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The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas - Review

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Where did I get it? I bought it for myself last summer with an Amazon voucher I had

What's it about? Monica is sixteen years old and is on the dance team at her high school in Sunnybrook, NY. There is no cheerleading team at Sunnybrook High because five years ago, five of the cheerleaders died and the team was disbanded. One of the dead cheerleaders was Jen, Monica's sister, who took her own life after four of her friends had died. The first two died in a car crash and the second two were murdered, supposedly by a neighbour of one of the girls. Two police officers, one of whom was Monica's stepfather, Tom, went to arrest this man and as they did, he supposedly drew a gun and Tom shot him, killing him in the process. 

Monica lives with her overprotective mum, younger brother Pete, and Tom. At the beginning of the book she has had an abortion, which her mum doesn't really understand how to deal with. It turns out that the father of the foetus was a man who is now a teacher at Monica's school, which is obviously quite traumatic for her to deal with. 

It's coming up to five years since Jen and the others died, and while looking in Tom's desk Monica discovers that he has kept Jen's mobile phone. Plus he has anonymous letters from someone saying that everyone needs to know the truth about what happened with all the girls. Monica takes Jen's phone and charges it up, and discovers that just before she died, Jen talked to a number she didn't have stored in her phone. Monica messages this number and the replies make her wonder about what really happened - whether the car crash really was an accident, whether the neighbour really did kill the second two girls, and whether Jen killed herself or not. She is determined to find out the truth. 

She is friends with two girls, Rachel and Alexa, but her investigations mean that she feels like she is falling away from them. She ends up getting close to another dance team member Ginny.

This book is one of those YA books that makes me want to celebrate the genre - it's punchy, it's fast paced, it's got real heart at it, you root for the main character the whole way through and want her to succeed. It has been compared to Karen M McManus and I definitely feel like that's an apt comparison. I will definitely read something by the same author because I loved it. 

What age range is it for? 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? No I don't think so 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I think Monica and her family definitely have some PTSD from what happened to Jen, her mum especially. It's not diagnosed but as someone who has survived the suicide of a loved one, I definitely recognised it. It may be hard to read. 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes. It's not graphic but obviously Brandon is a lot older than Monica and definitely took advantage of her. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No, there's some alcohol use though. 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, it is somewhat graphic. I am pleased to note that the excact method of Jen's suicide isn't mentioned; this is best practice when discussing suicide so I was glad to see it. There is graphic description of the car crash and of the murders, so be careful! 

Are there swear words? Yes. I found them really good actually - they really added to the type of person Monica is and were judiciously used. 

What criticisms do I have? I really wish Monica had confided in her best friends, and in her mum maybe. I hope she and her mum managed to mend things after the end of the book. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely. A brilliant YA thriller/crime novel 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It had been by the side of my bed for six months and I needed to move it to make room for my Christmas books, but then I was like, Oh I really do want to read this... So I did 


What do I think of the cover? I realise mine has this "five girls lied, five girls died" bit that some issues of the book don't have. It looks like a prood, but it isn't - it's got an ISBN on the back! I like it, though. 


What other books is it like? Definitely like anything by Karen M McManus

How many stars? Four out of five 


Where is the book going now? I'll keep it unless someone wants to borrow it!

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