Occasionally I feel like no matter how closely I'm reading a book, I'm missing something. It may be due to something in the writing style that's eluding me or an important element in the story that I don't quite understand for some reason, but regardless of what causes it, I feel as if I'm somehow a few steps behind. Sometimes I'll get to the end and still feel like I haven't caught up; it feels like waking up from a dream that I was trying to understand while dreaming it, and it's frustrating. A re-read might clarify things for me, but reading experiences like this don't usually leave me too inclined to want to re-read. It's disappointing, particularly when it was a book I was initially pretty excited about reading.
Megan Abbott's Dare Me was one of those reading experiences for me. It was fast-moving and gripping, but although the story isn't overly complex, I couldn't seem to shake a sense of confusion throughout. That may have been partly because it's centered on a cheerleading team; I'm a nerdgirl and certified non-jock without much interest in sports and their trappings, and the world of cheer is pretty foreign to me. But there was also something stream-of-consciousness in the first-person narration of Abbott's "lieutenant" cheerleader Addy that kept me off-balance and somewhat outside the story. I don't mind not being able to figure out where a story is going; I actually think that's a good thing, generally. However, it does bother me when I feel like I can't make sense out of where it's been.
With its high-school setting and borderline "mean-girl" characters, Dare Me seems to fall into the "YA-crossover" niche, although its darker story elements--adultery, a suspicious death, underage drinking--are most certainly adult. That said, there's not much adult presence here. Parents barely make an appearance in the novel, while the breaching of teacher/student boundaries is central to its plot; it's a disturbing element, and it's probably intended to be.
To be fair, my expectations may have been out of whack; I had the impression that Dare Me would be a little more like Gone Girl, and it's...not. Based on the blogger reviews that piqued my interest in this novel in the first place, I have the feeling that my response to the novel is a minority opinion, but although I was never bored, I just didn't connect with it.