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"A fascinating, almost voyeuristic, glimpse into the power struggle that goes on between teenaged girls. Not just any teenaged girls-cheerleaders-with their own unique hierarchy and fierce code of loyalty, which they'll protect at any cost. There's a dark and twisted love story here, told with a rich sensual undertone that lingers long after you close the last page, still breathing in your ear: Dare me."
What led you to write about high school cheerleading?
In my last book, The End of Everything, one of the characters, Dusty, is a star field hockey player and there's a few scenes where we see her playing, with everything she's got. Doing a little research, I became very interested in how the sport can be a powerful outlet for many girls—a place they can express the feeling they're not necessarily supposed to have: ambition, competitiveness, aggression. It made me want to tell a story about those feelings in young girls—feelings we're so much more comfortable seeing expressed in boys. Then, I came upon some footage of high school cheerleading and I was transfixed, utterly hooked. These girls, with their smiles and sunny appearances, are literally tossing each other in the air, diving from heights, pushing their bodies beyond gravity. And loving it. That's when I knew I had to write the book.
It also interests me how much, for adult women, the question of whether or not you were a cheerleader (or wanted to be) is this huge divider. It seems to say something about ourselves, though maybe we're not sure what. It has this heavy cultural weight attached to it.
Dare Me has been called "Fight Club for girls," but the traditional image of cheerleaders is more glitter and pom-poms. What is modern cheerleading really like?
In my high school days, cheer was just that—hip-shaking, pom-pom waving. But today it's intensely competitive and the most dangerous high school sport. These girls are true athletes and take alarming risks with their stunts— leaping off of pyramids stacked 15 feet high. All the crazy-braze attributes we might more commonly think of high school footballers, or even boxers, or soldiers. And yet these girls still "look" the part of the All-American Girl—ponytails swinging, all the glitter and bows. But when they get out there on the gym floor, they are true warriors. Fiercely competitive, with other squads and with each other. It's both empowering (they get to focus on their own achievements, they get to be leaders) and terrifying (they seem to thrive on the risk and become addicted to it).
In other words, cheerleading seems to take all the struggles and beauty and pain of female adolescence and magnifies it by 1,000. I watch these girls and I am in awe, and frightened for them at the same time.
This is your second novel about adolescent girls. What is it that draws you to these characters at this moment in their lives?
I think many of us are still pretty uncomfortable with looking at some of the darker feelings of girls at that age—desire, aggression, jealousy. They just don't suit our ideas of girlhood. But whenever I look at YA, from my era and today, I see all the darkness of girl-adolescence there. From Flowers in the Attic to Hunger Games. That tremendous schism between how we want to think about girls and how girls really are (or how we were as girls, which maybe we want to forget) is such rich terrain.
Also, adolescence is the age at which we truly "make" ourselves or let ourselves be made by others. Our friendships, rivalries, crushes, humiliations—they all form us, and with an intensity you never get at any other age. The "bigness" of life for young girls (or boys) is irresistible to me.
And better to write about it than to live it—I think it's the hardest age of all and I'd never do it over again.
Coach French's actions are often questionable, but the girls idolize her anyway. Did you have a similar role model growing up?
Mentors can be so powerful. When I was very young, maybe fourth grade, there was a young teacher's aide all we girls adored. I remember going with another friend to the drugstore and buying a tiny gold ring to give her for her birthday. And how kind she was to act as those it were a precious gem from Tiffany's. It's like having a crush, because you just want to be like them so desperately, you crave their attention, it all matters so much. And then there's that momene you realize, as you always do, that you don't mean half as much to them. They have whole lives independent of you that have to matter more to them. What a disillusioning moment. And an important one. I guess we have to let these role models go to become ourselves.
And cheerleading coaches are a particular fascinating example. They're often just ten years older than their squad members, so the relationship becomes even more complex. They are almost peers, almost competitors. The risk of betrayal on both sides is palpable. Even inevitable. You have to overthrow the king to become a king yourself.
Posted 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!
12 out of 13 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 31, 2012
Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of, or at least that’s what the old nursery rhyme claims, but it’s not the case with the cheerleaders in Megan Abbott’s wildly original Dare Me.
