You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

you-will-know-me“She turned and, for the first time ever, he looked at her like he knew she was lying. Which she was, though she wasn’t sure why. But in that look, his eyes dark and sad, she knew something had ended, that great parental loss, the moment they realize you’re not perfect, and maybe even a little worse.”

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott is one of the Book of the Month Club December selections. This story is about the Knoxes, a family that revolves around the gymnastics career of the daughter, Devon, who has dreams of going for Olympic gold. While Devon spends countless hours training for this dream, her family spends just as many transporting her to and from practices, events, and more. It’s a huge commitment and because of this, the gymnastics community is tight knit and gossip-filled. When a member of this group dies, it sends the community spiraling and threatens to ruin everything that Devon, and her family, has worked for….

Filled with lies, rumors, and betrayals, You Will Know Me is a fast-paced chase to find out how a man died and whether Devon has what it takes to make it to the top.

you-will-know-me-by-megan-abbottDespite the interesting dynamic of the ultimate gymnastics dream, this book underwhelmed me in the end. It was a quick read, which I appreciate in mystery novels, but the plot twists were a bit predictable and most of the characters (besides the youngest Knox child, Drew) were unlikeable to me. Overall, You Will Know Me is a quick-paced mystery from a unique perspective, but it wasn’t one of my favorites this year.

Look at You Now by Liz Pryor

look-at-you-now-by-liz-pryorWhen Liz Pryor, a senior in high school about to graduate and start the rest of her life, finds out that she’s pregnant, her parents decide to send her away. The year is 1979 and according to her parents, no one can know about it, not even their friends, family, or Liz’s siblings. Liz is sent to a facility for girls “in her condition” and her world shifts while she’s there. The place turns out to be a locked government-run facility.

At first Liz (who is from an upper-class family) feels completely at odds with the girls (many of whom came from the foster care system). As she settles in though, she bonds with the girls and in some cases finds deep friendships. Liz gains a new perspective that causes her to reevaluate her own life.

I appreciated the honesty throughout the book and seeing Liz grow as she faced an incredibly challenging experience with grace and maturity, especially for someone so young. The book emphasized how much her pregnancy and her time with the girls shaped her. I wonder whether they are still in touch today or ever connected later on after leaving the facility.

look-at-you-nowI enjoyed both the pace and the length of the story, it was just right in my opinion. I definitely recommend Look at You Now and have quite a few follow-up questions – I may have to do some digging for a follow-up interview with Liz Pryor!

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

the-secret-historyAs soon as I finished The Secret History by Donna Tartt, I wanted to pick it back up and read it again. Needless to say, this is a very good story.

Richard, who is from an area of California described as dry and desolate, comes to Hampden College in Vermont. On campus, he sees group of Classics students (the only Classics majors in the school actually) and he becomes instantly infatuated. At Hampden, Classics is an exclusive course (only five students per one professor), but somehow Richard is accepted in.

The five, now six with Richard, students are misfits of sorts and are deeply influenced by the thinking and practices of their Greek studies. That is, until things go too far and everything seems to spiral out of control.

The characters, especially the six Classics students and their relationships with one another, fascinated me. Tartt is a master of dialogue – I could hear each character distinctly by the tone of their voice.

I also enjoyed that the narrator (Richard) speaks directly to the audience, pulling us readers into the story!

the-secret-history-by-donna-tarttI read another one of Tartt’s books, The Goldfinch, a few years ago and while I was intrigued by the story and the characters, the book lost me when it droned on and on in the end. I thought that it could have packed a bigger punch without the last 200 pages. BUT (and that’s a big but) I loved The Secret History.

Some of the passages I marked include:

“’Death is the mother of beauty,’ said Henry. ‘And what is beauty?’ ‘Terror.’”

“’…then what is desire? We think we have many desires, but in fact we have only one. What is it?’ ‘To live,’ said Camilla.” 

“But of course I didn’t see this crucial moment then for what it was; I supposed we never do.”

“She was the Queen who finished out the suit of dark Jacks, dark King, and Joker.” 

“He was like a propagandist, routinely withholding information, leaking it only when it served his purposes.”

The Guineveres by Sarah Domet

the guineveresFour girls, all named Guinevere, find themselves at The Sisters of the Supreme Adoration convent and quickly become an inseparable group. The Guineveres by Sarah Domet shares their story as the girls face the hardships of living in the convent, abandoned by their parents, and become one another’s family.

The nuns of the convent raise the girls and teach them to have faith and live obedient lives. After years of waiting, they grow weary and long for freedom so when a group of injured soldiers are brought to the convent to heal, The Guineveres see these boys as their way out. In other words, they become obsessed with the soldiers.

I thought it was interesting that at times throughout the book, the girls were described as a unit, as The Guineveres, rather than as each individual member of the group. Throughout the story we learn each of their heartbreaking revival stories and can begin to understand the circumstances that led them to their places in the convent.

the guineveres by sarah dometWhile the pace of the book quickened towards the end, the story didn’t really come to life for me as much as I would have liked.