Dare Me by Megan Abbott (pub date 7/31/12
“When you have nothing inside you, you feel everything more, and you feel you can control all of it.”
Friendship, teamwork, with a little jealousy and an eating disorder or two: there’s a lot more to cheerleading than meets the eye. For the teen characters in this novel, cheerleading is about being loyal to your “sistahs” for life. In short, it is life.
Dare Me is a novel not just about cheerleading, but about dangerous relationships and emotions spinning out of control. Beth and Addy are best friends and high school seniors, Beth being the self-appointed queen of the cheer squad and Addy being her faithful second-in-command. Now there’s a new cheer coach who challenges Beth’s authority as ruler of the squad.
Within a few weeks, Coach Collette French whips the cheer team into shape, teaching them to perform dangerous stunts instead of the hip wiggling and pom-pom shaking that they had previously been doing. And the girls quickly become enamored by Collette’s cool, confident demeanor. Especially Addy, who becomes Collette’s friend and even her confidante. But how close is too close?
When Collette is investigated after a suspicious death, things quickly start to unravel for both her and the squad. Only Addy seems interested in the truth, and once she starts looking for it she gets deeper in the situation than she thought.
This is a very well written book, with a lot of plot twists and a surprising ending. What was most interesting for me was the apparent role reversal of Addy and Coach French. Coach seems to have everything anyone could want: great job, great body, perfect family. At first she comes off calm and collected, but as the story progresses, her character is shown to be rather immature and impulsive. Her relationship with her squad borders on inappropriate, and some of her actions are rather self-destructive. And though Addy is only a teenager, she demonstrates more maturity and insight than her friends, even Beth. Beth is also a great character, a girl you will love to hate. Beautiful, confident, and manipulative, Beth is more dangerous that you might first suspect.
Like I said, the writing is great. Abbott writes teenagers really well, using slang and mannerisms that feel genuine and not contrived. It’s a pretty quick read with a good story and an air of mystery that will hold you from beginning to end, and offers a disturbing look into the mind of today’s teen girls. So whether you were a cheerleader in high school, or you secretly envied or hated them, you’re sure to enjoy Dare Me.