The Cheerleaders

The Cheerleaders

by Kara Thomas

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Overview

"Sharp, brilliantly plotted, and totally engrossing."--KAREN M. MCMANUS, New York Times bestselling author of One of Us Is Lying

"A crafty, dark, and disturbing story."--KATHLEEN GLASGOW, New York Times bestselling author of Girl In Pieces

"A little bit Riverdale and a little bit Veronica Mars."--RILEY SAGER, bestselling author of Final Girls

A Goodreads Best Young Adult Book of the Year Nominee

From the author of The Darkest Corners and Little Monsters comes an all-new edge-of-your-seat thriller set in upstate New York about an eerie sequence of seemingly unrelated events that leaves five cheerleaders dead.


There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.

First there was the car accident--two girls dead 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 his reasons. 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'd 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.

More Praise for Kara Thomas:

"Gripping from start to finish . . . with twists that left me shocked."--VICTORIA AVEYARD, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Red Queen

"A disturbing portrait of how bad news and gossip can curdle when mixed together."--OPRAH.COM

"You'll be up all night tearing through the pages."--BUSTLE

"This deliciously deceptive thriller...is a must-have."--SLJ

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524718343
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 07/31/2018
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 52,417
File size: 7 MB
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

About the Author

Kara Thomas has written for everything from her high school newspaper to Warner Bros. Television. She is a true-crime addict who lives on Long Island with her husband and rescue cat. She is the author of The Darkest Corners, Little Monsters, and The Cheerleaders. To learn more about Kara and her books, visit her at kara-thomas.com or follow @karatwrites on Twitter and @kara_thomas on Instagram.

Read an Excerpt

This house was made for someone without a soul. So I guess it makes sense that my mother wanted it so badly. I can imagine how her eyes lit up when she walked through the five-­bedroom, three-­and-­a-­half-­bath new construction. I’ll bet she thinks this house is the answer to what’s wrong with us.

When Tom, my stepfather, showed me the bathroom attached to my room with its own Jacuzzi tub, he said, Bet you feel like Cinderella, because he’s an idiot.

I should be happy for my mother and Tom, because the old house took so long to sell that it nearly destroyed their marriage. I should be thrilled I don’t have to hear the words terrible real estate market and bad location ever again. Neither they nor the listing agent had the balls to come out and say that no one wanted to buy a home on the street of horrors.

The worst thing about the new house is that there’s no way to sneak into my room. The dining room is right off the front hall, so when I get home from dance team tryouts, I can see my mother at the table eating Chinese takeout with Tom and Petey, their “oops baby.”

Petey is ten now. Mom married Tom when I was five. When I was a kid, I overheard her telling my grandmother that she and Tom both were done with children. Mom had Jen and me, and Tom had a college-­aged daughter with his ex-­wife. Four months later, Mom was pregnant with Petey.

So, totally an oops baby.

“Monica,” my mother calls. “We’re eating dinner.”

In other words, Don’t you try to disappear upstairs.

I plod into the dining room, the smell of the takeout souring my stomach. Everything hurts: standing, walking, sitting.

At the table, Petey is sucking up lo mein noodles. One slips from between his lips and falls on the screen of his iPad, because God forbid he perform a basic function such as eating without playing Clan Wars.

“Petey,” Mom says, “please put the game down.”

“But I have to harvest my crops.”

“Do you want the iPad to go in the garbage?”

“You wouldn’t throw an iPad in the garbage.”

“Peter.”

Petey’s eyes go wide, because Mom only uses his full name when she’s really about to lose her shit. I almost want to tell the poor kid it’s not his fault that Mom is acting like a psycho.

“Monica.” Tom looks up from his phone, finally noticing me. He takes off his reading glasses and breathes on the lenses. Wipes them on his shirt. “How were tryouts?”

“Fine.”

“The new Chinese place gave us extra fortune cookies!” Petey says, and I say, “Cool,” which pretty much sums up the depth of my interactions with my half brother.

Mom’s eyes are on me. I keep my own eyes on a carton of white rice. I grab a plate and spoon some onto it.

