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You All Grow Up and Leave Me: A Memoir of Teenage Obsession Paperback – April 16, 2019
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“Intriguing . . . Weiss has a wonderful eye for the evocative detail . . . and a light but effective touch when summing up the zeitgeist.” -- New York Times Book Review
“Equal Parts true-crime investigation and self-reflection . . . Bracingly honest and extremely discomfiting, this book is like a riveting episode of Law & Order: SVU set at a Manhattan prep school with the U.S. Open as a backdrop.” -- Marie Claire
“Gorgeous, moody, and evocative . . . half coming-of-age story and half exhaustively researched true crime. . . . Weiss’s retelling is respectful, eschewing sensationalism for self-investigation, insightful metaphor, and lyrical turns of phrase.” -- Vanity Fair
“You All Grow Up and Leave Me is unflinching, rich and revelatory, not just about its twin subjects—the true crime at the heart of the book and the wrenching coming-of-age story that surrounds it—but about the dangers, fragility and piercing beauty of girlhood itself.” -- Megan Abbott, bestselling author of You Will Know Me
“A memoir so wholly original and brilliantly written, I feel comfortable saying nothing else in the genre compares. You All Grow Up and Leave Me perfectly marries the tenderness of coming-of-age with the horror of true crime . . . a gorgeous, haunting book.” -- Shondaland.com
“There’s a true crime story at the heart of this memoir—and a deeply disturbing one at that. But You All Grow Up and Leave Me is also a haunting, evocative, and thoroughly immersive tale that details the thrill and terror of growing up. I loved it.” -- Alison Gaylin, bestselling author of If I Die Tonight
“Exquisitely captures the constantly shifting terrain of adolescence and the complicated—sometimes dangerous—politics of relationships between adults and teenagers . . . You All Grow Up and Leave Me is a compulsively readable and beautifully crafted book.” -- Kristen Radtke, author of Imagine Wanting Only This
“Into an enthralling true-crime story of a middle-aged tennis coach’s fixation on young girls, Piper Weiss has smuggled a tender, introspective, and beautifully written coming-of-age memoir . . . the ‘teenage obsession’ here brilliantly cuts both ways.” -- Teddy Wayne, bestselling author of Loner
“There’s a fine line between obsessions that shape us, and obsessions that veer into dangerous territory. In You All Grow Up and Leave Me, Piper Weiss shows how they overlap with a reporter’s eye and a poet’s heart.” -- Michele Filgate, writer and Contributing Editor at Literary Hub
“Dark and brooding yet brisk and eloquently written . . . [Weiss’s] vivid coming-of-age narration shines a spotlight on the precarious relationship between teenagers and adults and everything that can go awry in between. A bristling, harrowing journey into the life of a stalker and his unsuspecting victims.” -- Kirkus Reviews
“So wildly chilling, you might forget that it’s a true story.” -- HelloGiggles, Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2018
“Riveting...Although the true crimes and potential crimes of Wilensky are the inciting incidents for Weiss’s story, these tabloid headlines are a small part of the whole, a compelling coming-of-age story.” -- Chonogram.com
From the Back Cover
Piper Weiss was fourteen years old when her middle-aged tennis coach, Gary Wilensky, one of New York City’s most prestigious private instructors, attempted to kidnap one of his teenage students. In the aftermath, authorities discovered that this well-known figure among the Upper East Side tennis crowd was actually a frightening child predator who had built a secret torture chamber—a “Cabin of Horrors”—in his secluded rental in the Adirondacks.
Before the shocking scandal broke, Piper had been thrilled to be one of “Gary’s Girls.” “Grandpa Gary,” as he was known among his students, was different from other adults—he treated Piper like a grown-up, taking her to dinners; engaging in long, intimate conversations; and sending her special valentines. When reporters swarmed her private community, Piper learned that her mentor was a predator with a sordid history of child stalking and sexual fetish. But why did she still feel protective of Gary, and why was she disappointed that he hadn’t chosen her?
