Review: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
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)
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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⚠️ 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
Have you read The Cheerleaders yet? If so, what did you think? What other contemporary mystery/thrillers would you recommend I read?
Let’s go on another adventure together!