CBR-V Review #29: Dare Me by Megan Abbott

Why I Read It: This book was getting a lot of buzz for being a mystery crossed with Mean Girls crossed with Bring It On (so clearly my type of book) and I also have read other books by Abbott and enjoyed them.

My Rating: 4 stars

Summary: Addy is the lady-in-waiting to her best friend Beth’s Queen Bee. The two girls rule the cheerleading squad (Beth is the newly appointed captain) until the new coach shows up. Young, exciting, and cool, Coach French draws the majority of the girls on the squad–Addy included–into her circle. Only Beth, angry at her displacement from power, maintains her distance. When a death in the town draws the spotlight to the team, Addy finds her loyalties tested and her life–previously so empty of real concerns–filled with chaos and uncertainty.

My Review: So this book definitely sounds a little cheesy, but in reality, it’s pretty great. In the hands of a lesser author, the concept might have been unsuccessful, and the book might have been little more than chick lit fluff. However, Abbott is a VERY talented writer, and her nuanced characterization of the girls, along with her dreamy, literary prose, makes this a book worth reading.

Abbot captures what it’s like to be a suburban teenage girl–the mundane dramas, the power struggles, the boredom. Addy is a bit of a blank slate, I think both to draw the reader in (it’s told from a first-person perspective, so the reader can really put herself in Addy’s shoes) and to show Addy’s lack of self-awareness and identity. She is a cheerleader, and she’s Beth’s wing-woman, but she’s little else beyond that. That fuzziness of character was distracting at first, but it ends up working really well once I got used to it and understood where Abbot was going. Beth is also a three-dimensional character, not simply a one-not villain, and I appreciated that. Abbot’s characters are all written in shades of grey, and the result is a complex and immensely entertaining narrative.

The mystery portion of the book was a bit weak, and some of the more dramatic plot points were a bit contrived, but I liked it a lot more when I thought of it as more of a backdrop to the real action rather than the main plot. The really interesting parts of this book are the interactions between the characters, which is where Abbot shows a great insight into the human psyche. Her writing, too, is just really enjoyable–as I mentioned above, it’s surprisingly literary and lyrical, given the subject matter. My only frustration was with the sections describing the cheerleading routines, which kind of lost me. I’m not familiar with a lot of the moves she describes and it was very hard for me to visualize the action at times. Still, this was a minor thing, and wasn’t a huge issue.

Should You Read It? Yes! This book isn’t incredibly deep or meaningful, but it’s fun and entertaining and worth a read. It would make a great beach book!

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