Now, twenty years later, Piper examines the event as both a teenage eyewitness and a dispassionate investigative reporter, hoping to understand and exorcise the childhood memories that haunt her to this day. Combining research, interviews, and personal records, You All Grow Up and Leave Me explores the psychological manipulation of child predators and the far-reaching effects their actions have on those who trust them most.
- Publisher : William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (April 16, 2019)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 006245658X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0062456588
- Item Weight : 9.1 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.31 x 0.83 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #141,029 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Weiss weaves a delightful and intense (if not passionate) tale of her upper-middle-class upbringing and doting Jewish mother as her family steadily climbs up the social ladder. The mom is insistent on having her daughter trained by Wilensky – it is the socially acceptable thing to do. Weiss is eager to accept the lessons and oddly drawn to him (as are some of the other girls—he doesn’t set rules. Rather, he adopts the youthful persona of the girls providing them with a flow of candy, presents, cards and other niceties. The girls strive to be his favorite. He occasionally drops clues that he is a lonely man—especially to Weiss.
The author writes of insecurities where boys and friends are concerned. She starts to cut herself to displace the pain. When Wilensky develops a detailed plan to kidnap one of his students (after she quit his program) and bring her to an isolated cabin in the woods that is equipped as a torture chamber. He bungles the plan and is forced to flee with cops in pursuit. He kills himself in the car he was driving.
Weiss is upset that she wasn’t his favorite girl even years (20) after Wilensky’s death. She knows that he was delusional and dangerous but still distraught about his absence. She is 38, and single today. I recommend this book.
While the memoir is worth reading, it was at times disturbing. The author's voice was compelling, but it was difficult to like the author and sometimes to understand her.
The true crime part of the book, which is dwarfed by the memoir portions, are about Gary Wilensky, a tennis instructor who taught privileged Manhattan girls while grooming them to become his victims. His students loved him because they felt he was one of them. Not like those other adults-- Gary really understood them. Even the girls' parents were taken in by his spell. Piper's mother, to this day, believes Wilensky gave her daughter free extra tennis lessons on Saturdays because of her talent. "You were so good," her mother says. But, it turns out, Gary Wilensky was so bad. He built a dungeon of horrors in the mountains and tried to abduct one of his former students. The case garnered national media attention.
But that victim, the one reporters stalked and chased, desperate for an exclusive quote, was not Piper Weiss. A fact which only awakened a new obsession but in reverse. Piper became obsessed with Gary. Throughout her investigation, Piper pumped authorities for details about herself. Was she one of the girls Gary covertly photographed? Could she get a copy of the photographs? Was she Gary's backup plan? I'm not sure it's fair to say Piper wanted to be a victim, but I do think it appears that way on the surface. Her reactions are in stark contrast to another one of "Gary's girls," who wrote an article for the Washington Post likening her escape of his attentions to winning the lottery. Piper Weiss is a little less grateful for her good luck:
"The teen he stalked. I don't know what exactly happened to her or what he tried to do, but I know she matters. He picked her and now she matters. Everyone wants to know what she has to say and how she feels because he chose her. She matters and I do not."
So why did I like this book? It helps to be a bit of a memoir junkie and to also have an interest true crime. I'd never heard of Gary Wilensky before and don't know that I ever would have if not for this book. He seems to have slipped into true crime obscurity. Weiss is a talented writer and her style is engaging and addictive. Sure, there were times when I thought her memoir was self-indulgent, but I found the majority of her story very compelling. Then there's the fact that so much of my own experiences overlap with Piper's. I'm roughly the same age and the references to fashion and music and the radio station Z100 take me back to the early 90s. This book is strong on the nostalgia.
But Piper has seemingly stayed in that adolescent world, still fourteen. That's part of what makes her memoir fascinating, if not tragic. The past and the present are just mirrors of each other. Her story demonstrates how "almost victims" can, in fact, be victims in their own rights, even if they don't feel like they have permission to wear that label. How crime, predatory sex crime most of all, is like the rock dropped in the lake. The ripples stretch out far from the original source, jostling and disturbing everything in their radius. Those on the periphery of a shocking crime, like Piper Weiss-- we don't usually seek out their stories, we don't hear their experiences. Maybe we'd be wise to listen.