The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
Published by: Random House Children’s Delacorte Press
E copy; NetGalley
There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.
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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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 mind-scape: 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!