Favorite Books of the 2010s: You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

This is a series of reviews of my favorite books published between 2010 and 2019.


You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott (2016)

Sixteen-year-old Devon is an elite gymnast with a shot at the Olympics, and everyone and everything in her life revolves around that goal. When someone she knows is killed by a hit-and-run driver, this carefully constructed world starts to unravel.

The story is told from the point of view of Devon’s mother, Katie, and what I found most interesting about it was not the thriller aspect but rather the family dynamics that develop with a child has enormous talent. Family is a bizarre thing: you may not know the people you live with nearly as well as you think, but still you find yourself doing the unthinkable just to protect them. It is not only Devon’s family that comes under the microscope here, but the families of the ancillary characters as well: her coach, the wealthy gym booster, the other gymnasts’ parents. It feels deliciously uncomfortable to be peering into these families’ lives and realizing that what is holding them together isn’t necessarily love, as we would assume, but something much darker.

The other thing this book made me think about was the nature of childhood. To compete at an elite level in gymnastics–and, I presume, in many other realms–a lot must be sacrificed, including childhood. I found myself wondering at which point her Olympic dream became Devon’s and not just her parents’, and whether she was actually able to choose that path, since she had to begin training at such a young age. Her younger brother, also, was being deprived of a childhood in service of her dream, not through his own choice, although he does go along with it. Is it really worth it? It somehow seems so artificial and, ultimately, damaging.

Not so much a thrilling thriller as a glimpse into a world that I don’t often see and a book that did make me think.

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