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3.7 out of 5 stars89
3.7 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 15 January 2013
I didn't think I would enjoy a book about cheerleading, something which might, in real life, briefly stimulate the enjoyment pulses but then is all forgotten as the girls troop off.

But I read this book at one sitting so it's an easy read. But the content is not so easy. From small acorns in the form of the arrival of a new Coach to the grown oak in the form of a dead body in an apartment block. In between, whilst the story develops is a power struggle filled with the rivalries of teenage girls, raw emotions not fully developed but mature enough to do adult things and, at the same time, try to create the best Cheer Team ever.

I must say I enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the way the story unfolds. I couldn't understand a word concerning the cheer team's routine but, somehow, this didn't matter. In all honesty, I skipped a few pages of such routines just to maintain my grip on the underlying investigation as seen through the eyes of a sixteen year old Addy Hanlon. (I'd also forgotten that in some US States, sixteen year olds are allowed to drive a car!) The book is clever in its progression, in its development of the relationships and jealousies between the girls and their Coach.

As with all good investigations, there is a nice twist in the story; one which probably could be expected if I hadn't been rattling along with the read but perhaps this made it the more enjoyable. The blurb snapshots do not do justice to this book. Had I read them before buying the book, I would have changed my mind. As it is, I'm glad it was recommended to me on the basis of a darn good story. It is and I shall look for more Megan Abbott, though no more Cheer, pleeeese.
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on 10 January 2013
I read so many good reviews about this book, but I found it quite a difficult read. It's very 'bitty', and doesn't flow particularly well. It's not an easy story to follow, lots of moments where you have to make your own interpretations. Also, if you don't know anything about cheerleading, you may be doing a fair amount of googling whilst reading. It's not a book I would pass on to a friend to read, but that's just my opinion.
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VINE VOICEon 18 April 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I guess my expectations were raised by the very positive reviews this had been given by other authors and its inclusion in the CWA Dagger Awards but I have to say I was very disappointed.

To begin with the setting (girl's school) and the theme of teen angst has been overdone in my opinion. You have to have written something as truly brilliant and original as Eleanor Catton's The Rehearsal to hold my attention in this area now.

In the second place, I found the style a little too economical - I would describe it as clipped. It is probably an American trait to remove joining words from sentences, that I accept (with gritted teeth), but there was so much compression that I found myself finding it hard to read because it felt wrong to my ears.

I can't comment on the plot because (to my shame) I did not complete the novel. It is rare that this happens which I suppose is the best comment I can make upon my experience of this book.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Like Megan Abbott's The End of Everything, this is another dark and unsettling read centred on the edgy instability of female adolescence.

Our narrator, Addy, is sixteen and is one of the high school's sassy cheer-leading team, along with her best friend Beth. A new female coach arrives and disturbs the status quo, soon inviting the team to her house where they drink, obsess over her and misunderstand her relationship with her quiet, seemingly dull husband. Only Beth refuses to succumb to Coach French's charms, and takes it upon herself to reveal what only she can see...

I loved this book which is more subtle and nuanced than The End of Everything. There's a dangerous edge to everything that happens but it's subliminal and oblique rather than obvious. Abbott is particularly good at charting the shifting tides of power and powerlessness, knowledge and innocence in these girls, as they experience an adult world which they think they understand but which overwhelms them.

The world of cheer-leading is an alien one to UK readers and it takes a bit of time for us to catch-up, but it fits well with the overall atmosphere of danger and unease as the girls push themselves physically and psychologically towards a kind of perfection. The hints of anorexia, dysmorphia, competition and physical danger blend well with the unsettling depiction of nascent sexuality.

So overall this is a gripping and atmospheric read with some important things to say about the modern female psyche - highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
At the heart of this novel is the relationship between teenagers Beth and Addy, a friendship which goes back to their childhood; Beth, manipulative and often cruel, has always been the leader with Addy her willing shadow. A new Coach arrives, throwing a spanner in the works, and very soon she and Beth engage in a battle of wills; Addy adores Coach and is the eager puppy always willing to do her bidding, which in turn fuels Beth's jealousy; whilst the other team members gather at Coach's house for drinking sessions, Beth is nowhere to be seen, but always watching, waiting for her moment. The girls are pushed to physical and psychological extremes as they vie for the best postion on the team. Injury is just one wobble away. Then one dark night Addy is drawn into a nightmare......

Megan Abbot perfectly captures teenage girls' adolescent-speak, and attitudes; at times it's faintly amusing, at others dark and sinister. The novel is packed with detail about cheerleading, still very much an American activity, to the puzzlement of us Brits, and my only criticism is that perhaps there is a little too much detail which could have been pared down with no detriment to the storyline.

I chose this book on the strength of an earlier novel of Megan Abbot's: "The End of Everything" which I enjoyed very much. I enjoyed this just as much, with dialogue that snaps, crackles and pops with energy, and characters, though not particularly likeable, are wholly believable. All in all a cracking good read.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
''Something happened Addy. I think you better come.''

