Dare You To
Harlequin Enterprises Australia
‘Dare You To’ is a truly excellent and very gutsy young adult romance. It’s in a similar style to ‘Beautiful Disaster’ in that the prose is rich and the characters lives are messed up with drugs and violence, but it has everything that book didn’t have, and should have. These characters learn from their mistakes and their relationship helps each other grow.
If you think of romances as being light and soppy, this will prove you wrong. There is great drama and depth of psychological insight into the characters in ‘Dare You To,’ and the love in it is the kind that is hard won and profoundly healing.
Beth is one messed up girl, trying to survive emotionally the only way she knows how by running from any form of intimacy. Ryan is a baseball jock, and from where Beth is standing, he and his life look perfect. It isn’t, of course. His father rules his life and kicked his brother out after he told them he was gay, and his mother and father hate each other. Ryan has more talents than just baseball, but his father is hell bent on sending him down the baseball road whether Ryan wants it or not.
Beth has come from a drug addicted mother and her abusive boyfriend to live with her uncle in a small town. She wants to be looking after her mother, but her uncle has custody until she turns eighteen. Ryan tries to get her phone number on a dare, but things don’t work out quite the way he imagined, and they end up falling for each other.
The story is essentially about two people opening up and learning to trust each other, and in Beth’s case, learning to trust herself. It’s about what can happen when someone is willing to be befriend you and believe in who you are not what you appear to be. When they first meet, to Ryan, Beth is a hardcore skater girl, and to Beth, Ryan is a jock, but a dare throws them together long enough that they manage to peek through their own prejudice enough to see a hint of something more in the other. The relationship softens Beth and strengthens Ryan. She stops fighting those who care for her and he learns to stand up to his father.
There are hard choices for both of them, and the situations they are in are very real, but, unlike Beautiful Disaster where the characters never step outside their hamster wheel of alcohol and aggression, this is a positive book. There is teen drinking in it, but besides the getting wasted, we also see kids making sensible choices, eg the baseball players don’t drink the night before their game, and the sad case of Beth’s mother gives no gloss to drug addiction.
There’s a touch of mystery about the circumstances around Beth’s father leaving them, and Beth’s mother has something hidden in her room, something Beth doesn’t want to know about. This adds another layer of interest and it all comes out as part of a very dramatic conclusion.
I did find the homecoming results at the end a little unrealistic given the circumstances, but I’m not holding it against the book. I highly recommend it.
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