Saturday, March 16, 2013

I Dare You

Dare Me, by Megan Abbott

So I read Megan Abbott's latest novel Dare Me.  It's neo-noir set in the world of high school cheerleading.  Never thought I'd put those two things in the same sentence, but that's why the novel is so compelling and why Hollywood is working on the film adaptation as we speak.

The story revolves around best friends Addy Hanlon and Beth Cassidy, the beta and alpha dogs, respectively, of their high school's cheer squad.  As in all good noir, a catalyst appears early in the story, in this case a pretty new female coach not that much older than they are.

As a result of Coach French's drill sergeant manner and alluring lifestyle, the girls' friendship is tested and shenanigans, including adultery and murder, ensue.  Like the HBO series Girls, it made me squirm at times, being the father of a girl who passed through that stage not too long ago.  Not sure fathers ever want to think that their daughters were or are up to those activities or anything like them.  It's Mean Girls with adult consequences.

That said, the book kept my interest and the characters were fascinating, albeit not necessarily totally believable.  My only quibble with the book - and it's a small one - was that the narrator (Addy) is a sixteen year old girl whose scholastic achievement and prowess is hardly ever explored, and one of the few times it is, we learn that she has to cheat on her chemistry exam.  No mention of her intellect or even her SAT scores, and yet she uses words like "whorled".  Really?  Whorled?  There are other examples where she expresses herself more like a writer with an MFA rather than a teen whose sum total of written expression consists of text messaging.

But, all in all, that's a minor point far outweighed by the good stuff.  If you want to read a mystery that's filled with characters you've never before encountered in that genre, I dare you to pick up Dare Me.

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