The Low Down: It all starts with a stupid bet. Ryan and his best friend, Chris, are trying to see how many phone numbers they can get from the girls they encounter one evening. And Ryan doesn’t like to lose. But, unfortunately for Ryan, Chris chooses Skater Girl for Ryan’s next conquest. And Skater Girl ain’t biting.
Beth lives with her aunt and her two best friends, Noah and Isaiah. Beth’s mom is an alcoholic who has an abusive boyfriend. That’s why Beth can’t live with her – he beat Beth and almost killed her. But Beth knows that if she can just save up some money, she can get her mom to leave the boyfriend and run away with Beth and Isaiah and get sober. The hard part will be convincing Beth’s mom; she can’t give up either the booze or the boyfriend.
Beth’s Uncle Scott escaped a while back because he was a great baseball player. Beth never forgave him for leaving her alone with her mom. He was supposed to take care of her. Now he’s returned with his wife after retiring from the majors. He’s only just found out Beth’s living situation, so he takes matters into his own hands and makes Beth come and live with him in Groveton where he grew up.
Much to Ryan’s surprise, Skater girl is now at his school. Never one to back down from a bet, he accepts the upped ante: he has to get Beth to go on a date with him. The only thing is, now he’s intrigued and attracted to this girl, and when she lets her guard down, he sees her vulnerability. Can he get her to understand that it is now more than just a bet?
Beth can’t let anyone in, not for one second. How can this boy like her, anyway? And even if he did, he would run so far away in the other direction if he ever learned of her family history and her upbringing. But the more she is around him, the more she is drawn to him. When she discovers that maybe she’s not the only one with big problems, will that even the playing field a bit?
Best Thang ‘Bout It: I loved Ms. McGarry’s Pushing the Limits and was waiting eagerly for this companion book. I was not disappointed. Ms. McGarry likes to write about damaged people; specifically, damaged people who ultimately are reborn and redeemed. You may not like some of her characters, but to learn about why they are the way they are makes you side with them. Maybe it was not a big surprise that Beth would eventually allow someone to crack her hard exterior, but the getting there is well worth the price of admission.
It’s so easy to look at someone and think that they have the perfect life, that in no way could they ever understand what it’s like to have issues. But every family has its secrets, and Ryan’s family is no different. And how many dads are out there who find personal glory through their sons when they participate in sports? That story is as old as the hills and more relevant even today because of the huge paychecks brought in by the best professional athletes. So when Ryan expresses his interest in also pursuing writing, something that he is equally good at, his father’s reaction is real and expected.
There is a lot of underlying tension in Ryan’s household, and it makes for a simmering mess of good reading; particularly when not everything is cleaned up easily. The bad stuff in this book – abuse, abandonment, alcoholism, drug use, parents making decisions without considering the kid, cutting a kid out of your life, etc. – are so realistic and not cartoonish or over the top.
FYI: I have read quite a few books since Pushing the Limits, so, to be honest, I didn’t remember that Echo and Noah were the ones I had already loved and read about until about halfway through Dare You To. (Me: “Doh! Oh yeah!”) If memory serves, Isaiah and Beth were destined to be together in this one. Ms. McGarry has an answer for this at the end of the book. Isaiah will be the featured person in her next book, Crash Into You and she says we will not be disappointed. I agree with her statement that neither Beth nor Isaiah would have grown if they’d gotten together.
The Bottom Line: If you loved Pushing the Limits, then you will absolutely love Dare You To.
Dare You To by Katie McGarry was published today by Harlequin Teen. A free copy of this book was given to Ink and Page in return for an honest review. Big thanks to NetGalley/the Publisher/the Author.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction Contemporary Romance Series Companion
Ages: 13 and up
You Might Want to Know: Some profanity
See my previous reviews of books by Katie McGarry:
Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits #1)