Photo: Philip Friedman/Studio D
Reagan Arthur Books
Count yourself lucky if you've never met (let alone parented!) teenagers like cheerleaders Addy Hanlon and Beth Cassidy; Megan Abbott, the author of the disturbing novel Dare Me
, clearly has seen such creatures up close. How else would she be so familiar with their bored mean-girl patois—"I remember, sort of, being friends with her," Addy says about a rival on the squad. "Holding her hair back while she gagged herself peashoot thin." Competitive, insecure, and way less sophisticated than they'd like the world to think, the two girls find their long, complex relationship suddenly challenged when a charismatic new coach arrives at school and draws them into her world of deception and danger. Do they owe their loyalty to each other or to their new mentor, who, they imagine, is just like them, only older? "We're all the same under our skin, aren't we?" 16-year-old Addy muses. "We're all wanting things we don't understand. Things we can't even name." Make no mistake, this is no pulpy teenage tale: It's a very grown-up look at youth culture and how bad behavior can sometimes be redeemed by a couple of good decisions.
— Sara Nelson