A review of Meagan Jennett’s You Know Her, a bone-chilling novel challenging old narratives.
What image manifests itself in your mind when you think of a serial killer? What characteristics do they possess? What are their motives? Well, abandon whatever preconceived depiction you may have imagined before you decide to read Meagan Jennett’s new novel, You Know Her. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself just as vulnerable and surprised as Sophie Braam’s victims.
In this electrifying and perspective-shifting story, Jennett challenges her readers to consider a different approach to an age-old narrative — a tired portrayal that glorifies the harassment and murder of innocent women and victimizes them in the process.
Fueled by the constant intimidation she faced at the hands of men, bartender Sophie Braam developed a taste for murder. But, don’t think “Dexter.” Think “Promising Young Woman.”
Officer Nora Martin, who impatiently awaits her turn to be a detective at Bellair Police Department, is haunted by the violence she has seen enacted upon women while working as an officer. So-called “haints,” or the women and girls who “died with a question in their mouth,” keep her up at night, their deaths a constant reminder of the unequal playing field created by men.
Nora is drawn to Sophie by a yearning for female friendship and is also intrigued by her impassioned personality and viewpoint on the world. But, as male corpses continue to pop up around their small town, Nora’s suspicions of a female killer grow like a pit in her stomach, and soon her eyes turn to her new friend.
You Know Her forces a degree of introspection upon its reader. Obviously, murder is wrong, but why am I rooting for her to get away with it? Even after the heinous and disturbing acts Sophie terrorizes these men with, it is admittedly difficult not to empathize with her motive. Especially if you are a woman.
Jennett’s expert characterization of Sophie allows her to play both the protagonist and the antagonist, the hero and the one behind the knife—all at the same time. Each turn of the page will change your opinion, but ultimately this character will impact each reader in a different way.
Make no mistake, this is not a story about a woman’s descent into madness but, instead, a furious response to the abuse of not just Sophie, but women in general. Jennett utilizes Officer Nora Martin to introduce this idea to her reader. As she investigates the murders, Nora occasionally recognizes her lack of sympathy for the male victims.
Because, like Sophie (and, likely, a good portion of the audience), Nora has been mistreated, abused, harassed or traumatized by men. This role reversal is, for lack of a better word, refreshing, and Nora’s character provides a safe space for readers to feel validated in their perspective.
You do know her, Jennett displays. You become her any time you get catcalled, groped or harassed. And Sophie’s character in this novel reflects the theme that women are not always the victims, but sometimes the ones to be feared.
You Know Her is available now and is one of our Spring Reading Picks.