Dare You To

Dare You To - Katie McGarry 4 STARSI wasn't the biggest fan of Noah and Echo's book, mostly because I felt it was bogged down by the heaviness of the theme without succeeding at making me actually care for the characters (especially Echo) enough to sympathize. I didn't even care much for Beth and was certainly not raring to know her story. She came across as a whiny, pessimistic, emo, wannabe.So this was a pleasant curve ball for me.This is a girl book. You know, the kind that your boyfriend will never admit to his friends he's read it (because you forced him to) but will probably stash a paperback copy of under the bed. And because this is that kind of book…Fearless forecast #13: Once released, this book is going to set my GR feed to a perpetual lag with all the gushing and the squeeing and the sniffling and the #ohmygodRyans. Because that's exactly what I did in the closeted silence of my heart (I'm a closet squee-er).The key to enjoying this book is to reading it like you're watching a John Hughes movie: don't resist the charm. There's no shame in being charmed by a strong heroine and a sweet hero dancing around each other under the premise of a dare. There's nothing wrong with smiling and clutching your heart over a bottle-full of rain. And it's perfectly alright to have that scratchy feeling in your throat while watching the hero save the heroine from her ghastly past.Because make no mistake about it, this is a YA-CR formula story. You won't see anything new and cliches will be all over the place. But when executed and written well enough, there can never be enough teen movie grief or homecoming party drama or dysfunctional families that can make me quit this cliche.This was written in alternating POVs of Ryan and Beth and yet it still managed to pull off character complexity and, more importantly, excellent consistency. Whenever I come back to reading this after setting it aside for a while, it wasn't hard to be immersed again and pick up where I left off my sympathy for the characters.While it is a teeny-bop love story, I was glad to see it deal at depth with Ryan and Beth's issues outside of each other. More than anything, the story explored how hard it is to accept that you may be more than who you believe yourself to be. Ryan is standing on a precipice: he has the world at his feet but he doesn't know what to do with it. His conflict stems from what he wants and what everybody else wants from him. Because EVERYONE wants something from him (i.e. his parents, his friends, his teammates, his English teacher) and he's too much of a winner to let anyone down. There's an innocent kindness and inherent honor in his character that makes him instantly likable. Of course the fact that he's a hot baseball player helps. Baseball. Yawn.Sorry, but what got me all a-tittering was that he's also a literary genius who writes and dedicates a zombie love story to Beth. If any series needs a novella, this is it. I want to know what happens to George the zombie and Olivia, dammit.On the other hand, nobody wants to have anything to do with Beth. She's an archive of neglect and the failures of her parents, Scott, her friends (Noah and Isaiah)… everyone has left her at some point to fend for herself. Which she does to the best of her abilities. It's tricky to make a strong, angst-ridden heroine likable (too much makes her a b*tch, too little makes her pretentious) but she's made a fan out of me in 300-something pages. It's very hard to belittle her pain and the way she reacts to everyone makes complete and utter sense without making it embarrassing for me to root for her.Outside the predictable plot and formulaic, cookie-cutter characters, I have very little to complain about. I would've liked a bit more time between Beth and Scott and maybe temper down the drama a little towards the last 25% but these were very small issues I had. If anything, I was having a hard time looking for the misses in this one.Overall, a better and stronger sophomore effort from Katie McGarry. One that has made a fan out of this closet squee-er.ARC provided by Harlequin Teen thru Netgalley in exchange for an honest review