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Dare Me

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"Tense, dark, and beautifully written" (Gillian Flynn), this novel of friendship and betrayal from an Edgar Award-winning author is a harrowing glimpse into the dark heart of the all-American girl.

Addy Hanlon has always been Beth Cassidy's best friend and trusted lieutenant. Beth calls the shots and Addy carries them out, a long-established order of things that has brought them to the pinnacle of their high-school careers. Now they're seniors who rule the intensely competitive cheer squad, feared and followed by the other girls—until the young new coach arrives.

Cool and commanding, an emissary from the adult world just beyond their reach, Coach Colette French draws Addy and the other cheerleaders into her life. Only Beth, unsettled by the new regime, remains outside Coach's golden circle, waging a subtle but vicious campaign to regain her position as "top girl"—both with the team and with Addy herself.

Then a suicide focuses a police investigation on Coach and her squad. After the first wave of shock and grief, Addy tries to uncover the truth behind the death—and learns that the boundary between loyalty and love can be dangerous terrain.

The raw passions of girlhood are brought to life in this taut, unflinching exploration of friendship, ambition, and power. Writing with "total authority and an almost desperate intensity" (Tom Perrotta), award-winning novelist Megan Abbott delivers a story as unnerving and thrilling as adolescence itself.

"Spectacular . . . It's Heathers meets Fight Club good."
—Chelsea Cain, the New York Times Book Review

290 pages, Hardcover

First published May 10, 2012

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About the author

Megan Abbott

68 books5,531 followers
Megan Abbott is the Edgar®-winning author of the novels Die a Little, Queenpin, The Song Is You, Bury Me Deep, The End of Everything, Dare Me, The Fever, You Will Know Me and Give Me Your Hand.

Abbott is co-showrunner, writer and executive producer of DARE ME, the TV show adapated from her novel. She was also a staff writer on HBO's THE DEUCE. Her writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Believer and the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Born in the Detroit area, she graduated from the University of Michigan and received her Ph.D. in English and American literature from New York University. She has taught at NYU, SUNY and the New School University and has served as the John Grisham Writer in Residence at The University of Mississippi.

She is also the author of a nonfiction book, The Street Was Mine: White Masculinity in Hardboiled Fiction and Film Noir, and the editor of A Hell of a Woman, an anthology of female crime fiction. She is currently developing two of her novels, Dare Me and The Fever, for television.

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5 stars
3,576 (12%)
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3 stars
9,827 (35%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,846 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,978 reviews170k followers
December 31, 2019
i have watched the first two episodes of this show and i am displeased so far. if anyone wants to talk about it, i'm game.


megan abbott knows all the secrets of being a girl, and she keeps on spilling them, book after book."it's fun to be a girl!!" nah, man, it's not. have you ever seen the feet of an actual ballerina? it's like that—underneath all the pink frills and the careful make-up, there is a horrorshow waiting to be revealed, and it's anything but soft and pretty and elegant.

this book is neither her girl noir nor her coming-of-age style, but some sort of seam where they both meet. the back cover claims this is "a fight club among cheerleaders," which isn't bad, but it reminded me more of Eating The Cheshire Cat, a book no one has read, and so unsuitable for a tempting comparison, but whatever.

this book is much better than that one, anyway.

this is a thriller/murder mystery tucked into a more interesting story about what happens when a group of young girls falls under the spell of a charismatic leader, in this case, their new cheerleading coach. it is about competition and burgeoning sensuality and the long long memories of teenage girls.

but this is megan abbott restrained. it is as though someone told her to use fewer pretty words and focus on the story.

that doesn't mean she doesn't occasionally come out with this heart-stopping shit:

My question is this:

The new coach. Did she look at us that first week and see past the glossed hair and the shiny legs, our glittered brow bones and girl bravado? See past all that to everything beneath, all our miseries, the way we all hated ourselves but much more everyone else? Could she see past all of that to something else, something quivering and real, something poised to be transformed, turned out, made? See that she could make us, stick her hands in our glitter-gritted insides and build us into magnificent teen gladiators?

abbott has done something here for cheerleading, for the athleticism of it. i didn't come from a high school where cheerleading was any big deal. pom pom and butt shaking, short skirts—nothing to make you sit up and take notice.

but these girls are single-minded, furious. and under the leadership of coach french they are indeed transformed into machines, into bodies that respond, into an ostensible hive-mind that is all trust on the surface, and all back-stabbing behind the scenes. and these girls can fly.

a really nice touch is that, in this book, the girls aren't the beloved centers of the high-school hierarchy. they are not the popular girls. the rest of the school pretty much sees them as frivolous bitches and don't really interact with them, so their entire social experience is lived within this squad, making their allegiance even tighter, but also intensifying the rivalries.

never has a book made me feel so...fat. i have read a ton of books where characters have eating disorders, but they usually just make me hungry. this one—these girls are so strong and so starved, living on tea and hydroxycut and cigarettes. chewing muffins and spitting them out as a real treat. and yet they are capable of so much sheer power, despite so many instances of near-fainting. but i felt like a complete potato the entire time i was reading this. thanks, megan abbott!

still, i can forgive her when she breaks my heart so easily:

She has so much pride that, even if I'm weary of her, of her fighting ways, her gauntlet-tossing, I can't say there isn't something else that beams in me. An old ember licked to fresh fire again. Beth, the old Beth, before high school, before Ben Trammel, all the boys and self-sorrow, the divorce and the adderall and the suspensions.

That Beth at the bike racks, third grade, her braids dangling, her chin up, fists knotted around a pair of dull scissors, peeling into Brady Carr's tire. Brady Carr, who shoved me off the spinabout, tearing a long strip of skin from my ankle to my knee.

Tugging the rubber from his tire, her fingernails ripped red, she looked up at me, grinning wide, front-teeth gapped and wild heroic.

How could you ever forget that?

such a casual paragraph that distills everything about young-girl obsessive relationships and their growing-apart. this is what i wanted more of.

and this:

When we're walking out, I look back at him, and his face looks troubled, like years ago, eighth grade, and my dad, who no longer bothers, watching me as I left the house with Beth, our bodies suddenly so ripe and comely and there was nothing he could do.

parents are non-entities throughout this book. beth's mother is given maybe two pages of ineffectual page-time, and at one point, addy's father leaves her a note. these are girls finding their own way, going wild and living a glittery version of thug life, whose foundation is cheerleading. theirs are lives lived in a constant state of manipulation, where they anticipate each other's next moves with slitted eyes and the mental acuity of chess players. on-court, their actions are all about trusting each other not to let them fall, but off-court, it is a different ball game altogether.

and the arrival of coach french and all that happens just fans those flames into a bonfire.

i know i have only given her books four stars, but that's because i am waiting. she has quickly become one of my favorite authors, although this one is my least favorite of my four-stars. it is a great psychological thriller that is at the same time "a harrowing exploration into the dark heart of the all-american girl," but it doesn't have those claustrophobically packed sentences that i have loved from some of her other books. and for most people—that would be an improvement, but i love writers who manipulate language like she can—who give you everything in a sentence—who stretch their prose to bursting. this is more streamlined and conventional, in that way. the story itself is a better-than-average thriller that forces the reader into uncomfortable situations and offers plenty of twists, but it didn't make me howl.

and why oh why is she listed as a "young adult" author on here? i do not want to use my librarian powers to change this until i know for sure that there is a good reason. she does not write YA. her noir stuff is definitely not YA, and this one and The End of Everything, while they feature young girls at the center of the story are in no way suitable for the YA audience.

that's tricky, right? because she captures everything about teen girls that is vicious and tender and lost and confused and deeply sexual, but it is through this filter of knowing adult sensibilities that i think would be completely inappropriate for a younger audience. although i still feel it is scarily accurate in its depiction.

although i think if she did write YA, she would be amazing at it. i think she could foster an entire generation of strong, cool, toughgirls.

like this

or this

but classy, you know?

girls that could kick your ass but reapply their lip gloss afterward

so i don't know... maybe she should be listed as YA after all...bring on the girl gangs!

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews293k followers
January 23, 2013

“There's something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls.”

How can I describe this book? Well, if Bunheads had a manic, intense and obsessive older sister, then this would definitely be it. Dare Me is about teenage girls - and cheerleaders in particular - straddling the line between childhood and the big world of adults but it isn't a tale that conjures up the usual images that high school cheerleading brings with it. This is an intense book about obsession, sexuality and competition. I think back once again to Bunheads and how that tells of the dark realities of ballet dancing, it isn't a nice pretty world of tutus and female friendship - you have to be ridiculously self-disciplined and ferociously competitive. That's what these cheerleaders are like, no sitting around being bitchy and doing Mean Girls walks through the school, they work hard to perform the routines.

I can see in some ways why this book has a low average rating. For one thing, this isn't a nice story, teen girls explore their own sexualities and the mention of underage sex may make some readers uncomfortable. Make no mistake, this may be a book about teenagers but it is very much an adult novel. And, for another thing, the girls develop an extremely unhealthy obsession with weight loss in order to keep trim for the routines; but, as much as I hate the idea of forcing your body into an unnaturally skinny shape, this is the harsh reality for many athletes and/or dancers: hard exercise and hard dieting.

