You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott - The tumbles and malevolent twists of elite gymnastics

Saturday, 19 November 2016

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott
Released: 26th July 2016
Published by: Picador
Genre: Adult thriller
Source: Publisher
Pages: 352
My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
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?
Thank you to Pan Macmillan Australia for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

This is what she knew: you win or you lose everything with a flick of the wrist, a turn of the ankle, not enough lift, a slipped hand on the beam.
And everything changes, everything goes dark, and is gone. 

If you thought Megan Abbott knew how to write about the toxic world of cheerleading in Dare Me, just wait until you've read this book exploring the merciless fallacies of elite gymnastics. The characterisation is as intricate as ever, with prose that captures every moment, every emotion in the sharpest turn of phrase. A family's devotion to their daughter's potential for greatness and an accident leaving those in their microcosm reeling, converge to form a book that shatters the delicate illusion of grace these athletes supposedly possess. 

She hadn't learned, no one had taught her - Katie and Eric hadn't taught her - that the things you want, you never get them. And if you do, they're not what you thought they'd be. But you'd still do anything to keep them. Because you'd wanted them for so long. 

Once again, Megan Abbott has wowed me with her attention to the nuances of human behaviour and the most significant relationships which define both our lives and identities. The story is told from the perspective of Katie, the mother of a gifted gymnast whose gleaming potential must be harnessed. This book is not simply about the sport itself. As always there is a malignant turn of events, an undercurrent of simmering unease and familial tension. Could Katie and Eric's unwavering devotion to 'The Track' for their child's life compromise the quality of their own? What are the consequences of the suspicious death of someone in their BelStars community? Does mother really know best?

What makes this book one which kept me reading until I couldn't stay awake any longer is the fact that there are so many paths to follow. The term 'secondary' characters in this case does not apply. Each persona Abbott has molded is subtly explicated so that we as readers begin to understand their motives, fears, and hidden desires.

...she could feel Devon before she saw her. The energy she held so tightly until she let it thunder forth: a soaring vault, an epic tumbling pass, a delirious aerial on the beam. 

If you're like me and your main insights into the world of gymnastics is from watching the Olympics and 'Stick It', then You Will Know Me will serve as a stark comparison. All of the technical jargon of this world the novel is set in validates the storyline and enables some parallels to be drawn with the secrets which unfold in other aspects of the book. This is a novel where the girls training under Coach T at BelStars look to Devon both as an image of a champion to be revered, and jealous of. But perhaps there is a danger to this obsession with perfection, this enduring quest to become one of 'the Elite'. She is a streamlined missile who knows her target, and will make any sequence on the beam or perfect execution of a Yurchenko twist count. Ice queen. Golden girl. Someone who believes that 'almost' isn't good enough. It was fascinating to scrutinise her character and the parents of her peers through the lens of Katie's eyes, looking back on the events which shaped Devon into who she was and what she would do to reach that ultimate goal.

FINAL THOUGHTS

You Will Know Me is an exhilarating and turbulent psychological thriller where blinding ambition and hidden weakness come into conflict. This complex and twisted novel is everything I expected from Megan Abbott, and all that I could have asked for. 

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