DON’T BE FOOLED BY THE COVER
The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas is so phenomenal, it’ll turn a nonreader into a bookworm! To say this book is a page-turner is an understatement because it’s a keep-you-reading-past-your-bedtime type of read. By looking at the cover, I expected it to be juvenile, and that made me reluctant to buy it, but I was 100% wrong. This book is definitely worth the price! It’s a fantastic young adult thriller with a dash of mystery. And if you are or were on a dance team, you’ll love the authentic depiction.
Since this book has been heavily reviewed, I was excited to realize Kara Thomas’s writing technique is the most impressive part of the book because this is the foundation making it enthrall anyone who picks it up. From the burliest jock to the daintiest princess, this book will entertain you beyond the amazing denouement.
After geeking out on the clues connecting at the end, I had to force myself to avoid revealing spoilers. So, without spoiling it for you, the most impressive parts working to immerse the reader were Ms. Thomas’s use of repetition in her prose to show the main character’s obsession with finding out the truth, text messages to convey the time period and a realistic portrayal of teenage communication, and chapters focusing on the deceased sister’s story from five years prior.
From the beginning the author sets up the backstory of how the main character, Monica, is not convinced that her big sister, Jennifer, committed suicide. Even though, by the end of chapter two, the reader will understand Monica has constant reminders of her sister and her sister’s friends who were killed, it’s Kara’s usage of repetition starting with the end of chapter three that really picks up the pace of the story and solidifies the brewing obsession Monica has for figuring out what really happened to her sister and her sister’s friends five years ago. The repetition starts with Monica finding envelopes with four pictures of the girls, “each with the same message typed at the bottom. I KNOW IT WASN’T HIM. CONNECT THE DOTS” (26). And then the message from the bottom of the pictures repeats to show Monica’s obsession without becoming tiresome. By using this technique, Thomas creates inspiration for the readers’ absorption into the narrative, and the believability regarding the protagonist’s passion for digging deeper into the case, but the author doesn’t overdo it. Once you start to notice the repetition, it stops perfectly, so it doesn’t become boring for the reader.
Now, by chapter four, you’ll be at the point of needing a breather because of the narrative’s increasing intensity. And the author does just that by putting text messages into the narrative to bring you back to Monica’s teenage reality by having one of her close friends text her, “we’re safe [next to a] smiley emoji” (28), right when Monica is starting to obsess over the message. And Monica’s reply is exactly what a teen in her position would do. It’s the realism of their communication style which is key to Thomas’s technique keeping you captivated by Monica’s young adult world while keeping the reader knowing that this is happening in a modern-day setting. By the author waiting to introduce text messages until chapter four, it also works as a great tool for continuing the reader’s immersion in the narrative which is shown through the author’s usage of text messages to show the scenes instead of continuing with standard first-person narration. This works perfectly to add page-turning suspense later in chapter four when Monica texts the last person who texted Jennifer, also working to show you the awkwardness of texting a stranger.
Since the majority of the story is first-person present tense, Kara Thomas uses that to accentuate another brilliant writing choice. For some, it may be jarring, but from most of the reviews, it seems many of the readers loved the author’s choice of using third-person past tense chapters to tell Jennifer’s backstory. This part also appeals to anyone with cheerleading experience because Thomas uses authentic details, like how “Jen never wanted to be on top. The top was for petite girls, like Juliana, or pea-shoot-thin girls like Susan, muscle toned from years of tennis” (50). And that’s just one example of how Thomas brings a breath of reality to Jennifer’s chapters.
All the past tense chapters share what happened five years ago, and they help to create dramatic irony because these chapters teach you things Monica doesn’t know, but they don’t teach you enough to spoil the read. Instead, they help the reader feel the obsession for finding out what happened to Jennifer, making you share Monica’s emotions because of the clues that only you know. They also make you super interested to see if Monica figures out what you know from the Jennifer chapters, especially after the first one, which ends with the eeriness created by showing “Jen thought of her friends slipping away from her and how it felt like she was hurtling toward the edge of something they couldn’t be pulled back from” (55).
After the first Jennifer chapter, you’ll be so engrossed by wanting to learn more, wanting to learn what really happened, that you may not notice the eerie foreshadow. I was majorly hooked by this point, and the hook stayed until the finish. When I reached the end of chapter 18, I wanted to ditch everything I had to do and just keep reading. Chapter 20, I read before bedtime and was so glued to the book I had to skim the start of the next chapter just to feel like I could go to sleep since not skimming was going to keep me curious, guessing about what happens next. As for the last chapters, they’ll make you want to reread the entire book immediately because you’ll enjoy the newfound depth of the story. All of this is directly a result of Kara Thomas making great choices for how to showcase her mastery of the young adult thriller genre.
Once you reach the end, the clues will be resolved, and you’ll want to reread the novel to see how the author used them to keep you enthralled until the finale. The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas is a mesmerizing young adult thriller with a sprinkle of whodunit, making it a definite must-read for everyone.
Thank you for reading our book review about The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas. We are not affiliated with the publisher, but here’s the link to pick up a copy.
E. R. Sanchez is the author of Fried Potato Press’s first young adult thriller, Petaco Dreams, which will be released in 2023. He also has poems and stories published online and in print. If you’d like to read his work that was published online, please click here to go to his Stories and Poetry Section.