The murder mystery in Dare Me is only a small part of the excitement, much more thrilling for me was the focus on teen girls and their obsession with a new leader - in this case, the cheerleading coach. The new coach is beautiful, charismatic and vicious, she challenges them to be better than they are and she eventually becomes the centre of their almost godlike worship. The narrator (Addy) pauses at one point to think back on the very first moment when the coach arrived:

Did she look at us that first week and see past the glossed hair and the shiny legs, our glittered brow bones and girl bravado? See past all that to everything beneath, all our miseries, the way we all hated ourselves but much more everyone else? Could she see past all of that to something else, something quivering and real, something poised to be transformed, turned out, made? See that she could make us, stick her hands in our glitter-gritted insides and build us into magnificent teen gladiators?

In my opinion, the writing was exactly that perfect magical blend of pretty without being purplish. Abbott doesn't overdo it, she waits for the right moment and then pulls out a little gem like the one above to make sure you're kept in the mood of the novel.

I also think I found this novel at the perfect time, it seemed to catch my eye just when I'd been discussing the portrayal of cheerleaders in American movies and books after reading Storm. Often, cheerleaders are there as male eye-candy or as the bitchy, popular girls to stand as a comparison against the girl next door-type we are supposed to root for. In the UK, not many high schools have cheerleading teams, so opinion of them doesn't tend to stem from high school cliques and my only contact with cheerleaders has been on professional, competing teams. I love the way Dare Me completely ignores the stereotype and takes us into a world where it isn't about boyfriends and popularity, it's about fierce competition. Here the cheerleaders are not the centre of popularity but outcasts, living in a sphere separate from the rest of high school reality. They live and breathe the competition. It's intense. It's obsessive. It's a little scary.

Most girls have an intense friendship with another girl while growing up, the kind of relationship that comes only through the sharing of childhood secrets, first crushes and hidden fears, through sleepovers where neither of you sleep. Dare Me is about these friendships and it's also about the breakdown of them... I don't think it matters how many great friends you make afterwards, there's still always something a little sad about looking back on your first friendship and remembering how you grew apart.

In short, I really really enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to everyone who likes something a bit edgy and different.
Profile Image for kari.
848 reviews
September 13, 2012
Sad,ugly characters doing sad,ugly things to one another. This is supposed to be what is in the heart and mind of the all-American girl? I'm not buying that.
This is how Addy sees herself: p. 258 "You see these glitters and sparkledust and magicks? It's war paint, it's feathers and claws, it's blood sacrifice."
Who the heck is she at war with? Herself? Who are any of them at war with? Why are any of them so angry? If I am expected to care, then explain to me why they are this way. Otherwise don't waste my time.
There is no character that you have hopes for or care for or even like, other than perhaps the victim, but even there, what that person was doing was wrong. Who in this whole book actually does right?
None of these characters are even fully formed. There is reference made of Beth's issues, but never explained why she behaves as she does, nor why none of these girl's parents seem to give two hoots about their supposedly perfect daughters.
The way the girls tear at one another, bully each other and these are supposed to be their friends? I just don't understand what the author was trying to say with this.
And the big reveal(I don't mean the reveal of the death which you would think is the big reveal, but the actual big reveal) in the final pages? Yeah, saw that coming a mile away, wondered how long it would take to get there. Who cares?
There are some big continuity problems that don't make sense. Coach has her hair in a bob, but then later, only a matter of weeks later, it is described in a ponytail and a French braid. So does she have long hair, long enough for a French braid or ponytail or is it a bob?
At one time, Coach is speaking to the girls in the locker room and they begin to scream with joy, jumping on the bleachers. There aren't bleachers in locker rooms.
The worst one is p. 117: "Clattering the phone against the wall, she catapults it down the toilet."
Addy is there and witnesses this happening, the phone down the toilet. The book is told in first person from Addy's viewpoint. So, then why on page 121 does she say " . . . I can't get Beth to return my texts." Yeah, that would be because her phone went down the toilet four pages ago which Addy witnessed. Stupid. On page 123 Beth asks for her phone back and Addy reminds her that it went down the toilet. So, then why was she texting her two pages ago when she knows Beth's phone went down the toilet? Makes absolutely no sense.
Additionally, the description of the victim/suicide, which Addy saw, says the weapon was lying under the leg, but later Addy reads that it was by the victim's head. p. 191 reading from the newspaper article: "Recoil will usually cause a handgun to land behind the body, the source noted, not next to the head where it was found." Addy is trying hard to figure out what happened and she never thinks to herself that that isn't where the gun was, but was under the leg. She supposedly can't get the image out of her mind, but she doesn't think that this is wrong. So, I'm guessing it is an error on the part of the author. Since all of theses small details do seem to matter to the plot, that is really badly done.
Also, what world do these people live in where the high school cheer coach, in her office, at the high school, smokes? And I mean smokes like a flipping chimney. You can't even smoke outside most schools around here, let alone in the building.
And she gives the girls cigarettes and then serves them alcohol at her home, with no mention whatever that this isn't okay. There is tons of teen drinking, drugging, drinking and driving, drinking while driving, with no mention at all that anyone is at all aware that these things aren't right.
Parents seem to not exist in this world.
Bottom line. One word. Ugly.
Profile Image for Kelly | hellokorio.
290 reviews27 followers
January 5, 2013
I can't even go far enough in this book to find out the premise. I do not even care. This is god awful. This is the worst kind of writing (edit: FINE. THE WORST KIND to me. I suppose you're allowed to like it). So many analogies that don't actually even MEAN ANYTHING. You can't just... say things... and call it writing.

"wishbone arms?" What do you mean by that? What is that? So, what? They're... all bowed out? They're skinny? They're dried out like after it comes out of a turkey and sits for a while? They're IN THE MIDDLE OF A BIRD?

"hair like a long taffy pull" - okay, so... it's sticky hair? It's wide at one end, and then at the other end it's all thinned out and white and stringy?



"pigeon toed like a dancer"




When you use words, you use them to mean things. They need to MEAN THINGS. You can't just use them because they SOUND NICE OR SMART OR ESPECIALLY WRITERLY. That's like using an apostrophe because it LOOKS BETTER THAT WAY.
Profile Image for Julie .
4,025 reviews58.9k followers
May 18, 2020
Dare Me by Megan Abbott is a 2012 Picador Books publication.

After reading “You Will Know Me”, I knew I wanted to read more Megan Abbott, and I had even picked this book to be the next in line- It just took me a few years to finally get around to it.

Much has changed since this book was published in 2012. I know it was only eight years ago, but while the ‘mean girls’ trend was successful, and still pops up in various forms of entertainment, its shock value had been greatly reduced.

Still, this book is one dark and twisted ride!

For those of us who lived outside of the exclusive world of cheerleading, it seemed almost like a secret society. The girls are always popular, always attractive. They are perky and enthusiastic, and of course they can perform all those death defying stunts.

Behind the scenes though, there are bruises and punishing workouts… and the threat that hangs over them- the possibility of severe injury.

Cheerleading is like an exclusive enclave, but there is more to it than cute outfits, and the entertaining acrobatics. There is a brutal physical toll- and those stunts can be incredibly dangerous.

But, just like anything else, there is always the possibility of a dark side lurking just beneath the surface.

This novel gives readers a front row seat for an inside peek into what goes on behind that carefully crafted façade in the highly competitive world of cheerleading.

The premise, at least in the beginning, isn’t all that shocking, on the surface. We have Beth Cassidy the undisputed leader of the cheerleading squad and her best friend, Addy, cruising along unchallenged, while the other team members acquiesce to her demands and leadership, knowing their place- or else.

Then a new coach takes over and upends Beth’s hierarchy….

Immediately it becomes clear that Coach French will require a lot more discipline from the girls, demanding they perform tricky stunts, and announcing there is no longer the need for a team captain. While Beth seemingly takes all this in stride, one senses Beth is biding her time, waiting to pounce, to take her revenge. Coach French will pay a price for her demands and Beth expects Addy to fall in line with her, as usual.

However, Addy is a little bit in awe of Coach French, who inspires her try harder, to question her friendship with Beth. As a result, she soon finds herself caught between loyalty to Beth and her respect for Coach French… Until…

The new coach, who happens to be married, is found in a compromising position with another man. When her new lover allegedly commits suicide, Abby finds herself pulled deeper into the Coach’s web as the police begin to question the cause of death. As damning evidence mounts, Abby begins to suspect several people in her inner circle of foul play…

This is a fiendishly entertaining, very clever, and uncomfortably realistic novel. The dangerous machinations and power struggles between these teenage girls almost eclipse the murder mystery and is a constant diversion, blinding you to even more sinister developments. By the end of the book I was on the edge of my seat!

Overall, this is a compelling drama, a taut cat and mouse guessing game, that is highly disturbing and deliciously macabre!!

4 stars
Profile Image for Josu Diamond.
Author 9 books33k followers
July 30, 2020
Un misterio que se deshincha.

El punto de partida de Dare me es bastante interesante: ha ocurrido algo, parece que hay un cadáver, y nuestra protagonista está en medio de todo el asunto. ¡Y eso no es lo mejor! ¡Es que es una novela de animadoras! YAS.

