Monday, April 11, 2016

Mention a name we know, we know

For the past few days I've been reading Megan Abbott's Dare Me. Yes, with the above cover. A close-up of lips being bitten is a pretty much universal graphic for women's magazine/website lists of sex tips, so reading it in public might have made me look a little pervy. It wouldn't help for observers to know that most of the primary characters are 16-17 year old girls. It's an interesting book, but I can't say I found it titillating at all. Then again, teenage girls with massive eating disorders aren't my cup of tea, which is probably a good thing all around.

It's been described as "cheer noir", which seems pretty accurate. The narrator is a cheerleader. Her best friend is the captain of the pep squad. They get a new coach and the best friend clashes with her. This escalates to blackmail and someone winds up dead, not necessarily in that order. I've read some Patricia Highsmith, and Abbott seems to be a writer in a similar vein.

The character of Beth Cassidy is rather fascinating. In plain narrative terms she escalates from troublemaker to villain. Really, though, she's a great antihero, someone with inspiring scale. Towards the end her dialogue even picks up Shakespearean echoes.


susan said...

It looks as if the NYT book reviewer liked it too, describing it as a cross between Fight Club and Heathers. I can see why it caught your attention and applaud you for not caring what the other passengers on the bus may have been thinking. Humans are very strange creatures.

Ben said...

That they are. :)

The Heathers comparison is probably inevitable since it's about teenage girls. Fight Club is kind of insightful. Beth does have that kind of explosive Tyler Durden charisma.

There was a review I read online that struck me as kind of stupid. I didn't quote it or link it because it looked like the reviewer was an amateur so I didn't want to single him out. But it kept harping on how the girls were really male characters in disguise. As a man, I certainly wouldn't feel comfortable telling a female writer that she doesn't know how to write girls and women.