“What’s wrong?” Petey asks. It takes a second for it to sink in that he’s speaking to me. Tom is watching me now too. My mother makes a face as if she just swallowed down vomit.

“Can I go lie down?” I ask.

“Go ahead,” she says.

When I get to the hall, I hear Petey whine, “How come she gets to do what she wants?”

I practically have to crawl up the stairs to my room. The over-­the-­counter painkillers my mom picked up for me are seriously garbage. I would call Matt, my ­ex-­boyfriend, because even though he denies it, he’s friends with people who can get the strong stuff. But Matt graduated and he’s not in Sunnybrook anymore and we haven’t spoken since July.

My heating pad is still packed in one of the storage tubs Mom and I bought from Bed Bath & Beyond before the move. I dig it out, biting my lip. The nurse at Dr. Bob’s office said it would be like bad period cramps. But it hurts so badly I want to die.

I break into a sweat from plugging in the heating pad and flop onto my brand-­new bed. King-­sized, like my mom and Tom’s. She insisted—­the room would have looked too small with a queen.

They say you’re not supposed to put the pad directly on your skin, but I do it anyway and curl up on my side. I’d gladly take my flesh melting off over the pain in my gut.

A knock at the door. I grunt and Mom pushes her way in, holding a bottle of naproxen and a glass of water. “When was the last time you took painkillers?”

“Lunch,” I lie. I popped four before tryouts.

“You can have two more, then.” Mom perches at the edge of my bed. She might as well be a mile away. It’s really obscene, how big the bed is.

I groan and pull my legs up tight to my body, into the fetal position.

“I told you that you should have stayed home today.” My mother taps the naproxen bottle to her palm, shakes two pills out.

“Coach would have cut me from the team.” I accept the pills. Swallow them greedily.

Mom is quiet. She drums her fingers—­the nails rounded and coated with clear polish—­on my comforter. Her anxious tic. Finally: “Have you told Matt?”

“No.”

I can’t tell what she’s thinking—­whether she actually wants me to call Matt at college and tell him.

“He could support you,” Mom says, after a beat. “You don’t have to go through this alone.”

“It wasn’t his anyway.”

I stare straight ahead so I don’t have to see the look on her face.

When she stands up, her profile comes into focus. She looks sad for a moment before she catches herself. “I hope you learn something from this pain.”

My mother shuts the light off on her way out—­or at least, she tries to. She can’t find the switch at first, because it’s opposite where it used to be in my old room. Finally, she gives up, leaving me under the glow of the top-­of-­the-­line energy-­efficient LED bulbs.

She’s wrong, I think. Pain isn’t supposed to teach you anything. It only exists to hurt you. And she should know that better than anyone.

