The Cheerleaders

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Jul 2018

Member Reviews

Originally posted on Forever Young Adult on 2018 July 31

BOOK REPORT for The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

Cover Story: Something Rotten
BFF Charm: Let Me Love You
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talk: What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate
Bonus Factor: Teen Horror
Relationship Status: ID Network Binge Buddy

Cover Story: Something Rotten

I love a good blood-spattered cover, and nothing says “teen horror” like this one. When you think of classic high school clichés, cheerleaders and jocks are always at the top of the list. Add a little blood, and you’ve got an eye-catching design that takes me straight back to my days of devouring Christopher Pike, Richie Tankersley Cusick, and Lois Duncan books.

The Deal:

Five years ago, Monica’s older sister was the last of five cheerleaders to die a sudden and horrific death. The tragedies were so shocking that Sunnybrook High no longer has a cheerleading squad, to escape the reminders of the girls they’d lost.

Something doesn’t add up, though. Monica has the distinct sense that people know far more than they’re saying—including her own stepfather, a police officer, and her new friend, Ginny, who knew Monica’s sister. When she starts digging, pieces of the puzzle surface: old letters, mysterious texts, a long-dead cell phone. Every fiber of Monica’s being is screaming that there’s more to the story, but she seems to be the only one who cares…except for, perhaps, the killer themselves.                                                       

Trigger Warning: This book contains incidences of statutory rape, abortion, murder, suicide, and references to school shootings. (Christopher Pike has nothing on Kara Thomas.)

BFF Charm: Let Me Love You

Oh, Monica, you have had a rough go of it. Losing a sister—and all of her friends—would be horrible under the most benign circumstances, but not having any answers had led Monica to indulge in some seriously self-destructive behavior. I just wanted to give her a hug, make her go to therapy, talk about her sister’s memory, and help her apply to colleges. Does she do ridiculous, impulsive things that would make any parent of a sixteen-year-old choke on their coffee? Oh, yes. But she also comes from a place of being the “baby of the family,” who never got any sort of satisfying resolution to one of the most traumatic experiences a person can deal with, and I can understand that.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

There aren’t any sexy bits in this book, which is both good (that seems exploitative for such a dark story), and bad (sometimes you just want a hot makeout session in between learning gruesome details about teenage girls being murdered. I mean, I personally don’t, but I wanted Monica to put her face on a nice and respectful partner’s face, just for a break in her horror-show life).

Talky Talk: What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

Every self-destructive behavior that Monica exhibits is a direct result of her parents’ failure to give her some answers. Aside from the plot, which was like watching a well-written version of an ID Network show (that’s a good thing!), it’s such an interesting look at how adults think teenagers can handle horrible truths. (They’re at risk of getting brutally murdered every time they step into school and they know it; I think you owe your kid some answers about a major town tragedy which directly affected your family.) I know I’m not the only one who felt as a teen that the grown-ups were shielding me from the truth, and Monica’s frustration fairly leapt off the page.

Bonus Factor: Teen Horror

I don’t know why I love true crime, fictional horror books, Law & Order, and the ID Network. It’s morbid to plumb the depths of what human beings will do to each other, but then again, we live in an often-dark world. Books like this one are not only entertaining, but they also provide a safe way to explore some serious themes. I’ve been craving some good teen horror ever since I was grossed-out and delighted by Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, and The Cheerleaders makes me want even more.

Relationship Status: ID Network Binge Buddy

Book, our date kept me guessing the entire time, and when I finally got the answers I’d been — sorry —dying for, I couldn’t decide how I felt about them. In fact, I thought about you long after our date had ended. You stand out among your peers on the shelf, with your crisp writing and your depths of human darkness. I haven’t been on a date with a body count like this in quite a while…and now I’m hooked.
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So good! Kept me hooked all the way through. Perfectly paced, and unpredictable with bombs dropping until the very end. I wish we could have learned more about Jen's struggle in the end, but everything else wrapped up nicely.
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Rating: 3.5/3.75 While this book was definitely more of a mystery than a thriller I still overall enjoyed it. Its Kept my attention throughout with the pacing and was such a quick read for me. While the reveal at the end wasn't mind blowing it was satisfying in the "I knew it" kind of way. Honestly, there wasn't anything seriously unique about this story, I did appreciate the characters and how how smart their decisions were. There was no "I'm gonna keep this info to myself even though someone could probably help me" or "Yes, I think I will meet this random guy who is suspected as an unstable person by myself b/c he has info that may or may not be true." I also Loved the relationship between Tom and Monica. It was refreshing to see an actually health relationship b/t a parent and teenager. Overall, it was the perfect book to get me out of a book slump. 