Addy’s spent most of her life as Beth’s right-hand girl. Best friends since grade school, the two of them are inseparable. Beth is queen bee of the cheerleading squad, and Addy helps her keep the rest of the girls on the squad in check and humiliated as needed. That is, until Colette French, the new coach, arrives. Coach’s first order of business is to do away with the current pecking order, switching things up and ousting Beth as team captain. She’s determined to turn this squad of high-kicking, ass-shakers into a competitive team — competitive being the operative word. As the girls fall under Coach’s spell, Addy and the rest of the girls find their limits tested, their lives changed and their friendships threatened, culminating in a delicious murder mystery that will leave the reader turning pages well past their bedtime.
I wasn’t familiar with Ms. Abbott’s books before Dare Me, but she definitely has a new fan. This book is addicting and written with such passion, the intensity practically jumps off the page and smacks you. Addy is our narrator and Ms. Abbott writes with such a deep POV, that you can’t help but feel every leap, shin splint, heartache and fear that pours out of Addy. All of the characters are rich and complex. I was totally grabbed by Coach French, and could totally understand why the girls wanted so badly to please her, even if she is a little messed up.
The story moves at a wonderful pace and perfectly blends high school drama, intensity and an unexpected murder mystery that will keep you guessing. It’s also a deep character study into the needs, desires and complexities of teenage girls. When I first read that this was about cheerleaders, I wasn’t sure I would be interested, but the cheerleading aspect isn’t typical. These girls aren’t the group of cliché, vapid airheads shouting “Go-Fight-Win” while shaking their pom-poms and smacking bubblegum. Coach changes them into something much darker, and their intensity is both contagious and a little frightening. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 26, 2012
Horrible! I read it all the way through just hoping that it would end up
being a worthwhile read. Wrong! Don't waste your time or money. Plotline
is nonsensical, and seriously, do we really need to read page after page
about high school cheerleading routines?
2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
There are only few books with a great storyline. This was one of them. A great summer read.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 25, 2012
Posted September 24, 2013
Let's be clear from the get go. If you want a more traditional review with a book summary, plot synopsis, and a character family tree, and then possibly a discussion on what the author was trying to accomplish in DARE ME and whether or not she actually achieved her goals, then you'll probably just want to slide it on back and move on to the next review. Because I'm about as non-traditional as they come. Instead, I like discussing how a book made me feel, or didn't feel, discussing writing insights where appropriate, tossing around similes and metaphors like used car parts in a Dumpster, and talking about my overall experience with a book, while taking into account my own knowledge of writing and reading and plain old random crap. In other words, I don't really know what I'm doing, but I have a damn good time being ignorant.
So I'll start with this: Teenage girls are evil and manipulative. A female praying mantis treats her mate better than high school girls treat each other. And each manages to accomplish this task with a smile on her face and nothing but love in her heart, right before she brings out the icepick and wields it around the same way a construction worker might employ a two-by-four in the middle of a construction zone.
One might argue the mystery was a bit thin, but this book transcended the typical books in this genre, and proved there's more to a mystery than just the identity of the killer and the resolution of the crime. Instead, this was more about cheerleaders and their penchant to attack one another with vengeance, high school drama that unfolded before me on the page in pinks and purples and shades of red, and the extremes captains and coaches go to all in the name of victory. Yes, cheerleading is a sport, and in some parts of the country it's mentioned in the Sunday prayers along with football and your best friends Jim Bob and Clara Valentine.
The shower scene in the girl's locker room at the beginning of this tale reminded me of all the times growing up that I would have practically handed over bodily organs to be given even a brief glimpse behind that steel curtain. But what made this story really click for me was the relationship between Addy Hanlon and Beth Cassidy, gal pals that dance a relationship tango better left choreographed to the professionals. And proves there's much more to a relationship than what's shown to the public.
This tale was about as easy to swallow as cotton candy stuffed with razor blades, and now that I know what's behind the pom-poms I wish I could give it all back, since more knowledge isn't always the key to happiness, as this story aptly proves.
Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator
Posted September 7, 2013
Absolutely fantastic read. I loved the characters, I loved the plot, and I loved the writing style. This is even better than Abbott's last book The End of Everything, which I also enjoyed. Can't wait to read more.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 6, 2013
I purchased this because it was on sale and the reviews were pretty good. About half way through I realized it reinforced how immature immature people are. And how uninteresting.
