Monday, July 30, 2012

Review: Dare Me

Summary: Since both girls were small, Addy Hanlon has always been Beth Cassidy's best friend and right-hand 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.

And then a suspicious suicide hits close to home, and the police investigation focuses on Coach and her squad. As Addy begins to suspect what really happened, the line between right and wrong grows blurrier, and she must decide where her loyalties truly lie-and how far is too far to go for someone you love.

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. -- Reagan Arthur

At last year's BEA, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to not only meet but talk to author Megan Abbott. I had just finished her novel THE END OF EVERYTHING -- you can read my review here; and I had quite a few questions for her about the ending of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed this book although I admit I was a bit creeped out by what occurred. Needless to say, I was anxious to see if her next novel would live up to my expectations.

DARE ME tells the story of a highly dysfunctional high school cheering squad -- and the term dysfunctional is pretty much a nice way to describe these girls! At its simplest, the novel focuses primarily on best friends Addy and Beth, and how their lives change with the arrival of their new coach Colette French. You might not be surprised to hear that there is a bit of jealousy involved as well as some vicious back-stabbing -- girls will be girls!

Former squad leader Beth finds herself in an entirely new situation when she doesn't exactly bond with Colette, while Addy becomes quite close to the coach namely because Colette gives her much-needed attention and guidance (although I have to tell you that the guidance she provides is NOT appropriate for a teacher to give a student!) Addy quickly realizes that she is in the difficult position of being caught between her best friend and the new coach; and she tries to balance these two important relationships in her life. Hint: she doesn't do a very good job of keeping Beth happy!

When a teacher at the high school dies under suspicious circumstances, Addy finds herself right smack dab in the middle of the investigation... along with Colette and the cheering squad. As the mystery surrounding the death unfolds, Addy begins to question the veracity of her coach and she is torn between doing what is right and protecting those she loves.

I have to warn you that DARE ME might sound like it's geared towards pre-teens and teens, but let me assure you that this novel is most definitely for adults. In fact, as I was reading this novel, I almost thought the girls' actions came straight out of a horror movie because they were so dark and evil! While I thought I'd seen and heard a lot about just how cruel teen girls can be to each other, DARE ME brought this behavior to a whole new level. Beth should be pictured in a dictionary next to the term "mean girl."

I liked DARE ME, but I'm not so sure I'd say I loved it. In fact, I'm not sure I "liked" it quite as much as I did THE END OF EVERYTHING. Having said that though, it did evoke many of the same feelings and reactions that the first earlier novel did and I appreciated what Ms. Abbott set out to do. The story was dark and made me very uncomfortable, and I was certainly interested in discovering the events surrounding the death. Furthermore, I did enjoy Ms. Abbott's writing style as well as her character development; and I liked how well she brought a new (and feminine) twist to the hard-boiled/noir genre.

I'm sure it's for all of these reasons and more that Entertainment Weekly (my go-to source for books) gave it an A-. Unfortunately, I don't think I "enjoyed" this book enough to warrant that kind of rating. While I do agree with much of what they said and I did appreciate Ms. Abbott's writing, I can't say that this will go down as one of my favorite reads. I think the story was just too dark for me and the characters were just too edgy -- I quickly realized that I'm not "cool" enough for a book like this. As a mother to an almost teenage girl, I couldn't get past just how mean and destructive the girls were; and frankly, their behavior just freaked me out!

Despite my issues with the dark nature of this novel, I did think the mystery surrounding the character's death was fantastic. I wasn't exactly sure what happened to him, and I changed my mind quite a few times as I discovered more about the characters. There were a few interesting twists and turns thrown in and I felt as if the unfolding of the mystery was extremely well done.

There is no doubt that Megan Abbott has major writing skills and can weave a very dark and very unique story. I'm sure many readers will love this book, but it was just a little too scary for me!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

Great review! I think one either likes dark stuff or doesn't, and not much in between, so the same book can be just loved by those who love dark stuff, but make the rest uncomfortable. I think that's good though, because people who like dark stories should get their fun too! :--) (I'm not one of those, but my husband is, for example!)

bermudaonion said...

Sometimes I love dark and creepy and characters that are so bad you love to hate them. I'm looking forward to this book.

Serena said...

I like dark stuff, but the cheerleading angle doesn't interest me.

Beth F said...

Sometimes I like dark, it depends. I'm going to give this one a try.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

OOH you have me all excited about this book again. I have it in the TBR. I like dark, but not super DARK - and not gory... I am finicky...LOL