I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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"Everyone goes through shit, and there's always someone somewhere who has it worse. It doesn't make what you're feeling any less real or any less shitty."


Reading The Cheerleaders made me both excited and scared at the same time. I mean, hello, a book about cheerleaders suddenly found dead days within each other? Anyway, safe to say, this book did not disappoint.

🎀 The heroine? Raw and honest. She's not always very likable, but that's okay. She's lost; she feels like everything's falling apart, and that no one has her back. But she's also driven, and determined, and won't stop at nothing to find out the truth.

🎀 The family dynamics? Realistic. We have a few flashback scenes from her sister Jennifer's POV, where we find out that they didn't always get along--they annoyed each other constantly, like any other pair of siblings. They both love and are loved by their mother, who is genuine and caring. They also have a step-dad, who, unlike step-parents in YA, is involved and protective.

🎀 The friendships? Truthful. Monica didn't want her friends to be involved in her search for her sister's murderer, to the point where she felt herself drifting apart from them. In fact, she felt more comfortable talking to her colleague, Ginny, with whom she forms a new friendship with. Ginny's sweet and soft, and we get why Monica opened up to her so quickly.

🎀 The writing? Easy to get into. Take note that I'm not as big of a thriller reader as others might be, but I found Thomas's writing to be really smooth and natural. It kept me turning pages, never needing to stop in confusion (or, like in some other cases, irritation).

🎀 The most important thing? You'll be kept at the edge of your freaking seat. I promise! You won't know who to trust. Who's innocent and should be handled with love and care? Who's the cold-blooded murderer you need to stab with a thousand pitchforks? Take a good guess--you could be on point, or you could be dead wrong.
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The Cheerleaders plays a heavy hand when it comes to hard stuff to deal with.  Monica, the  main character, goes through a bunch of emotional and physical trauma while trying to figure out the why’s of her sister’s death.  It’s a dark book, and sometimes a little difficult to swallow.

As with many teen fiction books, expect to be taken for a walk around the block a few times.  It bugs me when details or conversations are rehashed, and that happens pretty often in The Cheerleaders.  Still, there are enough twists and surprises to draw out the suspense.

With an absent sister-bond like that of Love Letters to the Dead and the gritty drama that reminds me of a Riley Sager novel, this powerful story is the kind I would have loved as a teenager!
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2.5 stars?

This book looked to have everything I could have ever wanted, even down to the blood spatter on the cover. Sadly, I’m wondering if 2.5 stars is too high.

I think I liked Monica. She’s got a lot of things going on and I could understand why she was doing they things she did. I mean, not all of them, of course. There were a lot a lot of characters here, but the only one I really liked was Ginny.

Plot wise, I was intrigued. I was hoping there would be more tension, but the slow reveals were satisfying. The problem is that I just felt so indifferent about the story. I had read halfway and then skipped to the end and I was interested, but I struggled to read how we got there. There are a lot of topics sort of mentioned {statutory rape, abortion, victim blaming}, but they were all glossed over. Nothing was ever actually addressed and that bothered me. 

Overall, I loved the premise, but the execution wasn’t for me.

**Huge thanks to Delacorte Press for providing the arc free of charge**
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3.9 - a little convoluted and confusing, but entertaining overall; somewhat disappointed in the ending as it related to Monica's sister
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Based on the title and description I went in expecting some sort of darkly comic story, but alas -  no vampires or dark humor or mysterious curses against cheerleaders to be found in this story.

The Cheerleaders was actually quite a straightforward mystery about Monica, a girl trying to get to the bottom of her sister’s suicide five years earlier, which she begins to think is connected to the deaths of four other Sunnybrook cheerleaders.

So Monica starts poking around her police officer stepfather’s office. She starts talking to her sister’s friends and frenemies. She spends less time with her own friends and makes some new ones, kids she never would have given a second glance before. She basically carries out the investigation that the police should have.

