By: Kara Thomas
Published By: Delacorte Press
Release Date: July 31, 2018
Reading Level: Young Adult
Buy the Book: Amazon
Goodreads Summary: 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.
First Thought After Finishing: I've missed reading mystery/thriller stories!
I tend to read a lot of fantasy, but sometimes it's nice to explore other genres. I really enjoyed Kara Thomas's book Little Monsters last year, so I was excited to see what happened in this story. As it turns out, I flew through the pages of this book, eager to unravel the mystery.
Monica can't escape being Jen Rayburn's sister. She has good friends and her high school dance team, but in her small town, she's still the girl whose sister died. And something about Jen's death--and all of her friends' deaths--has never seemed quite right to Monica. When she discovers a possible trail of clues, she knows that she cannot rest until she has uncovered the truth. And if the investigation five years ago was wrong, that means there might just be a killer on the loose.
A good mystery story keeps you turning page after page and always questioning your guesses, and that is just what The Cheerleaders did. Kara Thomas definitely has a knack for mysteries, weaving strong friendship and strained family relationships into the story. From the beginning, the clues leave more questions than answers, and Monica dives right in to solving them. Each time she figures out one piece of the puzzle, she finds something else to challenge the accepted story or casts suspicion back on everyone. Monica's present-day sleuthing is interspersed with flashbacks of Jen's life five years ago, which made for compelling reading, and I found myself trying to guess the real killer's identity right along with Monica. I don't want to give anything away, but I will say that I was expecting just a bit more from the final reveal, but the ending does fit the book.
Beyond the mystery, there is a lot of character development. Monica has a lot of pressure on her shoulders after Jen's death. She desperately wants her mother's approval but worries that she will never do anything that is good enough. As she is pulled deeper into unraveling the mystery, she also has to confront her role in her family. Additionally, she doesn't work on the case alone. Monica befriends Ginny Cordero, who turns out to be a great friend. She is a quiet realist with a knack for bringing clarity to a situation, and I enjoyed learning more about her throughout the book. Finally, Monica has to sort through her feelings on a romantic situation. I appreciated the fact that romance was alluded to but definitely did not take over the story. Instead, Monica's character development is a great journey for any reader, teenager or teen at heart.
Most Memorable Aspect: The way the mystery has strong subplots and realistic characters.
Kara Thomas is a true crime addict and the author of THE DARKEST CORNERS, LITTLE MONSTERS, and THE CHEERLEADERS, all published by Delacorte Press. You can find her on Twitter (@karatwrites), Instagram (@kara__thomas), or at http://www.kara-thomas.com.
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