I occasionally enjoy a true crime read and I adore most memoirs, so I decided to read Piper Weiss’s memoir You All Grow Up and Leave Me. Her coming-of-age story is interwoven with the true crime tale that touched her life. Upon his suicide following the attempted kidnapping of one of his students, Piper found out her beloved tennis coach, Gary Wilensky, was a child predator.

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The summary, from Amazon:

“Unflinching, rich and revelatory.”—MEGAN ABBOTT

“Gorgeous, moody, and evocative . . . half coming-of-age story and half exhaustively researched true crime.” VANITY FAIR

“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


A riveting blend of true crime and coming-of-age memoir— The Stranger Beside Me meets Prep—that presents an intimate and thought-provoking portrait of girlhood within Manhattan’s exclusive private-school scene in the early 1990s, and a thoughtful meditation on adolescent obsession and the vulnerability of youth.

Piper Weiss was fourteen years old when her middle-aged tennis coach, Gary Wilensky, one of New York City’s most prestigious private instructors, killed himself after a failed attempt 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 with her, and sending her special valentines. As reporters swarmed her private community in the wake of Wilensky’s death, 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 by child predators—their ability to charm their way into seemingly protected worlds—and the far-reaching effects their actions have on those who trust them most.

Buy You All Grow Up and Leave Me here.

You All Grow Up and Leave Me by Piper Weiss is part true crime, part memoir. Weiss recalls her adolescence as a privileged young teen in New York City during the 1990’s. Piper dealt with typical, though dark at times, obsessions that teenagers fit – appearances, a crush on long-dead Jim Morrison, self-harm, and the desire to please or rebel against the adults in her life. Meanwhile, she had no idea that her beloved and popular tennis coach, Gary Wilensky, had his own obsessions with the teenage girls he taught. In the wake of his death, Piper experienced guilt because Wilensky had burdened her by sharing that he was depressed in recent weeks, making Piper believe they were kindred souls. Out of a desire to be the favorite, even as an adult, Piper struggled with questions as to why Wilensky so methodically chose, and thankfully failed to kidnap a student other than her.

This was such an interesting and dark read and I could see my teenage self in Piper. My life experience was so much different than hers, and yet I still know I would have felt the same emotions she did. I think Weiss succeeded in telling her own story with this evocative memoir, though I did want some more information on Wilensky’s intentions with the kidnapping. Given the information Weiss had access to, it’s possible she did the most thorough job possible, but his intentions were so dark and perhaps sensationalized by the media that I was left wanting to know more than this book told me. I’m thankful that his plans did not succeed. This was a 4 star read for me and I enjoyed the narration on audiobook by Brittany Pressley. She spoke in the perfect cadence so I could listen at 1x speed.

You All Grow Up and Leave Me: A Memoir of Teenage ObsessionYou All Grow Up and Leave Me: A Memoir of Teenage Obsession by Piper Weiss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part memoir. Part true crime.

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Book Club Questions

  1. Did Piper want to please her mother or rebel against her? Is it possible she wanted both things at the same time? Is this an emotional experience you had as a teen?
  2. How did the privilege Piper and the people around her impact her experience as a teenager in New York City? In what ways was their lifestyle a sourced of harm?
  3. Was the way Piper felt in the aftermath of Wilensky’s crime and suicide rational or understandable? Why did she feel that way?
  4. How do manipulators like Wilensky win the affection and trust of children?
  5. In her youth, Piper thought of people like Gary as “child allies”. What did she mean by this? Are these kinds of people always manipulators, predators, and abusers? What would a true child ally be like.

Interested? Buy You All Grow Up and Leave Me.
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P.S. I listened to this book on Audible. Try Audible and get two free audiobooks!

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