Review: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

(Last Updated On: February 18, 2020)

Kara Thomas’ contemporary mystery The Cheerleaders didn’t disappoint – I was left guessing until the very end!

About the Book

Publisher: Delacorte Press  |  Release Date: July 31, 2018  |  Pages: 384
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery  |  Format: Hardcover  |  Source: Purchased (Owned TBR)

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas coverThere are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.

First there was the car accident—two girls gone after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know why he did it. Monica’s sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they lost.

That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it’s not that easy. She just wants to forget. Only, Monica’s world is starting to unravel. There are the letters in her stepdad’s desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school. . . . Whatever happened five years ago isn’t over. Some people in town know more than they’re saying. And somehow Monica is at the center of it all.

There are no more cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, but that doesn’t mean anyone else is safe.

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My Review

⚠️  This is a heavy book that deals with some difficult topics, so please be sure to read my content warnings at the end of my review and make sure you are in the right place before picking this one up.

I went into The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas with no expectations and let me tell you, I was in for a wild ride! I devoured this book in less than 24 hours over the course of two sittings *shakes fist at needing sleep* and my mind ceased to function when I finished it.

“Some people say a curse fell over our town five years ago. What else could explain the tragic deaths of five girls, in three separate incidents, in less than two months?”

Our main character is 17-years-old Monica, the younger sister of one of the cheerleaders who died. Life in the town has, for the most part, moved on as much as one can after a tragedy of this magnitude in a small town. Monica thought the deaths were too close to be unrelated and never believed that her sister committed suicide, and when she finds notes and Jennifer’s cellphone in her stepfather’s desk, she decides to investigate what really happened.

“I know it wasn’t him. Connect the dots.”

The Cheerleaders is an intricately plotted mystery that kept me guessing until the very end. I caught onto what happened like a page before Monica figured it out and it was so satisfying to connect the dots with all the breadcrumbs. I think that Thomas did an excellent job with the narrative and how our minds try to fill in gaps. Monica’s perspective shows her preconceived notions and how she views everyone so well. The snippets learned through the investigation only muddy the water and made me question literally everyone. But by the end, you will know what really happened to Jennifer and her friends five years ago.

“If you look hard enough, you’ll probably find something that makes you wish you hadn’t.”

Up until the ending, this was a 3.5-4 star read for me because the characters just didn’t feel fully fleshed out to me. The investigation definitely is what drives the plot forward and got its hooks into me; the characters felt paper-thin. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is a different kind of reading experience than say Sadie where I was invested because of the characters and needed them to be okay. The last 50 or so pages and the ending are what made this a 5-star read for me.

“Pain isn’t supposed to teach you anything. It only exists to hurt you.”

And then this book went and made me cry by the end of it, so insidious was my adoration for the characters and story that I didn’t feel it creeping up on me. While I never really felt a connection to Monica as a character, there are two side characters who are responsible for my tears. Considering the “trust no one” vibes of this book, I won’t mention who I realized I loved but feel free to DM me if you want I guess.

Overall, I was really impressed with The Cheerleaders and my copy is sitting on my shelf next to Sadie now. I was fully engrossed by this mystery and devoured the book in a day to find out what happened. This is a book with polarizing reviews. I think a big reason that I loved it is I went in without expectations. I had a vague memory from a friend’s review a year and a half ago and that’s it. I haven’t read anything else by Kara Thomas – although I will be rectifying that as soon as possible – and was just in the mood for this story.

Content warnings: abortion, child endangerment, death, depictions of grief, domestic violence, prescription drug abuse, statutory rape, suicide, thoughts of suicide
Representation: none


Have you read The Cheerleaders yet? If so, what did you think? What other contemporary mystery/thrillers would you recommend I read?

spacer_wLet’s go on another adventure together!


  1. Jas @ XIV blog

    February 18, 2020 at 3:21 AM

    I recently added this one to my TBR and now after reading your review I really can’t wait to pick it up! It sounds very intense, but so good. Great review!

    1. Kal

      February 20, 2020 at 6:46 PM

      Ahh, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did – it really surprised me!

  2. Tasya @ The Literary Huntress

    February 18, 2020 at 7:58 AM

    I have this one on my TBR because it seems like a great mystery read- I didn’t expect it to have a much deeper and darker theme from your trigger warning! It seems like a great mystery, plot-driven story.

    1. Kal

      February 20, 2020 at 6:47 PM

      Yea I wasn’t expecting the themes either, but thankfully I was in a good place when I picked the book up. I just love how everything came together at the end, and hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

  3. Veronika @ Wordy and Whimsical

    February 22, 2020 at 11:30 AM

    I loved Little Monsters by Kara Thomas (definitely recommended if you haven’t read it yet!), so I’ve been wanting to read The Cheerleaders for a while. While it’s sad that the characters didn’t feel fully fleshed out throughout most of the book, the mystery sounds wonderful – I love when I’m able to figure things out together with the MC. I mostly read adult mysteries, so that’s all I can recommend – Simone St. James and Riley Sager are two authors I love, all their books were super-enjoyable.
    Great review! 🙂

    1. Kal

      April 6, 2020 at 10:25 AM

      I’ve heard such good things about Little Monsters, so it is definitely on my list! From a few reviews I’ve seen from people who have read both, LM is perceived to be better, so I guess my reading order is good in terms of the Hype Brain. I’ve read some Riley Sager and enjoyed those books! If you haven’t read The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle yet, that’s a Memento-inspired mindf*ck of a mystery that I loved. Thanks for your comment & recommendations!

  4. em/zainab

    February 23, 2020 at 3:35 AM

    great review, kal! i don’t really read mystery books, but you have me considering reading this one 💗

    1. Kal

      April 6, 2020 at 10:28 AM

      Thank you so much, Em!

  5. Krisha

    February 24, 2020 at 9:20 AM

    Ah this sounds like such a great book! I haven’t read a good mystery in a while so definitely would love to try this out! Great review, Kal💛

    1. Kal

      April 6, 2020 at 10:29 AM

      Thanks so much, Krisha, and I hope you enjoy this one if you do pick it up! Mysteries are what my brain is craving these days…

  6. Haley

    February 25, 2020 at 2:15 AM

    You make this sound so interesting! I have to admit I don’t think I would have given it a look really if you hadn’t reviewed it, so thank you as always for your amazing reviews. I’m going to see if my library has it! I can’t help but be a sucker for mysteries anyway lol

    1. Kal

      April 6, 2020 at 10:35 AM

      Yea, I passed this book over when it first came out because the cover just gave me the wrong impression. Thank you for your compliment, and I hope you are able to read & love this one!

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