Welcome! My name is Taylor, and I like books. A lot. In this bi-weekly column I’m going to be reviewing the books I read so you can decide if you want to read them too. Some books may be old, some may be new, some may have been sitting on my bookshelf for months, collecting dust as I think “Crap, I really should have read that by now.”
You can add me on Goodreads to find out what I’m reading all year long. Now, on to the review!
Did you love Pretty Little Liars? Do you miss it? Did you never see it but have a vague idea of what it was about? Do you feel so exceedingly exasperated by our depressing political landscape that a murdery thriller about teenagers seems like a wonderful escape? If you answered yes to any of the previous questions, I have the perfect book–and my therapist’s phone number– for you!
Kara Thomas’s The Cheerleaders is a creepy, addictive thriller about five cheerleaders who all died gruesome and/or tragic deaths in the formerly sleepy town of Sunnybrook. It focuses on Monica, the younger sister of one of the late cheerleaders. Monica has a difficult time grappling with her sister’s suicide, and she comes to question the circumstances of all the girls’ untimely deaths. Eventually, she realizes she can no longer trust the stories she’s heard from nearly everyone in her life, so she attempts to uncover the truth.
I picked up this book because I love crime thrillers. Obviously, I went in expecting murder and suspense and crime-solving. But what I didn’t expect to get was such a well-developed and accurate portrayal of anxiety, depression, victim-blaming, and survivor’s guilt through Monica and her sister, Jennifer. Monica’s character arc is particularly well done, especially in the portrayal of her depression and struggle to accept her sister’s suicide. It adds a welcome extra dimension to the book that explores more than just the horrors of the crimes themselves but what’s left in the aftermath. That extra dimension is necessary to making any thriller more than just gruesome and exploitative. In this way, the genre has the ability to be informative–of how we deal with grief– and even empathetic.
It was hard to put this book down. The plot was fast-paced and twisty, and it built up to an unexpected conclusion. In thrillers like this, there’s often a major reveal at the end. Generally, it’s the reveal of The Killer (basically, the moment in Scooby Doo when the mask is finally removed). Without revealing any major spoilers here–skip ahead a couple paragraphs if you want none at all–I’d say there are two reveals at the end of The Cheerleaders. The first one, in my opinion, wasn’t totally unpredictable. The second one was definitely more surprising. Again, no spoilers, but I did find it satisfying.
However, I do wish there had been more cohesion in the conclusion. The two reveals weren’t entirely connected, so I felt like there was somewhat of an absence of closure. Also, I was left with so many questions in the end. Like, what happens now? What are these people going to do? Is that guy going to jail? What is going on?! I think a short a short epilogue could’ve given a bit more closure.
The Cheerleaders is a good read. It’s disturbing yet realistic, terrifying yet, at times, comforting. It’s satisfying if you enjoy thrillers, YA books, or both. And it has a cast of characters you’ll take turns rooting for and loathing. You don’t want to miss this.