Warning: This book includes mature content such as: sexual content, and/or drug and/or alcohol use, and/or violence.
Beth feels like nothing in her life will ever be right. In order to protect herself and her heart she has a lot of walls built up around her. The only people who really know her are Noah and Isaiah, and after owning up to destroying property to keep her mom out of jail, Beth has to leave them - and her life as she knows it - behind.
Ryan is one of the school jocks. He's confident, and pretends all is well in the world. Of course, all is not well in his world either, but he puts on such a brave front not even all his friends know what's really going on with him. The first time he meets Beth, it's to win a dare - he has to get a girl's phone number so he can beat his best friend.
*I received a free ARC of Dare You To from Harlequin Teen via Netgalley in exchange of an honest review*
In Dare You To, the readers follow Beth, from Pushing the Limits, and Ryan who lives in Graveton. Beth’s uncle, Scott, gets custody of her after she is arrested – only to protect her mom – and moves her to his huge mansion in the country. Beth wants nothing to do with Scott, nor his money and big mansion. He abandoned her when life got tough, and she can’t find it in herself to forgive him. Nothing has been easy in Beth’s life since that fatal night when she was eight years old and snitched on her father after he almost killed her.
Ryan and his friends love to play dare, and Ryan will never back down from a challenge, as he is very competitive and wants to be the best in everything he does. Dare You To is about a lot more than teenagers playing games, though. It is about how things aren’t always what they seem like on the outside. Everybody has their problems and heartaches to deal with – even the ‘popular’ kids and they try even harder to hide it behind the perfect fasade they have built for themselves.
The first person Beth meets when Scott takes her out shopping in Graveton is Ryan – and he is pretending he’s never met her before – the gall of that jock! Beth knows exactly how to knock him down a few notches, though, by telling her darling uncle how Ryan tried to pick her up and checked out her ass only a few days before. Ryan wants to impress Scott who is his hero – the local guy who went straight to the majors after high-school to become a baseball star, just like Ryan dreams of doing himself.
As Dare You To progresses, both Ryan and Beth learn to look behind what the other shows to the world. Beth is a very sensitive and sweet girl behind her black clothes and hair, she’s just doing the best she can to protect herself from further heartache, as she really doesn’t think she’ll be able to pick up the pieces on her own one more time. Ryan is hiding a huge family secret, his football-playing older brother came out of the closet at the beginning of summer, only to be thrown out of the house by their father, who wants to present a picture-perfect family to the community. No matter how much things hurt on the inside, the outside has to shine.
I loved how Beth and Ryan dared to open up little, by little, and how Beth also found friendship in her childhood friend Lacy from before she left town. As Beth realizes there is more to her life than hiding, getting high and protecting her mother, she also understands that she has the right to reach for happiness, just like everybody else. This is not to say that anything at all in Dare You To is simple. Being away from Isaiah and Noah takes it toll on Beth, especially after Isaiah tells her he loves her – not only sees her as a friend. Beth then does what she does best, she runs and hides, all the while refusing to talk to Isaiah at all.
The writing is really good; I felt like I could understand both Beth and Ryan, even if I haven’t been through any of what they have been through. Both striving for something to make them feel better, and accepted is still something I think most readers can relate to. As with Pushing The Limits, Dare You To switches between the protagonists’ point of view, and the was the readers get to know them little by little is expertly done. The pacing is neither fast nor slow, it just flows, like a good story should. The petty jealousy some characters show throughout the story is so typical of high-school, even if some people continue to carry that sort of behavior with them afterwards as well.
Dare You To is a book I feel like I can recommend to all readers who like to read about coming of age, but who also wants there to be more to the story than ‘just’ growing up and dealing with school. The different subjects that are a part of the storyline are important, from drugs, to sex, to how to deal with it when someone in the family is gay. Really important as well is the theme about how children should not be responsible for their parents. Ever. And there is also the importance of continuing to fight to better yourself, to try to have a better life, and to study to be in a more secure situation as an adult. And Dare You To does all of this without ever feeling preachy or judging. The story is told, without judging the characters, and I think that is one of the reasons I loved it so much.
A burst of male laughter reminds me of why that’s not a good thing. It’s not a happy laughter or joyous or even sane. It’s mean, has an edge, and craves someone’s pain. Mom thrives on sick men. I don’t get it. Don’t have to. I just clean up the mess.
Both incidents happened in the span of three days. Lessons learned: don’t tell Dad you’re gay., and getting drunk doesn’t make anything untrue. It just makes your head hurt in the morning.
“You used to hang out with cool people,” I say. The right corner of her lips tilt up. “I used to hang out with you.” “That’s what I just said.”
They discuss baseball, football, basketball. Blah, blah, blah. It must be a male thing to talk about playing with balls.
“I love him,” she says, and I understand that means that she also loves anything he loves. “Anyway, the whole point is, Beth liked me. When Gwen was mean to me…”