The Cheerleaders

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Jul 2018

Member Reviews

Oh my goodness!  The Cheerleaders is FIRE!  There are multiple stories contained within, taking the reader from past to present.  There are red herrings throughout, so the reader cannot really solve the murders.  Two cheerleaders die in a car accident on a rainy road.  Two cheerleaders are murdered by the man next door, who is then killed in a police action shooting.  A fifth cheerleader commits suicide.  Or did she?  How are the deaths of these five related?  ARE they related?  I am so appreciative to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to be an early reader in exchange for my fair and honest review.  This one is fantastic!
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Review trigger warning: statutory rape, pedophilia mention, abortion mention 

Arguably my largest pet peeve when it comes to reading is when a book seems awesome but then it decides to do you wrong and include unchallenged problematic crap.

This book was amazing for the first 75 percent. Maybe a tad heteronormative, but a person can forgive. The writing style was compelling and easy-to-follow, the characters were three-dimensional and relatable, and the mystery was original and had me at the edge of my seat. It was gritty, dark, and dealt with real issues. 

and then it had to go on and rUIN IT and it makes me so angry because this book would have been so perfect 

six words: statutory rape. victim blaming. pedophilia culture. 

In The Cheerleaders, the main character, Monica, had a summer fling with a guy in his mid-twenties, and Monica gets pregnant. The book begins right after she has an abortion, and it’s causing her a lot of physical and emotional grief and trauma. The guy is a capital-D Douchebag.

There’s a conversation between Monica and him that goes like this:”’This is a really bad idea,’ [he says].
‘I know… I know. I’m sorry.’ [sic]
‘What made you do it?’ he asks. ‘What you did. With me.’ [sic]
‘Because I was sad.’
[He] puts his head in his hands.
‘I’m sorry,’ I say. ‘Why did you do it?’
‘Because I liked you.’ [He] laughs. ‘And I told myself that you looked older, and you acted older, so it wasn’t as wrong.’
‘But now you do think it was wrong.’
‘I don’t know. It just feels like you used me to avoid your problems.’
My throat tightens. He’s right – I knew what we were doing was wrong, and I didn’t care.” now hold on just one dang second. 

excuse me? EXCUSE ME???!!?!?!?

can someone please explain to me how this situation is in any way Monica’s fault?? why tf is she apologizing?? she is sixteen!! the guy is twenty-freaking-seven. he got her PREGNANT, for pete’s sake. He is over here acting like this whole situation is Monica’s fault,,,, and she (and the narration) are going along with it,,,,, when,,, it really isn’t her fault,,,, and victim-blaming pisses me off to such extents I mean I was about ready to DNF right there.

but, I mean, like, I thought that this was all going to be a part of Monica’s character development, and that she would eventually grow to realize that this whole situation is not her fault, that he was an adult that took advantage of a minor. but, like, silly me thinking that character development would be a thing in a book!!! like,,, what was I thinking?  (okay and I swear that I’m not trying to take away from Monica’s character development because her arc having to do with depression and accepting her sister’s death is top-notch, but the internalized victim-blaming?? booooooo) 

There’s another quote a good 91 percent into the novel ”My pathological need for attention from guys is why I’m in this mess with [him].” I mean,,, like,,, there’s only like twenty pages left in the novel it’s getting a little too late for her to go through character development and realize it’s not her fault. Her “need for attention” isn’t at fault here because the dude is literally an adult who can make his own fricking decisions and KNEW she was a minor but still pursued a relationship and got her pregnant!!!! but what do I know?? 

All my hope was pretty much lost at this point, but then, hallelujah, the guy got outed as a pedophile at the end of the book and I was like, okay, so Monica, personally, doesn’t get rid of her own internal victim-blaming but, you know what, she’s gone through a lot and she’ll get to that point and at least everyone else realizes that this guy is a manipulative jerk, but just when I was ready to bump my rating up to three or four stars, it does this crap A G A I N”’You didn’t do anything wrong,’ Ginny’s voice is soft. ‘He used you…’
‘I used him. I was tired of being numb and I wanted to prove to myself I could feel something.’” and I’m just like jfc I can’t freaking breathe without y’all shoving this victim-blaming crap down my throat can I

And, I mean, the outward retribution just didn’t taste as sweet because at no time did the narration/Monica even begin to realize that she shouldn’t be apologizing to this guy’s manipulative, pedophile self. Until the very end, Monica is still 100 percent believing that her pregnancy and the statutory rape that happened to her was her fault and that just did not sit well with me. I didn’t like that. Instead of it making the book seem gritty with flawed characters who have gone through traumatic experiences, which is what I’m pretty sure it was going for, it perpetuated the wrongful blaming of victims of statutory rape. I’m not mad at Monica I’m mad at the book. lol.

And maybe the external arc is enough for some people, but it just wasn’t for me.

If Monica had more growth in this department, this would have honestly been a four- or even five-star read. It was that good. And that disappointing. 

Book Trigger Warnings: teen pregnancy, abortion, several non-graphic instances of throwing up, statutory rape, violence and some gore.

