... Megan Abbott has put her spirit fingers to the task of writing the Great American Cheerleader Novel, and — stop scowling — it’s spectacular ... Dare Me... is subversive stuff. It’s 'Heathers' meets 'Fight Club' good. Abbott pulls it all off with a fresh, nervy voice, and a plot brimming with the jealousy and betrayal you’d expect from a bunch of teenage girls ... Abbott is unsentimental in her descriptions ... Abbott evokes cheerleading in all its sweaty, starving glory.
Dare Me is billed by its publisher as a 'Fight Club' for girls, but calling them 'girls' might be underestimating the binge-drinking, lunch-vomiting, social-climbing queen bees in this dark high school thriller ... what’s exciting about Dare Me is how it makes that traditionally masculine genre feel distinctly female. It feels groundbreaking when Abbott takes noir conventions — loss of innocence, paranoia, the manipulative sexuality of newly independent women — and suggests that they’re rooted in high school, deep in the hearts of all-American girls.
... a mesmerising piece of prose combining deep characterisation and insight with a truly nerve-shredding crime plot ... Throughout it all, there is something wonderfully tactile and visceral about Abbott's prose; her language sometimes poetic, sometimes brutal, always pitch-perfect. The development of relationships in the book is convincing, and Abbott's characters seem to jump from the page fully formed into the reader's mind ... As Dare Me progresses, it develops into one of the most deftly plotted noir crime novels I've read in a long time. The requisite twists and turns subtly embedded within her characters' motivations, rather than springing out of nowhere, are the sign of a truly accomplished plotter ... All in all, this is exemplary writing.
... terrific ... Much of the novel’s power comes from the way Abbott captures the fierce urgency of the teenagers’ emotional lives. Living in an insular world where adults, boys, and other students are largely nonentities, they’re glib about the abuse done to their bodies and psyches, living only for halftime. This is cheerleading as blood sport, 'Bring It On' meets 'Fight Club'—just try putting it down.
The potent melodrama of Dare Me is amped up, page after page, by the rhythm, imagery and portent of Abbott's language ... Abbott's take on the culture of young women is chilling and knowing, lingering on the edge between reality and sensationalism...
I found the book to be quite daring in its reversal of female stereotypes, but I also worry that some readers may just attribute the characters’ overall cattiness to be very bitchy ... While the murder mystery and solving the whodunit makes up a large portion of Dare Me, it is probably the least satisfying angle of the book. Where the book works remarkably well is probing female power dynamics and the bonds of girlhood friendships, if not understanding modern womanhood in general ... So there’s a lot of really interesting, meaty stuff going on in Dare Me, and it pains me to note that the plot is wafer-thin and the characters are so brazenly male-like that they veer almost into caricature ... That all said, Dare Me is still engaging for offering a role reversal in gender relations.
The whodunit aspect surrounding this death pales against the dark sexual and psychological currents that ripple among the girls (and Coach); the question of who is emotional victim versus who is predator becomes murkier and more disturbing than any detective puzzle. Compelling, claustrophobic and slightly creepy in a can’t-put-it-down way.
Abbott’s writing in her sixth novel is deliciously slick and dark, matching her characters’ threatening circumstances, and the plot is tight and intense, building a world in which even the perky flip of a cheerleader’s skirt holds menace.