Title: Dare You To
Author: Katie McGarry
Genre: YA Contemporary, Drama, Sports, LGBT
Publication Date: May 28, 2013
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: Ryan lowers his lips to my ear. “Dance with me, Beth.”
“No.” I whisper the reply. I hate him and I hate myself for wanting him to touch me again….
“I dare you…”
If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk’s home life, they’d send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom’s freedom and her own happiness. That’s how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn’t want her and going to a school that doesn’t understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn’t get her, but does….
Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can’t tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn’t be less interested in him.
But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won’t let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all….
☆: 2/5 stars – Great character development, but the characters themselves aren’t great and the drama is overbearing.
To be clear, I liked McGarry’s previous novel. It was just as dramarific as Dare You To turned out to be and actually had more problems with the pacing, but Noah and Echo’s strong characterizations, the sizzling chemistry, and the enjoyable good-girl-bay-boy trope made up for it. Here? No. Dare You To is going to be great for people who loved Pushing the Limits without reservations, but anyone who had issues with the first novel of the series won’t find anything different with book two.
Beth and Ryan apart may be the best parts of the novel. Though neither of them are likable characters, their personalities are well-developed through their struggles with their families and their POVs are difficult to mix up because they have their own voices. Beth’s home life is even more horrific than we thought it was in the previous novel, but her misanthropy and touches of ableism (will explain later) make it difficult to sympathize with her for most of the novel.
Ryan is a douchebag. Plain and simple. Rather than learning women shouldn’t be called vultures, shouldn’t used in dares he makes with his friends, and can use curse words as much as they want (he says at one point that woman can’t–or shouldn’t–use the f-word), he simply seems to forget other women exist once he falls for Beth. There are too many things he’s done and not fully earned forgiveness for (such as publicly humiliating her by forcing onto homecoming court and outing her family–all because she rebuffs his advances). These characters may forgive and forget, but readers don’t sometimes.
Also? It’s rather disappointing that plagiarism is never brought up in the course of Ryan’s writing competition plot line. The oh-so-original and amazing story he writes is merely a Kafka novel (the character wakes up as something inhuman and feels powerless; lots of existential overtones) and Warm Bodies (zombie falls in love with a girl) blended together. It’s about as subtle as a hammer to the head and how no characters pick up on it bothers me:
“George woke up with a vague memory of what used to be, but once glance to the left brought on a harrowing realization of what his new reality was. Of what, specifically, he had become (ARC p. 91).”
The pacing is far improved from the up-and-down of the previous novel, but anyone expecting something other than the good-kid-and-bad-kid-fall-in-love formula will be disappointed. This follows basically the same formula as the book before it: good kid and bad kid meet, sparks fly between them, they spend more time together and loosen up, everyone tells the good kid to date an “appropriate” partner, lots of family and friend drama happens toward the end, and then it’s over. Unfortunately, Ryan and Beth lack Noah and Echo’s electric chemistry.
Now. The ableism. This was an issue in the first novel because of the treatment of Echo’s mentally ill mother, but Beth brings it all back when she calls Echo a “psycho bitch” and “insane chick.” Echo, of course, has scars running up and down her arms from when her mother tried to murder her and then blocked out the memories. This is the only instance that is excusable because Beth is a misanthrope who dislikes the change Echo brought to her life. The next one is much worse.
Beth’s mother is trapped in an abusive relationship who enables her worst, most addictive habits. It’s implied that she has been in both of these cycles for as long as Beth has been alive, but both are treated as if they are habits her mother can snap out of at the drop of a hat. Addiction and abusive relationships are not that easy to break out of because of what they do to one’s mind, as I learned from my grandmother and a good friend. Letting these characters act like they are reads as cheap drama when treating them as the complex issues they really are would create genuine drama.
Count me out for Crash Into You, Isaiah’s story and McGarry’s third novel. I foresee more repetition of this formula. If I felt lukewarm about book one and disliked book two, going for book three is hardly a good idea.