Book Review: Dare Me by Megan Abbott
One-sentence summary of Megan Abbott’s Dare Me:
Teen drama surrounds a high school cheerleading team, with a captain who rules from a merciless throne and a coach struggling with personal issues.
Beth is the captain of a cheerleading team, now entering her senior year and reaching the zenith of her power. Her sidekick, Addy, is content to live in her shadow.
But then, they get a new cheerleading coach who challenges Beth’s authority. The new coach is pretty, young, possesses a successful husband and picture-perfect toddler, and challenges the girls in new and exciting ways.
Addy and the other girls are mesmerized. Beth is threatened.
Their coach has plenty of faults that are obvious to an outside adult reader, but would be invisible to a starry-eyed teen girl. She seeks her validation through the adoration of teens, recommends dangerous diets, and embarks on inappropriate relationships.
The coach’s weakness is Beth’s gain. And the power struggle leads to a stress-filled senior year for Addy.
Oh, how dramatic it is to be a teenage girl! This book takes it to frightened get levels.
Megan Abbot’s books make me think of Sofia Coppola’s movies. Both understand teenage girls on a granular level. The seemingly endless time they have, the endless dramas they create, the glitter and the chipped nail polish and the manners of speech, affecting but not quite achieving womanhood.
None of the characters in this book are relatable, or even people I can root for. But that’s not really the point, is it? No one’s a flawless hero or a 100% evil villain in real life.
Life is messy and complicated. The joy of Abbott is that she turns up the mess and complication even more, so the story becomes that much more engrossing.
I kept wondering why some of the characters in the middle of the mess didn’t remove themselves from it. But thinking about it, that’s not an option in the encapsulated teenage girl world, right?
In their minds, they’re stuck in their schools, in their roles, in their friendship circles, and in the mess that’s quickly burying them. They don’t even think about how very temporary the high school experience is. It might not occur to them to leave or seek outside help.
They feel they’re stuck inside the drama with no escape.
Seemingly shallow subject, surprisingly thoughtful story, still thinking about it later. Megan Abbott is definitely an author to follow.
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