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Squad

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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for Squad

  1. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I really liked parts of this novel and other parts I just totally couldn't relate with. Overall if wound up being not for me. The writing is good, but the plot could use some work. I don't read a lot of contemporaries, but I felt drawn to this one and really enjoyed it for a while, but then it just got too depressing to read. I'm sure plenty of people would love it, but it was just NOT for me.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Mariah

    If you think I want to read this because the author has the same name as me, and it comes out 6 days before my 26th birthday... you would be right.

  3. 4 out of 5

    laurel [suspected bibliophile]

    3.5 stars, rounded up Cheerleading. Best friends. LARPing. Falling in and out of relationships. All in a sophomore year, right? Holy moly do I have feels about this book. I'm so torn. For the purposes of talking freely about this book and my feelings, I'm going to put the rest of this review into spoilers. (view spoiler)[ I feel for Jenna so badly. How she was given the silent treatment by Raejean (I care so little about this biaytch that I don't care about how to spell her name), who slowly turned 3.5 stars, rounded up Cheerleading. Best friends. LARPing. Falling in and out of relationships. All in a sophomore year, right? Holy moly do I have feels about this book. I'm so torn. For the purposes of talking freely about this book and my feelings, I'm going to put the rest of this review into spoilers. (view spoiler)[ I feel for Jenna so badly. How she was given the silent treatment by Raejean (I care so little about this biaytch that I don't care about how to spell her name), who slowly turned the entire squad against her and alienated her and practically driven into a spiral of obsession and paranoia. I absolutely do not approve of Jenna's actions, however, I can see where the tension led up to it all. When you are a kind-of obsessive person and the person who's been feeding your obsession, molding you, using you, who's been your other half for so long that it's become codependent and unhealthy just...drops you? Without a second glance? Leaving you on the outside looking in? I can very much understand why Jenna acted the way she did. Why she was so depressed and why she realized what she had done was so horrible and wanted to bow out. And I can understand how her relationship with James spiraled out of control so quickly. When you've been in an unhealthy, codependent relationship with someone who uses you and gets into your mind, it's really hard to bounce back into something healthy and stable and not spiral again. However, I do respect James' reasons and his reactions—they were valid, and Jenna's reaction to his rejection was also valid, if a little...overly reactive (again, remember she's been in an unhealthy obsessive relationship). And I really, really liked the message of consent and respecting boundaries throughout the book, particularly with the LARPers and Jacks' friends, who all turned out to be a lot healthier and more wholesome than the toxic group that was the cheer squad (go figure). But. And big but here. The thing that I got a little frustrated with was the way that when Jenna kept talking about how hurt she was, how depressed she was, instead of listening to her and understanding, each and every single person proceeded to tell her she'd acted like trash to them and that their feelings were more valid (James doesn't really count...it was one date and while shitty for him ghosting her—FOR SHAME!—it was still one date and one night of sexy time). Yes, she had been self-centered...but she was spiraling into depression or something close to it? It doesn't excuse being bratty but still. Compassion, folks. As to the asshat called Raejillian. I'm glad that Jenna apologized, but I was so upset that she didn't confront Raesputin on the absolutely horrific way that she had treated her former best friend. Instead, Raegamemnon gaslit her and said, "oh, you don't remember what happened the way it actually happened. We were all happy you were just in little la-la land and being a bitch to everyone." Anywho. So why the four-slash-three-point five stars? Because of the feelings and the overall realization that eventually you do have to grow up, bite the bullet, and move on. You have to let it go and release people from the hold they have over you (intentional on their end or not, if they give you an apology or not). Otherwise, it's just an unhealthy spiral of hatred and obsession and bad mental energy. Also, because of James. Despite being a dick who ghosts people (dear reader, NEVER do this unless your life is in actual danger from a potential abusive relationship), I was so happy to see a positive and realistic depiction of a trans man (minus the ghosting part, obvs), particularly one who was exploring his body and how he felt about it (the sex scene was so, so tender). Yes, Jenna's reaction to his coming out (deadnaming and all) wasn't ideal, but she had a lot of learning and de-ignorancing to do. While he and Jenna definitely didn't work out, I hope that maybe in the mythical future they become friends. Last thought—I wasn't 100% thrilled by the ending, of her returning to the cheer squad after all that shit went down (did I not say I put all this in spoilers for a reason??) because it seemed like it would be a return to toxic patterns, but perhaps it was meant to seem as a return, an apology, and a way to make amends and rediscover love for a sport and a people. And to find forgiveness. In other people, whether or not they apologize. And in yourself. Because even if you become a toxic sludge-panda, you can crawl out of your spiral and get better. (hide spoiler)] I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review

