Double Life is Twice As Good, I Pass Like Night, The Extra Man, What's Not to Love?, My Less Than Secret Life, Wake Up, Sir!, I Love You More Than You Know, and The Alcoholic (a graphic novel illustrated by Dean Haspiel). He is the editor of Sexual Metamorphosis: An Anthology of Transsexual Memoirs.

He is the winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship and is a former columnist for New York Press.

Wake Up, Sir! an/>Wake
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“He was aware that he was not completely sane, so he kept himself in rigid check, playing both jailer and prisoner.” 4 likes
“Joe knew that all human beings are the star of their own very important film, a film in which they are both camera and actor; a film in which they are always playing the fearful and lonely hero who gets up each day hoping to finally strike upon the life they are meant to lead, though they never do.” 2 likes
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