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Careening with our youth culture: the daring nature of Dare Me (a guest post by Eric Devine and GIVEAWAY)

I spent a lot of time as a teenager risking my life. And not in some symbolic sense. I put myself in harm’s way on so many occasions that when I tell stories of my youth, someone always says, “I cannot believe you’re still alive.”

Neither can I. And I blame the Internet.
Really, the lack of it. When I was a senior in high school (’96) our library got its first computer with Internet. At home, the same happened. But in its infancy, PCs with Internet connection weren’t that alluring, so I had to find entertainment elsewhere.
The problems my friends and I faced were classic: boundless energy, lack of supervision, devil-may-care attitudes and “stupid creativity”. I use that term because had we channeled our energy into anything positive, who knows what we could have achieved? Instead, we were all fortunate to simply maintain our lives, but not without scars and not without stories.
Like the one time we jumped off the ledges at this local abandoned quarry:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYDhnOnA_s8 (this is not us, but the location).
My friend jumped, but for some reason believed in cartoon physics–that if she just stepped back she’d defy gravity. Instead, she belly flopped from that height, came up, gasped for air, and went right back under.
I was a lifeguard, so I swam under and rescued her, dragging her to the ledge where she vomited a gallon of water.
We kept jumping.

And that is one of the tamest events on my resume.
These times provided me–to a degree–the psychological backdrop for my characters within Dare Me. I was once young and invincible, but I also wanted to push the limit, to eradicate the fear every teenager has. I failed and I succeeded. Fear is intrepid like that.
Today, my students have these same stories, but they also have the Internet. For them the same problems as my friends apply, but now they have guidance on their stupidly creative endeavors. It comes in the form of Jackass (and all the offshoots like it), as well as Tosh.O (and all the impersonators) and viral videos of teenagers doing what we’ve come to accept as “teenage” things.
Except they’re not. I was fueled by death-defying stupidity and a lot of these kids are as well, but in addition is a desire for fame or infamy, whichever brings in the most money. I believe that is a trickle-down effect of youth chasing the goals of adults.
However, if I possessed a smartphone and YouTube then, the chances of you having seen me injured, or worse, are pretty high. Because when money is a real potential, your audience is vast and they chime in looking for more–albeit from the comfort of the keyboard–something in the teen brain screams, “All right, let’s do this!” I would have been no exception.
This is why Dare Me moves away form being solely a story about “teens doing stupid dares, which they post online” to a commentary about how our youth have become pawns in this culture that seeks entertainment at whatever the cost.
When I first envisioned Dare Me, the bulk was about the dares. Which ones should I choose? Would they be intense enough? Would someone copy them?
I then moved into wondering about the implications of such a story. What message was I going to send? Certainly I wasn’t intending to offer a pass for such behavior, but how to express that without preaching, without being a hypocrite? That became the real challenge.
It’s one I believe I have executed. As a reader wrote to me, “This story is analogous to a fireworks display that builds to a grand finale, but leaves you in suspense as to the aftermath.” It is in that aftermath, as is so often the case when dares go wrong, that the lesson is learned. No one needs to come onstage and say anything, the consequences are so evident.
That is the purpose of Dare Me, to provide a safe, voyeuristic look into the lives of teens who are willing to risk it all, not only to watch them do so, but to examine why, and at what cost. Because there is always a cost, and often it far outweighs the sought after gain. Which is why the dedication for my novel is as follows:
For those with the will to dare and the courage to accept the consequences
I’ve accepted what I have done and respect whatever force has kept me here, if only so I can continue to exist with the frame of mind: that could be me, and to then tell the story, so the brutality of firsthand knowledge isn’t a requirement of learning.
P.S. This is the bridge high above the waters within the quarry. A glance at my cover should be enough to connect the dots, but reading the second dare within Dare Me will solidify it.
Eric Devine is a teacher and author of the new young adult novel Tap Out, published by Running Press Kids.  You can read more about it at his webpage or at Goodreads. Tap Out by Eric Devine is in stores now.  Dare Me will be released in October of 2013, also by Running Press Teens.  Eric Devine is also the author of one of my favorite guest posts where he discusses boys and reading
Dare Me on Goodreads: “When Ben Candido and his friends, Ricky and John, decide to post a YouTube video of themselves surfing on top of a car, they finally feel like the somebodies they are meant to be instead of the social nobodies that they are. Overnight, the video becomes the talk of the school, and the boys are sure that their self-appointed senior year of dares will live in infamy. Every dare brings an increased risk of bodily harm, but Ben cannot deny the thrill and sense of swagger that come with it. The stakes become even more complex when a mysterious donor bankrolls their dares in exchange for a cut in the online revenue the videos generate. But at what point do the risk and the reward come at too high of a price? What does it take to stay true to one’s self in the face of relentless pressure.”

