September 10, 2020

#BookReview: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

Synopsis: 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.


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
My Review: 
OMG! This book is amazing! Kara Thomas had me guessing til the end with this gripping page turner. I'm usually not a fan of stories that jump back and forth between the past and present but Kara blended the scenes so well I enjoyed it in this story. I will say that this may be on the older end of YA with some of its dark themes but I absolutely loved this book and recommend it for anyone who enjoys a YA thriller. 

Go Into This One Knowing: abortion, statutory rape


Praise for The Cheerleaders:  

A YALSA Best Book for Young Adults
A Goodreads Best Young Adult Book of the Year Nominee 
 “Sharp, brilliantly plotted, and totally engrossing. Every time I thought I had it figured out, the story twisted again. Kara Thomas should teach a master class in suspense.” —KAREN M. MCMANUS, New York Timesbestselling author of One of Us Is Lying 

A little bit Riverdale and a little bit Veronica Mars, The Cheerleaders is a twisty page-turner that will have you doubting every character you meet—and everything you think you know.” —RILEY SAGER, bestselling author of Final Girls 

"A crafty, dark, and disturbing story, but in Thomas's masterful book, the real crime is how dangerous it is to grow up female. The Cheerleaders is a riveting read."—KATHLEEN GLASGOW,  New York Times bestselling author of Girl In Pieces 

“At times eerie, exciting, and even frightening…this deliciously deceptive thriller and provocative drama is a must-have.”—SLJ 
“Keeping the audience guessing until the very end…[The Cheerleaders is a] satisfying, whodunnit with a solution as complicated as its premise.”—Kirkus Reviews 

“Thomas builds her novel around an appealingly gruesome case…beset by herrings, and it keeps the pace moving at a solid clip….A solid pick for mystery fans.”—Booklist

Praise for Little Monsters: 

A Junior Library Guild Selection 

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

"An eerie and masterly psychological thriller...[that] culminates in a shocking and disturbing ending. Thomas expertly captures the pointed nuances and the fickle, manipulative bonds of adolescent girls’ friendships."-SLJ 

"Taut and suspenseful...this gritty page-turner will easily hook a broad range of readers"-Booklist 

"An intense psychological thriller that all but ensures the lights will be left on between dusk and dawn."-Publishers Weekly 
"Gritty and realistic...this mystery will leave readers in awe."-VOYA
"A twisted story of obsession and manipulationLittle Monsters captivated me right up to its surprising conclusion—and left me wondering how well I really know my friends."-CHELSEA SEDOTI, author of The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett
"A brilliant, well-written masterpiece, full of unreliable narrators, suspense, and plot twists that will leave you at the edge of your seat."-Inah P., The Bibliophile Confessions
A twisted and evocative tale of teenage friendships, obsession, and family dynamics all wrapped up in a mystery that is as compelling as it is dark.”-Liz, Liz Loves Books
"The ending left me staring slack-jawed."-Leah Lorenzo, Bumble Bee Books  
Little Monsters was absolutely amazing. It pulled me in and now that I am done with it, I am going to have such a major book hangover....Every time I thought I was close to having [the mystery] figured out, Kara Thomas would throw something at us and it would change EVERYTHING!”-Stephanie Torina, Reading is Better With Cupackes

Praise for The Darkest Corners:

An International Thriller Writers Award Finalist
An ABC Best Book for Teens
A Junior Library Guild Selection

"Gripping from start to finishThe Darkest Corners took me into an underbelly I didn't know existed, with twists that left me shocked and racing forward to get to the end."-VICTORIA AVEYARD, #1 New York Timesbestselling author of Red Queen

A tight, twisted thriller, full of deft reversals and disturbing revelations—deeply, compulsively satisfying!”-BRENNA YOVANOFF, New York Times bestselling author of The Replacement
As dark as Gillian Flynn and as compulsive as Serial…Kara Thomas’s mystery debut is intricate, chilling, and deeply compelling. Unforgettable!”—LAURA SALTERS, author of Run Away
"You'll be up all night tearing through the pages, gasping through the twists and turns."-Bustle

"[It] will have you questioning the lies young girls tell, and the ripple effects they can have."

 Thomas carefully crafts the suspense, leaving present-tense narrator Tessa—and readers—to doubt even those she loves the most…An unsettling story of loss, lies, and violence lurking in the shadows of a small town.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

 "On the heels of Making a Murderer and The Jinx comes a psychological thriller strongly rooted in the true-crime tradition...Expertly plotted with plenty of twists and turns—never mind a truly shocking conclusion—this gritty thriller is sure to find a wide audience among teens and adults alike. Equally concerned with a quest for the truth and the powerful motivation of guilt, this compelling novel won’t linger on the shelf." —Booklist, Starred review

 "Thomas keeps it real with a jaded heroine from the have-nots societal segment who holds onto her humanity, and a frank illustration of failure in the justice system. Hand this one to older teens who love dark mysteries or fans of Netflix's Making a Murderer."—Shelf Awareness, Starred review

"Clearly drawn…[and] alive until the twisty end."—Bulletin
"Strong character development and thrilling reveals…this novel is a sure bet."—SLJ

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 or follow @karatwrites on Twitter and @kara_thomas on Instagram.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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.”


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?”


“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?”


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.

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