Bueno, pues no nos dejemos engañar. A decir verdad el libro no está mal escrito. El estilo de Abbott es muy curioso, a veces parece un guion de una película, otras veces un trozo de un relato de Stephen King, pero finalmente se convierte en algo muy interesante por el uso que tiene del lenguaje y de los tiempos de la narración. Sin embargo, hay algo en su estilo que al mismo tiempo que de calidad, hace que no se conecte del todo con la historia, y es una pena.


Dare me es una novela llena de misterio y trucos psicológicos. Beth, Addy o Colette son personajes llenos de luces y sombras que no sabes por dónde van a salir. Son muy humanos en su forma de hablar y de comportarse. Es, probablemente, una de las novelas que mejor muestra la parte de la envidia y los celos de las personas. Creo que la autora tiene un don para los diálogos o para escribir las interacciones entre personas -y más si son enemigas. En ese sentido, el libro es bastante realista.

Por otro lado, teniendo personajes bien construidos, la historia debe acompañarlo, pero no es el caso. Hasta pasada la mitad no empezamos a meternos dentro del misterio que se presenta en la primera página respecto al cadáver. Me ha costado terminarme el libro porque no terminaba de engancharme. Siendo un libro de animadoras, y con el estilo tan rico en detalles y con calma de Megan Abbott, pues era de esperar que tuviéramos páginas y páginas de cómo se hace una pirámide o un salto hacia atrás y demás cosas que sinceramente me la sudaban.


En cuanto al tema de misterio, por ejemplo, sí que ha estado mejor llevado de lo que me parecía en un principio. A partir de la mitad el libro mejora, y el último tercio me ha sorprendido gratamente. Eso sí: tampoco nada del otro mundo. Es lo que me jode, porque el libro tiene muy buen potencial, pero creo que se tomaron ciertas decisiones a la hora de escribirlo que le afectan negativamente.

Al final me he quedado como diciendo: jo, qué rabia. La verdad es que era una novela destinada a gustarme por varios elementos, pero que finalmente por varios motivos siento que se queda algo desinflada. Es como que no termina de darme todo lo que podría, aunque es verdad que hay cosas que jamás habría pensado en la historia, pero no sé...

Vamos, que Dare me es un libro de animadoras, de misterio, de juegos mentales y manipulación. Es una historia llena de giros y que por momentos te asfixiará. No está mal, pero podría haber estado mejor.
Profile Image for Era ➴.
215 reviews520 followers
April 22, 2022
Trigger Warnings: suicide, bulimia, anorexia, alcohol.

I’ve been wanting to address this one for a while.

[disclaimer: I DNF'd the book after Chapter Nine and have only seen a few clips of the TV show on YouTube. So my review is only based on the little bits that I have seen/read/heard.]

I really wanted to like this one. I found out about this because I wanted to watch the TV show (the actual TV show, not clips on the Internet) and learned that it was based on a book. So I decided to read the book instead, since I figured that would give me enough of the aesthetic that I was interested in.

Also because the show is R-rated and my mom would never let me watch it. And anyway it was cancelled.

No. Don’t do that to yourself.

The first thing that stuck out to me was the writing. At first, reading through the first two chapters online, I liked the prose and the lyrical feel to the words. I liked the aesthetic it created; the dark glitter and the blood, sweat and tears. And then I started listening to the audiobook, because Libby doesn’t have the actual eBook, and it all went downhill from there.

There wasn’t actually anything wrong with the audiobook, but I just...don’t vibe with audio. Even if it’s a good reading. I think when I heard someone narrating out loud instead of reading the words for myself, I could just hear the phrases that stuck out. The inner monologues didn’t sound like inner monologues because someone was saying them out loud with this tone that I wouldn’t have “heard” if I was reading the book.

And then of course there was the actual writing style. A few examples:

I couldn’t find the quote, but I do remember the exact words.

“Hair like a long taffy pull.”

This, by the way, is what a taffy pull looks like:

Have you ever seen hair like that? Because I haven’t except for on those fake-ass plastic dolls. And to make things worse, apparently there are different kinds of taffy and one kind is soft and the other kind is hard. And neither of them look like hair. I just...don’t get it.

Also, these are pieces of candy. But they’re also supposed to be long? Because they look like hair?

And then another terrible phrase:

“...wishbone arms.”

Wishbone arms???? Like...this thing??

Are her arms...like really weirdly bent or something? Are they skinny? Are they smaller than my hands? Are they easily broken? I’m genuinely confused. What kind of arms are those?

What are these metaphors?

“...pigeon-toed like a dancer.”

Pigeon-toed? Are her feet turned in? That’s what pigeon-toed means.

However, as I can speak from experience, dancers walk with their toes pointed out. Or on their toes. Not with a mobile condition. Not like birds.

Sure, there are a few awesome quotes and dramatic monologues in the book, but I can’t get past these phrases. Especially when they’re used to describe body parts. I don’t like body part metaphors. They’re uncomfortable and awkward and generally very strange and inaccurate.

I just don’t get it. You can use much more accurate descriptors and still sound lyrical. Making stupid comparisons that obviously make no sense is just...useless. It’s not a qualification for authors to have to make idiotic similes and metaphors.

What do these people look like, Bratz dolls?

“Ages fourteen to eighteen, a girl needs something to kill all that time, that endless itchy waiting, every hour, every day for something — anything — to begin.”

...itchy waiting? Itchy??? Waiting???


What does this mean? Someone please explain to me what an “endless itchy waiting” is. Is it impatience? Are teenage girls too impatient to grow up? Are we trying too hard to be more mature? Because if we are, it’s not our fault for thinking we have to.

“That’s what people never understand: They see us hard little pretty things, brightly lacquered and sequin-studded, and they laugh, they mock, they arouse themselves. They miss everything. You see, these glitters and sparkle dusts and magicks? It’s war paint, it’s feather and claws, it’s blood sacrifice.”

I’m going to be honest, that quote there is good. It’s amazing, actually. There are so many parts of the book (as far as I read it/listened to it) that could have been this good if they’d actually made sense. Take this quote for example:

“My question is this: The New Coach. Did she look at us that first week and see past the glossed hair and shiny legs, our glittered brow bones and girl bravado? See past all that to everything beneath, all our miseries, the way we all hated ourselves but much more everyone else? Could she see past all of that to something else, something quivering and real, something poised to be transformed, turned out, made? See that she could make us, stick her hands in our glitter-gritted insides and build us into magnificent teen gladiators?”

It sounds amazing. But it’s also metaphorically inconsistent and kinda weird.

The first part talks about how Coach French looks past their “glittered exteriors”. But then the last part talks about how she re-forms their “glitter-gritted insides”. How can you be glittered on the outside and have that as a shell, and then have glittery intestines? Are you glittery on the outside or did you swallow too much lipstick?

I don’t understand this. The girls are supposed to wear their glitter as an exterior and a mask, as said in the beginning. But then apparently their insides are hardened by glitter too?

Okay, I’m done with the weird body part confusion.

The plot was okay, but kind of pointless. It wasn’t going anywhere. Addy, the narrator, is immediately taken by Coach French, while her best friend and top bitch Beth is instantly hostile. A small-town squad of cheerleaders who don’t actually know how to cheer. The small town is ~shook~ when the new cheer coach arrives. And then there’s a suicide.

I’m saving the part that makes me mad for last. I want to take apart the structure first.

This was really stereotypical. The cheerleaders are catty, competitive bitches who own the boys of the school. They’re blond white party girls who cheer because it’s hot. The cheer squad is elite and exclusive and evil.

I’d like to point out that the TV show at least included diversity.

But apparently this cheer squad can’t even cheer. I’m not an athlete and I probably have no room to talk about this, but this group of cheerleaders can’t do a basket toss and can barely pull off a pyramid...which I kinda thought were standard cheer moves?

It does make sense since they’re from a small town with low standards. But of course, everything changes when the new coach comes. Suddenly, everyone wants the top spot and they all want to win Regionals and State.

There was nothing unique about this except for the overblown drama, which of course happens to Addy and Beth because of course they’re the top two cheerleaders.

Can you say stereotype?

Even that was okay for me. I was still interested. And then I kept going and I just...couldn’t.

[here comes my rant]

The suicide and mental health representation.

What the actual fuck?

First issue: the suicide felt like it was thrown into the plot to add drama. Coach French was cheating on her husband with an army sergeant who was an old friend of hers, because of course we needed more clichés. And then Sarge died. Because Coach French cut things off with him. Because she was cheating on her husband.

Literally the only reason the suicide happened was because Coach French didn’t want to divorce the husband that she hated. Gotta love that logic.

This was just a way to make the book more ~interesting~ because oh no he couldn’t be with the woman he loved who lived in the same town as him so he just shot himself. Moving on, Addy has to hide a bunch of shit from Beth because now the cops are suspicious about the suicide and there’s more drama.

No. Fuck you. Suicide is not a gimmick or just another plot device for more tension. It’s a real problem that hurts millions of people. It’s something that people of all ages, genders and races struggle with. It’s not a little storyline for a love triangle. It’s something that I have dealt with and seeing it airbrushed into this little drama moment is just...disgusting.

“Love is a kind of killing, Addy," she says. "Don't you know that?”

More mental health bullshit: anorexia and bulimia. Coach French tells a girl, without a qualm or hesitation, to “fix her body”. She pinches the girl’s waist and says “fix it”. What the fuck?

