Last year I was excited to see that Megan Abbott had a new book out. But cheerleaders! Nah, not for me. Jump ahead to January and I'm browsing bookshelves and see Dare Me. "Hold on", I think to myself, "this is Megan Abbott. She wrote the novel Queenpin (a Jim Thompson style noir that I love) and the non-fiction book, The Street was Mine: White Masculinity in Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir (which I have on permanent loan from the library). She's hardboiled and knows her stuff" and picked up a copy. This was a lesson to me and Megan I'll never doubt you again. I loved the book from page one and consumed it in one sitting. I'm late to the game and won't be doing a full-on review but, for those readers who know nothing about Dare Me, these blogs wrote what I wish I had so check them out:
Three Guys One Book
Full Stop calls this a "suburban noir" and it's a good description. The teenagers in Dare Me are dark, hardboiled, and like a gangland mob with a rigid hierarchy and a vicious enforcement of discipline. Mean Girls. Hah! This cheerleading squad would eat them for breakfast.
The crime isn't the main focus of the story which is the power struggle between Beth, the head girl, her faithful lieutenant Addy, and the new coach, Colette French. The story is pretty self-contained in that the rest of the high school is more or less a shadow behind the actions of the squad.
Megan's prose is perfect and the lyrical flow of the first person narration pulled me into the story. The characters became scary real the more I read and I was both fascinated and repelled by them.
When you read Dare Me, I recommend you make a note of the cheerleader routines Megan describes. There are You Tube videos demonstrating all of them. Stop reading and take a look at what the girls are doing. Remarkable stuff.