Megan Abbott starts her novel with a prologue that fast forwards us four months to something bad happening. The first chapter of the book itself starts 'After a game, it takes half an hour under the shower head to get all the hairspray out. To peel off all the sequins. To dig out that last bobby pin nestled deep in your hair.' The voice is compelling and hooked me immediately. Abbott paces the novel well with rising tension and a sense of impending doom. Addy narrates and the focus is on her friendship with manipulative Queen Bee Beth and how their relationship changes when the new cheerleading coach, Colette French, pushes them to new heights of physical training and Addy, and the rest of the cheerleaders, are increasingly under her spell.

Megan Abbott propels us into the insular world of cheerleading, a world of focus and training for perfection in the midst of physical danger. She infuses the novel with the both the boredom of adolescence “I guess I’d been waiting forever, my palm raised. Waiting for someone to take my girl body and turn it out, steel me from the inside, make things matter for me, like never before.” as well as the thrills of discovery, of intense friendships and the headiness of sexual power.

There is a murder mystery in the novel which seemed inevitable given the battle of wills between Beth and Colette French. she told us something bad was going to happen and conjured the atmosphere in the novel that made that inevitable and believable,
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Megan Abbott gives us here a dark and dangerous tale of teen girls, set in a High School and its cheer leading team. Narrated by Addy, one of the cheerleaders we are taken to a very dark place indeed. With a new coach for the team, and adultery and manipulation, a not uncommon fact of life becomes dark and very dangerous.

With manipulative teen Beth, the captain of the team, nothing is ever straight forward, she always needs to be the top dog, in the limelight and in charge. But with the appearance of the new coach, it looks like she is to be back staged. Of course, this is something Beth won't take lying down, and so a deeply psychological game of power play and manipulation is started by Beth. When tragedy strikes though, who is really telling the truth about what happened?

With girls extreme dieting along with the rest of the things going on, this isn't really a pleasant read, also it is very dark with characters that ultimately you don't, and can't sympathise with. This won't be for everyone, but if you want something a bit edgier then this could be right up your street. Portraying a selfish and heartless world Megan Abbott gives us life on the dark side; this also has a very strong undertone of sapphism that only occasionally comes to the surface and the story would make a good movie, and could possibly be an ideal book for a book group.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The plot centres around a US cheerleading squad and is narrated by 'Addy' the best friend of the squad captain. It begins with a dark and mysterious discovery with much of the novel then setting up this encounter. The plot thickens after the novel catches up with itself and there are various twists which are unsettling and (overly) complex.
It's a readable 'coming of age' book about imbalances of power, friendship, strong and 'weak' characters, bullying, ambition, obsessive love and 'teenage issues' such as anorexia, peer pressure and the urge to 'fit in'.
I found the characterisation quite stereotypical and lacking in depth. There are very few (if any) moments of lightness to contrast with shade and most characters felt one dimensional which I thought made the plot somewhat predictable. However I felt the language was realistic and the plot held my attention to the end so deserving of three stars.
If you're interested in fiction based around campus or schools/from a young persons perspective then you could try The Secret History by Donna Tartt which is fantastic, or Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. You can search for my listmania list called 'Books and Films set in schools' if this genre interests you. Hope this helps.
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VINE VOICEon 20 July 2014
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This was a curiously compelling read. However I found it somewhat flat and difficult to connect with. The prose is icily constrained and at times elliptical. There were parts where it suffered from a paucity of description. And yet...and yet I couldn't take my eyes off it, reading about the colliding and twisted lives of a group of young women as events turn black as pitch. So in conclusion, did I enjoy this? No. Did I feel compelled to finish it? You betcha. It was like watching some awful wildlife programme where things rip each other to shreds with a cool detachment because its their essential nature. Gripping but not enjoyable for me. However I may try another by this author.
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on 5 January 2015
Had I not been in a Wifi free zone with no way to download a new book, I might not have persevered with this - but I'm very glad I did!

If you're not American or with a knowledge of cheerleading then the opening chapters are as alien as if the author were writing about the customs and habits of a remote African tribe. And there are hints that the book is going to go down a rather cliched line (which it doesn't).

Once you get into it however, a lack of cheerleading knowledge doesn't matter - it becomes an absorbing psychological thriller as Addy, the narrator, is torn between the new coach and her best friend Beth. The novel twists and turns with Addy's internal conflict, revealing as it does the emotions under the surface, as dark events take place. In fact, it reminds me strongly of David Lynch's work, notably Blue Velvet.

Addy is a very "unreliable narrator" - but what isn't clear is whether this is due simply to being a 16 year old who is growing up and rapidly gaining experience of the adult world.

Like Joseph Conrad, Megan Abbott seems interested in the consequences of action and events on the characters, rather than the actions themselves. (She's nothing like Conrad in any other respect!). So it becomes more of a "whydunnit" rather than a "whodunnit". And the finale - which isn't the reveal of the mystery, but the final "what happened after" - casts a whole new slant on the story.

Definitely recommended if you like dark and subtle novels - though with the caveat that the early chapters are hard going
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