Title: Dare Me
Author: Megan Abbott
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Mystery
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books
Release Date: January 1st, 2012
Length: 290 pages | 9 hours 12 minutes
Source: Borrowed from my local library
Addy Hanlon has always been Beth Cassidy’s best friend and trusted lieutenant. Beth calls the shots and Addy carries them out, a long-established order of things that has brought them to the pinnacle of their high-school careers. Now they’re seniors who rule the intensely competitive cheer squad, feared and followed by the other girls — until the young new coach arrives.
Cool and commanding, an emissary from the adult world just beyond their reach, Coach Colette French draws Addy and the other cheerleaders into her life. Only Beth, unsettled by the new regime, remains outside Coach’s golden circle, waging a subtle but vicious campaign to regain her position as “top girl” — both with the team and with Addy herself.
Then a suicide focuses a police investigation on Coach and her squad. After the first wave of shock and grief, Addy tries to uncover the truth behind the death — and learns that the boundary between loyalty and love can be dangerous terrain.
The raw passions of girlhood are brought to life in this taut, unflinching exploration of friendship, ambition, and power. Award-winning novelist Megan Abbott, writing with what Tom Perrotta has hailed as “total authority and an almost desperate intensity,” provides a harrowing glimpse into the dark heart of the all-American girl.
I enjoyed The Fever so much, when I saw my library had the Dare Me audiobook I couldn’t resist listening to it. The most notable difference between the two (aside from story, of course), is that The Fever had a very present sense of magical realism. Dare Me, on the other hand, not as much. But it still shines with Abbott’s almost preternatural ability to weave language into evocative passages.
Dare Me is a mystery with an aspect of thriller, and it explores jealousy, control, and obsession. Delightfully, the primary characters are all rather chilling and made of shades of grey when it comes to ethics. I found them realistically flawed and self-centered, especially the teenagers. You get the constant sense that something isn’t quite right, with any of the characters, which makes for delicious tension as you’re trying to figure out what’s going on.
I did struggle a bit with the unhealthiness of the cheerleaders. I’m sure it’s not unrealistic, but my heart just hurt at all the casual mention of these girls being anorexic, eating virtually nothing all day (or nothing, with a side of sugar), and popping pills and crazy weight loss hacks. The parents in this story are (deliberately) absent, in a variety of ways, but I just wanted someone to stop killing their body with malnutrition. I know, that was part of the point- this mind over body, steel-tight control concept. Still.
I definitely recommend Dare Me if you enjoy Megan Abbot books, or contemporary YA with poetic (not purple) language, mystery, and dark undercurrents.