“All those posters and PSAs and health class presentations on body image and the way you can burst blood vessels in your face and rupture your esophagus if you can’t stop ramming those sno balls down your throat every night, knowing they’ll have to come back up again, you sad weak girl.
Because of all this, Coach surely can’t tell a girl, a sensitive, body-conscious teenage girl, to get rid of the tender little tuck around her waist, can she?
She can.
Coach can say anything.
And there’s Emily, keening over the toilet bowl after practice, begging me to kick her in the gut so she can expel the rest, all that cookie dough and cool ranch, the smell making me roil. Emily, a girl made entirely of donut sticks, cheese powder, and haribo.
I kick, I do.
She would do the same for me.”


Bulimia is a serious problem that is not just a little trend that teenage girls pull off so they can look prettier. It’s a mental health disorder that can seriously damage someone’s body, and an authority figure encouraging a girl to force herself to throw up her food and go on a liquid diet just for a cheerleading competition is sick.

It’s not just this one girl. Almost all of the girls on the squad are pulled into this. They stop eating, exercise for hours, make themselves tiny. One of them is described as a “pale eyelash of a girl” (more body part metaphors!) which is…

You know. Totally healthy. Absolutely healthy that she just threw up after eating half a protein bar. Totally fine that she just almost passed out because she didn’t drink her lunch carrot juice.

“So I start with the egg whites and the almonds and the spinach, like wilting lily pads between my teeth. It’s so boring, like not eating at all because you don’t feel the sweet grit on your tongue all day and night, singing on the edge of your teeth.
But my body is tight-tight-tightening. Hard and smooth, like hers. Waist pared down to nothing, like hers.”

When I read this book, I was in fact dealing with anorexia. And the way this idolized dieting, losing inches off my waist, eating nothing but “weight-loss” foods and spending hours working out...that was harmful. It put me in the wrong mindset.

This romanticized bulimia and anorexia, because it was just so worth it to have a tiny waist.

So no, I didn’t finish this book. I don’t want to, either. The whole thing was just girl-on-girl hate, body dysmorphia, airbrushed mental disorders, and glorified self-harm. The plot had nothing in it, the characters were literal plastic dolls, and the content of this book was disgusting, triggering, and downright insensitive.

I really wanted to like this book. I actually convinced myself that I did for a while. But now that my mental health has...changed, I can definitely tell that this book is not good. At all. It’s too problematic and insensitive. I came in looking for a dark aesthetic thriller with good tension and compelling characters.

What I got was romanticization of eating disorders and suicide. Stay away from this kind of content.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,919 reviews10.6k followers
February 2, 2014
Beth and Addy have been the top dogs on the cheerleading squad for years. When a new coach comes in and upsets the apple cart, how will Beth react to her role being usurped? And what dark things are waiting in the wings for Coach French?

Wow. I've said it before but Megan Abbott makes the politics of teenage girls look as brutal as the Game of Thrones.

Dare Me is a look behind the curtain at what makes teenage girls tick, specifically the ones motivated to be cheerleaders. Eating disorders, cattiness, the whole nine yards. When the Coach arrives and usurps Beth's role in the squad, things quickly start falling apart. Beth goes on a calculated rampage, the Coach's unhappiness is exposed, and Addy is stuck trying to hold everything together.

You wouldn't think a tale about cheerleaders would be this dark but the girls are like a pack of wolves, pouncing on any pack member that makes a misstep. Beth was pretty slick and would make a great femme fatale once she gets a few more years on her. Coach French seemed like she became a coach because it was the only part of her life she had control over. Addy's struggle between her loyalty to Beth and her new relationship with the coach kept the plot rocketing forward.

There's a twist near the halfway point that sends the book veering into standard noir territory. While I was pretty sure who the culprit was, Megan had me off on tangents a few times. I had an inkling of how the book was going to end but that did little to lessen the impact. It still hit like a cheerleader's head on an unpadded gym floor.

As of this writing, I've read five or six Megan Abbott books and this one was my favorite yet. Five out of five stars.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.4k followers
June 10, 2019
“There's something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls.”

This is... a weird book. And it's definitely going to be polarizing. But holy shit, for me, this book was fantastic . It's not necessarily a book you'll enjoy, but oh my god, does it stay with you - this book along with Abigail Haas' Dangerous Girls got me interested in the suspense genre. It has been over a year now since I read this book and it still haunts me.

Dare Me is about obsession. It's about dedication and coming-of-age in a brutal world. It's about power plays and hatred. It's about the drive for competition, and how boyfriends and dating play into that competition in the teen world. It's about the twisted kind of love. The writing is gorgeous without being purple-prosey. All of this incorporates itself into a brilliantly suspenseful novel that is impossible to put down. I read this book in midwinter at Lake Tahoe, yet the atmosphere of this book drew me in so well that I was totally lost.

Megan Abbott's mood and tonal shifts are genuinely remarkable, keeping you on the edge of your seat. I love mood books; I love books that make me feel, even when I don't know what's happening. This book is confusing and screwed-up and flat-out weird, but it's utterly amazing. The ending is almost unclear - I don't think I liked it when I first read this. But in hindsight, I think the ambiguous and odd ending worked perfectly. It's the reason this book still stands tall in my memories, and always will.

Beth and Addy are both deeply awful, and yet I sympathized with their complex characters completely - even when they're dislikable, they interest you, keep you reading. The relationship between Beth and Addy is deeply messed up by the forces of competition and codependency and yet they remain so interesting to read about.
We're all the same under our skin, aren't we?
We're all wanting things we don't understand. Things we can't even name. The yearning so deep, like pinions over our hearts.

There's something I wanted to talk about in terms of queerness in this book. In Dare Me, relationships between men and women are a weapon, used for power and for sex. The only relationships that do not revolve around sex are those between women: Addy and Coach, and Addy and Beth. Yet both of these relationships are influenced by attraction, from the one-sided attraction between Addy and Coach to the two-sided attraction between Addy and Beth. It is simply that these are the only relationships into which the characters pour real emotion and genuine love.

This gets a high recommendation from me to anyone who enjoys suspense novels and ambiguity.

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Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,032 reviews1,423 followers
July 6, 2020
First Read: November 2016, Rating: 5/5 stars
Second Read: April 2020, Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Raw, gritty and completely unforgiving. Abbott exposes the teenage girl populace in a harsh and exposing light in this unputdownable dark contemporary!

Best friends Beth Cassidy and Addy Hanlon are the Queen Bee and Lieutenant of their high-school. Their status as cheerleaders means no more to them than to ensure that all eyes are turned their way as they parade the hallways in packs of short skirts and flipping ponytails. That is, until a new coach arrives and is determined to make the cheer pack sleeker, slimmer and more daring. On their way to perfection, every flaw is uncovered, every trick perfected and not all friendships will last this test of endurance.

Abbott is an absolute master at exposing the nuances of the politics that govern the lives of teenage girls. Her characters might not represent the norm, but they act as exaggerated spokespersons for what lies beneath the facade of bored indifference, perfectly glossed lips and exposed lengths of legs that categorize these girls. More fierce than war generals, more determined than Olympic athletes and more cut-throat than criminals, these girls maintain the facade of solidarity with simpering smiles whilst dually knifing each other in the back at every opportunity.

I flew through this book in less than a day and found absolutely every page compelling and enthralling. Abbott made her pack of glossy cheerleaders far more than their image and her quest for raw truth made their stories intrepid and valiant. I found no inherent good in the story and yet found myself rooting for each of them, despite their immoral, and often illegal, antics.

This voyeuristic insight into the elite cheer pack made me dually want to relive my teenage years as one of their clique and glad that I stayed clear from this dog-eat-dog form of friendship. This tale proves that getting to the top of the pyramid isn't the hardest part, but staying there is.

During my second reading I found this no less compelling but a little more removed from the teen, school drama.
Profile Image for Susanne.
1,159 reviews36.8k followers
May 18, 2017
3.75 Stars* (rounded up)

Yowza! This is Mean Girls at its Very Best and when its Wicked, it's Totally Wicked. And when it's Trashy, it's Totally Trashy. And in those MOMENTS? It is HIGHLY ENTERTAINING.

Dare Me by Megan Abbot is High School Cheerleaders' version of Mean Girls with a little mystery thrown in. It's entertaining and campy and it almost makes me want to be back in High School. To be teased mercilessly. Not.. And I swear the book didn't inspire me to want to go out and buy pom poms either... (I'm serious... Really!).

This is the story of cheerleaders and best friends, Addy Hanson and Beth Cassidy. Beth has always been the Captain, and Addy, her lieutenant. Together, they are fierce! Beth has always been as cold as ICE and no one crosses her and no one can get to her, no one except Addy. Then everything changes for Beth, as Addy begins looking up to the new Coach, Ms. Colette French, and not Beth. Tempers rise between everyone involved and the games begin (and I don't mean football games). To make matters worse, something goes awry for Addy and for Coach and its something bad with a capital B. Many secrets are kept and Beth is the middle of all of it and is loving every single second of it - because Beth is bad with a capital B, too.

Dare Me is a wickedly entertaining and totally sophomoric novel that was enjoyable and very fast-paced. I listened to this audiobook and found the narrator to be superb. Megan Abbot did a splendid job of creating real characters whose pain I felt (and considering most of them were in High School and I am not), I thought that was a nice feat. If you are looking for an entertaining though somewhat campy YA novel, give this a go.