  4. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    I need more! This ended so soon and I want more PLEASE! In Squad, we follow Jenna Watson, a cheerleader who lately can't do anything right. Her best friend, Raejean, has been avoiding her to hang out with Meghan Finnegan. Jenna also feels apart from the rest of the squad, could the small insults be real or is everything in her head. After revenge gone wrong, Jenna decides to quit the cheer team and reinvent herself through LARPing with her brother. I liked Jenna's character for the most part, but I need more! This ended so soon and I want more PLEASE! In Squad, we follow Jenna Watson, a cheerleader who lately can't do anything right. Her best friend, Raejean, has been avoiding her to hang out with Meghan Finnegan. Jenna also feels apart from the rest of the squad, could the small insults be real or is everything in her head. After revenge gone wrong, Jenna decides to quit the cheer team and reinvent herself through LARPing with her brother. I liked Jenna's character for the most part, but damn was this girl self-absorbed! She really had issues with empathy and putting others first. There were faults with other people, but Jenna would never blame herself. She was also really bad at reaching out and trying to work through the issues she had with people. She did start to get over this by the end of the book, but it was a little too late for some of her relationships. I loved Jenna's discovery of LARPing and how much fun she had with it. I loved seeing her build new relationships with her brother, his friends and Heather from the cheer squad. The relationship between Jenna and James was soooo adorable and Jenna is totally pan! (view spoiler)[ I do wish there had been more about what would happen between these two at the end (hide spoiler)] Overall, such a fun story about self-discovery, friendship, love and cheerleading!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    I don't know what I was expecting when I requested this book; I think I thought this would be a darker book, but instead we got your classic coming-to-age story. I'm happy I read it, but it's not something I would have picked up on my own. The story followed Jenna who was quickly dropped by her cheerleading group and best friend and had to find herself again. There was a trans romance which I enjoyed, but it was also a by-the-numbers story. Jenna was a "popular" girl so she found herself in a ho I don't know what I was expecting when I requested this book; I think I thought this would be a darker book, but instead we got your classic coming-to-age story. I'm happy I read it, but it's not something I would have picked up on my own. The story followed Jenna who was quickly dropped by her cheerleading group and best friend and had to find herself again. There was a trans romance which I enjoyed, but it was also a by-the-numbers story. Jenna was a "popular" girl so she found herself in a hobby that could be categorized as the opposite of popular/trending (LARPing). It's a quick read because it's dialogue heavy. If coming-of-age stories are your jam, I recommend it. Note there is some usage of a trans character's deadname.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Flavia

    I was really excited about Squad when I first heard about it because it was pitched as a mix of Mean Girls and Bring it On (which are both movies that I really enjoy)! When I picked the book up and started reading, however, I found that the tone of the main character, Jenna, and the atmosphere as a whole was considerably darker than in Bring it On and Mean Girls. The three stories definitely share the common themes of cheerleading and girls bullying each other, but that is where I found that the I was really excited about Squad when I first heard about it because it was pitched as a mix of Mean Girls and Bring it On (which are both movies that I really enjoy)! When I picked the book up and started reading, however, I found that the tone of the main character, Jenna, and the atmosphere as a whole was considerably darker than in Bring it On and Mean Girls. The three stories definitely share the common themes of cheerleading and girls bullying each other, but that is where I found that the similarities of Squad to Mean Girls and Bring it On ended (at least for me personally). I was quite happy that LGBT elements were added to the story, and also that the main character got involved in LARPING (live-action role-playing) since we always need more of the former and I’ve never seen the latter used in any literature that I’ve read before. I feel like those elements kind of carried the story for me, though, in that I was reading mainly for those elements, rather than the story as a whole. I think that there was definitely some potential when considering all of the pieces of Squad separately, but I personally find that they may just not have been fit together quite in the way that I may have preferred (when considering my personal tastes). I’m sure that there are many readers out there who have enjoyed, and will enjoy, this book though, so please don’t be discouraged from reading Squad simply due to my personal opinion.

