A wayward cheerleading team get a new coach. Tough and smart, she’s poised to lead the team to success. But what are the secrets behind her perfect life? She becomes best friends with one of the team, Addy (who’s the narrator of the story). Meanwhile, Addy’s manipulative and dangerous ‘frenemy’, Beth, is plotting to take Coach down. And then a gun is fired…
Published in 2012 by Picador, this book was definitely a page-turner. I just had to find out what happened next. What were Beth’s plans? Did Coach meet her downfall or did she have the last laugh? Was Addy finally going to break free from the grip of both Coach and Beth? The writing creates suspense, which tightens throughout the story as the chapters count down to a really important game for the squad, a game which everyone’s hopes are centred on. There were also twists and turns, but I did correctly guess the perpetrator of the crime quite early on. This seems to be true of most psychological thrillers I read – either they need to be more subtle in their hints, or maybe I’m just a good guesser?!
Some aspects of the book were problematic for me. The language is interesting at times, even lyrical, but at other times it doesn’t make much sense. The fact that the cheerleaders are ‘girls’ – although at around seventeen, they’re nearly adults – is over-emphasised and the narrator often saying things like ‘our girl bodies’ and ‘girl stuff’ is actually a bit nauseating. There’s also a lot about being thin, with the various ways of losing weight mentioned, but the author gives no real message challenging the attitude that thin is desirable. I think that’s dangerous. I’m still not sure if the book is aimed at YA or adults, but the cover has a picture of lip-biting on it (an often-used image for YA at the moment), plus it has a misleading title, Dare Me (which you would think is romance or chick-lit). Also I can’t believe that a sports coach would invite her team to her house and no adults even question what she’s doing in these enlightened times where we have safeguarding and more awareness of grooming. There’s a moment when Addy and Coach share a bed, and although nothing happens between them, it’s still an uncomfortable situation to have in a book. Maybe the whole thing is not supposed to be ‘believable’. I’ve no idea.
In summary, I disliked this book more than I liked it. The ‘thriller’ side of it was quite good, but the content gets a thumbs down from me.
Have you read this one or any other by Megan Abbott? What did you think?