Critical Context

To Take a Dare is a frank, honest examination of circumstances that can lead a teenager to run away from home. Chrysta, Dare, and Lissa have all suffered parental abuse of some form, whether physical, emotional, or mental, yet they all deal with their problems in different ways. When first published, this novel was one of a growing number of works that attempted to address serious issues, some of which had been considered “inappropriate” for young readers, instead of merely trying to entertain. It is similar in content to Norma Klein’s novels, particularly It’s OK If You Don’t Love Me (1978), which portrays teenagers as sexual beings, struggling with their new identities while dealing with divorce and their parents’ own insecurities.

Although Crescent Dragonwagon had published several children’s picture books, this was her first young adult novel. Paul Zindel, on the other hand, had written many young adult novels dealing with subjects such as teenage pregnancy and parental pressure to succeed. Although these books are also well written, the added talents of Dragonwagon give To Take a Dare a somewhat softer style and more sympathetic characters. In addition, by writing from her own surroundings in a small town in the Ozarks of Arkansas, Dragonwagon has created a vivid and memorable setting for this novel.