4.5 stars, actually.
Devon Knox is a gymnastic prodigy…so good that she’s aiming for the National Elites– the step just before the Olympics– and its taking her entire gymnastics school’s money, time, and adoration to get her there. Not to mention the entire focus and finances of her family.
In the voice of her mother, Katie, starting with a luau party for the gymnastics families in celebration of a successful competition, the scene is set with the players: overly ambitious parents, Devon the prodigy, the gymnastics coach and his fragile daughter, a part time, handsome young man who dates the coach’s daughter, and Katie and her husband who seem to be joined together in a solid team for Devon’s sake, but who are isolated in their own worlds.
There’s a lot of visceral focus on Devon’s body, the bodies of the other gymnastics, and a not-so-subtle running metaphor of how those repressed, adolescent bodies contain the hopes and ambitions of the parents.
Katie is also an unreliable narrator, and as the story progresses, we see how the simple facts– a car crash, a death– are revealed to be complicated, emotional struggles where adults are lying in order to protect themselves and Devon.
And Devon herself, seen through mother Katie’s eyes, changes from a gymnastics-focused naive girl to a manipulative and self-centered actor.
This is a quick, immersive read. Once Katie’s voice drew me in, and I got the glimmerings of the foulness underneath the glitter, it became imperative to find out what was going to be revealed in the same way big little lies (the book) draws you in.
The ending was a bit unsatisfying, although possibly true to Katie’s inner weakness and turmoil. It felt too quick. The meat of the book is in the middle– where Devon’s competitions and development along with the gym’s development shows the cracks in the family.
A cringey, must-read for any parent of dancer or gymnast.