I thought Thomas’s other books (Darkest Corners and Little Monsters) did a slightly better job evoking small town menace. Sunnydale turned out to be a bland suburb in Westchester. And since these deaths were all in the past the tension was not as high as it could have been. What this story did really well was present a lot of possible suspects and keep me guessing. I had a feeling about where the story was going and I was (mostly) right, but I was never sure until the very end.

Definitely check this out if you’re a mystery fan like I am!
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Years ago the town of Sunnybrook was shaken up by the untimely death of five HS cheerleaders from the same squad within weeks from each other.
Now a junior in HS, the sister of the girl who committed suicide, is desperate to find answers and determine whether or not the deaths were related and if there’s more to them than an accident, an open and shut murder case and an isolated suicide.
This was my first read by the author and a really nice one.  I liked the storyline, the whole murder mystery led by a 16 year-old somehow mirroring her sister’s last months of life and was enthralled by Monica and Ginnie’s relentless pursue of the truth.  I enjoyed the way the author depicted Monica’s struggle with her own coming of age while dealing with her sister’s death and the aftermath that looms over the town even five years after the incidents.
Bottom line, if you like YA and a little mystery in your reading, you are bound to enjoy reading about The Cheerleaders.
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This is a review of an ARC from NetGalley.

It's been five years since Sunnybrook High School got rid of its cheerleading squad. Five years since the squad lost five girls in the space of a few weeks: to car crashes, murders, and suicide. Monica's sister was one of those girls and while she'd rather just continue about her life, parts of her past keep coming back, with hints that everything was not the way it seemed.

A very well-done mystery. While it's pretty standard plotting, Thomas did a good job of twisting things up along the way. I would think I knew which way the path of the plot was leading, and then it veered off slightly - not a sharp hairpin where you can feel the author patting themselves on the back for their trick, but just enough that I went "oh huh, ok, yes it could have been THAT."

The story is told partially in flashback by Monica's sister, which did get confusing at times (I would mix up which high school girls were friends with which sister). But in general: well-thought out  mystery, high school students who generally talk and act like high school students (always a plus in YA), and writing that kept me reading to see what was going to happen.
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Before fully diving in to this book, I’ve read an excerpt first. In Monica’s voice, the book’s first line is “This house was made for someone without a soul.” It’s a pretty strong statement that I was instantly smitten and I wanna find out why Monica would say that. Looking back after I’ve finished the book, there was never really a definitive answer to my question. My best guess is that Monica is referring to herself as the “someone without a soul”. Maybe she thinks very badly of herself for opting abortion to an unwanted pregnancy with a summer fling. I can only make conjectures for Monica because her own belief systems and personality are vaguely drawn in the book. She is merely the reader’s conduit to the unfolding of what really happened to the five cheerleaders of Sunnybrook High five years ago. She is just the designated Nancy Drew.

The inciting incident for Monica to investigate was when she accidentally discovered four anonymous mails addressed to his stepdad, sent yearly on her sister’s death anniversary. The mails contain a group photo of the five cheerleaders with a note, “Connect the dots. Find the truth.” Later, Monica found her dead sister’s old cellphone on the stepdad’s desk. Why does her stepdad has it in his keeping? Then looking through the call log, she saw an unnamed caller right before her sister died. Who was the anonymous caller? What if her sister’s suicide was a murder to cover up the deaths of the other cheerleaders? With those ominous questions in mind, Monica went off amateur sleuthing to solve the mystery.

As she starts snooping around, Monica ditched her usual popular clique, Rachel and Alexa, and befriended the quiet and reserved, Ginny. ‘Coz what’s a sleuth doing without an unassuming sidekick? You know, like Sherlock and Watson? But I digress. Ginny is actually one of my favorite parts. The one and only chapter in her PoV, which is also the last chapter of the book, is the most chilling thing in the book. It drives to an unsettling realization that, to borrow a line from another Kara Thomas book, “...at some point, every little girl grows up and gets ruined.”  The book is solid with that ending. But I have to admit that Ginny also felt like a plot device in some parts. Like when Monica just uses her as her ride to go places or to gain access to things that she needs in the investigation. I also never really felt any emotional connection in Monica’s friendship with Ginny.

