Book Talk: *Dare Me*, by Megan Abbott

cover image: DARE ME by Megan Abbott, via indiebound.org
Dare Me: A Novel
Megan Abbott (Twitter) (Facebook–author page) (Facebook fan page for Dare Me)
Reagan Arthur Books (August 2012), Hardcover (ISBN 0316097772 / 9780316097772)
Fiction, 304 pages
Source: Purchased e-book (iBooks edition: ISBN 9780316203234)
Reason for reading: Personal

Opening lines: “‘Something happened, Addy. I think you better come.’

“The air is heavy, misted, fine. It’s coming on two AM and I’m high up on the ridge, thumb jammed against the silver button: 27-G.

“‘Hurry, please.’

“The intercom zzzzz-es, and I’m inside. As I walk through the lobby, it’s still buzzing, the glass walls vibrating.”

Book description, from the publisher’s website:
The raw passions of girlhood are brought to life in this taut, unflinching exploration of friendship, ambition, and power.

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.

Comments: Occasionally I feel like no matter how closely I’m reading a book, I’m missing something. It may be due to something in the writing style that’s eluding me or an important element in the story that I don’t quite understand for some reason, but regardless of what causes it, I feel as if I’m somehow a few steps behind. Sometimes I’ll get to the end and still feel like I haven’t caught up; it feels like waking up from a dream that I was trying to understand while dreaming it, and it’s frustrating. A re-read might clarify things for me, but reading experiences like this don’t usually leave me too inclined to want to re-read. It’s disappointing, particularly when it was a book I was initially pretty excited about reading.

Megan Abbott’s Dare Me was one of those reading experiences for me. It was fast-moving and gripping, but although the story isn’t overly complex, I couldn’t seem to shake a sense of confusion throughout. That may have been partly because it’s centered on a cheerleading team; I’m a nerdgirl and certified non-jock without much interest in sports and their trappings, and the world of cheer is pretty foreign to me. But there was also something stream-of-consciousness in the first-person narration of Abbott’s “lieutenant” cheerleader Addy that kept me off-balance and somewhat outside the story. I don’t mind not being able to figure out where a story is going; I actually think that’s a good thing, generally. However, it does bother me when I feel like I can’t make sense out of where it’s been.

With its high-school setting and borderline “mean-girl” characters, Dare Me seems to fall into the “YA-crossover” niche, although its darker story elements–adultery, a suspicious death, underage drinking–are most certainly adult. That said, there’s not much adult presence here. Parents barely make an appearance in the novel, while the breaching of teacher/student boundaries is central to its plot; it’s a disturbing element, and it’s probably intended to be.

To be fair, my expectations may have been out of whack; I had the impression that Dare Me would be a little more like Gone Girl, and it’s…not. Based on the blogger reviews that piqued my interest in this novel in the first place, I have the feeling that my response to the novel is a minority opinion, but although I was never bored, I just didn’t connect with it.

Rating: 3.25 of 5
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