Dare Me by Megan Abbott | Rating: ★★★★☆
That’s what people never understand: They see us hard little pretty things, brightly lacquered and sequin-studded, and they laugh, they mock, they arouse themselves. They miss everything.
Let's get down to business. You've seen the buzz. You've been urged to check this one out. If you frequently use sites such as Tumblr and glimpse into its massive book community, of graphic makers in particular, you’ve probably found yourself hearing the buzz behind Megan Abbott’s novel Dare Me and the oh-so-overused yet absolutely truthful quote:
“There’s something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls.”
There’s also a chance that this quote and the trope that springs from it has either turned you off of the novel or captured your attention, without even reading it. I must say, it caught me right away because of the honesty behind it.
It’s such a simple statement, but it is right… mostly. I had high hopes for how Megan Abbott could incorporate this theme into her writing through Dare Me, a story about high school cheerleaders and something of an introduction into adult lives. It has a premise that would certainly make a solid coming of age adaptation and continue to generate buzz.
I’m not typically a sports oriented reader, but the quotes I’d been seeing from it really, really intrigued me. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but my mind was certainly focused on what lay ahead. I will say this, Dare Me started off quite slow and often dragged on in some places; there were times when I felt like I didn’t really know the characters quite as well as I’d hoped.
Which was really disappointing. I found myself questioning whether or not I wanted to continue on during the first quarter of the story.
Even still, Megan’s writing is unique and descriptive; carving out raw human emotion for its readers and touching something within ourselves. I didn’t know what to expect but I know it wasn’t whatever it is I am feeling now that I am done. I’m glad that I didn’t let the slow start get me down.
Onto the characters and the plots…
None of the characters are particularly likable but that’s what made the story itself rather enjoyable. It was downright gritty at times. I liked that Addy was flawed, I liked just the same of Coach Colette French and Beth and the other various characters throughout.
I liked that the girls on the team were realistic and at times catty; because it makes you feel as though you really are glimpsing into teenage girls. This isn’t to say that all girls act in such a way, that all cheerleaders are well assholes, because that is far from true. But, still, something about their interactions and their bad sides made it seem all the more real for me.
About mid-book we come across a few new things:
Beth’s desire for power and the struggles between Beth/Coach and Beth/Addy. I thought that the pace in which Beth and Addy’s friendship began deteriorating felt realistic and how Beth continued to try, try, try for control. Feeling Addy pull away, feeling Beth grow increasingly more bizarre…
Their past, their friendship, their power struggles–all went to a dark place, deeper than I thought it had and I have to say I wasn’t really expecting to feel quite like I did. There’s something about the two girls that is complex and fascinating and toxic and I really enjoyed watching it all flip back and forth.
I was also equal parts interested and weirded out by Coach’s attention to her squad. I liked that she didn’t let Beth ruin things and she saw potential in others. I thought it was strange how she constantly hung around the girls though, including having them over and allowing them to drink and all that stuff. I’m not sure what to say other than that because I understand why and how, and think that it fits with the story, but it still made things a tad weird for me.
Dare Me grows darker, more twisted and mysterious, by the minute as Coach and Addy grow closer. Beth continues to be Beth. When the girls stumble upon Coach’s affair with a man named Will, Beth uses it as leverage to gain control and Addy seems to grow closer with Coach.
Things take a turn for the worst when Will is found dead and Colette calls Addy; involving the teenage girl in whatever it is that had happened. Was it a suicide? Or did someone kill Will? This is where things grow more complicated, more bizarre and nerve wracking.
Beth certainly seems to know more about it, almost as if she were there the night Will died. She wastes no time suspecting Colette of murder–perhaps the lovers were arguing, perhaps Will had grown tired of Colette. And with Colette not being entirely truthful about a lot of things, with her involving Addy readers can’t help but to wonder if maybe she did kill Will.
I’m not going to lie to you guys, the twists and turns and revelations by the last five or so chapters were breathtaking. I kept thinking I knew where the novel was going, what the outcome would be, what happened to Will and what Beth has up her sleeves–but I somehow didn’t solve anything.
“Love is a kind of killing, Addy,“ she says. "Don’t you know that?”
Abbott mixes mystery and realistic emotions to a wonderful degree. It’s glossy and beautiful and filled with a lot of depth. While the novel has its flaws, while it had such a slow start, it has a satisfying end and when Megan gets into her story telling groove–boy, does she go.
Dare Me is a story about life with a backdrop of cheer leading and friendship. This isn’t Bring It On, this is storytelling and toxic relationships and life’s ups and downs. It will not be for everyone, but for many readers, it will leave its mark on you.
I can’t wait to get my hands on more of Megan Abbott’s books.