38 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2012
Addy Hanlon and her best friend Beth Cassidy rule their cheer squad; Beth as captain and Addy her lieutenant. The squad doesn't just look up to them--their afraid of them. But when Colette French walks into the gym and takes over as cheer coach everything gets flipped around. Coach French has every intention of taking her girls to regionals and she needs to get them ready. First things first she dethrones the cheer captain.
Beth seems to lose interest in cheer and begins running more wild than usual. Addy is preoccupied running after Coach. The girls are getting stronger and better at cheer. The coach starts having them over for late night drinking parties. Coach French begins turning her attention to Addy. She begins entrusting her talking to her like she was an adult girlfriend instead of a girl on her cheer squad.
Addy's new bff seems to be Coach French. But we haven't seen the last of Beth. She's been watching and waiting in the wings. Coach French thought she could take away her captain's position on the squad? Beth wants Coach to pay for what she's done.
As the girls prepare for the game of their high school cheer career, there is a suicide. Addy finds herself right in the middle of it all. Entangled in a web of lies.
Dare Me is filled with sex, lies, alcohol, eating disorders and brimming with teenage angst, but that's just the first few chapters!
I have to admit it took me a few pages to connect with first person, Addy. I've read a number of books with a teenage protagonist, but the authenticity of Addy's voice was dead on--I felt like this is how my teenage daughter or her friends would think! Not only did Abbott nail it with the voice, but with Addy's perspective. Addy seems obsessed with her new coach, she wants to replace coach with her best friend Beth.
And Coach! Coach French is an odd one. She seems to be someone who peeked in high school and isn't ready for the grown-up world. The more I read it seemed like her dethroning of Beth had less to do with the squad and was more about replacing herself in Beth's position. She didn't seem coach like, more like one of the girls.
With each page I delved deeper into the dark world of high school. Parents turning a blind eye to what is going on with their kids and the kids being in such a rush to grow up.
Suddenly, the story takes on a dark twist. I actually stopped counting how many times I put the book down in my lap and said, "holy--" yeah, it's that good! I really figured I knew where it was headed, I was wrong. Then I thought something else, yeah wrong again. I no longer knew who or what to believe! I just knew I couldn't stop reading until everything was revealed.
I thought it was an awesome book! Amazing! Loved it! Fresh, different and authentic! I recommend grabbing a glass of wine and get ready for a long night of reading!
47 of 57 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2012
Based on the book description alone, I might have waited for the Kindle version of this book to be available at my library. I bought it based on the reviews...and now, I wish I'd waited. I expected a dark, quirky thriller about a cheerleading squad gone haywire. What I got was a story of one cheerleader (Addy) who's spent years as a subservient follower of her cheer captain and "best friend" Beth. Beth is mean, spiteful, and so completely unlikeable that I wanted to light the book (er, Kindle) on fire just to eliminate her from this world. As to why Addy remains so very loyal to her - perhaps that's supposed to be the mystery of the novel. If so, I never figured it out. The other characters, if not necessarily unlikeable, are just uninteresting altogether. The stunning twist of a murder was not twisty and did not stun me. And the writing - I suppose it was good. But. Every chapter, every section within chapters, ended with a seemingly profound statement that I just did not get. And 500 hyphenated adjectives later ("blister-white tennis shoes", "dusty-shouldered geometry teachers and crepy-skinned guidance counselors), it kind of got on my nerves. Really, I just wanted it to end.
I finished it, because it was decent enough that I didn't light my Kindle on fire after all. And I could tolerate it enough to find out how it ended, because, I guess I did want to know how it ended. I'm not saying don't read it. I am saying, wait till you can read it for free.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2012
If you have read some of my other reviews, you might know that I am addicted to stories set in schools and universities, and in the past year I have been very fortunate to have read some stunners, especially Donna Tartt's The Secret History, Tana French's The Likeness, and amongst school stories, Patrick Gale's Friendly Fire. In one of these Amazon reviews I declared that the best school stories have to be set in boarding schools. But now I'll eat crow. Dare Me is a superb school story. American public school students when they are like the Sutton Grove cheer squad yield nothing to English "Public School" students or American preppies.