Customer Reviews

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The Cheerleaders 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was full of twists and turns! I wouldn't have expected the ending. It did progress a little slowly for my liking, though. I do think that the author could've done a better job with developing all the characters though. Everything sped up towards the end so it was kind of rushed. The best part for me was the last bit about Ginny, that was worth waiting for. Overall, a quick and interesting read. Recommend!
Anonymous 28 days ago
As+someone+who+enjoys+a+good+YA+who+done+it%2C+this+book+did+not+disappoint.+The+first+few+chapters+were+so+interesting+and+I+could+not+put+it+down.+By+day+3+or+4%2C+I+was+halfway+through+the+book.+The+main+reason+this+is+a+4+and+not+a+5%2C+for+me%2C+is+because+there+came+a+point+where+it+got+repetitive.+It+was+like+watching+a+movie+where+the+scene+was+always+the+same.+The+main+character+was+either+at+dance+practice+or+at+home+about+to+have+dinner.+There+was+not+a+lot+of+scene+changes.+On+top+of+that%2C+all+of+the+characters+were+kind+of+underdeveloped.+I+did+not+feel+connected+to+any+character+and+I+would+have+loved+to+gotten+to+know+every+character+better.+The+ending+was+okay%2C+but+by+the+time+the+killer+was+revealed+it+kind+of+felt+like+an+afterthought%2C+almost+like+the+author+just+randomly+picked+them.++Anyways+it+was+a+good+read+and+kept+me+interested.+
Anonymous 8 months ago
This book is very action packed and full of plot twists! This book never has a low point it is constantly drawing you in more and more. The end is most definitely worth the wait. My thank you and praises to Kara!! She wrote this amazing book and it is by far the best book to be read. This is a great book for anyone who loves mysteries and crazy plot twists!!
ruthsic More than 1 year ago
After reading Thomas' Little Monsters last year, I was eager to dig into another contemporary mystery from her. In this book, a girl starts investigating the mysterious circumstances around her older sister's suicide that happened 5 years ago, a terrible time during which 4 other girls, all cheerleaders, had died. Finding some clues that point to two of those deaths, which were murders, were maybe pinned on the wrong person, Monica starts to dig into the lives of those girls and the days leading up to their deaths, along with her classmate Ginny, who is a loner. Meanwhile, Monica herself is hiding a secret from her own friends, and almost everyone in her life. At the start, I was invested in the story - I truly was - because there were so many aspects of it that had potential. There were three different incidents - an accident, a murder and a suicide - and the question was whether they were related, whether the girls had enemies, whether Monica will uncover something shocking. As the book went on, though, it felt like it was dragging itself all over the place; there were too many plot threads for it to have a main direction to work to. First, she is invested in her sister's suicide, for which she finds a diary and an interesting note. Then she starts investigating the murder, which is the focal point of the mystery as it was what started this whole thing. But the truth is that Monica and Ginny both don't have a personal connection to the murder aside from it being of two girls from their town. Monica's older sister has some POV chapters (in flashback) which is how we, the readers, can piece together the mystery, but she herself does not. There are plenty of red herrings, as well as Monica jumping to conclusions. Moreover, I do feel that Monica herself didn't have much to with the plot, despite being the protagonist. Her personal life doesn't have much bearing on the story and vice versa, and the things troubling her at the start barely make a dent in the plot. The story became interesting only towards the end: the thing I was betting on turned out to be true (like, he had to serve some purpose in the plot!), and the ending was probably the best part of this book. All in all, it was disappointing to me, even though it had potential.
AReadingRedSox More than 1 year ago
What an absolute GEM this book is. It's twisty and thrilling and my heart was actually racing as I read the last thirty or so pages. I loved the main character, Monica, from the very first page, and the book kept me enthralled throughout. There wasn't just one mystery in the book, but rather several that kept me guessing at every turn. Definitely one of the very best YA mysteries I've ever read!
book_junkee More than 1 year ago
2.5 stars? This book looked to have everything I could have ever wanted, even down to the blood spatter on the cover. Sadly, I’m wondering if 2.5 stars is too high. I think I liked Monica. She’s got a lot of things going on and I could understand why she was doing they things she did. I mean, not all of them, of course. There were a lot a lot of characters here, but the only one I really liked was Ginny. Plot wise, I was intrigued. I was hoping there would be more tension, but the slow reveals were satisfying. The problem is that I just felt so indifferent about the story. I had read halfway and then skipped to the end and I was interested, but I struggled to read how we got there. There are a lot of topics sort of mentioned {statutory rape, abortion, victim blaming}, but they were all glossed over. Nothing was ever actually addressed and that bothered me. Overall, I loved the premise, but the execution wasn’t for me. **Huge thanks to Delacorte Press for providing the arc free of charge**
BookPrincessReviews More than 1 year ago
