OK, lots of noise on the Net about this one, all positive. A mystery! Mean girls! Snark! I could almost imagine the loads of nasty, promiscuous narcissism! And see, to me this is easy reading. This is exactly what you would expect from a book about a group of current-day cheerleaders. Hey, the cheerleading politics were pretty bad even in my day!
It took like three months for me to get to the front of the line for the audio at the library. This was another good sign. I couldn't wait.
Synopsis: Addy Hanlon and and Beth Cassidy have been best friends forever, and there has always been an understanding about their relationship. Beth is in charge, and Addy is Beth's lieutenant. Beth decides who gets to be popular, sets the trends, gets the first pick of boys. She is the captain of the Varsity cheerleading squad too, until a new, young beautiful coach shows up at the beginning of their Senior year.
Coach French is suddenly a threat to the social structure as it has always existed. She draws the cheerleaders into her life, befriends them, advises them on not only their athletics but on their weight and their boyfriends. She simultaneously knocks Beth off her pedestal and takes Beth's toy - Addy - under her wing and into her confidence about matters no teenage girl should know about. Then suddenly things take a sinister turn.
There is a suicide that draws a spotlight on the cheer squad. Was it really a suicide or was it murder? Who was involved? What is the motive? Jealousy? Shame? Ambition? Lust? Or just plain, old-fashioned crazy?
My thoughts: This was definitely one book that plays with your head. It is nearly impossible to be without opinion. The behavior of ambitious, self-absorbed teenage girls ALONE is horrific. Is it realistic, this portrayal? It is edgy but not too far off the mark in my opinion. I was not a cheerleader in high school, but some of my friends were. And even 30 years ago in a rural community, it was pretty brutal. Mean, bully-ish, political. There is one girl from my high school class who is still harboring ill feelings to this day over things that happened when we were 16. So I think Abbott nailed it on that front.
Then there is the behavior of the coach, a person who has personal issues of her own. While she is not a pedophile, the damage she is doing to these girls is bad enough to warrant an equally harsh label. The relationship she establishes between herself and these girls is so totally inappropriate. I was enraged! And WHERE THE HELL ARE THE PARENTS??? With the exception of a drunk mother sashaying on and off the stage a few times, there were no present parents concerned about the crazy coach, the emergency calls at 3:00am, girls starving themselves, or taking risks with these crazy cheerleading maneuvers.
The mystery is worthy of any good crime novel. I had no idea what was going on, and all of my suspicions were wrong, wrong, wrong.
Overall, this was a very satisfying, very disturbing street-level view of the dark side of the modern teenage girl.
A few words about the audio production: The narrator for this audio was Khristine Hvam, who was new to me but has definitely built up a respectable resume of some very popular YA titles, as well as voice-overs in TV and video games. She was the perfect mix of youth and snotty, snarky teen-ness to make this listen very authentic and enjoyable.
Audio book length: 9 hours and 10 minutes (304 pages)
4.5 out of 5 stars