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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027

Dare Me

Dare Me - Eric  Devine I’ve been sitting here waffling on what rating to ultimately give this book. Because there’s some good things that Devine does here, specifically with the main trio of boys he follows for the course of the story and their motivations and reactions. However, there’s also massively glaring problems with this book that ultimately dragged it down for me, and one in particular that does not make me want to recommend this book.I like it when teenagers in books are portrayed as more average teenagers—they’re not particularly intelligent or wordy or snarky, they just are, and sometimes that includes writing dumb teens doing stupid shit. It’s probably more evident due to the rise of YouTube and social media, as how many news stories in the past few years are centered around teenagers getting caught in the midst of criminal acts because of uploading them to social media sites? And it’s the central focus for Devine here, as the author acknowledges that this is a commentary on that sort of behavior. (Although I would argue more that what Ben and his friends do are more of a product of the post-Jackass imitators rather than the recent challenges.) I liked that there’s an exploration and an acknowledgment on Ben’s part that he does get an adrenaline rush from completing the stunts and the thought of doing the next one on the list. I even buy Ricky’s whole speech about wanting lasting high school glory and leaving their mark before graduation.There’s a few big snarls with this premise, though. First, I’m kind of disappointed that there’s no real escalation or discussion on how dangerous the stunts performed actually are. The only boy who suffers a deliberating injury is John, and even though the impact of him breaking his arm is discussed and essential to his character arc, there’s no continuing escalation of the danger. Which isn’t to say that Ben gets away physically okay, as the book ends with him losing sight in one eye and his love interest impaled on a corn stalk. (I have problems with the climax, more on that below.) I wanted to see more of the bruises and cuts, but aside from the one Christmas stunt, there’s no real acknowledgment of the less serious injuries. Mainly because most of the adult characters buy the boys’ explanations of how they got injured in the first place, and it’s a detail that’s especially egregious when you take Alexia’s story into this. Secondly—and this is a huge problem that I have with this book—is the identity of the boys’ benefactor and the lack of explanation of why a wealthy businessman would even think to provide these boys with the provisions to potentially injure themselves. Mainly because there’s NO RESOLUTION TO THIS. Oh, sure, the boys get caught and all is revealed but…why. I had a dozen explanations going through my head the entire time that I was reading this, and when I got to the reveal, I wanted to scream bullshit at the book. It doesn’t make sense. (It feels like there's an epilogue that got cut out for whatever reason that deals with the fallout of Alexia's injuries, the revelation of the boys' activities, and what the hell was going on the entire time. I would have liked to have read that thanks so much.)And it’s partially because Devine decides that there needed to be a “rich versus poor” narrative in this book. There’s several ways he could have gone about this, but having O.P. being wealthy is such a hard left field reveal makes the financial aspect ridiculous and nonsensical. There’s already a strand going on with Ben and Jesse’s rivalry over Alexia, and this just feels...stupid. Which is a shame, because Ben’s family’s financial situation is one of the parts that I did like about the book. I did get why Ben was so desperate to put himself through this physical torture to get money, to make his parents happy and maybe even get their old house back. It made sense with John, as he fucked up his other source of college funds by breaking his arm. And even though Ricky’s situation wasn’t completely explored, you can see why he would have been pulled in by the ad listing he finds in the first place. It actually works well, and again, given that teenagers generally don’t make the best decisions ever, it does make sense in the thinking “Dude, we get to be legends and make a shit-ton of cash!”The other major issue I have with this book is the treatment of women. I will not completely excuse Ben’s objectification of Chantel, but I also don’t fault him for it. I will fault Devine for writing Chantel and Alexia as respectively the slut and the damsel with no other character arc or definition beyond that. Making Chantel related to O.P. is a stupid plot excuse to even try to add depth to her character, and it makes me angry that that’s the only reason she’s a supporting character. Alexia’s story makes me angry. Alexia only exists as a trophy between Jesse and Ben, with the added bonus that Jesse abuses Alexia. The only reason Alexia exists as a love interest is for Ben to rescue her, literally and wishfully. The abusive relationship makes me angrier, because it feels like a flimsy excuse for Ben to rescue Alexia and never fully explores the ramifications and realities of being in an abusive relationship. And the line that Ben has about Alexia being strong feels like a cop-out, especially given what happens to her at the end of the book. And that ending is the main reason why I won’t recommend this. The escalation between Ben and Jesse not only takes away from the main mystery and conflict between the trio and O.P., but again, it only sets up Alexia as a prop. She has no purpose in the story aside from being the trophy and for all of Ben’s talk of how much he respects her and would treat her right, I have a really hard time believing it.Also, a very special mention to Ben’s sister Ginny, who becomes Ben’s confidante and hides the fact that her brother and his friends are harming themselves because she needs data for a research paper. Given the ramifications of what Ben and his friends were doing and police involvement throughout, I’m shocked that Ginny wasn’t arrested for endangering a minor. That, and I never got that Ginny or Ben actually cared for each other. I understand that they’re not close, but nothing about Ginny’s actions suggested that she was worried for Ben’s safety.Devine had a strong idea and concept, but ultimately fails in his writing and characterization. As an exploration of male friendships and the limits one is willing to go for to achieve personal fame and glory, he does succeed, but the lack of reasons and motivations of other characters, plus Ben’s relationships with Chantel and Alexia really killed this book for me. Which is a shame, because I was really looking forward to reading this when I got it at work. Ultimately, I really can’t recommend it on that basis.