I feel like everyone is trying to one up Gillian Flynn in mysteries nowadays. I feel like they want to create books with messy main characters that straddle the line between good and bad; create messy contemporary plots along with the overall mystery; EVERYONE IS A MYSTERY AND NOT TO BE TRUSTED; and they just want to create a super big plot twist at the end that has people :O and giving all the crowns. I feel like this book did some things good in this formula and failed in a few other ways. I have to give Kara Thomas so much credit for creating a book that really did have my binge mood set to extreme. Even if I was kind of upset with the book or not feeling, I literally felt my fingers moving themselves over to pick up the book yet again. It was captivating and I couldn't stop until I found out the ending. Thomas really does know how to suck you in, and even if you're glaring at most of the characters, you must find out what happened to them. Thomas also does have a nice writing style that is super easy to complete the total binge read. Oh, where do I even begin with the book? I felt like I got myself into a mess and I can't even figure out how to explain it. I think the biggest issue that I had was with the characters. They really didn't have much depth to me. They were just kind of there. I never felt deep for any of them, and even if you are going for messy, morally grey characters, I am supposed to feel something for them. I wanted to feel Monica's pain and worry for her and get all the feels, but I just...everyone felt really mystery character surface level. I don't think I can even tell you a favorite character that I had, because I literally have no feelings for any of them. I could say maybe I liked Petey, Monica's little brother, or Mango the dog the best but I think I would be lying BECAUSE I DON'T FEEL ANYTHING FOR THEM EITHER. I'm not sure where the disconnect came from, but I think it had something to do with the fact that most of everyone's characteristics is just "solving this mystery" and that's the only part to their personality that I could really pick up on. Also, I was super not a fan of what Ginny and Monica did to poor Officer Mike. That's where I felt like we moved from straight up messy characters to kind of the unlikeable narrator? I also felt like there was a lot of plotlines that got dropped and picked up when they needed to be. For the first few chapters of the book, Monica is dealing with the aftermath of an abortion before she jumps diving deeper into her sister's suicide. However, after she finds those first few files and letters that gets her wondering if her sister and the rest of the cheerleaders' deaths were really accidents/etc., she never mentions it again after the first time. There was also this recurring character of Jimmy that would keep popping up that would pop up for a second and then fade back into nothing. And I still don't know whether or not a character was doing drugs because I felt like there were different times in the plot that it was answered but then promptly unanswered. And then the ending. I'm still a bit confused. I feel like I still didn't get the full understanding of Jen's death. We were so focused on that for almost all of the book, but I still have a lot of questions regarding it. I felt like it got brushed aside so we could focus on...well, definitely that last chapter that came out of nowhere and also Jules's and Susan's. There was also one big major thing that did
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thank you to NetGalley for giving me an advanced copy of this book for review. This book was doing ok as a basic formulaic mystery for teens until about the last 50 pages when it decided to completely cop out of the mystery that it created. It almost seems like the author lost her will to find a culprit at the end and gave up.
DiiMI More than 1 year ago
Five years after several incidents rocked a community, a school and five families to their core, the town of Sunnydale still isn’t safe and still hasn’t healed properly. Five cheerleaders died that year, two in an accident, two were murdered and the last one standing committed suicide and the school’s knee-jerk reaction was to disband the cheer squad. Now the faculty and students want to do something in remembrance of the girls who died, but will it bring closure or just more drama? Sixteen-year-old Monica, sister to Jen, the suicide victim has her own problems now and a boatload of unanswered questions as she uncovers some secrets that others have been keeping. Secrets kept are secrets that fester, truths ignored are dangerous and Monica needs the truth. Will the truth set her mind free or will it get her killed, too? THE CHEERLEADERS by Kara Thomas is first and foremost a well-written young adult suspense with a main heroine who has a great head on her shoulders, “most” of the time. As an intriguing and twisted read, Ms. Thomas is spot on in her writing from start to finish as she nails family dynamics and teen relationships and trust in others. Brilliant world building, fabulous characters that come alive and relationships that are supportive deserve at least five stars! The mystery/thriller aspect is tremendous as we see this tale unfold through Monica’s eyes and discoveries while getting a peek at her sister’s mental status five years before when she committed suicide. So many twisted lies and cover-ups, so much guilt, was a murderer brought to justice with a bullet or was there yet one more victim created at the hands of the law? Was there a rush to justice? Monica knows something isn’t right, and she is determined to dig up the truth, against all odds, not by sheer luck, but determination and grit. This is one thriller that rides the edge of that razor until the end. So, why not five stars? People