Because lots of other reviewers have discussed the setting and characters in Dare Me, I'll focus on the principal characters' relationships. When I was about half way through my initial reading, I would have described Beth as a Number One Mean Girl, who seeks revenge on the new coach for depriving Beth of the captaincy of the cheer squad, I might have predicted that Beth might grow up to be the heroine of a Gillian Flynn novel. After two readings I find that version still plausible but superficial. Beth is a much more complex, and indeed, tragic figure. Like all good tragedies, in Dare Me the Fates bring together characters with extraordinary personal qualities whose mistakes lead to their downfall.
The principal tragic actors are Beth Cassidy the cheer captain and her antagonist, Colette French the cheer coach, but our sole narrator is another cheerleader, Beth's BF and `lieutenant" Addy. Megan Abbott uses the first person point of view brilliantly to envelop her story in mystery and ambiguity. We observe only what Addy witnesses and thinks, but she relies for much of her knowledge on Beth and Coach, both of whom are consummate liars. And Addy's testimony is unreliable as well. "I remember what I choose to remember," she tells us at one point. Much of Addy's recent history with Beth is something Addy keeps deliberately murky, especially her relationship the previous summer at cheer camp with Casey Jaye, a cheerleader from another school who encouraged Addy to break free of Beth's influence. Even before Addy becomes attracted to Coach, Beth had good reason to fear her hold was slipping. And gradually the reader becomes aware that whilst Beth has always been the dominant partner to Addy, it is Beth who is most committed to their relationship, and as is well known to marriage counselors and experts on relationships, it is the partner who is least committed who determines what kind of relationship it is and whether it lasts.
Addy has been Beth's BFF since second grade, and as Addy matures she ought to develop other friendships, especially with an adult like Coach. Unfortunately Coach herself is anything but mature. Although we are told in passing that she had coached another squad, Coach makes blunders typical of a neophyte. Knowing nothing of the previous history of the cheer squad, Coach abolishes the captaincy, although given the lackadaisical leadership of the previous coach, it is only thanks to Beth that she has a squad with any hopes to go to the regionals. Even worse, she substitutes a new flyer for Beth, a girl who lacks Beth's skill to execute a difficult stunt.
As in Patrick Gale's Friendly Fire, teachers who violate boundaries and become too involved with their students often fall prey to a special Nemesis. (Some of us who have been teachers remember just what it was like to feel her hot breath on the back of our necks!) Pathetically, Coach finds herself relying on Addy to cover her back when things go terribly wrong.
Beth's real character and motivations remain mysterious. Her devotion to cheerleading excellence (Homer would have termed it arete) and to Addy are very attractive. She seems to have taken her motto from a World War II Japanese pilot, "I will die only for you above all." And her final words to Addy are "It was always you." Knowing what she meant by these would tell us a lot about who Beth was.
So instead of finding Beth a Mean Girl, I read her as a tragic hero, surely flawed but also gleaming and splendid.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2012
I read glowing words about this book in a number of publications but didn't bother to read the reviews on Amazon. In retrospect I wish I had. I would really like to talk to someone who liked this book and ask them "Why?!?". Was it the dialogue? The plot? The characters? Was it the knowledgeable description of cheerleading stunts? If you enjoy underdeveloped caricatures of machiavellian teenagers and a paper-thin "mystery", this just may be the book for you.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 2, 2012
I was both repelled and fascinated by this book. I teach middle school, I know girls can be mean. But still reading about the meanness and the manipulativeness of these girls was disturbing. Also disturbing was the intimate relationship that they had with their cheerleader coach. Boundaries were crossed. As a teacher, I was shocked at the way the coach behaved with her students. I would never, ever use cuss words in front of a student, but perhaps this is the difference between teaching middle school and high school.
What was fascinating about the book was the attitude of the cheerleaders. The way they see themselves. The way they see their bodies.
The writing was strong and set the tone of the story
"Ages fourteen to eighteen, a girl needs something to kill all that time, that endless itchy waiting, every hour, every day for something - anything - to begin. There's something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls."
"Where'd that world go, that world when you're a kid, and now I can't remember noticing anything, not the smell of the leaves or the sharp curl of a dried maple on you ankles, walking? I live in cars now, and my own bedroom, the windows sealed shut, my mouth to my phone, hand slick around it's neon jelly case, face closed to the world, heart closed to everything."
