“You Will Know Me” by Megan Abbott (2016) – 340 pages
“You Will Know Me” is a suspense novel set in the obsessive compulsive world of girls’ gymnastics.
Megan Abbott lays it all out quite nicely for us in a chart early on.
There are 2,200 Level 10 girl gymnasts nationwide. Of these 2,200 girls, 65 0f them will make it to Junior Elite. Of the 65 Junior Elite gymnasts, 45 become Senior Elite. Of the Senior Elites, 28 girls make the National Team, and of these only 5 girls make the Olympic team. So there is a lot of pressure in the world of top-level girls’ gymnastics. We don’t hear much about the girls who don’t make it somewhere along the line to the Olympics.
The families of the gymnasts at or near the top levels have to put up with a lot of trouble too. Top athletes require special coaches and gyms which are expensive. Weekends for the family are spent traveling long distances to matches. Other family members may be neglected in the family’s single-minded pursuit of a position for their talented daughter. Making it or not making it to the next level is only a matter of inches for the girl in any maneuver.
So Megan Abbott has found the ideal conditions for a suspense novel. Throw in a mysterious death, and we are rolling. It also helps that the girls and the parents who belong to these top-level gymnastics teams are a close-knit group.
Devon Knox is the girl gymnast star in “You Will Know Me”. From an early age Devon excelled and now is at Level 10. Even at a young age she was stronger at gymnastics than the rest of the girls. She has precision and steely determination. Her parents, though not rich, have always gotten the special coaches and gyms she requires. They needed a second mortgage for their house to afford the expenses. Sometimes in pursuit of their daughter’s and their own dreams, they neglect their son Drew. The story is told from the point of view of the mother Katie who is pretty much the average housewife and mother.
“No one ever wants to believe bad things about their own family,” Katie said.
Like all good suspense novels, ‘You Will Know Me’ barrels along, and you read it quickly. Megan Abbott is very adept at handling the family dynamics and the gymnastics team dynamics that propel this story. Abbott gets the details exactly right down to the “smell of damp leotards and pit foam” to the “funfetti cupcakes”. The reader totally believes this situation could happen and thus follows the story intently.
With its single-minded intensity, ‘You Will Know Me’ is a fine example of the Suspense genre. The main criticism I can reasonably make is that I prefer novels which are more than one thing.
Read it anyway.