Dare Me: Squabbling cheerleaders

Megan Abbott's Dare Me explores the surprisingly dark and sinister world of American cheerleaders.

Dare Me
Megan Abbott
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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