Format: Paperback, 479 pages
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If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does....
Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him.
But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all....
I was a little wary of Dare You To – could this book be as emotional, as edgy, as Pushing the Limits? Could I believe in the premise and not scoff at how the two protagonists predictably find each other in the darkest hours of their lives. The short answer: yes, and yes. Dare You To showcases the same attention to detail and character development that I loved in Pushing the Limits, but is a totally different work of fiction.
Beth is hard character to like, but I managed it anyway! She’s stand-off-ish and doesn’t let anyone close to her – she learnt early that loving someone gives them power over you, and she’s always been betrayed by the people she’s dared to love. Beneath her hard exterior there is a girl who just wants to be loved and trusted, and love and trust in return, but she’s buried pretty deep. Ryan, the surprisingly likeable baseball jock, seems to have a perfect life, but when you look deeper he’s just as torn as Beth. He and his friends have a ritual of asking one another on dares, and Ryan hates to lose. So when he’s dared to get the number of a Biker Chick, Ryan meets the challenge head on, but quickly finds that Beth isn’t going to start worshipping his smile like everyone else. Whereas Noah and Echo came from places of equal darkness, I feel like Beth really opened Ryan up to the reality that he still had control over the things that were wrong in his life, while Beth had long ago lost control of hers. But Ryan gives Beth the strength to make same incredibly tough decisions, so the situation equalizes in that sense.
I didn’t like how Ryan initially reacted to suggestions that he could play baseball and go to college. It displays a level of shortsightedness I can’t abide. I understand his dreams are of making it big, being a millionaire and perhaps never needing to work again, but I find it distasteful that he scoffed at the idea of having a back-up for so long. Another thing that I really disagreed with in this book is how Beth’s uncle Scott blackmailed her into living with him – going as far as to threaten that he will make sure her mother goes to jail – to ensure that Beth dresses the way he wants, eats what he wants, and associates with people he approves of. Scott threatens Beth with her mother’s fate when she is caught with a smoke, which is a disgusting over-reaction in my opinion.
The final thing that made me uncomfortable in Dare You To is a scene where Beth just wants to get away from Ryan, and Ryan, angry, grabs and kisses her. I’m not a fan – I don’t really care how much a character likes it in the end, I think if a girl makes it clear she’s not interested, no one has the right to force themselves and show her that she does, in fact, want it. What made it worse is that Ryan says he’s angry when he does it, and it makes me afraid this kind of behaviour is portrayed as okay.
Since friendship is a theme that’s explored in the book, I was interested to note that Ryan’s friends are the most supportive, amazing people around, and I was glad. I liked Lacy, who used to be Beth’s best friend before Beth was forced to move away, and the rest of the gang were cool too. I think they were well drawn characters, and they felt real and distinct to me. I didn’t like Gwen, nor how she was painted as ‘bitch-blond-from-hell’ – it feels like lazy characterisation – at least show us why she’s like that. On the other hand, I was confused by the small roles that Isaiah and Noah play in Dare You To: they were so loving and supportive of Beth in Pushing the Limits, but here she’s fighting with them and they’re never open to the idea that she could make friends in her new school. Beth wallows in the fact that Noah has Echo now, and blames Echo for all sorts of ridiculous things, and I got a little tired at how she spent so much time pushing her only friends away.
I liked Pushing the Limits a little better than Dare You To, but I think it’s a personal preference where I liked Noah and Echo a lot better, and understood and sympathised with them more. But Dare You To is still a great book that I enjoyed, and I can’t wait for Crash Into You, and seeing Isaiah find his happy-ever-after.
Blogging Outside the Box is a feature at Speculating on SpecFic, where books outside the SFF banner are reviewed. It is intended to highlight some of the non speculative fiction titles I am reading and share my thoughts with readers.