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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Review: Dare Me

Title: Dare Me
Author: Megan Abbott
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books
Publication Date: 
 July 31, 2012
Reviewer: Stephanie

Summary: 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.

Review: Schools are not always the easiest of places. Whether teachers and parents like it or not there are often hierarchies that develop in each school year. In Megan Abbott’s Dare Me we focus on a group of cheerleaders who have such a hierarchy in place but the foundations are ruptured by the arrival of a new Coach.

The novel is told from the point of view of Addy Hanlon who is the best friend and trusted lieutenant of Beth Cassidy, the Captain of the cheerleaders who dictates what the others do. Addy and Beth are both feared with Beth in particular being manipulative. When Coach Colette French joins the school and takes charge of the cheerleaders things begin to change. The Coach is unmoved by Beth’s top standing and gives precedence to the other girls, inviting the cheerleaders to her home for late night drinking and training. The Coach has big ambitions for the cheerleaders but in pushing Beth to the periphery of the group she sets in motion a series of events in which Addy is caught in the middle.

Addy and Beth have been friends for years and though Addy is somewhat reserved at times she never seems to question Beth in the beginning. The other girls go along with Beth’s instructions, afraid to stand up to her. This idyll for Beth is disrupted by the arrival of the new Coach. Colette French is extremely passionate about cheerleading, so much so that you would think she had walked right out of high school and started training the girls immediately. Truth be told, the Coach is married with a child but all is not well at home. Her passion is in cheerleading and she pushes the girls very hard, building their strength and fitness, and teaching them some difficult formations and techniques. She has no time for Beth’s self-proclaimed position at the top of the hierarchy. When Coach challenges and defeats Beth, the other girls begin flocking to her and the Coach takes a particular liking to Addy who she trusts.

Beth is not one to suffer defeat for long though. The deposed Captain is soon conspiring to regain her position and when she and Addy uncover a dark secret about Coach she believes she has the weapons to unleash a psychological war. As an important match looms, the girls are hard at practice but their training is disrupted by a suicide in the town, a suicide which leads to the police questioning Coach. Beth is delighted but Addy, who is in the middle of the war between her best friend and the Coach, has mixed loyalties now. In becoming close to both Beth and later Coach, Addy finds herself very deep in the shocking events that unfold.

Dare Me is a very well written novel with two memorable characters in Beth and Coach. Addy was okay as the narrator but she doesn’t have the strength to stand up to the mind games and manipulation of Beth. Coach is an intriguing character, so easily defeating Beth when she first arrives but she is not without her own faults and weaknesses. How she becomes linked to a suicide makes for an absorbing story.

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