make mistakes, particularly when it involves teen emotions and hormones, and some mistakes were made, BUT, I was troubled by the handling of the teen reactions. They smacked of a time that seems like the Dark Ages. Can someone please tell me when it is okay to allow a minor to take the “blame” for sex and its consequences with an adult? Sure, this wasn’t the crux of the story, but it was part of the catalyst and to be honest, it could have used its own book. Lots of victims in this one, certainly a monster or two and definitely a town left to wallow for five years, unknowing. That said, even the school board, faculty, whomever, fell down on its reaction to the nightmares and losses endured. Reminded me of not allowing dancing because one time something bad happened. Still, I did appreciate the brilliance of the main character, a person far beyond her years in maturity in many ways. I just wish she could have been more of a role model for teens who make sexual mistakes with adults, she was a victim of a predator and her hormones. Hello, stranger danger? I received a complimentary ARC edition from Random House Children's /Delacourt Press!
Phyllis Carucci More than 1 year ago
The books by Kara Thomas just get better and better. The cheerleaders has it all - especially edge of your seat suspense. I could not put it down. I highly recommend this book.
Bayy2455 More than 1 year ago
* Thank you to Netgalley for this book to review!* Kara Thomas has done it again. I am absolutely floored by how she has managed to completely trick me again. I was on the edge of my seat for this one trying to figure out if the deaths were connected and if so how. There were two really big twists in this one that had me shocked, but not as shocked as Little Monsters. I had to retract a star, however, because of the fact that Monica is made to feel like the sexual encounter between her and the 27-year-old, who became a coach at her school. She even became pregnant and chose to get an abortion over this relationship. I think that Monica blaming herself isn't all that uncommon and neither is her dialogue. It's believable. However, there should have been stronger challenging on page. It ends with a victim blaming herself with no real change in her opinions on the matter. He was a 27-year-old predator who took advantage of a young girl at the club he attended. None of it was okay and I really think this was a missed opportunity to show a different outlook on sexual assault. Other than the aforementioned problem, the pacing was amazing. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time and I was trying, to no avail, to put the pieces together. Thomas is a pro at keeping us on our feet and giving just enough away to keep us hooked, but never enough for us to figure it all out on our own.
Isalindsay77 More than 1 year ago
This book totally hooked me from the beginning. I immediately wanted to know what was going to happen/what had already happened. The pacing was not bad; I never felt bored. There were a few times I had to reread sections due to confusing writing, but it wasn't too bad of a distraction. I really liked Monica's character and I felt like I knew her. The twist at the end is not completely shocking. I also usually don't read YA as much, so this was a change of pace for me. Fun read over all!
KaileyReadsYA More than 1 year ago
Loved this one! Full of dark and twisty moments with just enough to keep me on my toes throughout the entire book. There was one point I was confused about in regards to Monica (MC), but it ended up being a minor plot point that got resolved. The alternating POVs between Monica and her sister Jen gave the reader enough to go off of to make their own conclusions but still left us with breathing room to be surprised by what really happened. It wasn’t all mystery though. The moments of true heartbreak and serious issues tackled here brought me to tears more than once. And the best part is none of it felt like an add-on. That’s happened too many times and I was so grateful it all blended together perfectly. Absolutely recommending this one to everyone I know!
MargoKelly More than 1 year ago
THE CHEERLEADERS, by Kara Thomas, is a terrific murder mystery with just the right amount of intrigue on every page. Kara Thomas is a wonderful writer, engaging my imagination on page one and keeping my attention through the very last page. As the fifth anniversary of the cheerleaders' deaths approaches, the main character, Monica, is determined to learn the truth, because Monica doesn't believe the stories that everyone else has accepted. She knows there has to be more behind how and why her older sister died. Monica struggles to not only find the truth, but she also struggles to find her place in the world, making some questionable choices along the way. Some of my favorite lines: "The empty house has been the subject of my mother's bitching. All the house is doing is existing, not bothering anyone. It's exactly the type of thing that offends my mother." "In my head, I break down the agonizing wait for Saturday. Twenty-four hours; nine class periods; one dance team practice; one awkward Friday family dinner at Ristegio's, the Italian restaurant in town; and one restless night's sleep. All hurdles to clear before I can talk to Daphne Furman." "...computer club boys plagued by ill-fitting jeans and cafeteria pizza breath." "I knew what we were doing was wrong, and I didn't care because I was ready to set my perfect life on fire and walk away while it burned." I highly recommend THE CHEERLEADERS by Kara Thomas to anyone who enjoys a twisty murder mystery. [I received an early copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my opinion.]