Speaking of emotional connection, let’s talk about Jennifer, Monica’s dead cheerleader sister. When a book decides to play the dead sibling card to me, I try to find things that will make me care about what was lost when the sibling died. To some extent, the book delivered. After reading the chapters in Jennifer’s 3rd person PoV, I even find myself liking her more than Monica. I related to her when she saw that her friends were slowly slipping away. I felt her loneliness even as she was on the top of the high school social strata. I understood her when she was confused with her feelings for an unpopular boy. I only wished that there was more between her and Monica. The joys and pains of sibling relations are things that I enjoy reading about but they were scarce and unexplored in this book. It mentioned that they stopped being close once Jennifer started middle school and except for a scene of Monica braiding Jennifer’s hair on one of the cheerleader’s funeral, that’s that. And yet the book cared to have Jennifer being friendly with Ginny on gymnastics class. Ginny even looks up to Jennifer as her angel but I am not sure how Monica feels about Jennifer except for the obligatory grief for a dead relative.

As for Monica playing the amateur sleuth part, well it really is amateurish. Monica follows any lead she has by talking to a bunch of strangers. With these meet-ups with strangers, it’s one red herring after another red herring of who the murderer was. Halfway through, I got tired and stopped guessing about the whodunit. The reveal and confrontation happened with the real perpetrator spewing expositions about what happened the night of the murder while Monica, and then eventually Ginny beat the pulp out of the said perp. If the beating up was supposed to make the reader empowered for our sleuth and sidekick duo, then it did nothing of that sort for me.

For a book that is supposedly about teens doing detective work, the book is not so keen about details. For example, there’s a part where Monica meets up with the dead cheerleaders’ ex-coach. The ex-coach said that she’s going to order chai but then she came back to the table holding a latte. Is this an error on detail (note that I’ve read from an uncorrected proof) or the ex-coach got a last minute change of heart off the page? Okay, I’m giving that a pass and go to another example of a detail slip-up. I cry from disappointment when I noticed this upon close scrutiny because it has the potential to ruin the book’s great ending. The explanation that follows contain spoilers so I’m hiding it behind spoiler tags  In Chapter 12, Ethan McCready said that minutes before the crash, his skater friends saw Bethany Steiger and Colleen Coughlin (the cheerleaders in the car accident) in the same 7-Eleven where Ginny’s dad scored the pain pills from Brandon’s friend. That means that Bethany’s car and Ginny’s dad’s truck were both coming from the same direction, so they couldn’t have crashed from opposite lanes like it said in the last chapter in Ginny’s PoV. The last chapter explicitly mentioned that Bethany’s car is from “the oncoming lane” and Ginny even saw the “headlights of the other car through the rain”, so major detail slip-up in there. 

The conflict of Monica’s character stems from her not wanting to talk to her family and friends about her own issues. I actually can’t blame her because their family’s kind of dysfunction is them keeping secrets from each other. Monica’s mom does not want her stepdad to know that they went to a clinic for the abortion. The stepdad in turn does not want Monica’s mom to know that he brings his stepdaughter to shooting range practices so she can learn to protect herself. And both parents in a problematic attempt to protect Monica, intentionally hid a key information regarding Jennifer's death to her

I am not saying that I despise the book. There were a lot of misses for me but still, it held my attention and I even liked some parts. It would’ve been better though if Monica was allowed to take off her sleuthing hat long enough so she could do more emotionally grounding things. Like process her feelings. Or make real connections with her newfound friend, Ginny. Or repair the broken ones with family and estranged friends organically, not the just-hug-it-out-and-now-we-good kind. It’s just funny that Monica couldn’t talk openly to her family and friends, but she actively searched and talked to strangers so she can pursue the case. The book treated Monica as a sleuth first, and a human second. Like I said, she is the story’s designated Nancy Drew
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Interesting and sufficiently twisty suspense novel. Some of the plot lines veered a bit too much in the hope of ramping up the who/what/whys of it all, and some did not conclude properly, but overall a fun read.
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Thank you to NetGalley for giving me an advanced copy of this book for review.

This book was doing ok as a basic formulaic mystery for teens until about the last 50 pages when it decided to completely cop out of the mystery that it created. It almost seems like the author lost her will to find a culprit at the end and gave up.
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I received an advanced copy of this book through Netgalley. This book had me from the very beginning. I love that it kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time. I would highly recommend this book to my fellow readers. Thank you for the chance to review this book!!!!
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The Cheerleaders opens with Monica who is soon turning 17 with the weight of the world on her shoulders: there are try outs for the cheerleading squad, there is emotional baggage from trying to cope with the loss of her older sister Jennifer five years earlier, there’s been a messy break up and a quick flare up with an older man leading to an abortion.

