Squad by Mariah MacCarthy | Not Your Typical Cheerleader Story (ARC Review)

Squad by Mariah MacCarthy | Not Your Typical Cheerleader Story (ARC Review)

Mariah MacCarthy
Published March 12th, 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Young Adult | Contemporary


Squad is an interesting story about falling out of friendship that’s enjoyable, albeit a bit disjointed.


This darkly comic debut novel by an award-winning playwright is like Mean Girls meets Heathers with a splash of Bring it On.

Jenna Watson is a cheerleader. But it’s not some Hollywood crap. Cheerleaders are not every guy’s fantasy; they are not the “popular girls” or the “mean girls” of Marsen High School. They’re too busy for that. They’re literally just some human females trying to live their lives and do a perfect toe touch. But that all changed after Raejean stopped talking to Jenna and started hanging out with Meghan Finnegan. Jenna stopped getting invited out with the rest of the squad and she couldn’t tell if it was on purpose or if it was all in her head. 

At times heartbreaking, at others hilarious, Squad follows Jenna through her attempts to get revenge on Raejean and invent a new post-cheer life for herself through LARPING (live action role-playing) and a relationship with a trans guy that feels like love—but isn’t. In the, end Jenna discovers that who she is is not defined by which squad she’s in.

– Goodreads

At times dark and at others uplifting, Squad follows high school cheerleader Jenna in the ups and downs of cheer, friendship fallouts, romance, and self-discovery.


🏆 Portrayal of cheerleading

I’m not gonna pretend to know anything about cheerleading, (I’ve never even gone to a school that had cheerleaders.) but it seemed like the author had some sort of cheer experience, and I found it really interesting to see this portrayal of the sport that deviates from the stereotypical view of cheerleaders. The kids in this book are serious athletes, and they’re human beings just like everyone else.

🏆 Relatable depiction of universal teenage struggles

The author did a pretty good job of showing the ups and downs that come with adolescence. The book talks about loneliness, uncomfortable and complicated social situations, and shifting friendships, which brings me to the next point…

🏆 Exploration of friendships (and friendship break-ups)

This is a book about, among other things, a falling out between inseparable friends. This is a super interesting topic, and I loved seeing Jenna branch out and make new friends, and I also liked how Jenna and Raejean’s (Jenna’s ex-best friend) thread wrapped up at the end.

🏆 Sibling relationship

I felt like Jenna’s relationship with her brother could’ve been developed a bit more, but I did like the connection between these siblings and how they gradually became closer over the course of the book.


After Jenna quits cheer, she starts doing LARP with her brother and his friends—it’s short for Live Action Role-Playing, and it’s basically like a choose your own adventure board game thing except instead of a board game it’s real life. (Idk if I explained this well? But I’m sure Google has plenty of information.) Anyway, I’d never even heard of this before, and I found this aspect of the book to be kind of interesting and unusual.


🏆 Some aspects of the romance

I didn’t have any problems with the romance itself, per se, but it was only present for such a short period that it felt disjointed with the rest of the book—I was surprised at how short it was? Which I guess could be realistic for a relationship, especially a high school one, but its placement felt a bit odd and disconnected in relation to the rest of the story.

🏆 Drugs and alcohol

I know that plenty of high schoolers engage with drugs and alcohol, but there was just kind of a lot of it and it seemed excessive. And, as another reviewer pointed out, it felt odd that such serious athletes were able to use such harmful substances and not really suffer any consequences.

Overall Thoughts

This wasn’t my most favorite book ever, but I found many its facets to be compelling, and I think a lot of readers with enjoy this authentic portrayal of the struggles of high school friendships.

Diversity Rep: main character who questions her sexuality; some POC minor characters; trans (female to male) major character (Note: the main character is a bit clueless and unintentionally disrespectful about trans experiences at the start of the book, but fortunately she does change by the end.)

Warnings: drug and alcohol use by teenagers; mental health struggles (including suicidal ideation); sexual content

Let's Chat

Are you planning on reading Squad when it comes out next month? Have you read any other books about cheerleaders that you would recommend?

♥ Annie

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Squad by Mariah MacCarthy | Not Your Typical Cheerleader Story (ARC Review)

3 thoughts on “Squad by Mariah MacCarthy | Not Your Typical Cheerleader Story (ARC Review)

  1. Pingback: February ’19 Recap | Snow! Two 5-Star Reads! – Blossoms and Bullet Journals

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