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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

M-U-R-D-E-R: A Review of The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

Once upon a midnight dreary, I sat down and read murder mysteries all March long.

Woman in front of clue board investigating.
Hope you've had a great time this March!

Hello, Book Nerds! Welcome back to Reading Has Ruined My Life or welcome if you are new. As always, my name is Hannah and I am your captain on this journey into my bookcases.

Y’all, it’s the last week of Murder Mystery March. I can’t believe it’s over. It feels like I just started this series the other day, and now I’m on the last review! But this is not a time for tears. Nay, nay. I have a great review to end Murder Mystery March. Please give a warm welcome to The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas!

Book cover of The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas.

You may have heard of this one. It was a big release back in 2018. Let me tell ya something, I read The Cheerleaders right around the time it came out but I haven’t touched it since. I remember it being a good story, with a twist that remained in my head since my initial read, but that’s about it. Guess what? It holds up. On that note, let’s get to the synopsis.

As always, a spoiler alert is in order. I also must include a content and trigger warning. This book deals with suicide. Suicide is a big part of this story, and it is discussed in great length. Depression is also brought up a good bit in relation to suicide along with a few characters who are dealing with it. This book also features a romantic/sexual relationship between a minor and an adult. It’s nasty, and our author knows that and makes note of it. It’s disgusting to read, but it’s there for a reason. Just make note that this book has statutory rape in it. Now let’s crack into it.

Bears waving.
If you're jumping ship, that's fine! But if you're staying, thanks! Let's get into it.

Five-years prior to the events of our book, five teenaged girls died. Two lost their lives in a car accident, two were murdered, and the last sadly took her own life. These five girls were best friends, in the prime of their lives, and all were on the cheerleading team; hence this book’s title. After their deaths, the cheer team was disbanded. Now, five-years later, Monica Rayburn believes something else happened to some of those girls; specifically to Jen, the last cheerleader who passed away and, more importantly, her sister.

Woman in front of a clue board tyring to solve a mystery.
The woman in this gif is actually Monica.

Monica is not vibing with the results of the police investigation anymore. What transpired the night those two cheerleaders were murdered seems a little too cut-and-dry. A little too perfectly wrapped up. Something is not right, and Monica is going to be the one to dig into this closed case.

With the help of her new friend Ginny, Monica dives into texts, conversations, drama, and acquaintances her sister knew back in the day. Too soon, the teens are in deep. Long buried secrets are seeing the light of day, and these are things many people want to keep hidden. Let’s just say Ginny and Monica aren’t making any new friends, and their lives may now be at risk given the dirty laundry they’ve discovered.


I’m gonna be straight with y’all, this is a very cut-and-dry YA mystery. I don’t think anything about the mystery or characters is groundbreaking. If this was 2018, and you went to a bookstore, you would see a hundred other books just like The Cheerleaders. Is this book well written? Yes. Is the mystery one that keeps readers guessing? I guess, it’s decent. This ain’t an Agatha Christie murder mystery, but I couldn't pick the killer out automatically. But is there a great twist at the end? Hell yeah!

The last page has a reveal that changes a massive part of the book. Everything you thought you knew about one of the deaths is entirely changed in the span of a minute. I was shooketh when I first read it. As I said in the beginning, this twist/reveal stayed with me all these years. It was the only thing I remembered about The Cheerleaders. Truthfully could not tell you who the killer was prior to this reread, but I could gush about this reveal.

Chef's kiss.
Me @ this reveal:

I guess forgetting the plot was lowkey a good thing. I did genuinely forget who the killer was, and pretty much everything that occurs, so it felt like I was reading the book again for the first time. Points in The Cheerleaders’ favor then. You don’t get to experience that too often with books. Seriously, raise your hand if you wish you could experience reading your favorite book again for the first time. Everyone’s hand is raised, I know it!

Mean Girls hand raise scene.
Footage of everyone reading this post:

Outside of that reveal, there is one main thing I want to highlight. Due to all the shit I’ve listed above, along with some things I haven’t mentioned and will gladly let y’all discover for yourselves, Monica is going through a lot. Our girl is struggling with her mental health and is battling depression. There is no singular way to depict depression. Everyone’s struggle is different. But the way Kara Thomas depicts it, in my eyes at least, is very strong.

I think a lot of times, people view depression as something that keeps people bedridden, upset, silent, alone, and/or never wanting to leave the house. Kara Thomas doesn’t depict it that way though. Instead she shows someone out in the world surrounded by others. Monica is still very quiet, she doesn’t open up to many of her friends and family, and when given the choice, she’d rather be by herself or with only one other person. But she’s hiding all that by being involved in extracurricular activities at school, and trying to figure out what happened to her sister. In my opinion, Monica is putting on a facade and is running away from her thoughts and emotions. She wants to evade the root of her problems, and in order to do that, she’s going to focus on anything but herself.

I can’t remember the last time I saw depression portrayed like this in media. I’m sure it has, but I can’t think of an example off the top of my head. If you do, let me know. I’d love to see it. Anyway, back to my point. The main reason I bring Monica’s plight up is because that it deviates from the norm. I believe that mental illness needs to be talked about more in society, so many people deal with some form of mental health issue. It’s not uncommon, it’s normal! I think one of the easiest ways to get people to talk about it is if they see it in media. And specifically if they see various forms of it in media. Hence why I like this portrayal.

I also greatly appreciated that Monica’s depression is not magically gone in the end. Yes, by the final chapter she has faced her issues and problems head on, but she still has so much healing left to do. Monica has begun a process, but she still has a long way to go, and she knows that. She’s knows her internal struggles aren’t over, but she knows she can face them head-on.

At this point, I’ve brought up the two major things I enjoy about this book. Overall, this book is good. I’m overjoyed that I got the chance to reread it, and have it feel like the very first time, but, like I said in the beginning, there are hundreds of other books just like it. The Cheerleaders is very much a byproduct of its time. I mean, you can still find a bunch of stories just like it if you walk into a bookstore today. Murder mysteries with a teenaged protagonist are still hot.

I don’t have anything else to say about The Cheerleaders. At the end of the day it’s pretty basic, but it’s a good read. I can easily say that if this book interests you, you won’t be mad at spending a night reading it. So on that note I must bid you all adieu. I shall see you next week with another good review.

Thank you all for joining for Murder Mystery March, I hoped you enjoyed it as much as I did. Until next time, stay safe, wash your hands, and read some good books for me.

Bears waving.
See y'all next week, bye!

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