What pulled me in to The Cheerleaders was the whole ambience of the teen mindscape: growing up angst, grappling with whom to trust and connect with, trying to find a toehold with the adult world, making bad decisions and coping with heartbreak even as one ploughs on with the frills of being a teen – cloths, body image, friendships, groupism et el. Set in this backdrop is Monica’s discovery of her deceased sister’s mobile phone in her step father’s locked drawer. The discovery triggers off her doubts and her memories of the time when the 5 member cheerleading squad of Sunnybrook High were killed in three separate incidents.

Monica sets out to piece together what could have happened, all the while battling with herself that her step father Tom who is a Sergeant with the local police, was present on all three occasions in which the cheerleading squad died. She plays detective and she gets an interesting character as a sidekick whose own backstory is tied to events 5 years earlier. Once this element in the narrative comes in, the author takes readers on a thrilling ride wherein suspicious characters are introduced.

I was very taken in by the manner in which the thrilling elements of the book when Monica starts digging into the past went along with her present of trying to move on in life. The Cheerleaders made for a gripping and emotional read at times with its nuances about building friendships, maintaining them and letting in new people. Recommended!

Would rate it at 3 and a half stars out of 5
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irst and foremost- I received an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review! 

I LOVED this book. I’ve been on a YA binge lately, and Kara’s books do not disappoint. The Cheerleaders is intriguing from the beginning, and doesn’t leave you waiting for the hair-raising, thrilling moments. The ending had me on the edge of my seat, and was entirely not what I expected. This is definitely another YA novel I’ll be recommending to anyone and everyone. 

After multiple horrible tragedies that took place 5 years ago, the cheerleading squad no longer exists. Still searching for clues, and not entirely believing the story of what took place that night, Monica Rayburn finds her dead sister’s phone in her stepfather’s desk. Jen’s phone contains starting information, including the phone number of the person Jen spoke to right before she killed herself. Unable to turn to her family, who basically refuses to speak about any of the deaths, especially Jen’s... Monica is forced to dig deep into the past on her own, and what she discovers is equally horrifying and life-changing.
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I really enjoyed The Cheerleaders! Let it be said, that YA is not usually my first choice. However, Kara Thomas has paved a new road for the YA genre for me. The Cheerleaders was thrilling and intriguing and kept me turning the pages. It read like a thriller, and left my mind blown. I will definitely be keeping this author and her books on my radar! 

*Thank you NETGALLEY for providing me a copy non exchange for my honest opinion.
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This book was so good i really enjoyed i live how personal the story became and the mystery behind the original girls that were in the accident and how it all took place. The story didnt lack or was in slow place it was just right and it was the kind of mystery i really wanted in a YA novel and would definitely read from Kara Thomas again. Cant wait to add this to my shelf
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This book totally hooked me from the beginning. I immediately wanted to know what was going to happen/what had already happened. The pacing was not bad; I never felt bored. There were a few times I had to reread sections due to confusing writing, but it wasn't too bad of a distraction. 
I really liked Monica's character and I felt like I knew her. The twist at the end is not completely shocking. I also usually don't read YA as much, so this was a change of pace for me. Fun read over all!
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This was one of my most anticipated new releases for the year, and I wasn't disappointed! While it wasn't quite the thriller I expected it to be, I really enjoyed the evolving friendships in the story. Thomas did a good job of giving us a peak into the lives of the dead girls without giving too much away. It felt a lot like being in the friendship with them and trying to figure out what was happening (the way they were with each other), only we eventually get all the pieces of the puzzle... and they didn't live long enough to do the same. 

This is definitely more of a plot/mystery driven story. I had a really hard time connecting with Monica and most of the characters felt very... similar. I kept confusing Monica's friends and Jennifer's friends, except for Ginny and that's because she was set as the outlier from the very beginning. 

I took off a star for lack of satisfaction in a few areas. I wanted an explanation for why Monica's mom kept Jen's suicide note a secret (which is why Monica believed her sister didn't commit suicide). The two girls who died in a car accident were treated like a really, really forgotten subplot that got brought up briefly and then ended up being a huge part of the story in the literal last 1%.
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