Dare Me by Megan Abbott: and you thought Mean Girls were..mean…

26 Nov

I  have always thought there was something absolutely terrifying about cheerleaders. The offensive mini skirts, slicked back hap-hap-happy pony tails, the scarily slutty dance moves (yes, I was in band camp), the blinding smatter of sequins they leave in their Nike Air pounding wake. No girl in a two-piece mini skirt combo should EVER be trusted – as all teen movies have confirmed.

But even my estimations were pretty favourable compared to Megan Abbott’s kind of cheerleaders in Dare Me. These shiny beeyotches are like the koi carps of the school pond, ready to carnivorously gobble up their weaker counterparts to rise above the spawn. Allow me to set the scene:

Beth and Addy are bestest buds. Their lives are a whirl of pompoms, vanilla spritz and cherry lipgloss. But when a new team coach arrives, they and their team mates find themselves pushed to a whole new level of intense. Coach is young, she’s beautiful, and she’s relentless – whether it means diets of puffed air or punishment by push-ups, she’s determined to get the girls to the ‘tourneys’ and beyond. Addy is instantly enthralled, developing a girl crush to rival all girl crushes. But Team Captain Beth suddenly becomes aware that she’s no longer top dog – for the team or for Addy. And this is a position that Beth is not happy with.

Totes scary

A crushingly intense story of adolescent obsession, Dare Me is ridiculously addictive. I read the whole thing in a day (admittedly a slightly hungover one). Between the dizzying high kicks, a suspicious death and a crazy amount of sexually charged pant flashing (oh god there goes the SEO), Dare Me paints a pretty grim picture of female relationships – the ones we have with others and ourselves. Addy flips through Thinspiration websites in dull moments, feels high from “Adderall and the pro clinical hydroxy-hot with green tea extract and the eating-nothing-but-hoodia-lollipops-all-day”, kicks a team mate in the gut so she can chuck up the cookie dough polluting her insides. These girls are lithe-limbed, gorgeous, young- but you get the feeling that perfection will never be enough.

That’s not to say they’re all delicate flowers. On the contrary, they’re kick-ass scary, abs of steel strong. They love a good bruise, a busted lip is a war wound of which to be proud. What really comes through is the physical strength and freedom the cheerleaders get from pushing their bodies to the limits. It’s a side to the stereotypical cheerleader that I hadn’t properly considered. Abbott herself has said that in Dare Me she strove “to offer not just her beaming smile and fit body, but her teeth gritted in concentration, sweat on her glittered brow. Her tanned legs embossed with yesterday’s bruise, a mark of pride. Gaze fixed hard on us, she says not just “Look at me,” but “Look at what I can do.”

And if that isn’t just a little bit scary, it damn well should be.

If you like your stories glossy with a bit of underlying grit, this is a great read. Abbott handles a familiar context in a really fresh way, which I think has to be mostly down to Addy’s narrative voice – part fearful, part hopeful, part arrogant, it encapsulates a wavering naive swagger that feels spot on. Plus Beth has to be one of my favourite teen psycho bitches, ‘like, ever’.

Final verdict?

Totally fetch.


7 Responses to “Dare Me by Megan Abbott: and you thought Mean Girls were..mean…”

  1. booksaremyfavouriteandbest November 27, 2012 at 12:12 am #

    Ace review! I’ve had this on and off my TBR list… it’s firmly back on now.

    • proseandconsbookclub November 27, 2012 at 9:26 pm #

      Thank you! Definitely worth a read. Let me know what you think when you’ve read it! x

  2. Katie November 27, 2012 at 2:08 am #

    This sounds fantastic! Loved your review!

  3. savidgereads December 29, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    I have a feeling that my OH would love this if its a meaner Mean Girls, and anything that gets them reading has got to be a winner.


  1. ‘New Adult’ Fiction; What is the Point? | Savidge Reads - January 29, 2013

    […] c) because Jessica of Prose and Cons Book Club (who I love and wish blogged every day, no pressure) loved this tale of crazy evil cheerleaders and it might be a laugh. I will report back, I might end up eating my hat, or I might find out this […]

  2. Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Should you believe the hype? | - February 24, 2013

    […] I did for Stylist, comparing it to Megan Abbott’s Dare Me (which I reviewed for my blog here). And if this doesn’t convince you, check out these reviews by Savidge Reads and […]

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