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Thanks to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: July 31st, 2018

384 Pages

Synopsis: There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.

First there was the car accident—two girls 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.

Before I begin I want to list a few trigger warnings: Statutory Rape, Suicide, Teen Pregnancy, Abortion, Murder, and Drug Abuse.

Phew. So, you might have surmised that The Cheerleaders is a pretty grim read, and you’d be right. It’s dark and gritty, and surprisingly realistic. I would have given it 5 stars except for one thing that kept bothering me through the book. Before I tell you you need to know this verges on spoiler territory, so if you haven’t read the book but are planning to, skip the next paragraph.

***As the book opens, sixteen-year-old Monica has just had an abortion after having a short relationship with a guy ten years her senior. It’s kind of dropped in there and then doesn’t go anywhere until the man shows up as a new coach at her high school. The big problem I had which caused me to to mark the book down a full point, was that instead of acknowledging directly that their sleeping together was statutory rape, there’s more victim shaming, especially from Monica herself, which really annoyed me. I kept hoping that by the end of the book Monica would realize that this creep took advantage of her at a time when she was especially vulnerable, but nope, that never happened. I don’t understand why Kaza Thomas decided to go this route, especially with the current social climate and the Me Too movement. It’s too bad because otherwise I loved everything else about the book. ***End of spoiler***

Monica is someone I think most teens will relate to. She’s not perfect and she tends to act impulsively, but her heart is in the right place. While she didn’t have a close friendship with her older sister, she’s determined to discover the truth. The relationship between family members is realistic as are the ones Monica has with her friends. There are also chapters that are interspersed from Monica’s sister Jen which looks back at the events of five years ago and what led up to the deaths of five teenage girls in such a short amount of time. The mystery kept me guessing for much of the book and there were quite a few twists that caught me by surprise. 

Overall, The Cheerleaders is an intriguing whodunnit that does a good job of avoiding the usual suspension of disbelief issues that are prevalent in many similar amateur teen sleuth stories. It doesn’t have a happily-ever-after ending, but it provides closure for the characters and leaves the reader hopeful for Monica and her family.