Title: The Cheerleaders
Author: Kara Thomas
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
Kara Thomas caught my attention last year when I read her sophomore novel, Little Monsters, and loved it. So, when I found out that she was writing a new book that was coming out in July, I immediately put it on hold at my local library. When it came in, there were several holds on it, so as soon as I was finished with Emergency Contact, I pushed it to the top of my stack. I finished it in two and a half days; creepy, more than a little bit claustrophobic, The Cheerleaders was a mystery that I was dying to unravel, rife with red herrings and secrets; It was impossible to figure out who to trust, because everyone has something to hide, and Sunnybrook is a town where darkness hides in plain sight. I’m not sure if I like this or Little Monsters better, but it doesn’t really matter. The Cheerleaders was a dark, frightening mystery that constantly kept me guessing, until the jaw-dropping ending. One of the best mysteries of the year, and I can’t wait to see what Thomas has up her sleeve next!
There are no more cheerleaders left in the small town of Sunnybrook. First, there was the car accident: two girls gone after hitting a tree on a rainy night. A few weeks later, the murders followed, two more girls slain by the man next door. The police shot him, and the case was seemingly put to rest. Monica’s older sister, Jenny, was the last to die, taking her own life. Five years later, the faculty and students of Sunnybrook High want to remember the fallen girls, bright candles blown out before their time. But for Monica, moving on isn’t as easy as all that. She longs to forget, for things to go back to the way they were before her life was blown apart by a shattering loss. But she’s sure that there’s something more to the old story, and her world begins to unravel all over again. There are mysterious letters in her stepdad’s desk, a years-old cell phone with texts still on it, and a strange new friend at school. Monica knows that whatever really happened, it isn’t over, and she’s at the center of all of it. The cheerleaders are all gone, but that doesn’t mean that anyone else is safe.
This book was amazing! It wasn’t perfect, but one of the reasons that I love Kara Thomas’s work is that I can never quite figure out who is the bad guy. Chances are good that if I can figure it out before a hundred pages are up, I’m not going to finish, which is why mysteries and thrillers are really hit and miss with me. Monica’s voice was what drew me in, but at times her narration was a little shallow; it was slightly off-putting and took my mind off of the mystery at hand. But nonetheless, Kara Thomas’s third novel delivered, told in sparse, sharp prose, with breakneck pacing and characters that had everything to hide; it felt like secrets were lurking even in the seemingly carefree fabric of Sunnybrook. I was captivated, spellbound, and I was desperate to get to the end, to see who was behind it all. I didn’t really like Monica as a character; she seemed a little poorly drawn in comparison to the rest of the characters in the book, including her parents and sister, the mysterious texter on Jenny’s phone, Ginny, who has her own secrets even as she helps Monica solve the mystery of her sister’s death, Carly, who was friends with several of the deceased cheerleaders, and Brendan, Monica’s old flame in the wake of Jenny’s suicide. Nonetheless, this book was fantastic, and true to form, I had no idea who had done everything; when I did find out, I was thrown for a loop. Explosive, dark, and frightening, this book had me questioning everything: How well do we really know our loved ones, friends, and neighbors, and even ourselves? I was blown away by The Cheerleaders, and Kara Thomas has cemented her place as one of my favorite mystery authors with it. The bottom line: A twisty, dark thriller that had me questioning everything, waiting impatiently for the other shoe to drop, The Cheerleaders was fantastic, despite the main character being a bit lackluster. Next on deck: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds!