The Murder In The Afternoon Book Club meeting time has changed! We will now meet on the third Monday of each month at 1 pm on BookPeople’s third floor.
Join us Monday, February 15, at 1 PM on BookPeople’s third floor, for a discussion of Dare Me, by Megan Abbott, who will join us via phone call during the discussion. You can find copies of Dare Me on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
- Review by Bookseller Molly Odintz
Megan Abbott started off studying noir fiction, and moved over to writing her own, creating several historical crime novels so true to their period, they could have been written in the forties. Next, she took a turn to the contemporary, addressing the same themes of power, competition, sexuality, and obsession showcased by her early novels, but re-contextualizing them for today’s young women. Her last three novels – Dare Me, The End of Everything, and The Fever – have all taken on the dangerous lives of teenage girls, and gone far beyond an after-school special in tackling the real and present dangers and thrills of modern womanhood.
Dare Me follows cheerleaders as they adjust to a new coach with greater demands on their athleticism than their previous leader, and with a greater yearning for the life of a teenager than any adult educator should possess. Most of the cheer-leading squad welcomes their new coach (simply called “Coach” in the novel) and her mission to transform their team from hip-shakers to professional cheerleaders with death-defying stunts.
Coach may have a talent for teaching, but she steers squad members toward crash diets, eating disorders, and stunts they are too weak to perform; she also shakes up the squad’s internal hierarchy to ensure her own dominance. When Coach dethrones the reigning head cheerleader, Beth Cassidy, and takes Beth’s loyal lieutenant, Addy Hanlon, as her second, Beth declares war, determined to regain both her crown and the undivided loyalty of her best friend.
Addy is split between her loyalty to her childhood friend, her worship of the beautiful and athletic Coach, and her urge to succeed at cheer-leading. She tries to strike a balance between her urge to support both women and her need to receive recognition of her own prowess.
While Dare Me is ostensibly about cheerleaders, Abbott drew inspiration from the martial language and drill-sergeant attitude of professional and competitive cheer-leading squads. The novel brings to mind Full Metal Jacket as much as Bring It On. I felt a kinship between Dare Me and the film Brick, which also used the style and language of noir to take on a high school context.
Abbott shows how Coach and Beth compete not just over the position of top dog, but over the loyalty of Addy, the perfect lieutenant. Without her, neither Coach nor Beth can maintain their position. Addy is the strong female friend behind every strong woman – without a lieutenant, without an enforcer, without a consigliere, no leader can sustain their power.
You can find copies of Dare Me on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. All books for BookPeople Book Clubs are 10% off in-store during the month the club has selected the book. Learn more about BookPeople’s many book club opportunities.