Tuesday, August 23, 2016

You Will Know Me

Megan Abbott is steadily establishing herself as the voice of authority re: teenage girls in contemporary literature.  She burst on to my scene in 2012 with Dare Me, about a group of cheerleaders and their coach, then The Fever, about a town where the girls are overcome by these mysterious seizures.  In the early aughts, she wrote hardboiled feminist pulpy noir that looks pretty interesting (let me know if you've read them and have a suggestion on where to start!)  

You Will Know Me is about another athlete, a 15 year-old gymnast and Olympic hopeful.  Like her other recent books, it's a bit of a mystery, although these three books defy traditional sorting into genres.  It's told from the perspective of Katie, the gymnast's mother, who tries hard to rise about the other mothers' "sports mom" coterie.  "The other parents always tried to do this. To drag her into their little circle, their gym drama, their coven rubbing their hands over their water bottles, fire burn and cauldron bubble." Katie and her husband have been devoting themselves to Devon's career since she was four years old - they're in debt and they have no free time because they're always driving her to either her expensive lessons or to meets across the country.

Reading this while the Rio Olympics were happening gave me a little extra insight into one of the themes of Abbott's book - the body of the devoted gymnast.  "Less than five feet tall, a hard, smooth shell of a body. Hipless, breastless still, but the way she's transformed her body in the last two years, thighs like trunks, shoulders and biceps straining her tank-top straps, staggered Katie."  I found myself so amazed to see how unusual Olympic athletes body's look - the triangles of swimmers' torsos, the dramatic profiles of the gymnasts: flat fronts, perky tushes, those legs...!  Their bodies are like objects of consumption over the course of the Olympics, all of us staring, staggered ourselves.

Like The Fever and Dare Me, You Will Know Me is a quick read and usually devoured in a sitting or two.  Abbott's recall of the pain of teenager-ness is spot-on. Her obsessive girls are so perfectly captured it carries me right back to my own tortured teenage years with embarrassing clarity.  I'm excited to see what she'll write next!

No comments: