You Will Know Me, Megan Abbott: Book Review

you will know me megan abbott book review
You Will Know Me
Megan Abbott
Little Brown and Company
July 26, 2016

Katie and Eric Knox have dedicated their lives to their fifteen-year-old daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful. But when a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community just weeks before an all-important competition, everything the Knoxes have worked so hard for feels suddenly at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, revealing hidden plots and allegiances, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself drawn, irresistibly, to the crime itself, and the dark corners it threatens to illuminate. From a writer with "exceptional gifts for making nerves jangle and skin crawl," (Janet Maslin) You Will Know Me is a breathless rollercoaster of a novel about the desperate limits of desire, jealousy, and ambition.

This review contains spoilers

Devon Knox is a child prodigy. She has above par athletic abilities that might have gone unnoticed were it not for a single horrific accident during her childhood. As part of Devon’s therapy and effort to regain balance, her doctor recommends she take up gymnastics; and unbeknownst to her parents, she’s a natural. Once Devon’s true calling is revealed, Katie and Eric Knox are prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure their daughter will reach her full potential.

For as long as she can remember, Devon has always remained easily focused on what matters most to her: sports. It’s almost disconcerting how little she’s dependent on the support of other people, her family included. And so begins Megan Abbott‘s You Will Know Me, which opens just as Devon is closing in on her ultimate goal of Olympic qualification.

Devon is the best at The BelStars gym, and she knows this. As mesmerizing Devon’s performances are to watch, there is an equal level of envy shown by her teammates and their booster moms. She’s fully aware of the exposure her skill proffers the gym, but that doesn’t mean her teammates are as grateful. It does make them her friends.

Her little brother, on the other hand, has always seemed patient and understanding of his sister’s importance to their family. He’s quite smart, with a mind for science specifically, but he doesn’t seem to trust his big sister. Kate has always thought of her family as their own little team—the Knox clan. The Knox’s against the world. But for the first time in her life, Kate begins to feel left out—the connection she once shared with Devon has been pushed aside by her sister’s husband Eric. Much of the story is told through her perspective, and she does sound pretty naive to what’s happening around her.

Occasionally, he seemed lost in it, in sound, and it was hard to shake him out. Devon’s concentration, her single-mindedness, it came from him, from Eric.

— Excerpt from Megan Abbott’s You Will Know Me

Eric Knox is both charming and good-looking; he could sell snow to an Eskimo if he wanted. But Katie was clueless to the fact that her husband went behind her back and fooled around with Gwen—her least favorite of the booster moms— to make alternate plans for Devon’s training after the ill-fated incident: the newly discovered death of someone who was involved with BelStars gym just before major qualifiers. That person being Ryan Beck.

Ryan was well-known and liked by just about everyone. He was not only easy on the eyes he was also magnetic, a great help around the gym, and a generally kind guy. Was Ryan’s death just a horrible accident, or was this an intentional murder we’re looking at? And by whom?

Katie notices her husband’s behavior has gotten stranger in the weeks following Ryan’s death. She even begins to question whether she ever knew her daughter at all, coming to realize her unconditional support of Devon’s dreams might have left her vulnerable to blind trust where a devious spirit could exist.

“I made it happen,” Devon murmured, and she has to be talking in her sleep. “And now it’s forever.”

— Excerpt from Megan Abbott’s You Will Know Me

While I don’t generally take in YA mystery thrillers, I can attest that You Will Know Me is well done. In rare chiller fashion, Abbott’s novel is a classic whodunnit. One experiences a constant ebb and flow of foreshadowing about what will or might have happened that led to the horrible incident at the center of the book, as well as the characters involved.

Personally, I felt the book was suspense-driven, and the pity the reader has for our narrator, Katie, adds a nice touch to the mystery. Devon’s mom seems particularly guileless about her family and the lengths that people will go in order to get what they want. The book opens with an unusual revelry, and the off-putting tone is maintained throughout the novel. But as the story advances, we find out what actually happened to Ryan and what it is Devon will achieve, slowly uncovering the truths about the people involved, and what they’re really capable of.

With Katie viewpoint as your guide, you very quickly feel uneasy and grave as the story unfolds. What will be her reality? And what will she do with it once she realizes it? Abbott gives a graphic account on the extremities gymnastics culture in You Will Know Me. Her writing is gripping, always keeping the reader on edge, and is full of foreboding. While I did feel like the ending sort of dragged and was slightly repetitive and mundane at times, I think Abbott ultimately does an amazing job at writing for her intended target audience. No matter how good you think your theories are of what really happened, she makes certain the turns in her story are as unpredictable as possible.

All in all, I would say Abbott’s writing in this book will you give you all you ever wanted from a suspense novel. Personally, I think her added technique of incorporating quotes from real-life gymnasts between chapters was great supplemental detail; it gives the story a sense of eerieness. Once you’ve flipped the final page of this mystery, I can assure you it won’t be easy to let go.

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Errica Bailey
the authorErrica Bailey
A city girl from the midwest still not sure where to call home, Errica hopes to one day be able to focus her creative energy at a level akin to Carrie Matheson - off her meds of course.