Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

To Take a Dare is the disturbing yet inspiring story of a young girl who runs away from home at the age of thirteen. Chrysta is a bookish and an only child; her mother eats obsessively and will not leave the house, and her father refuses to address the situation, maintaining the family in an uneasy coexistence. Chrysta endures her strange home life until she suddenly undergoes a rapid physical development and appears to be much older and more sexually mature than her thirteen years. Unable to deal with Chrysta’s development, Mr. Perretti withdraws even further from the family. Alone and confused, Chrysta falls in with a crowd that experiments with drugs, alcohol, and sex. When her father finds out that Chrysta has contracted gonorrhea, his hatred and anger become so intolerable that Chrysta finally runs away.

After spending a few years on the road, Chrysta decides to settle down in a small Arkansas town and make a new start in life. Although she is still an underage runaway, she easily passes as a young woman in her twenties and gets a job as a cook at the General Palace’s Hotel in Excelsior Springs, Arkansas. At first, Chrysta simply works and keeps to herself, but as she gets to know the town’s kind inhabitants, Excelsior Springs begins to feel like home.

Many people come into Chrysta’s life, and all have a profound effect on her. She meets a twelve-year-old boy named Dare Wilkie whose father has essentially abandoned him,...

(The entire section is 509 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Chrysta's story begins in Benton, Illinois, where she is an unusual twelve year old. Her well developed body causes problems at school and...

(The entire section is 134 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The first-person narration of Chrysta adds to the novel's attractiveness. Her changing attitudes are easy to follow, and her interpretation...

(The entire section is 85 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The very qualities which probably attract young readers to this book may cause an instructor or parent to pause before recommending it. The...

(The entire section is 571 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Throughout the book, Chrysta chooses several methods to confront her problems. Name a few and discuss their success or failure.


(The entire section is 130 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Discuss the appropriateness of the book's title, its double meaning, and apply it to several different events in the story.


(The entire section is 157 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Chevalier, Tracy, ed. Twentieth-Century Children's Writers. Chicago: St. James Press, 1989. A short biography of Zindel, mentioning...

(The entire section is 93 words.)