Dare Me: A Novel

Dare Me: A Novel

by Megan Abbott


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" Lord of the Flies set in a high school cheerleading squad...Tense, dark, and beautifully written." —Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl

Addy Hanlon has always been Beth Cassidy's best friend and trusted 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.

Then a suicide focuses a police investigation on Coach and her squad. After the first wave of shock and grief, Addy tries to uncover the truth behind the death — and learns that the boundary between loyalty and love can be dangerous terrain.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316097789
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 08/27/2013
Pages: 290
Sales rank: 189,270
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Megan Abbott is the Edgar Award-winning author of five previous novels. She received her Ph.D. in literature from New York University and has taught literature, writing, and film at NYU, the New School, and SUNY-Oswego. She lives in New York City.

What People are Saying About This

Entertainment Weekly

Abbott's latest is not only a page-turning mystery—it's also a close look at teen girls' ferocious rivalries and intense bonds.
—Entertainment Weekly ("Summer Must List" column)

Chevy Stevens

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.
—Chevy Stevens, NYT bestselling author of STILL MISSING and NEVER KNOWING

Susanna Moore

Megan Abbott's brilliant new book presents a number of possibilities — the mysterious and the erotic, as well as the inevitable and paradoxical lessons of girlhood — with such illumination that the joyful terrors of adolescence were once again present in me. Abbott's characters, confronted with unaccustomed questions and strange, new difficulties, remind us that the loss of innocence can, if we are fortunate, emerge into a lustrous wisdom.
—Susanna Moore, author of IN THE CUT

Daniel Woodrell

In Dare Me Megan Abbott guides us into the subculture of athletic and fierce young cheerleaders, who train together, compete, andbond until they form a rugged unit much as Marines form a rugged unit. She finds the nearly sinister underside of everyday events and somehow builds great suspense from ingredients that seem so familiar. Abbott has become expert at revealing truths we thought we knew but didn't, delivered in prose that is by turns elegant and incantatory.
—Daniel Woodrell, author of WINTER'S BONE

Rosamund Lupton

Arresting, original and unputdownable.
—Rosamund Lupton, NYT bestselling author of SISTER

Tom Franklin

I dare you not to love this book. You lucky reader.
—Tom Franklin, NYT bestselling author of CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER

Alafair Burke

DARE ME sneaks up on you from behind, pulling on long-forgotten memories of teenaged desperation, obsession, and desire.
This is truly masterful storytelling.
—Alafair Burke, author of NEVER TELL

Rosamund Lipton

Arresting, original and unputdownable. (Rosamund Lipton, NYT bestselling author of Sister)


BN—Q&A with Megan Abbott, author of 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.

