A family’s social environment greatly affects the development of each and every member within the family. In Katie McGarry’s novel, Dare You To, the protagonists, Ryan Stone and Beth Risk, come from very dysfunctional families and have a very problematic home life. Beth is the type of person that refuses to allow anyone get too close to her because she has severe trust issues. Which is understandable, taking into consideration, her mother put her in foster care and abandoned her at a very young age. And yet, Beth still feels obligated to care for her mother, even though that means risking her well being to do so. While Ryan puts on a façade as the town’s golden boy, when in reality he’s living a life that does not satisfy him. He would do anything and everything in his power to please his parents. These are factors affecting how Beth and Ryan interact with their peers, the activities they become involved in and their overall behaviour. Depicting how one’s family life can change who they are as a person and whom they choose become.
One’s behaviour is prominently affected by their surrounding environments and the people they socialize with. After being put into foster care at the age of eight, Beth is forced to transform her delicate little blonde self into a rough and tough gothic skater girl in order to make it through life without being picked on because being the target of a bully would be the least of her problems. Throughout the novel Beth is portrayed as a very mean and hard-core girl. “She’s small. Smaller than I expected. That attitude is so big I hadn’t noticed her height or size.” (McGarry 15) At Ryan and Beth’s first encounter, Beth makes a statement the moment she walks through the doors of the restaurant. Her tight clothing, black hair and her attitude are her red flags that signify she is not a girl to be messed with and Ryan almost immediately gets that message. But that hard-core girl Beth tries to make herself is just her coping mechanism. “I walk with my head high, shoulders squared. I’m better than them. No matter the whispers and taunts they throw out. Fuck them. Fuck them all.” (McGarry 24) When Beth goes to the bar to take her drunken mother home, she is forced to encounter some crude and disgusting men on her way. Beth believes her tough façade is the only way she can get out of such situations without being taken advantage of. She does not want to be dependant on anyone in the fear that she will be abandoned again. So being tough and feared is the only way she can take care of herself.
The way one interacts with others can be easily traced back to the manners and etiquette they picked up or were taught as children, if they were taught at all. “I’m used to meetings and introductions. Because Dad owns his own company and has a seat on the city council, he’s placed a lot of importance on image,” (McGarry 38) says Golden Boy, Ryan, as he was taught manners and etiquette at a young age because his family is very involved in the community which means he needs to maintain a good reputation in order to keep up with his family’s image. Although Ryan’s family manages to maintain a good reputation in the community, it does not mean they have a functional and happy family. In fact, Ryan’s older brother, Mark was kicked out of the house for admitting he was gay. This affected Ryan tremendously. He was forced to keep his family troubles to himself in order to maintain the family’s image. Not being able to talk about being abandoned by the only person he could relate to and look up to was hard on him. Because of this, Ryan’s parents are over-baring and have much higher expectations. But how much more perfect can they expect him to be? They left absolutely no room for failure, and this puts a lot of excess pressure on Ryan. “How many more of us are faking the facade? How many more of us are pretending to be something we’re not? Even better, how many of us will have the courage to be ourselves regardless of what others think?” (McGarry 333) He focuses all his energy on being the perfect son and becomes completely subconscious of what others think because of his parents. He is the captain of the baseball team, with a scholarship at his fingertips, has the captain of the cheerleading squad as his girlfriend and outstanding grades. However, it is not until he meets Beth, that he realizes he has a different idea of “perfect”. Beth convinces Ryan to reunite with his brother Mark, who also inspires Ryan to be his own person. One must understand that their parents only want the best for them, but that does not mean one should sacrifice their life in order to please their parents.
One’s communication skills and the way they interact with others say a lot about who they are and how they grew up. Beth had a hard life, resulting in her hard-core personality. “Emotions are evil. People who make me feel are worse. I take comfort in the stone inside of me. If I don’t feel, I don’t hurt.” (McGarry 414) Because of the dangerous environment she lived in, she needs to make sure everyone knows she should not be messed with, she refuses to express her emotions because she thinks it will make her vulnerable. As mentioned in a previous quote, Beth is not exactly the biggest, most intimidating girl. It is her attitude that gives her a little security. But when her uncle takes custody over her and she is forced to live in a new community, in a much safer environment, she does not know how to cope. When Beth is told to participate in a trust exercise in her gym class, she gets to a point where she can not control her emotions, she screams at her group members.“… Was your plan to make me believe I could trust you and then drop me so everyone can laugh?” (McGarry 131) She subconsciously started a rant saying that by putting her trust in someone the only result will be her being humiliated. It happened to her too many times for her to be able to trust again so easily. And it is extra difficult for her, because everyone in her school and community are very nice to her and she does not know how to react to all that kindness.
As the settings changed in the novel, the characters and the atmosphere of the novel changed. People who loved her and would never hurt her, surrounded Beth and it brought back the sensitive side in her. She left behind her old life, instead of constantly looking after her careless mother and began to focus on herself. She finally begins to put her trust in her Uncle Scott, who truly wants the best for her. While, Ryan allowed his brother back into his life, and surrounded himself with people that encouraged him to pursue his dreams. By the end of the novel, both protagonists begin to make amends with families and it changes their lives for the better. They become the people they have always wanted to be. Beth could trust again and Ryan stood up for his true passions.