Review: 21 Dares

By JC Gatllin

Available on: Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


Blurb: Abbie Reed is about to turn twenty one and her childhood best friend decides to throw her a surprise party. Too bad it turns deadly while she’s in Ybor City.

Trigger Warnings:

Badly Written Women, Blood, Bullying, Child Abuse, Death, Drug Use (Illicit), Drug Use (Non-Consensual), Food, Gore, Gun Violence, Mental Illness, Murder, Plot Holes the Size of a Canadian Province, Poor Coping Mechanisms, Violence, Violent Imagery

Body Count: 6

The Specs:

  • Genre
    • Technical Genre: Suspense, Teen & Young Adult, Mysteries
    • Theo Genre: Murder Mystery, Madcap, Teen & Young Adult, Mystery Thriller & Suspense
  • Page count: 270 pages/1,254 KB on EBook
  • POV: Limited 3rd
  • Publication information:
    • Paperback page count: 270
    • Publisher: Blurb Publishing
    • Language:  English
    • ASIN: B01K35RZP4

Other Fun Stuff:

To Read or Not To Read (Again):

No, thank you.

Rating out of five: 1.0 out of 5

Representation, Morality, and Sexism Tests:

  • Bechdel–Wallace Test
    • Purpose: to establish actual female characters that act independently of male characters in a story.
      • Do two female characters talk about something other than a male character? Yes
    • Pass or Fail: Pass
  • DuVernay Test:
    • Purpose: to establish characters of color in a story.
      • Are there fully actualized characters of color? No
    • Pass or Fail: Fail
  • Ellen Willis Test:
    • Purpose: to show balance in characters regardless of gender.
      • Would two related characters still work to carry the story if their genders were reversed? Yes
    • Pass or Fail: Pass
  • Hays Code Test:
    • Purpose: to ignore outdated and queer-degrading/punishing standards that once were the standard for produced mass media.
    • Part One: outdated moral guidelines
      • Are there any outdated “moral content” rules gloriously kicked in the teeth by this story? No
      • Are there people of color allowed a happy ending? No
      • Is there an interracial couple? Yes
      • Is there profanity used at all? Yes
      • Is there one or more homicidal acts and/or murder? Yes.
    • Part Two: queer representation
      • Are there queer characters that get a happy ending? No.
      • Is there an illegal or otherwise distasteful age gap between characters, queer or otherwise? No
      • Do the queer characters die tragically, violently, or at all? No
    • Pass or Fail: Fail
  • Mako Mori Test:
    • Purpose: to assure that in the story there is at least one female character independent of a male character’s story.
      • Is there a female character? Yes
      • Does she get her own arc? Yes
      • Does it do anything other than serve to support a man’s story? Yes
    • Pass or Fail: Pass
  • Sexy Lamp Test:
    • Purpose: to assure that a female character in the story serves as an active protagonist, not just a device to be used by the male main character.
      • Would the plot fall apart if the female character was replaced by a sexy looking lamp? Yes
    • Post-It Note Caveat:
      • Would the character be able to be replaced by a Sexy Lamp with a sticky note on it for information conveyance? Yes
    • Pass or Fail: Fail
  • Tauriel Test:
    • Purpose: to help support the existence of competent, independent female characters regardless of a romantic sub-plot.
      • Is there at least one woman in the story? Yes
      • Is this woman competent in her chosen occupation and not immediately shown up by a newcomer male character? Yes
      • If she has or develops a love interest during the story, either implied or explicitly stated, does she suddenly abandon her job and/or chosen path to support or pursue said love interest?  Not applicable.
    • Pass or Fail: Pass
  • Vito Russo Test:
    • Purpose: to establish more characters that are on the SAGA (Sexuality And Gender Acceptance), QTPOC (Queer and Trans People of Color) or LGBTQIAP+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual/Biromantic/Bigender, Transgender, Queer/Genderqueer, Intersex, Asexual/Aromantic/Agender, Pansexual/Panromantic, and others not listed here) spectrum.
      • Is there a character on the queer spectrum? No
      • Are they a character beyond their orientation? Not applicable.
      • Do they actually affect the plot? Not applicable.
      • Is the character something beyond a punchline? Not applicable.
    • Pass or Fail: Fail

Overall review:

I’ve read it and I’m still not quite certain I understand what I read. It’s like an absinthe-fueled romp through murder-happy co-eds with dubious reasoning. And, I mean, valid “Florida Man” style headlines would be born from this if it happened in real life but still, I question the author’s reasoning and would love to read more of their writing to follow along with the frankly bonkers writing style. I love it, even if it does come across a little like the green fairy scene from Moulin Rouge.
I genuinely feel like this was a sort of Sue Grafton moment: where the author wanted to off someone but didn’t actually want to commit murder and so wrote this bizarre romp through the Tampa Bay area.

Was it engaging?

Room for improvement

Review format updated 5 March 2019

2 thoughts on “Review: 21 Dares

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