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Dare Me: A Novel 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 45 reviews.
anovelreview_blogspot_com More than 1 year ago
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!
simple344 More than 1 year ago
There are only few books with a great storyline. This was one of them. A great summer read.
OtotheD More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The writing is pure poetry, and the ideas in this book stick with you for a long time...it sort of changed my outlook
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
like fight club meets mean girls by way of bring it on (with a hint of the craft and flavors of the specifically feminine nastiness of a gillian flynn novel), if only fight club didn't blow.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I've read all year.
wendyrig More than 1 year ago
I didn't think this book was that great, and I never felt any connection with the characters. While high school girls can be nasty, it just didn't seem real - none of the characters were very believable. Coach was a terrible role model her actions and interactions with other characters didn't seem real at all. Parents are hardly mentioned either. While I get that age group will sneak off and do things they're not supposed to - they never get caught, and there are no consequences -ever. I did read the entire book, because I wanted to know what happened at the end, but the book just didn't move me.
RobertDowns More than 1 year ago
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. Robert Downs Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very suspenseful and well written!! Could not put it down!
jnmegan More than 1 year ago
Megan Abbott takes the Mean Girls trope to extremes in her novel Dare Me, about a team of high school Cheerleaders who revel in their sense of entitlement and perceived immortality. Addy Hanlon is the sixteen-year-old narrator who identifies herself as the “lieutenant” to her best friend and Team Captain, Beth. Even as she kowtows and follows Beth’s every command, Addy recognizes how cruel and ruthless her idol can be. The alpha-beta balance of their relationship is threatened however, when the squad comes under the leadership of a new coach. Colette French is not about to be dazzled or overtaken by Beth. Coach French is also a domineering force with a magnetic personality that upsets the team’s hierarchy and engenders loyalty and adoration from the girls, including Addy. Beth is so furious with this competition for Addy’s affection that she embarks on a campaign to sabotage the interloper at any cost. That includes implicating the coach in the suspicious death of a young Guardsman recruiter working at the school. It is also possible, however, that Beth’s theory is correct- that their Coach is as guilty as she would like her to be. Addy is torn between the two possessive women, the focus of their power struggle and a pawn susceptible to their deceit. In this novel, all of Abbot’s female characters are depicted as either rapacious and cruel or passive and vulnerable. Still, the women fare better than the men, who are mostly shadows in the background- all apparently weak and completely clueless. The themes of domination/submission are omnipresent, with no representation of a healthy relationship in any form. Still, Dare Me is a well-written and gripping read, with some decent (if implausible) plot twists. Wicked fun if a reader likes their thrillers dark and does not require likeable characters to root for.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was rrally slow i wasnt really into it ubtil the last 60 pages confusing as well
TaraDGoodyear More than 1 year ago
In Dare Me, Megan Abbott reveals the nasty side of teenage girls and how far they will go to keep their clique hierarchies in check. This book focuses on a cheerleading squad, but for anyone who’s in or has ever been in high school, girl cliques can be a minefield to navigate. Ms. Abbott tells the story of two best friends, the unspoken love and animosity between them, and the underbelly of growing up girl in a teenage world filled with desperation, desire, and obsession. Beth is the head cheerleader and Addy is not only her right hand girl, she’s also her best friend. Best rules with an iron fist, and Addy takes pleasure in both participation and observation of the pain Beth causes others. Then, a new cheer coach is appointed who is young and quick to dethrone Beth from the top of the pyramid. Suddenly, the world doesn’t make sense and Beth will stop at nothing to get back what she’s lost. The question is will Addy stand by and watch or will she pick up where Beth left off? The new cheer coach introduces Addy and the team to life beyond the high school walls they are used to – and Beth cannot compete. Everything Beth has is ripped away in one fell swoop, leaving her desperate and more conniving than ever. Addy’s fascination with the new coach and what “real” life is like leads her down a dangerous road full of deceit, affairs and a questionable suicide. Will she find the answers she craves? How far will Beth go to get back the life Coach stole from her? Will Addy survive the fallout? Grab your copy of Dare Me to find out! Megan Abbott provides a suspenseful, voyeuristic look into the lives of teenage girls and how much they are willing to risk when life as they know it is taken away. Teenage girls behaving badly never looked so good!
YoyoMitch More than 1 year ago
According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, “for High School girls and college women, Cheerleading is far more dangerous than any other sport” (Live Science, 9/11/08). The rate of such injuries more than doubled from 1990 to 2002. For the members of the Cheer Squad captained by Beth Cassidy, there is less chance of being hurt by doing cheer “stunts” than by getting between Beth and Colette French the new Cheerleading coach. Beth “rules the roost” and she will do whatever it takes to assure her position at the top of this Girl Power pyramid. The story is told from the viewpoint of, and narrated by, Addy Hanlon. Beth’s life-long “Lieutenant.” Cheerleading is of such importance to her that name of the high school that exists so these girls can have a Cheerleading squad is inconsequential. Coach French’s appearance offers the possibility of the Squad to move from a bunch of girls who “just shake their a**es,” into a competitive team of athletes. Beth sees the threat to her power immediately. Coach French initially behaves as any professional sport coach would be expected to behave – driven, disciplined, hard-shelled; until many of the members, especially Addy, begin to see the progress they are making. At that point, the coach becomes part coach, part parent, part defiler of youth. All the women who make up this squad are “mean,” no one is exempt from the venom so easily and frequently sprayed and everyone is injured by the atmosphere created by the sport, the gender and, for this team, their leaders.  When a tragic event occurs, Beth is offered the opportunity to regain her place as “owner” of the Cheerleaders. Addy is caught between her loyalty: to her friend, her coach and her team. She is not innocent in any of the events which seem to envelope her, but neither is she party to the subterfuge that sparked those events.  The book shows the writing talent of Ms. Abbott. Her plotting, however, seemed forced and uneven. She does a good job of highlighting the feelings of tension, confusion, anger, angst and isolation experienced by Addy. The world she creates is largely parent free, which is a difficult point to comprehend. Addy and Beth are out all hours of the night, leave home whenever they want yet never are confronted by anyone, particularly someone in authority, for their behavior. They ingest various substances, most illegal (even if they were of age), rarely eat (or retain what they do swallow for more than 30 minutes) but have no ill-effects from such behavior. For athletes in training for the “Big Game” where “the Scout for regionals” will be in attendance, they show little commitment to staying healthy for that event. This undercurrent caused the story to be less believable and (I hope) less plausible.  The last 40 pages are the exception to the problems of the earlier pages. The ending is well done, having drawn the reader in an entirely different direction until The Moment when the curtain is lifted only high enough to see all the actors in the roles they played. 
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Black_Cat_Lover More than 1 year ago
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.
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