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I've said before that I'm not much of an athlete, and I write a website about how much I love reading, so it probably will shock no one if I admit that in high school, I was not a fan of the cheerleaders. As an adult I've come to understand why wearing a tight, revealing, glittery outfit and flinging one's soft girl parts around leads to popularity (or at least notoriety), but I still feel pretty grumbly about the way the world works. Fortunately, I've also met a few former cheerleaders who are both smart and sweet, shining counterexamples to the plasticky snarks I remember from 2003.  

 As a sign of my ever-increasing maturity, I decided to give this book about cheerleaders a chance. Were there sections in which the characters glorified their endeavor with ridiculous hyperbole? Did I have to pause occasionally to roll my eyes at the nobility with which they self-importantly endowed their jumps and tosses? Yes, and yes. But I still found myself racing to the end of the book, anxious to find out just how crazy and bitchy these girls were.

The action is narrated by Addy, sidekick to scary alpha girl and cheer captain Beth. When a new coach is hired for the squad, Beth finds herself unseated from her treasured captain's position. Addy, transfixed by the new coach, a late-twenties beauty with a husband, daughter, and a big secret, drifts away from Beth and her catty commentary. However, Beth is not the type to be pushed aside without a fight. A really ugly fight, in which one person ends up dead.

This book is so dark, the girls so ruthless, the competition so fierce, and the dialogue so loaded, it reminded me of the movie Black Swan. You think it's a movie about ballet, how edgy can it be? And then Natalie Portman stabs Mila Kunis with a mirror shard. In the book, it's less about physical violence and more about the power of information—who has it, and what they choose to do with it. And these girls choose total destruction.

Bottom line: Read this book, and never look at cheerleaders the same way again.