Review posted at: Read, Rinse, Repeat
In "Dare Me," a group of high school cheerleaders finds their "Queen Bee" status challenged with the arrival of Colette French, their new coach. The girls had no use and no respect for their previous coach; they "owned" her. When Coach French enters the girls' world, she commands their respect. She breaks them down and whips them into shape. But cracks soon begin to show in Coach's professional facade as she crosses boundaries with these girls, inviting them into her home and supplying them with alcohol. She draws particularly and disturbingly close to Addy, the novel's narrator. Addy is understandably flattered by Coach's attention, while we readers sense approaching danger as Addy gains increasing exposure to Coach's very grown-up troubles. Meanwhile, Beth, Addy's long-time best friend and head "mean girl" is jealous and resentful of the growing relationship between Coach and Addy, and Beth's threats become increasingly ominous as she strives to hold onto both Addy and her own status. A shocking event halfway through the novel upends relationships. The mystery of what really happened winds through to the end of the book.
It's been a long time since I was a teenage girl, but even those of us who weren't Queen Bees can relate to the universal teenage plagues of jealousy and insecurities in "Dare Me." And I enjoyed the inside look of the cheerleader culture, which seems a bit like a secret society with rigidly enforced rules and roles.
Final note - to those who enjoyed "Dare Me," another wonderfully written book with a similar theme is Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver.