Addy Hanlon is a high school cheerleader, who cheers mostly to keep the boredom at bay. Beth Cassidy is her best friend and the Top Girl of the squad, notorious for her mischievous and power-hungry nature, as well as her protective clutch over her relationship with Addy.
Colette French is their new coach– young and pretty, but possessing such a chilly and challenging mystique that both intimidates and inspires the squad. Coach French demands nothing less than perfection and pushes the girls beyond all limits. The squad soon strengthens both in mind and body and cheering becomes less of a hobby, and more of a lifestyle. When suicide leaves the squad under scrutiny, cryptic text messages, wavering alliances and general mayhem ensues.
At a glance, Dare Me is nothing more than your typical coming-of-age story about the intricacies of friendship and the curious capriciousness of adolescence, thrown in with some edgy shenanigans. But it’s more Bring It On meets Jawbreaker; Abbott strings words like misshapen pearls, balancing the lyrical with mundane, the wolves with the sheep, and making you wonder if high school was ever this interesting for anyone.
However, despite the story’s verbal prowess, the characters remain little more than stick figures with pom-poms. We’re hand-fed some defining features (Addy is gullible, Beth is a chronic liar, Coach French is oh-so-mysterious), but we’re given little reason to care or relate. Perhaps this is a purposeful ploy on Abbott’s part, keeping her characters impersonal in an effort to keep the focus on actions and consequences. Or maybe I’m just disappointed in this novel’s partial flatness, whereas Abbot’s stellar White Oleander reveled with fantastic characters and an intriguing storyline to boot.
Grab Dare Me more of a naughty snack than a fulfilling meal. But the calories are still worth it.
Alysia Abbott was two when her mother died in a tragic car accident. Shortly thereafter, her bisexual father, the poet and activist Steve Abbott, moves with her to San Francisco to live an openly homosexual lifestyle. Steve dragged her to poetry readings, raucous parties, and in and out of temporary homes often living with queer [...]