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for a complete and honest review. All opinions and quotes are taken from an unfinished version.
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Lets just say I am not a big murder mystery kind of reader,  but being a cheerleader the title caught my eye. Boy did I fly through this book I couldn't put it down. The characters were interesting and you could feel the mystery behind each of them. The biggest thing for any mystery is being surprised with who the antagonist is and I was super surprised and didn't see it coming. I really enjoyed how everything connected and I was left with a complete story and not any questions. This author really blew me away and I will 100% continue to read her other books.
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I think Kara Thomas may have landed on my "automatic excitement" list of authors with this one. She does conflicted, complex characters and sensible plot twists really well. 
 
(Also, an irrelevant side note: I loved the friendship and chemistry between Monica and Ginny. I kept hoping for a romance between them, but I also appreciate the lack of romance in the end.)
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So flipping good! Plenty of twists and turns and surprises that may it impossible to put down. Thomas knows how to craft a story.
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It should go without saying that I loved this book so freaking much.  Perhaps it's because I wasn't aware of what True Crime story it was based off of (it's not, is it?).  Or that it was like reading a true crime narrative, but as fiction for young adults.  It was different, but in a really good way.   (And also similar to The Darkest Corners and Little Monsters, in the same genre/same tone.)

Told through Monica's perspective, the story is a mystery.  Monica is searching for the truth of what really happened to her sister -- because she doesn't really think her sister killed herself five years ago.  Along the way, Monica makes friends with another dancer, Ginny, who definitely has Mega Web Sleuth skills happening at just 17 years old!  Monica is a great character.  She's a relatable teenager who's going through Some Shit.  (The book starts just after Monica has an abortion.) 

At 16 years old, Monica is trying to figure things out.  She's on the dance team, but doesn't really love it.  She's feeling distanced from her friend's.  She hasn't gotten over her sister's death.

Monica shows a lot of signs of grief (very realistic).  She's also definitely Growing Up.  Thomas does this well in the character, having Monica come full-circle and really show that she has grown by the end of the novel.  I loved this about the character development.

The plot -- TWISTS! -- is really strong.  Unlike when I read Little Monsters, I took my time reading this book (instead of speed reading and looking for connections to the Skylar Neese case...).  The plot kept me super interested.  It was tight, and all of the "loopholes" were cleared up by the end of the novel.  (This is also done well because, as she did with Little Monsters, Thomas has a few chapters that are from Jennifer's POV.)

I did NOT see the end coming.  In truth, I wasn't sure what to expect -- maybe just a happy resolution?  But it was a SHOCKER.  And I liked it.  What's more, even after the Truth is Revealed, Thomas has one final twist for the reader.  So, don't be like I usually am and read the last chapter first.  Seriously -- save it.  You'll thank yourself.

So, recommendation time:

I loved it.  (As if I wouldn't, KT!)  And I'm going to recommend it to everyone I know.  And then probably buy it for them so they have a copy of it to haunt them until they read it.

So.  Even though it doesn't come out until July 31...pre-order it RIGHT NOW.
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Thank you Netgalley and Random House Children’s Publishing for an arc of this book. My views are entirely my own.
Okay, let’s try this again. I wrote out a long, beautiful review yesterday, only for my computer to gobble it up. It has now disappeared into the nexus never to return again, and I doubt I will be so eloquent this time. I will try though!
Let me start by saying that this is a fantastic book! It is moving, intense, heart breaking and gripping! You won’t be able to put it down, and even when you turn the final page, you’ll wish for more. The story follows Monica, the sister of one of five cheerleaders that died in quick succession five years before the story took place and all under mysterious circumstances. Driven by a sudden urge to get to the bottom of her sister’s death, Monica begins down the rabbit hole with a nose dive, discovering secrets that would have perhaps been better buried and forgotten.
Author Kara Thomas quickly soars to one of my new must reads with her thorough and realistic examination of a teenager at the height of her high school career, and all it’s associated tribulations. Monica isn’t likable, and that is fine by me. Not only do women not have to be likable, they very rarely were in high school. Best of all? She’s also slightly a badass. I don’t want to spoil anything, but she gets whatever she wants done whenever she wants it to be done. Another character that stood out would be Monica’s departed sister, Jennifer, keenly felt through all-too-few flashbacks and the memories she left behind with Monica. Though I would have loved to see more of Jennifer, so too would Monica I’m sure, and the few glimpses into the departed cheerleader’s life were angst and heartbreak-filled enough to make the reader keenly feel the pain left in her absence. 
As for the overall mystery? Thomas deftly weaves a story that will keep you turning the pages long after the sun has set and risen again the next day. All I can say is that to, like Monica quickly learns, trust nobody you meet in this book. Just twisty and turny enough to keep the pages turning, building to a heart breaking and tremendous climax. Was the end satisfying? Was the mystery solved? Well to answer those questions would be a bit of a spoiler too! Trust me when I say that you won’t be disappointed, either way!
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