Saturday, July 12, 2014

Review: "Dare Me" by Megan Abbott

It is hard, even when you pile tons and tons of bodies in your story, to make the idea of cheerleading onto something of a transcendent mystery, which is what Megan Abbot tries to do with her novel Dare Me. She has got chops; I cannot deny that. She can turn quite a phrase and uses modern technology like social media and texting in a way that is never trite or gimmicky. But the cheerleading aspect of this book is a hill that this book never succeeds at getting over. It is a cool idea, and in the hands of a skilled writer like Abbot it could do wonders. But the novel lacks any kind of noticeable emotional core, giving little to no weight to the actions and consequences that happen once everyone’s decisions start blowing up in their faces. The focus of the novel is one two girls, Addy and Beth, who seem to rule the cheerleading world in their high school. They have been friends since high school, with Addy more often than not being a Beth’s lackey whenever someone is unlucky enough to be in her way. She has had ruled her squad with an iron fist, since their middle aged coach is even more of a pushover than Addy. But when she leaves, she is replaced by a Coach who will not stand for Beth’s petty behavior, which starts a war between the two that will claim a few innocent lives. The best comparison that I can make for this book, and the reason for my complaint, is that Addy is a lot like Clay from Less Than Zero: bereft of emotion or action, letting things happen to her instead of creating action. It is an effect that Abbot might be going for, but it doesn’t work for this story. The shining light here is Beth, who despite her sociopathic tendencies is a character worth following. Abbott is a good wrier, and despite the books flaws, this is a good book.

Rating: 4/5

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