Hi everyone! Today I’m going to be reviewing The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas.
The Cheerleaders follows our protagonist, Monica’s, journey to discover the truth about what really happened to a group of five cheerleaders five years ago. They all died on three separate occasions (two in a car crash, two murdered, and one by suicide), and the cases were closed; until, that is, Monica (still in disbelief over her sister, Jen’s, suicide) finds something in her stepdad’s office and immediately delves into the cheerleaders’ pasts.
The Cheerleaders explored a lot of prominent issues in society today (for a full list of triggers see the end of the review) and I appreciated Thomas delving into these. Don’t let the cover fool you; this book is heavier than it seems. A number of important topics were discussed and Thomas explored these in a sensitive and thoughtful way.
Monica’s reactions to these topics were all really raw and realistic, and you could clearly see the thought that had gone into it. Some YA authors are definitely guilty of writing their characters as people who bulldoze their way through any obstacle and don’t take their time to process and react to these issues. Thomas was different; as a teenager, it was really refreshing to read a character with realistic emotions and reactions to things around them.
Monica’s whole character was really well written, too. Monica was anything but perfect; she had her fair share of flaws, but that just made her more relatable. Throughout the book she demonstrated great determination, resilience, and bravery, meeting some admittingly sketchy characters in her search for the truth but holding her own against them.
Of course, she had some help with this search from her new friend, Ginny. I adored Monica and Ginny’s friendship and how they learnt to trust each other, bonding over Jen’s death and keeping her memory alive. Both Monica and Ginny truly cared about discovering what really happened, and they worked together remarkably well, despite a few obstacles in their friendship.
Another aspect I really enjoyed were Jennifer’s chapters. They were few and far between, but I enjoyed reading about her sister’s life, and how it fit into the whole novel. Thomas gave Jen a voice and personality of her own, and it was touching to read about her struggles and, in the later chapters, her grief at her friends’ deaths.
The ending was also perfection. I genuinely didn’t expect the killers to be who they were, and the big reveal was fantastic. Thomas single handedly tied up all the loose ends and mysteries and made the whole puzzle slide into place. Thomas definitely has a real talent for murder mysteries and I can’t wait to get my hands on more of her books!
Thomas’ writing style was extremely easy to read, too. I completely whizzed through this book, which was at least partially due it’s ease of readability and simple style. Thomas struck just the right balance between being too flowery and descriptive and not being descriptive enough.
However, that’s not to say that I loved absolutely every aspect of the book; there were certainly a few things which I wasn’t a fan of.
One example of this was the general timeline. The fact that they waited five years to hold a memorial service for the girls definitely irked me, and I had lots of questions about this. It just didn’t seem realistic that they’d wait so long to memorialise the girls.
Speaking of unrealistic things… There was also the issue of Monica supposedly being best friends with two other girls (Rachel and Alexa) but having hardly any interactions with them. The interactions they did have were mainly just them fighting and it just seemed to be there for the drama. I honestly think Thomas could’ve completely cut out both of these characters and it wouldn’t have made much difference to the book.
I also disliked the lack of action. The majority of Monica and Ginny’s investigation was completed through interviews and messages, which certainly left the book lacking in action. Maybe this wouldn’t have been such an issue if there had been murders during their investigation, but there weren’t. Admittedly, there was one scene in the middle of the book with some action, and I suppose the ending had a lot of it, so maybe this wasn’t as big an issue as it first seemed.
Overall, I would recommend The Cheerleaders for any fan of murder mysteries and thrillers. The Cheerleaders is a wonderful novel that touches on some very important topics in society today, and I would definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a new read – I for one can not wait to get my hands on more of Thomas’ work, including That Weekend and Little Monsters!
Please be mindful that this book has a lot of triggers: abortion, statutory rape, pedophilia, death, suicide, and domestic abuse. If you are uncomfortable with any of these topics then you should probably give this book a miss.
I hope you enjoyed this review!