They say teenage girls are more difficult than teenage boys. If Megan Abbott's Dare Me is anything to go by, parents with girls beware. The all-American girls who form a varsity cheerleading squad at the centre of Abbott's new novel are far from innocent; their spray-tanned skin and bobbing ponytails are a facade for a dark underbelly of scheming and manipulation, feeding off boredom and new-found freedom.
Addy and Beth rule the cheerleading roost. They are best friends but their relationship is strained when a pretty new coach arrives to shake things up. Coach French is a tough taskmaster who quickly gains the squad's admiration and respect. The discipline she demands satisfies a craving for structure within Addy but Beth is threatened, first losing her spot as captain and then as flyer (the girl at the top of the pyramid).
Beneath a thin veil of niceties, a deceptively sophisticated power struggle ensues between Beth and Coach, with Addy caught in the middle. There are no boy crushes to get in the way - this is war.
* Hilary O'Hagan