Author – Megan Abbott
Published – May 2012
Genre – Crime fiction
I sometimes wonder if perhaps I shouldn’t review those books for which I don’t think I’m the “target market”. But then again I read this – so here goes…
This is the story of a team of cheerleaders – but it’s more Fight Club than Glee! Addy and Beth’s life-long friendship is tested by the arrival of a new coach. Addy has been Lieutentant to Beth’s Captain, both in and out of the cheer squad, but Coach French doesn’t see the need for a Captain. Beth is the Flyer, but Coach French wants Tacy to be at the top of the pyramid. But Beth isn’t a girl to cross. As Addy falls under the coach’s spell she and Beth start keeping secrets from each other.
When Coach starts up an illicit relationship she makes Addy complicit, and then a shocking event tests Addy’s loyalty. She is torn between Beth and the Coach, both seem to be trying to manipulate her for their own ends. With a police investigation underway Addy is forced to confront the truth about the women she admires.
This is all set against the backdrop of the cheer squad’s rehearsals as the end of the season approaches and they attempt more and more daring routines. The language is one of girls going into battle – wearing their make-up, sequins and glitter as war paint. The girls put their bodies through extremes to deliver a show that looks effortless and there is an unhealthy interest in the serious accidents that have happened in other squads, and the team suffers its fair share of injuries.
The book was shortlisted for the CWA Steel Dagger in 2012, which confused me as it doesn’t have a great deal of a crime element to it and then I discovered that the Steel Dagger is for a book in the vein of Ian Fleming and I am even more puzzled!
I found it quite a difficult book to get into as it is so very American – there was much of the language and references that I didn’t recognise (and I didn’t find the glossary until I had finished). Being unfamiliar with cheerleading I also found the descriptions of some of the routines difficult to follow.
I don’t think I’m necessarily the target market for this book, although if I had a teenage daughter I’m not sure it’s something I would want her to read. It paints a harsh picture of teenage girls who all lack compassion and common sense. Petty rivalry is rife, and there is a proliferation of eating disorders.
Score – 3/5