“At first, cheer was something to fill my days, all our days. Age 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. There’s something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls.” So says Addy Hanlon, narrator of Megan Abbott’s latest book, Dare Me.
Megan Abbott has written noir novels set in the 30s, 40s and 50s, but this takes place in present day suburbia. Addy and Beth are best friends and lead their high school cheerleading squad. Beth is the captain, Addy her faithful lieutenant.The social hierarchy is thrown into chaos by the arrival of a cool, sophisticated new cheerleading coach. Addy finds herself drawn to the new coach, but Beth is not one to take rejection lying down and plots revenge. When a male friend of the girls is found dead, it’s unclear whether murder, suicide or an accident is the cause.
This could have been another teen angst tale but Abbott delivers a challenging story, not afraid to question just what young women are capable of. She nails Addy and Beth, transforming their cadence, feelings, fears, and secrets into something very sinister, part dark noir, part suburban Lynchian nightmare.