For Ages
14 to 99

"Sharp, brilliantly plotted, and totally engrossing."--KAREN M. MCMANUS, New York Times bestselling author of One of Us Is Lying

"A crafty, dark, and disturbing story."--KATHLEEN GLASGOW, New York Times bestselling author of Girl In Pieces

"A little bit Riverdale and a little bit Veronica Mars."--RILEY SAGER, bestselling author of Final Girls

A Goodreads Best Young Adult Book of the Year Nominee

From the author of The Darkest Corners and Little Monsters comes an all-new edge-of-your-seat thriller set in upstate New York about an eerie sequence of seemingly unrelated events that leaves five cheerleaders dead.

There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.

First there was the car accident--two girls dead 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 his reasons. 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'd 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.

More Praise for Kara Thomas:

"Gripping from start to finish . . . with twists that left me shocked."--VICTORIA AVEYARD, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Red Queen

"You'll be up all night tearing through the pages."--BUSTLE

"This deliciously deceptive a must-have."--SLJ

An Excerpt fromThe Cheerleaders

This house was made for someone without a soul. So I guess it makes sense that my mother wanted it so badly. I can imagine how her eyes lit up when she walked through the five-­bedroom, three-­and-­a-­half-­bath new construction. I’ll bet she thinks this house is the answer to what’s wrong with us.

When Tom, my stepfather, showed me the bathroom attached to my room with its own Jacuzzi tub, he said, Bet you feel like Cinderella, because he’s an idiot.

I should be happy for my mother and Tom, because the old house took so long to sell that it nearly destroyed their marriage. I should be thrilled I don’t have to hear the words terrible real estate market and bad location ever again. Neither they nor the listing agent had the balls to come out and say that no one wanted to buy a home on the street of horrors.

The worst thing about the new house is that there’s no way to sneak into my room. The dining room is right off the front hall, so when I get home from dance team tryouts, I can see my mother at the table eating Chinese takeout with Tom and Petey, their “oops baby.”

Petey is ten now. Mom married Tom when I was five. When I was a kid, I overheard her telling my grandmother that she and Tom both were done with children. Mom had Jen and me, and Tom had a college-­aged daughter with his ex-­wife. Four months later, Mom was pregnant with Petey.

So, totally an oops baby.

“Monica,” my mother calls. “We’re eating dinner.”

In other words, Don’t you try to disappear upstairs.

I plod into the dining room, the smell of the takeout souring my stomach. Everything hurts: standing, walking, sitting.

At the table, Petey is sucking up lo mein noodles. One slips from between his lips and falls on the screen of his iPad, because God forbid he perform a basic function such as eating without playing Clan Wars.

“Petey,” Mom says, “please put the game down.”

“But I have to harvest my crops.”

“Do you want the iPad to go in the garbage?”

“You wouldn’t throw an iPad in the garbage.”


Petey’s eyes go wide, because Mom only uses his full name when she’s really about to lose her shit. I almost want to tell the poor kid it’s not his fault that Mom is acting like a psycho.

“Monica.” Tom looks up from his phone, finally noticing me. He takes off his reading glasses and breathes on the lenses. Wipes them on his shirt. “How were tryouts?”


“The new Chinese place gave us extra fortune cookies!” Petey says, and I say, “Cool,” which pretty much sums up the depth of my interactions with my half brother.

Mom’s eyes are on me. I keep my own eyes on a carton of white rice. I grab a plate and spoon some onto it.

“What’s wrong?” Petey asks. It takes a second for it to sink in that he’s speaking to me. Tom is watching me now too. My mother makes a face as if she just swallowed down vomit.

“Can I go lie down?” I ask.

“Go ahead,” she says.

When I get to the hall, I hear Petey whine, “How come she gets to do what she wants?”

I practically have to crawl up the stairs to my room. The over-­the-­counter painkillers my mom picked up for me are seriously garbage. I would call Matt, my ­ex-­boyfriend, because even though he denies it, he’s friends with people who can get the strong stuff. But Matt graduated and he’s not in Sunnybrook anymore and we haven’t spoken since July.

My heating pad is still packed in one of the storage tubs Mom and I bought from Bed Bath & Beyond before the move. I dig it out, biting my lip. The nurse at Dr. Bob’s office said it would be like bad period cramps. But it hurts so badly I want to die.

I break into a sweat from plugging in the heating pad and flop onto my brand-­new bed. King-­sized, like my mom and Tom’s. She insisted—­the room would have looked too small with a queen.

They say you’re not supposed to put the pad directly on your skin, but I do it anyway and curl up on my side. I’d gladly take my flesh melting off over the pain in my gut.

A knock at the door. I grunt and Mom pushes her way in, holding a bottle of naproxen and a glass of water. “When was the last time you took painkillers?”

“Lunch,” I lie. I popped four before tryouts.

“You can have two more, then.” Mom perches at the edge of my bed. She might as well be a mile away. It’s really obscene, how big the bed is.

I groan and pull my legs up tight to my body, into the fetal position.

“I told you that you should have stayed home today.” My mother taps the naproxen bottle to her palm, shakes two pills out.

“Coach would have cut me from the team.” I accept the pills. Swallow them greedily.

Mom is quiet. She drums her fingers—­the nails rounded and coated with clear polish—­on my comforter. Her anxious tic. Finally: “Have you told Matt?”


I can’t tell what she’s thinking—­whether she actually wants me to call Matt at college and tell him.

“He could support you,” Mom says, after a beat. “You don’t have to go through this alone.”

“It wasn’t his anyway.”

I stare straight ahead so I don’t have to see the look on her face.

When she stands up, her profile comes into focus. She looks sad for a moment before she catches herself. “I hope you learn something from this pain.”

My mother shuts the light off on her way out—­or at least, she tries to. She can’t find the switch at first, because it’s opposite where it used to be in my old room. Finally, she gives up, leaving me under the glow of the top-­of-­the-­line energy-­efficient LED bulbs.

She’s wrong, I think. Pain isn’t supposed to teach you anything. It only exists to hurt you. And she should know that better than anyone.

Under the Cover