** I must provide a disclaimer however that my enjoyment of this novel (which includes incidents of teenage bullying) does not mean that I, in anyway way, condone that behavior.

Published on Goodreads and Amazon on 5.17.17.
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
485 reviews808 followers
August 31, 2016
The only generic element in Megan Abbott's vibrant 2012 thriller Dare Me is the title, which promises a standard teen soap opera. The characters are anything but, capable of running intricate risk assessment models on their behavior in order to navigate the politics of a high school cheer squad. Likewise, Abbott, whose fiction was foreign to me when I began this book, demonstrates remarkable discipline, skill and emotional intelligence in building a challenging maze. Despite opportunities for the novel to blunder into silliness or melodrama, the book executes with a leanness and meanness I responded to and finishes on an emotional high that a cheer coach would applaud.

Set during a present day of text messaging and social media in a city with no name that could be any city, the lurid, tightly executed tale is the first-person account of Adelaine Hanlon, "Addy," a sixteen-year-old cheerleader, the lieutenant of sorts to the squad captain, her friend since second grade and peewee cheer, Beth Cassidy. All others both on the squad and in their world bow to Beth's will, until the day their new coach Collette French arrives at practice. Inspiring a barrage of texts between Emily, RiRi and the others--how old u think? looka the whistle, WTF--Coach carries herself like a drill sergeant and is not at all impressed with the attitude or accomplishments of the squad.

The girls run through their best routines for their new coach. She asks them what else they've got. In a demonstration of her aloofness and nerve, Coach grabs the baby fat of one of the other cheerleaders at the waist in front of everyone and commands,"Fix it." She makes the squad run bleacher sprints, but rather than alienate her pupils, motivates them to earn her respect. Offering Addy a ride home from school, Coach remarks, "The days of funyans for lunch and tanning beds--they're over, girl." She calls a special meeting to announce that the squad doesn't need a designated captain. All eyes go to Beth, who gives no reaction. Meanwhile, the others are enamored by Coach.

After, our bodies spent, our limbs slick, we query her.

Sweatless and erect, she looks down at our wasted loins, water bottles rolling over our chests and foreheads.

"Coach, where'd you go to high school?" one of us asks.

"Coach, what's your husband like?"

"Coach, is that your car in the faculty lot, or your husband's?"

We try every day, most of us. The information comes slow, wriggling out. She'd gone to school over in Stony Creek, her husband works in a mirrored office tower downtown, and he bought her the car. Barely information at all. As little as she can share and still share something.

So focused, so intent, she'll only answer questions when we've done our sprints, our bridge bends, our hundreds of searing crunches, backs sliding, squeaking on the floor.

The squad begin locking their stunts. Deciding they're ready to "take it to the next level," they work on a basket toss, in which a pyramid of cheerleaders hurl a Flyer twenty feet into the air and catch her. Anticipating that Beth will be their Flyer, Coach picks one of their ex-captain's handmaidens instead. After a home game, Emily invites Coach to go out with them. Their mentor invites them all back to her house instead. With Coach's four-year-old daughter Caitlin in bed and her workaholic husband Matt invisible, Emily offers a toast to Coach with a pint of vodka. To their surprise, their coach joins in.

Addy becomes close with Coach. Her own family barely in the picture, she begins spending more time at Coach's house. Addy can see that given everything she wants, the coach is unhappy, with a child and husband as unfulfilling to her as jewelry or furniture. Addy convinces Beth to join the reindeer games at Coach's house, but the former captain seethes with contempt in what she observes. With a reprisal imminent, Addy is relieved when Beth turns her attention to a bet with RiRi on which of them can cop a feel from a National Guard recruiter they call Sarge Stud. Trolling the hallways after school, Beth and Addy are drawn to the teacher's lounge, where they discover Coach

Megan Abbott may have never picked up a pom-pom in her life, but based on Dare Me--which has the economical intensity, as well as the starkness, of a B-grade film noir or western from the 1940s--she's a relief pitcher who knows how to close a game. At the outset, the novel coasts along for 75 pages with a style that's punchy and drenched with wit. Abbott doesn't lean on social or technological trends that would heavily date the book or roll out a lot of stale slang, but creates a world that's immediate and alive. And very funny.

Already I can feel my muscles thrusting under my skin. I even start eating because if I don't, my head goes soft. The first week, I pass out twice in calc, the second time hitting my head SMACK on the edge of a desk.

Can't have that, Coach says.

"You can't slap the treadmill before school and then expect to make it to lunch on your a.m. diet coke," Coach says, coming at me in the nurse's office. Charging in with such purpose, making even lumberjack-chested Nurse Vance, twice her size, jump back.

Her hands are rifling through my purse, thwacking a bag of sugar-free jolly ranchers at my chest.

I'm meant to throw them away, which I do, fast.

"Don't worry," Coach says. "No one gets fat on my watch."

One of my complaints of the John Hughes cycle of high school movies from the 1980s is that adults were nearly always portrayed as entities that teenagers either wanted to avoid or wanted out of their way. The teacher-student sub-genre is one of my favorites and Abbott takes great care building a dynamic relationship between master and pupil here. It may or may not be a healthy relationship once all is said and done, but it's a compelling relationship, with Addy seeking approval and emotional support, and Coach reaching out for companionship and just maybe an alibi for the police, with Beth lurking like The Shadow through much of the story seeking to deny them both that.

I could've easily enjoyed a novel by Abbott about a high school cheer squad without the over-the-top elements introduced on page 75. ("Operatic" might be a more complimentary word since the novel is so stylized.) The larger than life drama didn't strike me as very realistic, and yet, it was believable. If the novel had stayed this crazy straw course it might've rated three-and-a-half stars for style, and yet, the whodunit unfolds and is resolved in such a satisfying manner and the relationship between two characters I thought I had figured out as Good Witch and Bad Witch was so emotionally satisfying that the novel becomes much more than Mean Girls Gone Wild.

The true/false test for me on whether a novel is great (or if it rates five stars on Goodreads) is pretty simple:

-- I frequently paused my reading to update my status with passages from the book.

-- I wanted to buy the characters a cup of coffee and talk to them.

-- I stayed up late on a work night to find out how the story ended.

-- I queued up several other books by this author onto my reading docket .

In the case of Dare Me, the answer to all four questions is "true" and I couldn't recommend this novel more.
Profile Image for Jasmine from How Useful It Is.
1,290 reviews342 followers
May 5, 2020
This book focused on cheerleading which reminds me of the cheerleading movie called Bring It On. At first the story is fast paced and then there were weird vibes with Addy and her thoughts/conversations on/with Beth, Sarge, Coach, and Casey. This story seems to be about friendship but somehow the relationship is tumultuous. I do like the puzzles Addy was to solve: the lies and the sprinkles of information from Matt.

This book started with a prologue told in the first person point of view following Addy, 16. It's 2am, someone asked Addy to come. Addy was reluctant when she looked at something on the floor. Then the story began 4 months ago as Addy got ready for cheerleading. At football season, the cheerleaders have a new coach, Coach French, 27. This coach is unlike any coach the girls had before. Addy is Beth's sidekick/lieutenant and Beth always do what pleases her. With Coach around, Beth has a competitor. The story is timeline by counting down to the final game where the cheerleaders will do their big stunt. Except around the final game, an arrest is made for someone's death.

Dare Me is cheerleading and mean girls who defy their parents and do underage drinking and drugs. I just have little tolerance for characters intentionally bringing trouble upon themselves or purposely do dumb things. Therefore, Beth is my least favorite character. At first I like Addy but later I don't because she's mean too. The Coach thinks their parents don't care for them but it's not true because Addy's dad cared when Addy said he waited up for her. Coach is no better complaining about how the girls' parents don't care and it's her job to care but she served them alcohol when they're together. The crime and suspense is good. I like not knowing who to trust and how little by little it all comes out.

xoxo, Jasmine at www.howusefulitis.wordpress.com for more details

Many thanks to Little Brown for the opportunity to read and review.
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,812 followers
July 29, 2016
Previously I’d read two Megan Abbott books, The Song is You and Queenpin. Both were razor sharp noirs set in the past with cynical hustlers smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey and basically behaving like the type of people who belong in a black and white movie. This book is about cheerleaders in a modern high school.

It’s not as different as you’d like to think.

Addy has long been the best friend and lieutenant to Beth, the captain of their cheerleading squad. Beth is smart but self centered with a mean streak and a knack for the complete social destruction of anyone who irritates her. When a new young coach inspires the squad and pushes them to new levels, a contest of wills between Beth and Coach ensues. When Addy begins to side with the Coach, Beth steps up her efforts to reclaim the top spot and tries to use a secret against Coach while Addy scrambles to try and limit the damage. When a tragedy occurs, Beth gleefully begins a campaign of psychological warfare against Addy to convince her that Coach isn’t what she appears to be.

Megan Abbott’s writing continues to be among some of the best stuff I’m reading these days and she does some outstanding work in two areas in this book. First is the way that she puts the reader inside the head of Addy and makes even a bitter and grumpy middle aged man like myself understand and empathize with a teenage cheerleader.

Second is how she builds up the world of cheerleading with the constant practice of stunts that can cause serious injury if they go wrong. The work and pain these young women go through to excel at what they do seems as serious and intense as an NFL training camp.

