The Cheerleaders

384p. Delacorte. Jul. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524718329. POP
Gr 9 Up–In Monica's family, they don't talk about her older sister Jennifer's death. It's been years since five of Sunnybrook High School's most popular cheerleaders died in seemingly unconnected events, but Monica's family never really processed their grief. On the fifth anniversary of her sister's suicide, Monica discovers a pile of anonymous letters hidden in her stepfather's desk. These notes urge the police officer to reexamine the evidence, hinting that the deaths were all connected. Knowing her stepdad is ignoring the letters, Monica decides to delve into the subject herself, but soon her curiosity becomes an obsession, driving a wedge between herself and everyone she cares about. Monica and Jennifer's stories are told through alternating chapters, creating suspenseful cliff-hangers, but also a variation in pace and genre. Monica's sections speed along like a frenetic thriller as she teases out her sister's and the town's secrets, while Jennifer's chapters take on the quiet unease of a drama as she responds to first the betrayal and then the death of her friends. Following its characters' temperaments and decisions, the atmosphere is at times eerie, exciting, and even frightening. Though the realistic depictions of abuse and sexual violence might be too much for sensitive readers, the ending offers hope of healing through a dark, but empowering conclusion.
VERDICT This deliciously deceptive thriller and provocative drama is a must-have for high school libraries.

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