The Complexities of Cheerleaders

If you read only one dark, creepy cheerleader novel this year, make it Dare Me by Megan Abbot. Besides sharing a first name, well, that’s actually the only thing the author and I have in common. Based on this novel, she’s a pretty twisted character. Abbot offers an entirely new entry in the age-old Coming of Age genre.

Three characters dominate this book: Coach French, the new cheerleading coach who unravels the pecking order; Beth, the team captain and leader of the mean girls through the force of her personality; Addy, Beth’s lieutenant and narrator of the story. This is not a squad that celebrates team spirit. They work hard, with a competitive aggro edge. The new coach whips the team into shape, bringing them ideas of national competitions and scouts. The best parts are the rough dialogues, either in person or in texts, even the coach: “Everybody give the chicken a warm welcome,” Coach says giving a gentle shove to the latest recruit, a JV cheerleader getting her shot at the show.”

There’s plot intrigue involving a suicide or possible murder, but that only heightens the already existing drama between the players. These girls might be teens, but they’ve developed a world weary existence, waiting for the day they’re no longer trapped in the world of teen hell, aka high school. Cheerleading might provide a distraction, but doesn’t it doesn’t feed their empty souls.

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