I didn’t enjoy this quite as much as her other two books, but it’s still a four star read.
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,121 reviews30.2k followers
March 18, 2020
Dare Me is fun, y’all. A great escape. Indulgent. I am planning to watch the series now because I finished this juicy book last night. It’s been called a cross between Heathers and Fight Club, and I can definitely see why. I was entertained, distracted from the world around me, and a bit wicked for enjoying this one so much?!

I received a gifted copy. All opinions are my own.

Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader
Profile Image for James Thane.
Author 9 books6,915 followers
October 5, 2012
I know absolutely nothing about teenage girls--something that, sadly, was also true back when I was a teenage boy. Megan Abbott, on the other hand, either has a very good memory or has done prodigious research into the subject. Actually, I suspect that it's a combination of both, and the result is her excellent new novel, Dare Me.

The book is a meditation on the nature of friendship, love, competition, betrayal and young girls coming of age, set in the world of cheerleading. In it, Abbott exposes the dark underside of the cheerleaders' world and describes a culture that would have me quaking in my boots if I had a teenage daughter.

Beth Cassidy and Addy Hanlon have been best friends since childhood. Beth is the tough-as-nails, natural born leader and Addy is her able lieutenant. They are both tanned and beautiful and are the stars of their high school's cheerleader squad.

Until now, this has required little more effort than the occasional lackadaisical practice, maintaining their hairdos and shaking their assets come game time. But suddenly there's a new sheriff in town or, actually, a new coach who takes cheerleading seriously as an athletic competition. The coach, Colette French, is not that much older than the girls themselves, but she drills them like Marines and whips their bodies and their attitudes into shape. Before long, they're doing routines they never would have dreamed of before.

Most of the girls, Addy included, buy into the program enthusiastically. But Beth is not happy. Coach or no coach, she has always been the team's natural leader, and she detests even the suggestion that she might be eclipsed by the new coach. She is particularly unhappy about the fact that in her view, Addy has turned against her by aligning herself with the coach, and Beth is not a girl who will take this lying down.

The coach is a woman with troubles of her own, which soon bubble to the surface with dire consequences for the young charges she has drawn into her orbit. To say anymore would probably be to say too much. Suffice it to say that these characters are fully drawn, eminently believable, and may of them are scary as hell. But watching the story unfold is mesmerizing--you cannot turn away. Megan Abbott has delivered another very good book that will linger a long time in the reader's memory.
Profile Image for Delee.
243 reviews1,106 followers
August 31, 2019
There's something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls.

The thought of getting older is something that scares the bejesus out of me every day I look in the mirror and see a new gray hair or small wrinkle, but there is noooooo amount of money in the world that would make me want to be a teenage girl in today's society. Girls have found all sorts of new ways to be vicious to one another, high schools have become war zones, and the pressure to be thin, beautiful, and perfect, has surpassed anything I could have imagined as a teenager.

Megan Abbott's novel isn't just about average "mean girls". DARE ME is set in the back-stabbing and competitive world of American high-school cheerleading...and believe me there are nooooo spirit fingers here...

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DARE ME is narrated by 16-year-old Adelaine (Addy)- who at the start of the story is best "frenemies" and lieutenant to Beth- the manipulative and emotionally abusive captain of their school's cheerleading squad- until the arrival of an attractive and exciting new coach- Colette French. As Beth starts losing control of Addy and the rest of her team- coach becomes "the enemy" who must be destroyed.

 photo ae29d09f-e525-443c-b820-0b88a0079425_zps5d045a16.jpg

This is NOT the Rah Rah cheerleading I remember from my high school, and DARE ME is NOT the YA reading I was doing in my teenage years. I am not a parent- if I was I would cringe a little if I saw this book on my teenager's night stand- but as an adult I loved it. It has been billed as Fight Club for girls...but it reminded me more of Heathers meets Bring It On.

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Mystery, secrets, extreme paranoia, sex, loss of innocence, diet pill popping, smoothies and murder. Once you start reading, it is hard to put down.
Profile Image for Missy Cahill.
461 reviews21 followers
August 17, 2012
Wow. This was just really, really bad. I knew 10 pages in, that this book, definately wasn't for me, but I hate not finishing a book, no matter how godawful it is {example: 50 Shades of shite Grey}.

Yes the author throws in some typical high school speech {see beyotch etc.} to show the readers that she's down with the lingo, but the majority of the dialogue between the characters was ridiculous. People do not speak like that. "The suns down and the moons pretty," she says, her voice hushed. "It's time to ramble." <--- Just one inane description.

Then there's the lust for Coach. Why these girls fawn over her was never justified in my eyes. She refused to divulge her private life, therefore she became a mysterious enigma? She told them to 'tighten up' their bodies, they fall down worshipping her. All except one - Beth - who sees right through her. Good woman Beth. Well, she's actually quite psychotic.

Basically that's it. Oh and a suicide thrown in for good measure. And a hint of pseudo lesbianism thrown about which doesn't even materialize into anything, but constantly lingers.

Unfortunately it just didn't do anything for me.
Profile Image for Trudi.
615 reviews1,412 followers
January 23, 2013

I've read gobs of creepy books and watched heaps of horror movies, but nothing can run a spike of scare through me quite like a gaggle of teen girls. You knew these things already, didn't you? Or at least suspected -- the vicious, petty jealousies, the unchecked hormones, the cutting intelligence harnessed to manipulate and intimidate, the capricious cruelty, the fathomless insecurities, the abiding self-loathing ... need I go on?

Teen girls are a tribe unto themselves, with their own language, dress code, rules of behavior, and very specific rites of passage. Every day is Lord of the Flies day for teen girls. They don't need no stinking island to channel their inner savage, alright? Stephen King knew this when he has Carrie White cornered and bleeding from her first menses in the girl's high school locker room while her classmates pelt her with sanitary napkins and tampons chanting: "Plug it up! Plug it up! Plug it up!"

In Dare Me, Megan Abbott takes you deep into teen girl territory, so deep you will flinch, and grimace and squirm at all the things she's going to show you. It's a sordid voyeurism that will have you screaming for more. This isn't a darkly humorous satire a la Mean Girls or Heathers. Not at all. This is a sober, penetrating look at the inner lives of a group of cheerleaders -- their insular, isolated existence as members of a tribe within a tribe. Their rituals include starvation diets and brute, physical demands requiring near constant pain and risk of serious injury.

Into a volatile balance of power comes new Head Coach Collette French. Loyalties shift, boundaries are tested, trusts will be broken and amidst all the angst and perpetual drama, a body will be discovered. For Ms. Abbott isn't just writing cheerleaders, she's writing noir cheerleaders, with a rich cast of characters each vying for the role of femme fatale.

This is a story icky in parts dealing as it does in burgeoning, pubescent sexuality, obsessions and desires. For all of that it is bloody fascinating featuring an engaging plot that Abbott has exquisitely paced. I read this in one sitting. I was violently pulled into this world and held captive the entire time. This isn't a happy story. You've been warned.

Profile Image for Debbie "DJ".
352 reviews397 followers
March 17, 2016
I'm having a heck of a time trying to review this one! Megan Abbott's writing is brilliant, and she can get into the psyche of teenage girls like nothing I've ever read. While her writing is as amazing as ever here, the plot didn't thrill me. This story goes into the world of high school cheerleading, and holy shit was I ever surprised! This is not the cheerleading I know, where girls ruffle pom-poms and smile. No, this involves dare devil stunts where injuries can be fatal.

Abbott writes:
"Now we are learning the pyramid isn't about girls climbing on top of one another and staying still. It's about breathing something to life. Together. Each of us a singular organ feeding the other organs, creating something larger. We are learning that our bodies are our own and they are the squads and that is all. We are learning that we are the only people in the world when we are on the floor. We will wear our smiles tight and meaningless, but inside, all we care for is stunt. Stunt is all."

She goes on to describe the relationships between the girls, and in particular the squad leader and her best friend, also on the squad. These relationships are all consuming, fierce, unnerving. The squad leader is the top of the food chain. She calls all the shots, who's in, who's out. She says jump and they ask off which bridge. I found this amazing, and how Abbott describes these relationships blew my socks off!

Okay, now plot. Well, here we have a murder committed that may involve the coach. The squad leader and her best friend are at odds, jealousy is rampant between them as the best friend and coach get to close. While the writing nails the deep emotions between all three, I found the story a little far fetched. It did show me how boundaries get crossed between coaches and their "girls," but I wasn't thrilled with how a murder became the driving force. I've always been one for great writing though, so while this may not be my favorite Abbott book, I'll be sure to read more of her!
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,962 followers
December 31, 2015
This is my second Megan Abbott, and it won't be my last. There's something about her razor-sharp writing that is so damn compelling and interesting that goes well beyond the subject matter.

I'll be honest. I don't care too much about cheerleaders and cheerleading, but when you mix a near Machiavellian cruelty to the scene, with all the world-weariness of 14 year old girls, and write the living fuck out of it, it becomes mesmerizing.

A lot of people say that Abbott writes Noir, and it is definitely her writing's strength. Sharp lines, stark definitions everywhere, and a deep undercurrent running through the tale. Was it suicide? Was it murder? How is Beth involved? Is the Coach guilty? It's all questions and blinders, and it never sinks into a normal murder mystery. Our narrator Addy so well-crafted that I doubt I'll ever forget her.

