Megan Abbott’s Dare Me, is an interesting mix of extreme athleticism and vanity in cheerleading: looking good while doing the difficult tricks and pushing their bodies to extremes. The main cast of characters are all cheerleaders and coaches and we’re brought into their exclusive and isolating environment. From the beginning we’re lead to believe who’s who in the cheer hierarchy, but Abbott slowly chips away at what was once a certainty.
Loyalty lays at the heart of the story. Where is your loyalty? Who will you devote yourself to above all others? These are dangerous and obsessive questions that plague our narrator Addy. Who should she trust, her best friend who’s been her captain her whole life, or the new coach who prompts her to reexamine her own commitment to cheering. All of these questions are typical of questions that most of us ask while we’re in high school, but this story is not a typical teen drama. There is an obscene amount of parental neglect and prescription med abuse, but those are just sideline stories. Although, I’m sure both are causes of the artificial self importance these girls have and their self destruction and antipathy towards their fellow cheerleaders.
The mystery beyond the loyalty is who can you trust when someone is murdered. Who is abusing Abby’s trust and using her for their own purposes? And what is their purpose?
This is a quick, easy read that draws the reader in even though the characters are mostly awful people. High school becomes a very dark and obsessive world with broken bones and death. If these girls have done and seen this much by Junior year, I can’t imagine what trouble they would get into once out of their parents’ house.
Read February 2013