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Review: Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott

Give Me Your Hand
Megan Abbott
2018, 339p
Copy courtesy Pan Macmillan AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

A mesmerizing psychological thriller about how a secret can bind two friends together forever…or tear them apart.

Kit Owens harbored only modest ambitions for herself when the mysterious Diane Fleming appeared in her high school chemistry class. But Diane’s academic brilliance lit a fire in Kit, and the two developed an unlikely friendship. Until Diane shared a secret that changed everything between them.

More than a decade later, Kit thinks she’s put Diane behind her forever and she’s begun to fulfill the scientific dreams Diane awakened in her. But the past comes roaring back when she discovers that Diane is her competition for a position both women covet, taking part in groundbreaking new research led by their idol. Soon enough, the two former friends find themselves locked in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse that threatens to destroy them both.

This is my first time reading a Megan Abbott book although she’s one of those names that I’ve seen around quite a lot. I don’t read a huge amount of psychological thrillers – I have to be in the mood for them, because I’m a bit of a chicken and sometimes I just can’t handle that ramping up of suspense. I always find myself wanting to ‘kill a fairy’ and skip to the end of the book, just to know that everything is okay and then you kind of lose the momentum. But every now and then I’ll find that right frame of mind and I was glad I had this on hand.

Kit works in a laboratory. It’s not the best funded, it doesn’t have the best equipment but it has the added bonus where she gets to work with a hugely respected scientist Dr Severin, who has just secured funding to do a study into PMDD – pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder which is like extreme cases of premenstrual syndrome. Very extreme. There will only be three to assist her picked from a pool of maybe a dozen and Kit is sure she’s super close to being one of the choices and she wants it desperately. But then Dr Severin announces a new post-doc joining the team of researchers and not only is she another woman but Kit also knows her and she feels as though her dreams of being picked on Dr Severin’s team are going to go up in smoke.

Because the new employee is Diane, who was Kit’s friend in high school. In fact they were best friends who drove each other on academically and Kit probably wouldn’t have been on the path she was now on, if not for Diane. Kit knows that Diane is brilliant but when they were teenagers, Diane also told her a terrible secret, something that for Kit, destroyed their friendship forever. She is incredibly wary of Diane joining the team, not just because it jeopardises her own chances of working more closely with Dr Severin.

We all know the term ‘well, that escalated quickly’ and this book is one of those where well, things escalate quickly. One minute Kit is a hard working lab bee, putting in longer hours than anyone else, trying to get noticed so that she’ll be chosen when grants come in for research. She’s the only woman, which she thinks gives her an edge and she enjoys a pretty decent relationship with her colleagues. But the reappearance of Diane, whom Kit knew as a teenager, into her life gives her so much cause for concern and then before you know it…..things are happening.

I really enjoyed the back and forth time line – Kit in the lab in the current day, dealing with the fact that she will now be working with Diane and then winding back to high school, and how they met and became friends. Although friends is an interesting term because it doesn’t seem like it was a traditional high school best friend type relationship. When Diane turns up at Kit’s school they become study partners, egging each other on to do better. Kit thrives under the competition and even though she’s not technically as academically brilliant as Diane, she improves her marks incredibly and it focuses her, narrowing down what she wants to do after high school. When Diane confesses a terrible secret though, it’s more than Kit can cope with.

All of a sudden, Kit not only knows a terrible secret about Diane but Diane stumbles on something terrible involving Kit and suddenly the two are tied together, both knowing these incriminating things, trying to hold up under the pressure of questions and investigations. This is not something that Kit is a natural with and she seems desperately torn as to what to do. Her career has come to mean so much to her, it’s almost the only thing that she really has in her life – she no longer has any family, doesn’t seem to have any close friends, no romantic attachments. She spends long hours at the lab, almost modelling herself on Dr Severin, in a “I want to be her when I grow up” sort of way, trying to be the sort of person that she thinks Dr Severin might approve of and pick as a research assistant. With the arrival of Diane though, that all seems like it’s in jeopardy as Diane has been poached from a rival lab (a better equipped and funded lab, so clearly there’s been some sort of dangled carrot as incentive) and Kit knows more than most how brilliant and also ruthless Diane can be.

I raced through this – I thought the lab setting was great (I haven’t read too many books set in such a workplace) and the book surprised me more than once with the twists in the story. I thought there might be a bit more about the PMDD, it was really only referenced a couple of times and I would’ve liked to know more about the study. But I still really liked this and it’s made me definitely want to read more Megan Abbott books. If you’re a fan of a twisty story where it seems everyone has a secret and people will do anything to get ahead, this is a book you might enjoy.


Book #142 of 2018

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