To Take a Dare is an entertaining and heartwarming story that also conveys several messages to the reader. The main theme is that people with problems eventually reach a crossroads where they either learn to take responsibility for themselves, perhaps by accepting help when they need it, or grow more hostile toward the world and reach a stage that may be beyond help. The authors drive this point home by drawing obvious parallels between Chrysta’s and Dare’s thirteenth birthdays. This was one of the most miserable days in Chrysta’s life: Her dog was hit by a car—and Chrysta suspects her mother left the gate open on purpose, letting the dog escape—and Mr. Perretti does nothing to comfort her. In shocked numbness, Chrysta loses her virginity that night, deciding that she may as well do what her father assumes she has been doing anyway. Although Chrysta does not run away from home that day, she recognizes her thirteenth birthday as a turning point when she realizes that she will have to fend for herself, without assistance from her parents. Chrysta later reaches two more turning points: first, when she stays in Excelsior Springs rather than continuing to “run,” and, second, when she accepts help from Luke and other residents of Excelsior Springs when her earlier case of gonorrhea necessitates an expensive operation.

Dare’s thirteenth birthday is as miserable as Chrysta’s. At this point, Dare has been staying with Chrysta for some time, but their relationship has been steadily declining, in part...

(The entire section is 626 words.)