Cover of Dare Me. A boy standing on the edge of a cliff, looking down at a river far below.

About the Book

Title: Dare Me
Published: 2013

Cover Story: That’s What I’m Talking About!
Drinking Buddy:
You Want a Cold One? Or an Ice Pack?
MPAA Rating:
PG-13 (intense action, sexuality)
Talky Talk:
Hey, Y’all, Watch This!
Bonus Factors:
Miss Right vs. Miss Right Now; LGBTWho Cares?, Isaac Newton
Bromance Status:
Idealized Friend From High School

Cover Story: That’s What I’m Talking About

Seriously. No giant teen faces. Just a stock photo of a guy and a stock photo of a river. Put ’em together and you have an evocative, interesting cover that’s going to make kids want to pick this one up. There, now that wasn’t so hard, was it?

The Deal:

Ben is about to become a high school senior. And like most seniors, he’s anxious to leave a mark. Do something that’s going to make everyone remember him. His friend Ricky (and we all know a Ricky–the kid who wound up in the emergency room in fourth grade after jumping off the garage or setting a firecracker off in his mouth) has an idea. He, Ben, and their friend John will have Trevor, the local computer geek, film them completing some outrageous dares. Then they’ll put the whole thing on YouTube. The trio will wear masks, of course, but soon the world will be clamoring to know who these amazing guys are. And get this: they’re going to get paid! That’s right, a mysterious guy who owns an outdoors shop will advertise on their channel, and pay them for every hit they get (the computer kind of hit, not the kind that leaves bruises). What could possibly go wrong?

After surfing on the top of a car, Ben’s not so sure he’s into the daredevil lifestyle. But things are rough at home; his dad just lost his job. Extra money would really come in handy. And what about Alexia, the cute girl who works with Ben at the pizza joint? Maybe she’d be impressed. Impressed enough to leave Jesse, her jerk boyfriend.

Seriously, what’s the worst that could happen?

Drinking Buddy: You Want a Cold One? Or an Ice Pack?

Two pints of beer cheersing

Ben knows exactly what he’s getting himself into, and what can happen. But they all need the money: Ben’s dad was laid off and his family may lose their house, John lost an athletic scholarship he was depending on, and Ricky will be kicked out of his home when he’s eighteen.

But there’s more to it than that. Ben’s older sister, Ginny, tries to analyze the boys’ death wish (in the form of a college paper), saying adolescent boys simply believe that they cannot be hurt. But that doesn’t ring true to Ben. Quite frankly, he’s not sure why he does what he does. He only knows he can’t seem to stop.

MPAA Rating: PG (intense action, sexuality)

Now these aren’t dares like getting Schwartz to lick a frozen flagpole. Their contract says they have to choose from a list of suggested stunts, and none of them are easy. Actually, the car surfing thing is kind of lame, compared to some of the other capers. If you’re wearing a bullet proof vest, can you technically say you were shot?

As I mentioned in my review of the similarly-plotted Nerve, it’s kind of hard to believe a responsible adult would actually pay kids to risk their lives. Of course, who’s to say the mysterious force behind these dares is responsible? Or even an adult? Just what’s going on here?

Plus there’s Alexia’s boyfriend, Jesse. Ben kind of suspects he’s not being a gentleman around her, but can prove nothing. And Jesse is the kind of psycho who would make the dares seem tame, if he thought Ben was after his girl. Which of course he does think.

Talky Talk: Hey Y’all, Watch This!

Ah, to be a teenage boy again. To know that that no matter how fast you drive, you’ll never be in an accident. Now matter how zany the stunt, they’ll never catch you. No matter how insane the dare, I’ll all work out in the end. Because at seventeen, you know you’re going to live forever.

Devine does a great job of not sugar-coating these stunts. Bones are broken, flesh is burned, and more than once, someone breaks down in tears, begging to stop. But the contract says they must all complete the dares. If someone drops out, then the deal is off.

This is a dark, frightening book, but compelling. Lots of action, but with enough plot that I didn’t feel I was reading a novelization of a Jackass episode.

Bonus Factor: Miss Right Vs. Miss Right Now

Three white people, two women and one man, talking to each other

Why, why did I think doing a Google image search of ‘two girls one guy’ would turn out well?

You know the plot. Ben and Alexia have been friends since childhood, but she’s dating Jerkwad. Ben secretly hopes that one day she’ll maybe connect the guys on the internet with his own mysterious scrapes and bruises and be suitably awed. He’s just got to be patient, be the good friend, the shoulder to cry on, the romantic comedy lead.

Except while he’s waiting for this to happen, Chantel, Alexia’s best friend, does notice him. And though she’s clueless about his extracurricular activities, she happens to think he’s neat. And quickly seduces him.

So now Ben has a girlfriend. She’s beautiful, popular, smart, has huge…tracts of land. Someone he could really be happy with. Except she’s not Alexia. Kind of complicates things, eh?

Bonus Factor: LGBTWho Cares?

Pride flag being waved in a parade

Spoiler alert: Someone is this book turns out to be gay. However, the coming out is overshadowed by the intense action and the infighting that these insane dares are causing among the friends. It’s a major plot point, but this is not a ‘gay’ book.

And why should it be? A lot of people come to terms with this sort of thing in high school, and I like to think that more and more teens are accepting of this, both in their friends and in themselves.

Bonus Factor: Isaac Newton

Blackboard with a hand writing a physics equation E=mc2

Ben is a physics student, and he begins to see how Newton’s Three Laws of motion affect his life, especially the dare part. This actually becomes kind of a theme in the book, so kudos to Devine for making us learn something. Remember the laws:

1) A body at rest will remain at rest, and a body in motion will remain in motion, unless acted upon by an outside force. Ben’s grades have been slipping, he’s blown off the SATs and he doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life, now that his parents can no longer afford to send him to college. And then, along come the dares. Is this the outside force that’s going to kick his but into gear? Or make him permanently motionless?

2) Force equals mass times acceleration. What started out as just some harmless teenage shenanigans has quickly spiraled out of control. And because everyone is depending on him, Ben can’t bail out. Things are getting crazier and crazier, and something’s got to give.

3) When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to that of the first body. Jesse has been using a lot of force on Alexia’s body, and Ben is hurling in from the opposite direction. It’s going to be brutal.

Bromance Status: Idealized Friend From High School

Those were some pretty wild times we had, back in high school. Yeah. Hey, remember when we…yeah. Remember that one guy, ol’ what’s his name? Yeah. Well…nice catching up. Let’s do this again.

Literary Matchmaking


Another book about taking dares for notoriety.

FTC Full Disclosure: Eric Devine sent me a copy of this book because he’s a generous guy. But not so generous that he gave me any money. Dare Me is available now.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.