Everyone's complex. It's hard not to make a serious connection to Lolita, from the cover of the novel to the layers and layers of personality within Addy and all the versions of Beth and Coach French to which we are treated.

It's a mystery. But it's also the heaviest novel about cheerleading I've ever read.

Indeed, that I ever want to read. The competition is there, of course, but the way all these girls get prepared as if for war, punishing themselves far worse than they punish each other, is just as bad as any of the most intense sports-competition stories I've ever read/watched/or experienced.

The microcosm is damn oppressive. It's easy to imagine transporting these girls to an upscale brothel in the 50's under the complex and caring touch of a well-meaning madam, or cutting off a tit to be that most excellent archer of Amazonian fame for the glory of Diana. *sigh* Disturbing. Glorious.

The fact is, the writing is so damn good that I fell into the story despite myself. It's truly brilliant in that respect, but I still don't care for the actual subject. My Bad!
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,444 reviews7,531 followers
December 30, 2019
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

"Cheer taught me to trust my girls to catch me when I fall. It showed me how to be a leader."

I read Dare Me nearly five years ago and had a mediocre reaction to it. Then the previews for the television series started appearing and I realized that I remembered hardly anything aside from (a) cheerleaders that were (b) Megan Abbott’s signature mean girl type of teen. Old Lady Brain. So debilitating : ( I set the DVR up to record the show and then by sheer luck was offered a chance for a review copy of the book and decided to give it another go. Well . . . . . .

Or, at minimum, a wrongreader because holy crap. WTF was I expecting the first time around? I can’t imagine it going any other direction and it was goooooooood. Like thank God I don’t have daughters like this trainwreck type of good, but oh so good. The TV version was highly disturbing as well. And only one episode in!

Recommended to those who don’t like their pubescent leads full of sugar and spice and everything nice and their cheerleading . . . . .

Copy provided by Little Brown in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Rose.
1,872 reviews1,055 followers
February 24, 2015
I wrote this review while playing Nancy Sinatra's "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)." There are reasons why that's appropriate, but that might delve into spoilerific territory, so I digress.

Forewarning: this will be a long review, possibly one breaking the character limit. That might be surprising considering I'm giving this (close to) 5-stars. In the aftermath of reading this, I will definitely be reading more of Megan Abbott's work. No question.

Short version of this review: I freaking loved this book. Problematic as all heck - I realize - but that was a ride I would want to ride again, over and over. Willingly.

The long version of this review gets a bit more complicated because I'll acknowledge this book has significant caveats and (notably) won't strike everyone the same way. It is entirely a love it or hate it read, and it's problematic to say the least (understatement). I understand why, and I'd understand anyone's hesitation to pick it up. I should also mention that while this features a teen protagonist, this is very much an adult book. (I definitely think there are teens who would appreciate this read for what it offers. Considering the content, though, it's a hard bargain. Discretion advised.)

I'd honestly say this is one to give a try at the very least because...dude. Let's have a conversation.

"Dare Me" was yet another library recommended read that I randomly picked up in the context of recs made in the scheme of "Gone Girl." As you guys know, I take comparison reads very lightly. More often than not, they're not always accurate and can set up unrealistic expectations. In the aftermath of reading this, I somewhat see why the rec came about. For one, it's a very dark read - the tension in "Dare Me" is so thick wading through it, you find yourself lost in its pull of the trainwreck variety. I could not stop reading this book once I started. Even putting it down, I wanted to pick it back up again because I had no idea where the heck it was going. It has more than its fair share of twists and turns.

Another similarity: the characters are supremely unlikable. I didn't like a single character in this book, not even the protagonist Addy (who arguably has some sympathetic qualities, she's quite the anti-hero). So you might wonder why I give close to five stars for a book that's essentially about a bunch of pretentious, self-absorbed teenage cheerleaders abusing Adderall and doing everything they can to maintain slim figures and championing unhealthy eating habits and eating disorder behavior?

Maybe it's because I'm a sucker for well-developed, unlikable characters playing head games with each other and exploiting/competing in positions of power, which is pretty much what happens in this book. Almost to the point it could be Shakespearean. Think Othello being manipulated by Iago when it comes to O's relationship with Desdemona. Except this isn't a romance or really something that's heavily suggestive in that scheme. Not in the least (though you could fill a bucket with the sexual tension in this book). Relationships are manipulated and manipulative. Every single character here has their own aims and desires and they'll do whatever they feel necessary to get what they want. Or protect whom they need to in some cases.

I'm still shocked that this book pulled me in as much as it did. I had no idea what I was signing up for when I picked up this book and I ended up completely blindsided for the experience.

The story on its surface seems like a stereotypical one: you have a cheerleading team that's led by a very strong social butterfly (Beth) for a team captain and her best friend (Addy). Addy is the narrator for this book, and by every measure of description - Addy and Beth's relationship is inseparable. Beth's the queen, Addy's her partner in crime. Their relationship is a formidable one and not necessarily challenged by their peers. At least until a new coach comes into town.

The new coach is a young, seemingly powerful woman that gradually wins over the team's affections with her no-nonsense approach to the drills and performances of the team. But it's also her lax demeanor that draws the girls in and allows them to bond with her. Abbott's descriptions for the performances by the team unfolds like watching a dance - I loved the descriptions here, even if sometimes they seem a bit superfluous.

My enjoyment's probably heightened there because:

1. The descriptions seem so vivid that they're artistically drawn in the prose.

2. I'm a graduate in exercise science so the attention given to their bodies and movements really captivated me. I haven't seen that in a lot of texts like this and Abbott portrays it very well.

3. The portrayal syncs truthfully with the character voice, for better and worse. Addy's character matches her voice for depictions of events and performances in her witness - she's a spoiled teenage girl with a dark streak and surrounded by other characters who are just as flawed as she is. This is especially well noted in the audio reading of this book. Addy's reflections are indulging for senses and symbolic parallels, yet flawed at the same time. So it worked for me.

The coach seems to win everyone over, except Beth. Beth hates the coach with a furious passion, one Addy can't quite put her finger on for certain measures. At first Addy thinks it's because Beth has lost her former power as the team's captain, but it becomes more as Beth's hatred becomes personal, borderline obsessive over the Coach's life and secrets that are kept between the girls.

Then the unthinkable happens to someone in their circles, and it throws the coach and the girls into a tailspin. Addy finds herself front and center in the midst of a game of secrets, lies, and manipulations. She's a puppet trying to find out who's pulling her strings and why. I LOVED that aspect of it. The story unfolds like a whodunit mystery but at the same time a dark series of power struggles and sensual tension that builds with a swelling crest up until the "a-ha" moment comes about. I didn't know what route it would go until the last possible point, and it made sense as far as the lying and manipulations were concerned on behalf of multiple parties.

Addy's relationship with the coach is palpable, and the Coach, while she seems admirable on the surface, ends up not being much more mature than the students she teaches as her flaws come to the forefront, and she has her own motivations to lie. I saw that as intentional and not a flaw of the text itself. Whether the Coach's motivations are to protect herself or others remains to be seen, and Addy's left to the task of uncovering that on her own. Of course, Addy's pretty much a pawn in some measures, because she's played multiple times between people. It's also revealed that Addy knows Beth is far more twisted for intentions than one would think, to a point that Beth has this hate/love game that she makes Abby play - one piece at a time.

While this read might seem cliche on the surface, it's really many layers of a drama built on top of an established stereotype, to be honest. It doesn't mince the fact that these characters are flawed, nor does it push the cast as worthy of emulation - rather stuck in their own delusions. Addy, Beth, and the rest of the crew are all flawed, and standing high on a precipice of denial, indulgence and power, with an event that rattles and threatens to break their foundation. (And I like the parallel that's drawn to the cheerleading routines with this aspect.) It's certainly seen (and felt) with respect to Addy's character, as she tries to navigate the confusion and conflict she feels over events even while she's a character with her own twisted justifications for things. She's also more than willing to hurt whom she has to in order to seek the answers she wants.

And OMG, Beth. Can we talk about Beth? She's probably the character that's love to hate here. She's tugging strings and she doesn't care, but the text manages to give her human qualities in the scheme of things, even if you're not sure why she does the things she does up until a certain point, especially when Addy starts revealing things from their past that suggests her own callousness that could run parallel with Beth's manipulations. The two are really more similar than you'd think from the beginning of the work, and neither one of them are necessarily more "moral" than the other. It's just a matter of seeing why they act and react the way they do. Even then, there are points where it leaves you guessing because you're not exactly sure why their loyalties still lie to each other, but yet they're still willing to hurt and manipulate their close relationship. It's a power play, and the fact it's done by these teenage girls who have such social standing is scary enough to think about, especially when it comes to their coach and what they know and how they choose to dance with that information. There's some suspension of disbelief to be had, and I think Abbott works it well - but for some readers, that suspension may not be enough to drive some of the strong symbolic qualities and overarching themes this work has to offer. And that's a shame, because when it hits the ground running, it does remarkably well. I saw it, and I loved it.

The ending of the work is hit or miss for events. I thought it was a bit quick for the resolution and even then, there's not a fulfilling sense of vindication for the wrongs that are committed. Then again, I don't think it was meant to be that kind of story, as this cast of fools pretty much end up with a queen and you're watching how all of them collide and function in this bubble, along with the "why".

