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.
I was in the mood to read a Young Adult book and I bought this novel ages ago when it was in sales. I picked it up thinking it would be quite similar to A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder with another teen sleuth at the center of a murder mystery. It definitely had the same easy style of writing and they are both visually attractive, but there are multiple plotlines in this novel and the investigation of what happened in the past is also quite different between both novels.
The master sleuth of service in The Cheerleaders is Monica. She’s on the dance team at school while she might have been on the cheerleading team like her big sister Jennifer if the team hadn’t been disbanded after 5 girls of the team died. I’m not sure it matters (it doesn’t) but in all honesty, cheerleading team (from what I gained from flashbacks) and dance team (from the routines Monica shares) did feel quite similar to me.
Monica is still trying to make sense of her sister’s death. First two friends of her sister died in a car accident, then two were murdered for an unknown reason by their neighbour, and then Jennifer killed herself, no note, no nothing. It’s been 5 years but Monica still has trouble coping. She has always been convinced 5 deaths in a matter of only a few months were just too much of a coincidence. When she stumbles by accident upon some anonymous letters accusing her stepfather of not having done his job properly, and her sister’s old cell phone, she uses this device to do some digging and retrace her sister’s life in the last days. I did find it a little bit of a plothole to strike up a conversation with someone anonymous via a telephone number and doing everything possible to find out this person’s identity through every means possible other than simply calling the number with any sort of random excuse. It’s the first thing I would do or at least think about but then I guess it wouldn’t be so much fun if she had taken this shortcut. It would also mean she’d have a name but possibly not know the connection to her sister so it did maybe work out better in the end anyway. It also meant that Monica needed some extra help and she finds an ally in Ginny, another girl on the dance team who she didn’t really have much contact with before they teamed up, and I’d even say I warmed to Ginny possibly even more than to Monica.
I loved that there was so much going on, Monica has her own problems in the present and then there are various strings in the past too but it eventually remains quite focused on the murders of Susan and Juliana. I got a sense of what was going on via Jennifer’s POV but Monica was also doing her best to shed some extra light onto the friendship between the cheerleaders.
The last few chapters were packed with revelations, I did not guess the conclusion of any of the clever mysteries. There was however an imbalance as the revelation of one mystery fell a little flat for me. It was sort of shoved between the others, thus much shorter and rather matter of fact, the other two felt much more shocking and I wish it had felt the same way.
All in all I did enjoy The Cheerleaders, it had decent plotting, wasn’t shy of adding some heavier themes into the story, and I definitely want to try another of Kara Thomas’s novels the future.
I bought a paperback copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.