Kara Thomas's The Cheerleaders Review

By Sammy Nishihama

November 8, 2023

The Cheerleaders, a novel by Kara Thomas, tells the story of 16-year old Monica Rayburn. Because it’s the 5th anniversary of her sister’s death, this time of year is more painful than ever. Five years ago, Sunnybrook, New York, had a series of tragic events that ultimately resulted in the deaths of 5 cheerleaders at Sunnybrook High. Monica’s older sister, Jen, was the last of the group to die. 

The Cheerleaders captures the true grief one goes through when losing a loved one, exploring the paths someone’s mind could take them down. Monica Rayburn follows the path of questioning, wondering if the conclusions the police came to for all five deaths were at all accurate. After finding evidence in her house that the police reports weren’t entirely true, her suspicions are only confirmed as she plays detective throughout the book.

Using differing perspectives, Kara Thomas conveys the emotional distress both Monica goes through in the present, as well as Jen’s point of view five years in the past. The story is mostly told through Monica’s eyes, however, the book changes every few chapters to recap Jen’s experiences leading up to her death. While Monica stumbles and falls with her current friends, who don’t quite understand Monica’s desire for answers, a new friend establishes a sense of understanding for her. Ginny and Monica bond over their own investigation, following leads the police may never have discovered. Although Monica doesn’t know it, her new friend is more involved in the original incidents five years ago than she is letting on. 

I enjoyed reading this not only because of how intense it can be at times, but also because Thomas’ writing style allowed me to immerse myself into the storyline. The descriptive language established a highly detailed world inside the story that lets readers really involve themselves in the book. This not only allows the reader to understand the plot, but also relate to the characters and their emotions. Because this is a novel that is based on loss, it is incredibly engaging to those who have gone through similar experiences. For many avid readers, relatability is something that is incredibly valuable in a story, as it allows for more in-depth analysis of the characters and storyline.

The Cheerleaders perfectly captures the emotional rollercoaster that is losing someone you love in a traumatic way. The book depicts a sense of curiosity, showing raw emotion from Monica as she learns who she can trust, and who has been lying to her for her whole life. Kara Thomas does an incredible job of portraying a sense of false security and betrayal among peers. The Cheerleaders has twists and turns that couldn’t even be imagined, and reading it truly feels as if you immerse yourself into Monica’s world, making it the perfect book for many readers.