Squad by Mariah MacCarthy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Summary: 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.
Our heroine, Jenna, is... a lot. She's self-centered; sometimes in the normal teenaged way, sometimes in the "I want to slap you upside the head" way. She's petty and a bit of a drama queen. She has a touch of an inferiority-superiority complex. And yet, I couldn't help but like her. She's funny, she's got a lot of heart, and her insecurities felt very real to me. (I think any teenage girl - or anyone who has any memory of being a teenage girl has been where she is at one point or another.) And her selfishness is called out multiple times by multiple characters, so that's always good. She even grows past it. (Mostly.) And I know I called her a drama queen, like, five seconds ago, but honestly? I get it. As someone who has been through some awful, awful friendship breakups, I totally get it. (I wouldn't go as far as Jenna does in some cases, but I did understand why she went there. And, to her credit, she regrets it instantly, so she does realize when she crossed a line.)
This isn't the best-written or most subversive book in the world, and I get why other people don't like it - Jenna's kind of a total brat, and it can be hard to get past sometimes - but I did, more than I expected to. I liked the trans rep (especially since the trans character is a love interest! And such a sweet guy, too), the discussion of fluidity and being bicurious, and how honest and raw the emotions were. The reason Jenna acts like everything is the end of the world is because to her, it is the end of the world. Because, ya know... she's sixteen. And she just lost her best friend, and she doesn't even really know why. I got the sense the author really remembers what it was like to be an emotional, angsty, spiraling teenager, and they captured it incredibly well. I also really liked the exploration of female friendships (especially since, yes, a friendship breakup can suck every bit as much as a romantic one), and the relationship Jenna has with her brother. They go from being distant and aloof to each other to being confidants and friends, and it's adorable.
Also, there's a subplot in which our cheerleader of a main character gets roped into D&D and LARPing... and it's fantastic. View all my reviews
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