Arts & Entertainment Literary Review

An Enlightening Trip Backwards

By MEGAN ZIEGLER

STAFF WRITER

Over winter break I revisited an author that introduced me to reading fiction and prepared me for the world of dramatic high school girls. In Dare Me, Megan Abbot takes you back to that terrifying high school world through the narrative of Addy. Addy is a 16-year-old cheerleader who rules the school with her long time best friend Beth. Addy and the rest of the cheerleaders obsess over cheer, which is all  they look forward to in the day, and all that drives them to go through the motions of high school behavior. Their day-to-day activities become more complicated, however, with the arrival of a new head coach. All the girls except Beth form a close relationship with cool and enchanting Coach Colette French. As Addy becomes closer with the head coach, Beth’s bitterness towards her drifting best friend becomes obvious. A suicide near the school shakes up all of the relationships and power dynamics within the squad, and the following events are propelled through a suspenseful lens that has at the potential to be a true  page-turner.

While the plot does not live up to the potential, it does become intriguing, as Abbot takes the reader through loops of scandal, young friendships, and wild acquisitions. The most compelling thing about this novel is not the plot. Dare Me stands out in a different sense; it calls out a society and points fingers at the twisted expectations we all grew up with. The girls in the story are controversially torturing their bodies drugs, constant dieting, and purging. They do so in order to fill the role of “a cheerleader”, to receive some form of respect, and to give them something to do with the days that appear to drag on. This perspective allows the reader to witness and experience the various pressures that we grow up with.

Throughout the story, the reader is exposed to the raw mindset of a teenager struggling to live up to these pressures. This message is important today to people of all ages who have realized that there is something damaging about how societal pressures and expectations mold the mindsets of young women who become enrapt in it. While the cheerleading plot line may make the book appear to be targeting high school girls, it is an important piece that exemplifies how  pressures of growing up can mold and take shape in a growing teenager’s character development. 

About the author

Alexa Mitchell