Frankly I didn't believe much, if anything, of the characters behavior but I kept reading simply because I found them all so bizarre. And other than the two main "girls" everyone else was a cardboard cutout. Especially all the males.
It's an easy and fast read so I didn't waste much time.
I think it was about $4. Anything more would be highway robbery.
Posted May 17, 2013
This book was very tough to get through! I think Abbott did a good job of portraying how a teenager would think but it was hard to read. I did not like any of the characters but had to find out what happened so I did finish. Had I not been on vacation I would have set the book down and probably wouldn't have thought about it again.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 29, 2013
Posted March 8, 2013
Strange style of writing. I could never really get into it. Storyline was not gripping until the end that's why I gave it 3 stars, otherwise it would have been 2 stars.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 18, 2013
Posted October 28, 2012
Stupid!!!!! I read this as part of an online pen pal and both of us agreed that this was a horrible book. It's about a bunch of selfish high school cheerleaders who are supposed to be friends but treat each other like dirt. A new cheer coach joins and just makes it worse. One of the things I didn't understand was where in the world was the parents while these girls are stealing drugs, drinking, sleeping with Army requiters at their school, and just being stupid girls. I truly wish that I had not wasted my money on this filth.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 30, 2012
Posted September 24, 2012
“Dare Me” by Megan Abbott is a novel about some majorly messed up high school cheerleaders, dying for attention, affection, and popularity. According to a quote on the inside front cover, the book is “A searing novel of friendship, betrayal, and the dark truths that hide behind cheerleader smiles.”
Addy Hanlon and Beth Cassidy have always been best friends, with Addy being more of a sidekick to the over-the-top, girl-in-charge Beth. When the girl’s cheerleading squad receives the new, young, calm and collected Coach French, the cheerleaders are drawn to her immediately. All except for Beth.
A sudden suicide of a well-known figure at the school throws the Coach and many of the girls on the squad for a loop, especially when the police decide that the suicide might actually have been a murder.
Caught between Beth, Coach Colette, and the truth, Addy struggles with her friendships, control, and the squad.
I have mixed feelings on the book “Dare Me” by Megan Abbott. This book kept me hooked and I read it in a day and a half. I honestly couldn’t put it down and Abbott kept me guessing until the end. I had many hunches throughout the book, some of them right, and many wrong, which always makes a book enjoyable.
However, I’m not sure how much I liked the characters in the book. The girls are not a positive portrayal of teenagers and female characters, with issues regarding weight and eating disorders being portrayed in an honest, almost positive way.
While I’ve never been a cheerleader, I was once a teenager and I understand the pressures of looks, weight, guys, popularity. I understand that there are hidden secrets that go on behind closed doors. But that’s not how it is for everyone or how it should be. I just didn’t feel like the positives of being an individual or being healthy were mentioned at all in this novel, and I think they could have been fit in, even in a small role, somewhere.
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys some young adult fiction, with a more adult flair. Read “Dare Me” if you want a book that will keep you interested from page 1, all the way to the end. While you won’t find amazing positive teenage role models, you will receive a twisted view from a group of teenage cheerleaders and their coach.
Have you read a book about teens that you enjoyed recently? (Besides the amazing Hunger Games trilogy!)
Thanks for reading,
Rebecca @ Love at First Book
Posted September 13, 2012
I just discovered author Megan Abbott about a month ago and have read several of her books already. Queenpin, Bury Me Deep, The Song is You.
I am hooked on this woman's writing, and couldn't wait to read Dare Me.
This is a different type of book from the three I mentioned. Doesn't take place in a different era, doesn't have that noir type of feel to it, yet it has that same desperate, nail biting feel to it.
Once I started reading this book, I didn't want it to end. This is a gripping story and Megan Abbott knows how to amp up the story as she takes you into the world of Addy Hanlon. I don't want to go into specifics. Just read this book. You won't be disappointed.
Posted September 7, 2012
Posted August 24, 2012
Posted August 24, 2012
Posted August 21, 2012
This is an extremely compelling book that i read very quickly. The
writing is very good - the story line even better. I could not help
thinking as I read this what a great movie it would make.