In the end, "Dare Me" answers the question of how far its cast will go to be on top, or risk losing it all, even if it has deadly consequences. I thought the book was brilliant for what it chose to show, with some rough edges and suspensions to take into consideration. I would read this again, readily, for how dark, twisted, and vivid the presentation came across in Abbott's narrative.

Overall score: 4.5/5 stars
82 reviews4 followers
October 13, 2012
Ugh. This one left me so frustrated.

The storyline centers around the struggles of a teenage cheerleader who gets sucked into the warped world of her adult coach's sordid love triangle, all while battling the usual teenage issues. The description on the back of the book is much better and sounded really promising, so I snatched this one up.

First things first. I went into this with a critical eye because I was a competition cheerleader for years. When Abbott first describes the girls, she basically says they do nothing but shake their asses. Yet, magically, after a few weeks with Coach, they are an award-caliber team who can stunt on an expert level. Yeah, that doesn't happen.

Second, the language just killed me. I work with teenagers all day, every day. The girls in this book do not sound like any teenagers I've ever encountered, unless they were teleported from some bizarre Clockwork Orange lingo land. Some of the random slang made me wonder if I was on drugs myself.

The characters started out decently, at least in concept, but I really had no connection to any of them. Even Addy, who is the freaking narrator, was an enigma wrapped in a mystery. As Beth points out at one point, Addy doesn't even know herself. And, lest you get confused, I don't mean that in a good, "Who am I?" YA thematic way. I mean, literally, Addy has no clue who the hell she is, why she's doing any of the things she gets involved in, why she likes anyone at all in the book (when they're all so unlikeable) or basically why she's even alive at this point.

Fourth, I really thought I might have an aneurysm when Coach invited the girls over (all of whom are inexplicably in love with Coach in a psuedo-lesbian manner, even though Coach is clearly emotionally abusive to them) and everyone just breaks out the white wine like it's nothing. I was also sick of Coach's White Whine through out the novel. WE GET IT. You've got an boring marriage. You've got a husband that would work himself to the bone to give you everything you've ever wanted. Talk about first world problems.

Finally, because I realize this is getting long, what is left unsaid int his novel is not at all mysterious and thought-provoking. It's just poor storytelling. The Coach-girls relationship makes no sense and was rushed and underdeveloped. The weird obsession Addy has with Matt French seemed like it was going towards some kind of betrayal/affair angle, but went nowhere. The murder went nowhere (and kind of seemed like a rip off of the movie Unfaithful). All of the sudden, Beth, who had been painted as an unconscionable sociopath throughout the novel, is meant to appear sympathetic as she "forces' Addy to confront herself and her inner demons. And at one point the girls had a little lesbian tussle in the woods, which was apparently a BIGFUCKINGDEAL, even though Abbott couldn't be bothered describing it or the girls' feelings about it beyond some vague, surface imagery.

Had the ending not been so terrible, I would have rated it a little higher. I did love the concept and I loved the way Abbott doesn't shy away from the cruelty behind girl relationships. However, it seemed like Abbott was either confused or just gave up at one point and phoned it in from there.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Moira.
512 reviews25 followers
August 4, 2012
"Noir cheerleaders?" I thought. "Sure, I love Abbott, but no, really, not for me." (The first time I heard about Buffy ever I said "Vampires in high school, are you shitting me? Why would I want to watch that?") But I was powering my way through The End of Everything, slack-jawed, eye-peeled and all agog, and at the back there was a reader's guide (horrible and useless), an author's interview (you're.....glad that Older Lizzie still feels the charm of that family? Uhh. Did you read your own book?) and the prologue plus the first chapter of this book.

It was something. Don't say it wasn't. ....We're all the same under our skin, aren't we? We're all wanting things we don't understand. Things we can't even name. The yearning so deep, like pinions over our hearts.

To say I was "hooked" was an understatement. I was landed, gaffed and dressed like the marlin in The Old Man and the Sea. I have SHIT TO DO and now I'm going to spend the entire evening reading about noir cheerleaders. Damn you, Megan Abbott.

Three Hours Later

DAMN that was EXCELLENT. ....fuck now it's time to go to bed. Oh well.
Profile Image for Mara.
400 reviews280 followers
September 4, 2019
Having been a busy bee at work, I am oh so behind on reviews, and Megan Abbott's  Dare Me has so much great commentary out there in the ether that I can't help but feel I have little to add.

I'll lean on a bit of propositional logic to keep things brief, beginning with common misconceptions that I (if only subconsciously) have fallen prey to before:

Book A is about teenage girls Book A is for teenage girls

Use of twisted teenager trope Creative, layered, mind-bending writing

Megan Abbott makes the above statements patently false. While I hope to give this the review it deserves when time allows, for now I will propose a working thesis that should be taken as praise of the highest order.

Megan Abbott : the world of teen girls :: Dennis Lehane : South Boston
Profile Image for Bren fall in love with the sea..
1,574 reviews271 followers
April 15, 2023
“There's something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls.”
― Megan Abbott, Dare Me

This book was so very good. It is a dark, delicious, ominous read and was my first Megan Abbott. Still my favorite that I have read by her.

This book takes a look into the world of cheerleading. High school cheerleading . The writing is incredible. There is an omnipresent feeling of dread throughout the book. It is written with slow and languid Prose and the reader has absolutely no idea what is going to happen next or at any given moment.

This book made me decide to read some Abbott books. At the same time, it cemented its place for me as both a terrific dark YA read and just a superbly written character study in general. Five stars.
Profile Image for Julie Ehlers.
1,111 reviews1,396 followers
August 8, 2020
The Good: This book was exactly what I was expecting: a noirish thriller, dark and somewhat edgy, full of mean girls, and advancing the notion that the experiences we have in high school are some of the most dramatic and significant of our lives (which for some of us, I guess, they are). Entertaining, propulsive, and well written on its own terms (that last bit sounds like a backhanded compliment, but for this book it isn't—if you read it you'll see what I mean). Will this book change your life? Uh, no. Frankly, if you give this book five stars, you probably need to expand your reading horizons. But if this is the kind of book you're looking for, this is the one you should read.

The Bad: Oh, the language! It really worked my nerves sometimes. Make no mistake—it's clear that Megan Abbott is using language quite carefully to achieve a certain effect, and it works, but that doesn't mean I liked it. She makes up her own idioms. One character didn't turn white as a sheet, for instance—she "sheeted white." And the cheerleaders' faces aren't red, they're "tomato-bursting." And all the hyphenation! It was a bit much: "Stone-sinking." "Matchstick-snapped." "Boot-braced." And, of course,"Sparkle-slitted." (Uh....)

The Indifferent: There seem to be people on Goodreads complaining that this book is unrealistic and the characters are unlikable. All that is definitely true. If you want likable and realistic, this is not the book for you. But if you just want to have a little no-commitment fun, you can do worse than this.
Profile Image for Hirdesh.
399 reviews88 followers
February 26, 2017
I like each and every expression by the writer.
I have enjoyed it.
The keen reader who like flawless
writings as visionary, Should read it.
It's a Young Adult fiction, which comprises suspense in climax as the story leads.
Profile Image for Robert.
Author 10 books420 followers
September 25, 2013
Let’s be clear from the get go. If you want a more traditional review with a book summary, plot synopsis, and a character family tree, and then possibly a discussion on what the author was trying to accomplish in DARE ME and whether or not she actually achieved her goals, then you’ll probably just want to slide it on back and move on to the next review. Because I’m about as non-traditional as they come. Instead, I like discussing how a book made me feel, or didn’t feel, discussing writing insights where appropriate, tossing around similes and metaphors like used car parts in a Dumpster, and talking about my overall experience with a book, while taking into account my own knowledge of writing and reading and plain old random shit. In other words, I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I have a damn good time being ignorant.

So I’ll start with this: Teenage girls are bitches and badasses. A female praying mantis treats her mate better than high school girls treat each other. And each manages to accomplish this task with a smile on her face and nothing but love in her heart, right before she brings out the icepick and wields it around the same way a construction worker might employ a two-by-four in the middle of a construction zone.

One might argue the mystery was a bit thin, but this book transcended the typical books in this genre, and proved there’s more to a mystery than just the identity of the killer and the resolution of the crime. Instead, this was more about cheerleaders and their penchant to attack one another with vengeance, high school drama that unfolded before me on the page in pinks and purples and shades of red, and the extremes captains and coaches go to all in the name of victory. Yes, cheerleading is a sport, and in some parts of the country it’s mentioned in the Sunday prayers along with football and your best friends Jim Bob and Clara Valentine.

The shower scene in the girl’s locker room at the beginning of this tale reminded me of all the times growing up that I would have practically handed over bodily organs to be given even a brief glimpse behind that steel curtain. But what made this story really click for me was the relationship between Addy Hanlon and Beth Cassidy, gal pals that dance a relationship tango better left choreographed to the professionals. And proves there’s much more to a relationship than what’s shown to the public.

This tale was about as easy to swallow as cotton candy stuffed with razor blades, and now that I know what’s behind the pom-poms I wish I could give it all back, since more knowledge isn’t always the key to happiness, as this story aptly proves.

Cross-posted at Robert's Reads
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