So, love triangles. They’re pretty much at the top of just about everyone’s most disliked aspects of books they’ve read and shows they’ve watched, including myself. This is because love triangles are usually used as a cheap way of adding drama to a book and are thus almost always superficially explored. There’s always a girl, a good guy and a bad one. There’s always one question: who will she choose? The love triangle becomes larger than the characters, the story it’s featured in and the girl at the centre of it is lost in all the ridiculous drama. But there’s always an exception to the rule; Dangerous Boys is that one book that takes the concept of a love triangle, turning it inside out, twisting and exploring what it really means for a girl to be caught between two choices.
Like Dangerous Girls, Dangerous Boys focuses on a teenage girl. The story opens at a pivotal moment in her life before flashing back to the events that lead up to it. Chloe is one of the most brilliantly written, instantly relatable female characters I’ve ever come across. She sort of reminded me of the main character from The Bell Jar in that she is completely overwhelmed by the responsibilities heaped on her shoulders and the expectations that she has placed on herself. From a small town and a broken family, Chloe longs to get away but because of depressing reasons and deadbeat dads (Chloe’s dad, welcome to my deadbeat dad list) she finds herself as the sole earner in her house while her mother wastes away. Haas uses Chloe to discuss the immense frustrations felt by people who are forced to fit into small spaces, putting forward the question that terrifies young people: what do you do when your dreams fall through?
Chloe’s relationships with her boyfriend Ethan and his brother Oliver reveal completely different layers to her character. Chloe is by definition a ‘good girl’ – she works hard, is responsible and has her whole life planned out ahead of her until all that falls through. Ethan is the textbook good boyfriend; Haas uses him to illustrate just how frustrated Chloe is with her existence. Oliver by contrast is probably the most interesting character next to Chloe. Sexy, self-assured and moreover the only person to truly see Chloe for who she is…the way in which their relationship develops is fascinating. Oliver opens her eyes and in many ways shapes the person she becomes towards the end of the novel. The love triangle in this story is a way for Haas to explore the complexities of human nature, the influences that certain people can have on a person’s psyche; this novel is in many ways about sociopathy, manipulation and sexual desire.
This is a very dark, unsettling and layered novel. Haas, as with her other book, wants us to envision girls as dangerous creatures and she does this by exploring societal pressure, sexual desires, the dark places in a girl’s mind, and putting that all together in a novel that builds to an ultimately shocking yet incredibly satisfying crescendo is no small feat. Abigail Haas is AMAZING and I find myself waiting eagerly for her next story.