Release Day Review: The Dare by Elle Kennedy

The Dare (Briar U Book 4) by Elle Kennedy
Contemporary new adult romance released by Elle Kennedy on June 16, 2020

The Dare by Elle Kennedy book cover College was supposed to be my chance to get over my ugly-duckling complex and spread my wings. Instead, I wound up in a sorority full of mean girls. I already have a hard time fitting in, so when my Kappa Chi sisters issue the challenge, I can’t say no.

The dare: seduce the hottest new hockey player in the junior class.

Conor Edwards is a regular at Greek Row parties…and in Greek Row sorority beds. He’s the one you fall for before you learn that guys like him don’t give girls like me a second glance. Except Mr. Popular throws me for a loop—rather than laughing in my face, he does me a solid by letting me take him upstairs to pretend we’re getting busy.

Even crazier, now he wants to keep pretending. Turns out Conor loves games, and he thinks it’s fun to pull the wool over my frenemies’ eyes.

But resisting his easy charm and surfer-boy hotness is darn near impossible. Though I’m realizing there’s much more to Conor’s story than his fan club can see.

And the longer this silly ruse goes on, the greater the danger of it all blowing up in my face.

I devoured this book in less than 3 days. It was funny and angsty in equal measures, and did a good job of capturing college life without infantilizing the characters, which some authors can’t quite pull off. Before going further, a couple of content warnings: the book talks about revenge porn towards the end of the book, and Taylor (one of the love interests) is dealing with body image issues throughout the book. Taylor is part of a sorority, and Conor is an athlete, so there is a fair amount of drinking going on in the book. For all that Taylor and Conor’s experience of college was not like mine, I think that Kennedy did a good job of showing us how college students interact with each other and with the world outside of college. I liked seeing Taylor and Conor grow in confidence, both because of their coupledom but also because of their own separate choices. And despite how angsty this book can get, there are parts where I laughed aloud.

We meet Taylor during a party. This is where the story starts; she doesn’t feel comfortable enough to tell off the girl who dares her to go up to Conor, but she does tell Conor the truth. At the beginning of the book, Taylor has a lot of these moments. But by the end of the book, these moments are no longer internal monologues, which I loved seeing. I also enjoyed watching Taylor’s relationship with her mother evolve. It’s something that happens during college/in your twenties often, and I don’t remember clearly seeing this on the page the way it is here. However, before I leave you with the incorrect impression, Conor is not the sole reason for Taylor’s gain in confidence by the end of the book. Yes, he plays a part (occasionally a very funny part), but at the end of the day, Taylor decides what to do and say in crucial moments, and that ability is something that comes mostly from inside herself.

Conor is on a similar journey as Taylor. His issues, however, are mostly internal. I can’t tell you what they are because that falls under spoiling the book, which I’m not doing here. However, it also involves parental figures. Conor’s growth is more “traditional” in that he is trying to figure out what he, Conor, wants to do with himself once college hockey is done.

I have two issues with this book that keep it from getting a higher grade. First, I would have liked to see Taylor after a few more months of dealing with the revenge porn situation. This book ends almost right after she takes a stand. I know from other readings that this is not something so easily dealt with, so having it wrapped up so quickly felt like it was doing a disservice to this issue. Second, I can’t help but imagine how much more difficult both Taylor and Conor’s arcs would have been if they were people of color, even wealthy ones. This imagining didn’t take away from my enjoyment while I was reading the book, but it did make me reflect while I was mulling over the book and getting my thoughts in order for this review.

That said, I think this is a lovely book full of angst and humor and a good representation of college life for some students. It doesn’t have to be read in the series’ order (I read the first book but not any of the others before this one). There is a lot of pre-COVID-19 behavior (lots of people in close proximity), so if that’s an issue for you right now, maybe keep this one on hold until it isn’t.

Grade: B

You can buy a copy here.

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