Cover Reveal! And Chapter 1 of Dare Me, by Eric Devine


In 2012, author Eric Devine wrote an awesome post here at TLT called Show Me How to Live, a recap of a discussion he had with the boys in his class about whether or not they liked to read YA lit, and why.  With this post, he forever cemented himself as an honorary TLT.  Plus, he wrote a great zombie metaphor.  Today, we are excited to present reveal the cover of his forthcoming title: Dare Me.  You can see it and read the first chapter after the jump.
Synopsis: When Ben Candido and his friends, Ricky and John, decide to post a YouTube video of themselves surfing on top of a car, they finally feel like the somebodies they are meant to be instead of the social nobodies that they are. Overnight, the video becomes the talk of the school, and the boys are sure that their self-appointed senior year of dares will live in infamy. Every dare brings an increased risk of bodily harm, but Ben cannot deny the thrill and sense of swagger that come with it. The stakes become even more complex when a mysterious donor bankrolls their dares in exchange for a cut in the online revenue the videos generate. But at what point do the risk and the reward come at too high of a price? What does it take to stay true to one’s self in the face of relentless pressure.

 

Dare Me by Eric Devine
Publishes October 2013 from Running Press Kids
ISBN: 978-0762450152
Chapter 1
There is no doubt that one of us will die. I’m not hoping for it, just considering the probability: three of us, ten stunts, each “death defying.” At least that’s the plan: spend senior year completing one dare a month. Why? So we’re legends by the end.
Ricky’s driving and he looks at me, rocks his head to the music blaring, and says, “Ready, Ben?”
As if there’s any answer I can give but yes. I know how it works. He looks in the rearview. “John, ready?”
John gives a thumbs up and gets the camera into position. “On you, Ben.” He slides out of the rear window.
I turn and look. Nothing but cornstalks and pavement, blue sky and puffy white clouds. Perfection. I focus on that image and the stillness, the quiet. If I don’t, I’ll chicken out. My mind’s already filling with scenarios for how this will end badly. But school starts tomorrow, and I agreed to this, however it goes.
I pull the ski mask over my face and slide out the window.
The wind whips even though Ricky’s only going like 30 miles per hour. I can’t hear what John’s saying. His mouth’s moving, but it’s like being in a dream, all background noise, nothing real. He jacks his thumb into the air, an obvious sign for me to get on the roof. I take a deep breath, steady my elbows and push myself up.
My feet tingle and my heart hammers, but I keep going. I grab the roof rack and pull and am flat on top. The wind pours over me now, but the space around my face is calm. Unreal.
“Let’s do it.” John’s words are faint, but they’re enough to propel me. I grip the rack and slide my feet beneath me. Ten seconds. All I have to do is stay on my feet and count.
I stand but wobble and have to sit back down on my heels. Shit, maybe I can’t do this. No matter how much I convince myself. I look over at John for help, forgetting that the camera is on me. There’s nothing he can do. This is all mine. I’d love nothing more than to crawl right back in the window, but it would be on film, and Ricky would never let me hear the end of it. Just like before.
I’ve decided that’s not what I want, so I swallow, take another breath and ease my way up.
I rock again, but only slightly. John raps on the roof to let Ricky know I’m up and Ricky lets out a scream. I spread my arms and yell along with him because this is fucking insane. The road stretches before me, and one false move and I’m part of it. But Ricky’s smooth and it’s like I’m on a skateboard without the rumble beneath my feet.
A car comes from the other direction and Ricky honks. The driver looks up and sees me and I look down at him and for a second our eyes meet. In his, pure panic. His mouth is dropped and his skin is paper-white. But then he’s gone and my heart is racing and it’s been ten seconds. I let out one more scream and tuck back to the roof rack.
John smacks the car again to let Ricky know I’m done and I hear muffled cheering from within. I smile. It’s big and hurts my cheeks and my eyes water from the wind, but this is the most alive I’ve felt in forever, exactly like Ricky said we would. One dare down, nine to go.
Eric Devine is a teacher and author of the new young adult novel Tap Out, published by Running Press Kids.  You can read more about it at his webpage or at Goodreads.  Tap Out is the contemporary story of 17-year-old Tony, growing up in a trailer park where a string of abusive men come in and out of his and his mother’s life.  Tony may have found a way out when he joins a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) class, but there are so many elements – including local gangs – that can be hard to escape in the neighborhood.  The Mr. read Tap Out and gave it a thumbs up.  It is gritty and raw and real, but so our the lives that some of our teens are living.  The language can be rough, but it reflects the environment that Tony is growing up in.  For some teens, they will see themselves reflected in this book.  For others, they will get a glimpse into a life that can’t imagine but is sadly all to real for some of our teenage boys.  Tap Out by Eric Devine is in stores now (ISBN 9780762445691).