Publisher: Back Bay Books
Received From: Purchased
Genre: Thriller, Noir
Addy Hanlon has always been Beth Cassidy’s best friend and trusted lieutenant. Beth calls the shots and Addy carries them out, a long-established order of things that has brought them to the pinnacle of their high-school careers. Now they’re seniors who rule the intensely competitive cheer squad, feared and followed by the other girls — until the young new coach arrives.
Cool and commanding, an emissary from the adult world just beyond their reach, Coach Colette French draws Addy and the other cheerleaders into her life. Only Beth, unsettled by the new regime, remains outside Coach’s golden circle, waging a subtle but vicious campaign to regain her position as “top girl” — both with the team and with Addy herself.
Then a suicide focuses a police investigation on Coach and her squad. After the first wave of shock and grief, Addy tries to uncover the truth behind the death — and learns that the boundary between loyalty and love can be dangerous terrain.
The raw passions of girlhood are brought to life in this taut, unflinching exploration of friendship, ambition, and power. Award-winning novelist Megan Abbott, writing with what Tom Perrotta has hailed as “total authority and an almost desperate intensity,” provides a harrowing glimpse into the dark heart of the all-American girl.
Initial Thoughts: I have had the pleasure of meeting the author at a book festival which led me to consider giving her latest release a try.
Review: I really enjoyed this psychological thriller and you have to get over the fact that these teens are some pretty dark characters. The theme of this novel is manipulation and just who exactly holds the upper hand. Told from Abby Hanlon’s perspective she is second in command to head-hauncho, Beth Cassidy, of the military like structure within the female ranks of cheerleaders. Beth’s control is threatened by a new cheer coach who seems immune to the manipulative powers of the head cheerleader. Abby is pulled between her loyalty to her best friend and the intriguing life of her new coach. There are some great exchanges in this novel, in their bleakness and the things that are said by the characters. Abbott does a great job of pulling the reader into lives that seem pretty superficial on the outside. Isn’t that was cheerleaders are to most of us? Superficial and symbolic of an unattainable ideal? The language was the highlight of this novel for me. We are completely within Abby’s world and her method of expression is unique and provocative. As the story develops, their world disintegrates and the characters descend further into darkness, destroying the lives of those around them. Don’t mess with these teenagers, they are power-hungry, privileged and cutthroat.
Quote: “She was the one who showed me all the dark wonders of life, the real life, the life I’d only seen flickering from the corner of my eye. Did I ever feel anything at all until she showed me what feeling meant? Pushing at the corners of her cramped world with curled fists, she showed me what it meant to live.”
Overall: Dark, edgy, and emotionally tense throughout turn this all-American setting into a scintillating and murderous world.
Rating: 4 stars
About the Author
Megan Abbott is the Edgar Award-winning author of five previous novels. She received her Ph.D. in literature from New York University and has taught literature, writing, and film at NYU, the New School, and SUNY-Oswego. She lives in New York City.