Content warning / trigger warning:
Both the book and my discussion of it feature mentions of abortion, statutory rape (an older man with a high school pupil), suicide, and murder. My discussion of the abortion storyline is as a pro-choice woman, but the character isn’t supported particularly well by her mother.
Welcome for another review, of another young adult thriller. This particular book is one I had on my shelves for a little while, and I picked it up to help bust me out of a reading slump, which it certainly did. Even on days when I was feeling low and lacking in energy, I couldn’t help being sucked in by this book. It was certainly hard hitting, at times rather sensationalist, but at the same time if I think back to being sixteen myself, there is an element of life just being like that when you’re that age.
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.
The story begins with Monica going through a pill induced termination, and almost by accident because of everything she is left alone thinking about, she starts investigating her sister’s death by suicide, something she has always questioned, and always needed answers to. On this point, I think the book demonstrated what it’s like to lose someone to suicide in a very accurate way, which was both a blessing and a curse, but overall I’m glad it was done that way.
Monica becomes close friends throughout the story with a girl she’s only vaguely known before this point, and they become almost inseparable. It’s done in a way that makes you question her motives, which is great, as it leaves question marks hanging over right to the end.
I guessed the big twist fairly early on but still needed to read on to be sure I was correct, and that’s the sign of a good mystery; you think you know, but you need to know. I wasn’t disappointed to be wrong, I more took it as a sign that maybe I’ve been reading too many mystery books over recent months!
Monica was a really relatable character, and the flashbacks we get to her sister show how many similarities to what they were both going through emotionally at the same age, which was both a sad demonstration of two people, but also of just how hard it can be at sixteen. We often forget, I think, how hard those years can be, and this book was like a big old reminder, with the subplot running through it about just being a teenager being dramatic enough.
Overall, I found it a powerful and emotive read, with twists and turns, red herrings and plot points everywhere you looked, allowing you to be fully immersed into the world. It’s not a book for the lighthearted, and touches on some more difficult issues than some of the more ‘lighthearted’ murder mysteries I’ve read, which isn’t a plus or minus point, just something to be aware of before you pick it up. I’d certainly read more by this author.