Dare Me
Megan Abbott
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Buy *Dare Me* by Megan Abbott online

Dare Me
Megan Abbott
Back Bay Books
320 pages
August 2013
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on Dare Me.

I take this outrageous novel as a sort of romp through the wilderness of wicked thoughts and fantasies. A group of teenage cheerleaders consume the world’s material gratifications even as they try to get inside the pretty postcard image of their lives. In a story about murder, bad choices, and who not to love, new cheerleading “Coach” Colette French is beautiful and fearless. She also has a twisted heart that craves for love and happiness while wielding the roughest gaze of all.

Partly from revenge, partly from lack of impulse control--perhaps even from envy--self-appointed captain Beth Cassidy balks when “Coach” lays down the law and attempts to put her own stamp on the team, taking care to foster the attentions of sixteen-year-old Addy Hanlon, Beth’s “forever lieutenant.” Given the close-knit friendship between the two the girls, Addy is surprisingly blind to Beth’s comments that she can “see past Coach’s glossed hair and shiny legs, to everything beneath.”

Pernicious Beth is all too ready to expose "steel-stung" Coach’s reckless, bawdy past, while Coach wants stick her hands into the team's “glitter-gritted insides” and build them into magnificent teen gladiators. The battle is set amid anxious text messaging and Twitter feeds. When Addy gets an invitation to Coach’s ranch house in Fairhurst, the relationship between Addy and Coach begins anew. Addy is unlikely to resist the older girl’s charms and kindly ministrations.

The other members of the team, notably Ri Ri and “candy-mouthed” Tacy Slaussen, are preoccupied with making themselves hard and beautiful, but they cover for Beth when she misses the all-important practice session. Beth’s insolence doesn’t go unnoticed: never before in Addy’s lieutenant years has she seen anyone go toe-to-toe with the boss. From hot boys to Adderall to assignations of murder, Abbott’s tale morphs into a ravaged battlefield of attitude, rudeness, and the rebellion of girls who seem wise beyond their years.

Events take an ugly turn when Beth--high on her new power perch and nuzzling her newfound wisdom - hexes Coach, the dirty deeds culminating at a party at the Comfort Inn. Like some “polluted Red Riding Hood,” Beth’s machinations become a malevolent fever-dream of menace piercing the haze of lies, her accusations toward Coach only increasing the larger picture of sickness and nightmare. Ironically, Coach’s loss of integrity in the face of her push for status and control lead her to the precipice in a way that have ramifications for the whole team.

Abbott’s propulsive style heightens the ambiance of malice that surrounds these bitchy “Queen Bees,” allowing her to endow her story with just the right amount of suspicion and in turn accelerating the repercussions of Beth’s vituperative nature and Addy’s inner strength. In this story of cutthroat one-upmanship, Addy finds herself in danger of being outmaneuvered as the competition is left sweaty and bruised, almost seething in her wake.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Michael Leonard, 2012

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