Monday, September 17, 2012

Do the Math on Books

Don't miss Ethan Iverson's new post on Do The Math entitled Newgate C.'s Calendar where he writes about two of the hottest crime novels of the summer: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, which I haven't read, and Dare Me by Megan Abbott which I thought was a knockout. Here's the writeup I put on Goodreads for Dare Me:

Addy and Beth are leaders of a fiercely competitive cheerleading squad at Sutton Grove High School. Beth is used to ruling the roost with an iron hand with Addy at her side. But things begin to change when a new coach takes over the squad. Young and commanding, Addy is awed by her, while Beth sulks away nursing bruised ego. As Addy is drawn deeper and deeper into the coach's personal life, Beth seethes at the betrayal and begins to plot revenge against the new coach and her starry-eyed followers. So, as a committed and life-long nerd, the thought of reading a book about the trials and tribulations of a group of high school cheerleaders was a bit of a stretch. Abbott's pedigree as a great storyteller and the rave reviews that this book have been getting made me take the chance and it was well worth it. She drops you into the mind of Addy, who narrates the story as a mixture of untouchable bravado and teen awkwardness and angst. There are several subplots in the book: a crime story, betrayal and loss, but above all it is a coming of age story, where Addy is forced to vault from teen to adult in the blink of an eye and face some really serious questions. It is really to Abbott's credit that she can create characters that are so far removed from something that I can even fathom, and make them into three dimensional characters, not cardboard cutouts. The book is very thoughtfully written, with the characters and the story becoming a witches brew of drama. It's not comfortable being vaulted vicariously back into high school, but the discomfort is the mark of an excellent story: it never lets you off the hook, forces you to see things from a different perspective and try to seek empathy and compassion from that viewpoint.

He then goes on to name check two of my favorite modern noir writers, Alan Guthrie and Ray Banks. Iverson's recommendations for both writers are spot on, but don't sleep on Banks' novellas like the extraordinary Wolf Tickets along with Gun and California.

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