Reviewed on 16th January 2017

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

Genre: Fiction / Psychological Thriller / Thriller
You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott Synopsis

Katie and her husband Eric have made their daughter Devon the centre of their world. Talented, determined, a rising gymnastics star, Devon is the focus of her parents’ lives and the lynchpin of their marriage. There is nothing they wouldn’t do for her.
When a violent hit-and-run accident sends shockwaves through their close-knit community, Katie is immediately concerned for her daughter. She and Eric have worked so hard to protect Devon from anything that might distract or hurt her. That’s what every parent wants for their child, after all. Even if they don’t realize how much you’ve sacrificed for them. Even if they are keeping secrets from you.
A mother knows best. doesn’t she?

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott Review

A Gripping Story about Family and Sacrifice

How far would you go to help your daughter achieve her dream? Or your dream for her? Or in fact, simply achieve the good ole ‘American Dream’?

As a parent, I would like to think that I would never push my kids to do something they were not themselves utterly passionate about. But what kind of mother would I be if my daughter had a God given gift that I didn’t nurture? Would I push her at all costs?

Megan Abbott is clearly an accomplished writer and this, her eighth novel, is no exception. Her ability to twist and turn and weave all the crucial elements of a ‘who dunnit’ into the pages of this novel without losing a real sense of personal attachment to the characters is indeed a skill.

So much of a skill in fact that the legendary Stephen King had this to say about this particular novel:
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The accolade is indeed well deserved! Megan is an accomplished writer and has been quoted by the New York Times as “Maestro of the heebie-jeebies”. To say I was excited about reading this book would be an understatement. But what I didn’t expect, was so much more than a standard ‘thriller’.

About the Book
Devon Knox is an incredibly talented young teenager with all the ability, drive and passion to achieve her dream of becoming an Olympic gymnast. Only one thing holds her back: Her ‘frankenfoot’, after a horrific childhood accident left her foot irreparably damaged. But this does not deter the young gymnast, or her incredibly ambitious parents, from shooting forwards towards their Olympic dreams.

The whole family invests in Devon’s dream. With her parents taking the hit financially with practises and new gym equipment forcing them to take out a second mortgage. But it’s not only her parents that sacrifice for their daughter, their son Drew is shuttled around from bleacher to bleacher and is struggling with his own demons. Dreams of his sister flying, driving and sneaking out at night. But is all as it seems?

When the drop-dead gorgeous boyfriend of the coach’s niece is killed, it hits the entire community hard. Ryan was the beautiful face that held the doors open in the gym and flirted with the mums – but who would have reason to kill him and why is his grieving girlfriend calling Devon? Why is her husband being cagey about the late night tears with his daughter? Who can she trust?

Do You Really Know the Ones you Love?
Throughout the novel, the reader is given the sense of closeness between the family members. They know everything about each other, don’t they? Even reading the words in her daughter’s diary leave the reader wondering if Katie is deluding herself into believing she knows her daughter inside out. Are her dreams for her daughter’s stardom clouding her judgement?

Most readers of contemporary domestic noir will be expecting something very different from this book. We are used to working on the assumption that the killer in the book will be a sociopathic dark murderer. But what if it’s not? What if you can’t trust even those closest to you?

Then, of course, you have retribution. In general, we are given a sense of closure when the person responsible is caught and justice is done. But what Megan Abbott achieves with this book is something entirely different. She hands us a microscope under which to investigate the smallest notes of real life. What if someone you trusted had murdered someone? Someone you loved. Would you turn them in or turn a blind eye?

Balance Beam

Devon’s parents, Katie and Eric battle with themselves and each other throughout the entirety of the book. Like any family would. This could be any family you see at gym heats or athletic practices. The genius of the novel is that this really could happen to anyone. The family dynamics between the characters are so incredibly realistic.

What surprised me about this novel was not the storyline, the characters or indeed the ending – but the effortless manner in which Abbott’s writing leaves the reader questioning what we are supposed to be thinking or feeling. But then, I believe that is what Abbott was hoping to achieve.

We are not left with one incredibly strong opinion of the outcome, either way, instead we are left with an overwhelming feeling of ‘real life’.

Holding a Magnifying Glass over a World we don’t Understand.
One of the things that struck a chord with me, was the scarily accurate and often cold descriptions of the gymnasts’ bodies. Not the ‘property’ of the girls anymore, but machines – precision-built machines that are the “property of everyone“. It is a scary but true representation of the sacrifice the girls themselves make to achieve in that world. The idea that you are moulded into an instrument rather than a human being. Abbott’s words really make you believe you are getting an insider’s view into this incredibly competitive industry and the sacrifices the entire family have to make for one to achieve.

Overall, I felt detached from Devon as a character by the end of the novel, leaving me not entirely bothered what happened to the killer or the consequences. I was more invested in the snow-globe-like world of competitive gymnastics that Abbott had created.

This for me was less of a whodunnit and more of an observation of society and the pressures in competitive fields – with the realism of a tragic accident or murder thrown into the mix.

It was an observation of real life and real marriage and the consequences of sacrifice.

The title of the book only becomes clear when you have finished the entire novel. You will know me, even if you don’t want to. You will still have to love me.

No matter the sacrifice, no matter the pain, no matter the length they go to, you will know them.

A cracking book, for so many more reasons than just being a good ‘who dunnit’ – a book that will have you looking at those Olympic gymnasts as they twist and turn on the beams in a completely different light.

(For those of you interested. You Will Know Me is one of the books I am reading and reviewing for my 2017 Reading Challenge for THE Book Club. Take a look at the article here to see what inspired me to diversity my reading shelf.) 

You Will Know Me Published by Little, Brown and Company.

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