Saturday, July 14, 2012

Dare Me by Megan Abbott

     Beth and Addy have been best friends since middle school.  Now in the prime of their youth, the girls are powerful and admired as the two most promising members of their high school cheerleading squad.  But when a new coach arrives, their hypersensitive hierarchy is disturbed.  Collette French is incredibly beautifuly, mysteriously aloof, and not afraid to push the girls to their physical limitations.  There's something about Coach French that is magnetic, especially for Addy.  The two quickly transcend the student-teacher boundaries and strike up a fast friendship.  They hang out together and confide in each other - Coach even offers Addy the occasional adult beverage and cigarette.  But Coach French doesn't realize that she's not the most powerful force on the squad.  Beth is frighteningly untouchable and she quickly grasps at the opportunity to test the loyalty of her best friend.

     As Coach French says, "There's something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls," and there is definitely something sinister brewing within the cheer squad.  When an unexpected tragedy occurs, Coach and the girls find themselves deeply woven into the circumstances.  However, none of this comes as a surprise to Beth as she calmly proclaims that all will be revealed.  As the girls inch closer and closer to the biggest game of the season, tensions run high and there's no telling where the cards will fall.  But Dare Me is about much more than jealousy, rivalry, and teenage gossip.  It's about the intensity of human relationships and the lengths to which we will go to protect or destroy them.  And Megan Abbott perfectly portrays the terrifying dichotomy that Addy faces.  Abbott writes with such precision - she has a way of describing intangible emotions and thought processes with sharp clarity and purpose.  The intensity of each scene and the urgency of the dialogue can be unnerving at times, but it gives the story a strong pulse.

     Megan Abbott must be one of the few people who didn't force herself to forget what it was like to be a teenager.  Somehow, she can perfectly pen every hormone surge, every flash of insecurity, and every exaggerated moment of pain or pleasure.  As Abbott proved in her 2011 novel, The End of Everything, she is more than capable of shaping the most elusive aspects of memory and the senses.  With her dark, gritty teenage Americana in Dare Me, she has once again overwhelmed me with the resounding intensity of her skillful language and insight.

     Dare Me will be released on July 31, 2012.

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