A cheerleader loses her squad but discovers herself in MacCarthy’s debut novel.
For Jenna Watson, a junior on her high school’s competitive cheer team, life is suddenly collapsing around her. After an incident at a party, Jenna’s best friend, Raejean, replaced her with another girl on their squad. Without Raejean, she feels alone and left out by the rest of the team. Desperate pleas for Raejean’s attention escalate into sabotage and, ultimately, an accident during competition that makes Jenna quit the team. Grief and loneliness take Jenna on an unexpected adventure, reconnect her with her single mom and goth brother, and help her find strength to move on. While the prose is unpolished, overall MacCarthy captures the raw emotions of heartache and betrayal. As a character, Jenna grows by accepting her anxiety and trusting that she will find a way to get back up when it knocks her down. Owning her mistakes sets her free. Jenna’s romance with James, a transgender boy, models consent and open communication. As her relationship with James develops, Jenna seeks out information about trans experiences by researching on her own time rather than burdening him with intrusive questions. Aside from background characters the cast is predominantly white.
Rough writing but still a story with appeal for its themes of overcoming insecurities and friendship drama. (Fiction. 14-18)