I think I am getting old because I spent the whole book thinking “where are your parents?”. I’ve read a couple Megan Abbott books and they are generally pretty good. YA but long, well written and a little dark. Dare Me is the story of two best friends, their cheerleading squad and the new, troubled charismatic new cheer coach. I could not be less of a cheerleader (the closest I’ve gotten to cheering for anything is watching Bring It On) so I assume all of that stuff is accurate. The opening is set four months before the rest of the book and sets up that some crime or horrible accident has occurred. Then it jumps back in time to the new coach arriving. Right away she dispenses with having a team captain which surprises the team and angers Beth, one-half of the best friends that are the focus of much of the book. Addy the narrator is the other half. Admittedly, they were mean girls so not exactly sympathetic characters. The coach, Colette, gets the girls in shape and turns them into a competitive team vs. the cheer at games team they had been. Slowly in the book, the coach starts confiding in Addy and starts inviting the squad over for drinks(!) and dinner practices frequently. So creepy. Then Colette starts confiding in Addy even more and treating her like a best friend and not a 15/16-year-old girl. Beth does not like this and makes it her mission to take Colette down. Beth seems unhinged most of the book, nasty to the other girls, very demanding of Addy’s time and stalks Colette. Even Addy is annoyed and they had been friends since they were 7. Addy gets more and more involved with Colette, even after it is clear a brutal crime or accident had been committed. For some reason, we learn a bit about Beth’s mom and she puts in an appearance towards the end of the book but Addy’s parents are never mentioned. Don’t they think it is weird that she is at her teacher’s house all the time? Leaves the house in the middle of the night? Addy might as well have lived alone. I felt their admission odd since there were a lot of scenes of Addy at home, in bed, getting ready for school etc but no mention of anyone else.
It was a very readable book but there are literally no characters to like except maybe Colette’s sad sack husband. The ending was wrapped up very quickly and was pretty obvious. Getting there was sort of fun, in a train wreck, Mean Girls sort of way. I did find a lot of it to be unbelievable. Not only did they not have parents they also very rarely seemed to attend class and never did homework. Why didn’t anyone’s parents object to young girls going to a teacher’s house every weekend? Why didn’t any of the girls think it was odd either? I remember there was a teacher at my school that did this and I just thought he was creepy!
One note: I read that it is being adapted for TV. I think it would make a great Netflix miniseries.