by Megan Abbott
Fiction — Young Adult
Reagan Arthur Books; July 31, 2012
After a game, it takes a half hour under the showerhead to get all the hairspray out. To peel off the sequins. To dig out that last bobby pin nestled deep in your hair.
Sometimes you stand under the hot gush for so long, looking at your body, counting every bruise. Touching every tender place. Watching the swirl at your feet, the glitter spinning. Like a mermaid shedding her scales.
You’re really just trying to get your heart to slow down.
You think, This is my body, and I can make it do things. I can make it spin, flip, fly.
After, you stand in front of the steaming mirror, the fuchsia streaks gone, the lashes unsparkled. And it’s just you there, and you look like no one you’ve ever seen before.
You don’t look like anybody at all.
That passage, which starts the story in Dare Me, is exactly why I enjoyed this book as much as I did. I can’t tell you how many times, as a dancer, I went through this same routine after shows and competitions.
Now, I’m not interested in cheerleading at all, but I was a dancer for many years (ballet, tap, jazz), and I can tell you that the descriptions in Dare Me of the workouts, the pain, the exhaustion, and how good it all feels apply to the world of dancing, too. Megan Abbott nailed all the feelings associated with being an athlete/dancer. Before I go on, though, here’s a synopsis of the story in Dare Me, from the inside flap of the book:
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.
Dare Me is really a book about teenage girls, their relationships, and the power they sometimes wield over their peers. It’s about ambition, insecurity, loyalty, competitiveness, and lots of other stuff teenage girls feel and go through. It’s easy to see that Megan Abbott remembers exactly what it’s like to be a teenager, and she does an amazing job of putting it into words. I haven’t been a teenager for quite some time now, but I remember what it felt like, and Abbott nailed that, too.
Although the storyline is good overall, there is something in it that’s quite unrealistic and that I have a very hard time accepting: I can’t imagine that a group of teenage girls could hang out and get drunk at their coach’s house, frequently, and not have the school find out about it and discipline everyone involved. Maybe athletes hanging out at their coaches’ houses is common practice these days, but I doubt it. That bugged me throughout the entire book.
Other than that, Abbott’s writing is good, the characters are realistic, and there was enough suspense to keep me reading. Young adult books aren’t usually something I go for by choice, but I was pretty impressed by Dare Me, simply because of how well Megan Abbott writes about teenagers and what it’s like to be an athlete. There are lots of things I can relate to in this book.
I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading young adult fiction.
(To learn more about Megan Abbott, please visit her website.)
**If you choose to purchase this title using the links below, I will receive a small percentage of the sale (to be used toward site maintenance and buying more books).
(I received a copy of this book from the publisher through BOOK CLUB.)