A scary glimpse at what it's like to be a teenager today.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2014
This book was ridiculous. It seemed to perpetuate every bad stereotype about high school girls and parts of it almost seemed to glamourize eating disorders. I finished it thinking it would get better, but it did not.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2012
Abbott has written a tremendously interesting book about cheerleading: its social aspects, power struggles & rampant single-minded ambition. And really, that would be enough for me. But DARE ME is also a wildly entertaining, gripping, twisted page-turner. As good a summer book as I've read this year-- the year of fantastic summer reads!
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2014
When I purchased this novel in 2012, I stopped reading it after about 75 pages thinking, "This is ridiculous". Recently I forced myself to start over hoping I missed something. I still think the whole character line is difficult to believe and therefore, difficult to get into. The review states: provides a harrowing glimpse into the dark heart of the all-American girl. To imply that these girls are all-American girls is preposterous. With the anti-bullying, tolerance/acceptance movements across this country and with the nationwide focus on eating disorders and adolescent health and safety, it is not believable that these girls as a group in a public school were allowed to behave in such a manner. Additionally, the behavior of the faculty is not believable at all. The coach smoking in her office in 2012? I can't think of one public building except a casino in which smoking has been allowed for YEARS. Does anyone think a high school administration would allow this? The relationship between the coach and the girls is totally unbelievable right from the start. Certainly there are instances of inappropriate faculty/faculty or faculty/student relationships in real life. I get it. However, a faculty member repeatedly having a whole squad of cheerleaders over to her house serving wine and drinking with them and then having them sleep over? Really? And her husband coming home and finding this while his 4 year old daughter is sleeping and doing nothing. Again...REALLY? And finally, I do understand that not all parents are involved with their kids and not all supervise their teenagers (I have two teenagers of my own). However, I had to keep asking myself, WHERE ARE THESE GIRLS' PARENTS?! I could not believe for one second that this behavior could go on in the volume that this book portrays. It is simply not believable. Fiction is fiction but it has to have some element of being real if your'e writing about real characters in real time. When I read Science Fiction or books like the Harry Potter series, I know going into them that the story is not supposed to be based in reality. A good author of such books make them believable. This story is supposed to be about real teenagers in a public high school and none of it is believable. The suicide vs murder plot makes for great reading and has been accomplished by many authors. However, this plot buried in a totally unbelievable setting is not good reading. In fact, much of it annoys me. I am almost finished with the book and I can't wait for it to be over. I am forcing myself to finish it just because I paid for it. If you're looking for a good suicide/murder plot, there are plenty of others to choose from. If you are looking for a good story about the dark side of teenagers, again, there are plenty of others to choose from. I do not recommend this book.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2012
It's a mistake to try and box this book into a genre. If you read past the first chapter, you're going to be disoriented and maybe even annoyed, but you've got a wild ride ahead of you if you stick it out. Abbott's up to something and there's a post-modern style pattern (unreliable narration, genre-shifting, in-the-know intertexts... not so much meta-fiction, but I guess a case could be made) that you'll eventually break which will open the story's accessibility. Dare Me has me thinking the way The Sound and the Fury got me marveling. Abbott's girls are warriors and if you scoff at that, well then read Thom Jones's story "Break on Through" and then come back to Addy and Beth. Everyone in the book lies, even to themselves and no one is as strong or as nasty as she seems (except maybe Addy with her callous memory). Abbott is in my top ten list, shoulder to should with Jones, Pete Dexter, and Attica Locke. I like Faulkner, too, just can't bring myself to tout him. Anyways.... Don't miss Dare Me.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2012
I was very disappointed with this book. The characters were beleivable to an extent with their higher than mighty attitudes, bullying, & manipulation. However, what teacher, coach, etc, have sex IN SCHOOL? Let a brat like Beth rule the school? High School is not easy & this book just seems to capitalize on that fact. Yes, kids/teenagers, people in general, can be & are mean. Some are downright manipulative & vindictive. In our current climate, teachers indiscretions, well downright stupidity, are splattered all over the news as well as victims of bullying. This book is a dose of harsh reality mixed with fiction.