ARC Review: Dare You To by Katie McGarry


title:  Dare You To

author:  Katie McGarry 

pages: 480 

format: Kindle

isbn/asin: 978-0373210633

buy it: Amazon  Goodreads  B&N

rating: 4/5 [in the genre] or 6/10 [all books I’ve ever read].

recommended for:  Fans of contemporary romance that's not too light and fluffy--something that deals with real issues too.  People looking for a sweet love story. 

My Ratings Explained

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...

the basics
This is not my usual read at all.  I generally tend to stay away from plain romance.  By "plain", I mean contemporary.  It's just not my thing.  Historical romance?  Sure.  Romantic subplots in fantasy or suspense or whatever else?  Yup.  But things with entwined teens on the cover are not my schtick.  But you know what?  I tried it out.  And I didn't adore it, but I did enjoy it more than I thought I would.  It's like the She's All That of books.  McGarry takes what could be pretty tawdry and blah and breathes some life into it.  Beth and Ryan are a hair away from stereotypes, but their unexpected traits make them real.  Beth is a tough skater, but she's also, girly, silly, and frighteningly loyal.  Ryan is the golden jock, but he's also a little selfish and a little cowardly.  We also get friends (OMG FRIENDS), parents, and family dynamics.  It's a book about love in the context of life--life at its most difficult, whether it's Beth and her drug-addled, battered mom or Ryan and his shunned gay brother and domineering father.  I think what made me enjoy it the most was that the romance is a big part of the story, but it's also about these two people finding themselves as much as finding each other.  It's sweet, a little over the top, but ultimately a fun read.  

plot . 4/5
The plot isn't terribly original, but it has plenty of twists to keep you interested.  We start with a She's All That dare moment, cue snarky non-interested girl, and there you go.  What I also got, the more unexpected part, was a story of domestic violence.  A huge part of Beth's story revolves around her protecting her mother, who is battered and beaten and also heavily reliant on drugs.  The tension between Beth's love for her mother and hatred of the position she's in is really compelling.  And then you have Ryan, struggling for Beth's approval and also struggling with his own guilt over his newly outed brother being driven from his home.  These  this more than just a cute teen love story.  It's about many kinds of love.  

concept . 3/5
I don't mean to imply that the concept is bad.  It's just, in my opinion, average.  There are a lot of standard genre elements and I don't think it goes far enough to really strike me.  I'm not even sure if I'd have picked it up if it hadn't popped up on Netgalley.  That said, I definitely enjoyed it.  I'm glad I decided to give it a try.  It's just not my thing.  Like I said, the plot is pretty reminiscent of every 90s makeover rom-com and I didn't even think the "dare" thing was well fleshed-out enough to justify it's existence.  It was a solid romance, but nothing spectacular.  

characters . 4/5
The characters were pretty endearing, which made this book much more enjoyable for me.  Beth could be annoying and overly snarky sometimes, but she also had a vulnerable side--without being damsel-in-distress.  I thought her mix of quirks and traits was more realistic than I'd have expected.  Ryan, too, surprised me.  He's not your typical meathead and he's not your typical "sensitive jock" either.  He's a good mix of jerky boy and sweet guy, and his struggles show his flaws well.  Some of the side characters could have used more fleshing.  Beth's mother felt a little over-the-top and her uncle was weirdly absent.  I also thought Ryan's brother was thrown in a little.   

style . 3/5
The writing was pretty solid.  Again, I'm not sure if I have much to say about it.  It didn't wow me, but it was certainly polished, well-paced, and mostly free of the mistakes you often see in young adult.  McGarry captures teen dialogue really well, which was impressive.  I liked it.  Just didn't love it.  

mechanics . 5/5
The pacing was pretty good. I never felt like it got draggy, which can happen for me in romance plots.  It was interesting all the way through.  

take home message
A teenage romance that digs a bit deeper than your high school makeover story to look at family issues and all kinds of love. 

Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review.  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.

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