Review: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

4:47 PM

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas | Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5)

This first thing you should know about The Cheerleaders is simple: it won't be what you're expecting. At. All. I am glad! I am even more happy with the fact that this was my first experience with Kara Thomas' writing--because The Cheerleaders is one of my favourites of the year. Dark, mysterious and poignant, it is the perfect read for fans of Megan Abbott and Abigail Haas. Thomas writes a tale so beautiful, I found myself emotional to let go of it once we reached a resolution and got our answers.

Before I read the book, I saw a fellow reviewer call The Cheerleaders compulsive and am going to confirm its accuracy 100%. Thomas does more than write realistically and chilling, she knows how to lure her readers in to the point of addiction. This doesn't take long; I was hooked from its very first chapter and many readers will feel similarly.

Based on the cover art and description, I wrongly thought that The Cheerleaders would be a bit more slasher film levels of creepy. The end product surprised me--it was smart and eerie in terms of definition. A damn good thriller that will grip you. It's wrapped up in the general mystery of what happened, a few years back, to the cheer-leading squad (which is now non-existent) and the unraveling of present days events--a healthy combination of mystery, tragedy and the general ups and downs of coming of age. It is also told in a split narration/timeline that adds a new layer of emotional depth to an already sensational, heartbreaking story.

There were many elements to The Cheerleaders that will be potentially triggering and it's worth noting before I get in depth, what those topics are: murder, suicide, abortion, substance abuse/use, statutory rape and a few other sensitive topics. Thomas tackles many of these with grace and none of the time does it ever feel like a cheap plot device.

That being said, I really enjoyed a lot of things about The Cheerleaders. The characters were all great and full of life; I wanted so much better for them. As we got answers to all of our questions, in time with Monica in the present and Jennifer in the past, readers are left feeling equally unsettled and maybe even a little relief.

Which felt very, very real.

I was a mess by the time we said goodbye to Jennifer, got the answers on what happened to Bethany and Colleen, and who killed Susan and Julianna, and finally Jennifer. The pieces fall into place in real time, showing off how perfectly crafted this story was by Kara Thomas. So much of what happened was set up in a way that allowed readers to guess but the conclusion still felt surprisingly satisfying.

Oh, I truly adored this book. I just wish it had been a little longer. Although my mascara is glad that it wasn't because, dang, was it running down my face. Regardless, it was beautiful and thought provoking. Truly, an excellent read.

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