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abbott continued

“A stitch of panic rises over that high brow, her back rustling against the vinyl curtain, and here I am, I suddenly realize, five inches taller than the little shrub, the little Napoleon. I just never felt it before.”

And that makes the moment where Addy grows up work, which of course happens at the Big Game, which also works, even if it’s a little hokey. But the part that suffers — the mystery and the revenge plot, the reason the rest of this stuff gets set into motion — withers, not quite sufficient to carry along the stuff built up over it.

(And it actually seems like this is a chronic problem of neo-noir, or of novels that try to use a genre framework as a means to pry into psychological extremes; they shortchange the genre aspects — the momentum of the plot, the satisfaction of reversal and explanation, even the incidentals of landscape and morality — out of a preference for extremes of individual psychology. Not that that’s not an element of noir; it is, but not usually the only one. Dare Me falls in alongside two other very recent, very different novels, in Gone Girl and Broken Harbor, where individual characters, and their authors’ love for these individual characters, dominates a novel and pulls the plot out of focus or out of whack.)

August 11, 2012, 10:55am   Comments

abbott continued

“I let everyone see I’m not afraid, and that I’m not anything but a silly cheerleader, a feather-bodied sixteen-year-old with no more sense than a marshmallow peep.”

But our hero, Addy, to some degree really is a marshmallow peep. Dare Me relies a little much on the glamor of its setting and on an atmosphere of paranoia, at the expense of plot and clarity. Addy gets stuck between knowing best friend Beth is manipulative and self-serving and wanting to believe she still has Addy’s interests at heart, and the suspense gets driven more by Addy’s indecision than any uncertainty about what actually happened or who did it.

August 10, 2012, 10:58am   Comments

megan abbott, dare me

“‘So we’re not an ass-shaking pep squad?’ Beth mutters, her voice smoke-thick, her eyes shot through with blood and boredom. ‘If I wanted to be an ath-lete,’ she says, ‘I’d’ve joined the other dykes on field hockey.’”

Of course the mean-girl stuff is delightful, as is the notion of setting a noir plot among cheerleaders, as for that matter is the struggle between the captain and the coach for the soul of our hero.

Little Brown 07.31.12

August 09, 2012, 4:08pm   Comments

abbott continued

"He wasn’t worried about Peggy Spangler. She was a detour. Another girl with something hard and metal knocking around in her chest, a can of thumbtacks, a rusty alarm clock. Another blank face with dollar signs for eyes.

“Fuck, Hop, can the purple prose.”

And as things move along, so does Abbott’s diction, keeping time with the downward spiral her characters get trapped in.

January 02, 2011, 6:30pm   Comments

megan abbott, the song is you

"This wasn’t all true, but it was true enough. Maybe. Hop couldn’t untangle his motives. There was something about covering his own tracks — tracks he thought he’d long ago covered. And sure, there was something else."

Abbott puts her protagonist in a nice situation here: simultaneously covering up a bad thing that’s happened (or, rather, protecting the cover-up he’s already done) while trying to find out what actually led to said bad thing that happened. It’s a neat double-bind. And the language she uses is nice, too, and fitting for that protagonist as a Hollywood flack; it’s a lighter, flashier version of Mickey Spillane hard-boiled, all sparkle and no weight behind it. 

Simon & Schuster 02.19.08

December 31, 2010, 10:43am   Comments