  7. 4 out of 5

    thi

    I feel like you could easily read either too much or too little into this but I’m taking this at surface value and just want to say that you need to have been a teenage girl to be here for it I’m sure we’ve all had bouts of vindictiveness and I feel like this story nailed that experience of passive aggressive exclusion without much more melodramatics the plot and tone abruptly shifted at the “larping and romance” point and again at the end for the quick wrap up umm it was strange again strange bu I feel like you could easily read either too much or too little into this but I’m taking this at surface value and just want to say that you need to have been a teenage girl to be here for it I’m sure we’ve all had bouts of vindictiveness and I feel like this story nailed that experience of passive aggressive exclusion without much more melodramatics the plot and tone abruptly shifted at the “larping and romance” point and again at the end for the quick wrap up umm it was strange again strange but not completely unpleasant? I want to really like this, it’s defiantly memorable to me .. but idk the description of “darkly comic” was what drew me in and I’d say this was neither of those nor was it anything like mean girls, heathers or bring it on .. at all .. and since it’s marketed that way that’s a huge miss 2/5

  8. 5 out of 5

    Samantha (WLABB)

    Rating: 3.5 Stars When I first saw the cover of this book, I thought this was going to be a story about cheerleading, but it's really a tale of one girl's struggle, when she loses her "squad". Jenna couldn't figure out when or why it all began, but her teammates were icing her out. Between the in-jokes, the backhanded compliments, and the unanswered text messages, Jenna knew she was now on the outside looking in. All of this was very painful for Jenna, but the worst part was how her long-time best Rating: 3.5 Stars When I first saw the cover of this book, I thought this was going to be a story about cheerleading, but it's really a tale of one girl's struggle, when she loses her "squad". Jenna couldn't figure out when or why it all began, but her teammates were icing her out. Between the in-jokes, the backhanded compliments, and the unanswered text messages, Jenna knew she was now on the outside looking in. All of this was very painful for Jenna, but the worst part was how her long-time best friend, Raejean, abandoned her. I won't lie, Jenna's reaction to all of these changes was FAR from positive. She made a bunch of really questionable decisions, but I was still able to empathize with her, because I had experienced this sort of thing first hand. It hurts, it starts to make you question yourself, and I thought MacCarthy did an excellent job capturing the fear, anxiety, desperation, and insecurities Jenna experienced. I was a little worried about this story, because the first half of the book was kind of dark and bleak, but then Jenna sort of comes to terms with her situation. In an effort to atone for her bad behavior, she cuts herself off from the cheer squad, and that was when she really started to figure out who she was. She began to expand her circle of friends and renewed her relationships with her brother and mother. She made new friends and even picked up some new interests (LARPing!). It was great to see her grow, heal, acknowledge her mistakes, and make an effort to achieve some closure. Overall: An interesting look at fading friendships, getting through tough times, and finding yourself. *ARC provided in exchange for an honest review. BLOG | INSTAGRAM |TWITTER | BLOGLOVIN | FRIEND ME ON GOODREADS

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kenzie Halbert

    I sat down to read something fun and light and stumbled upon a book that felt like it was written for me. I felt so completely transported back to my time on a team not unlike Jenna’s: the intensity, the fierce loyalty, the complicated friendships wrapped up in competition and sisterhood. Mariah absolutely nailed it. Authentic and full of feeling and a truly lovely romantic arc that is brimming with enthusiastic consent and so much goodness, highlighting complications within queer relationships I sat down to read something fun and light and stumbled upon a book that felt like it was written for me. I felt so completely transported back to my time on a team not unlike Jenna’s: the intensity, the fierce loyalty, the complicated friendships wrapped up in competition and sisterhood. Mariah absolutely nailed it. Authentic and full of feeling and a truly lovely romantic arc that is brimming with enthusiastic consent and so much goodness, highlighting complications within queer relationships in a way that is informative without ever sacrificing authenticity. Jenna and James felt so real to me. I quietly cried through more of this book than was probably necessary. I couldn’t stop reading it and literally hugged it when I finished. What a damn delight.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    This was just alright for me. The book felt overly weighed down with cliches and stereotypes despite trying so desperately to be fresh. A brief summary: Jenna is a cheerleader, but she wants you to know she isn't a stereotypical cheerleader. The story follows her as she has a mini-breakdown after the fallout with her former best friend, Raejean. Jenna has an identity crisis and doesn't even seem to know who she is anymore, but after initially losing herself and her best friend, she begins to find This was just alright for me. The book felt overly weighed down with cliches and stereotypes despite trying so desperately to be fresh. A brief summary: Jenna is a cheerleader, but she wants you to know she isn't a stereotypical cheerleader. The story follows her as she has a mini-breakdown after the fallout with her former best friend, Raejean. Jenna has an identity crisis and doesn't even seem to know who she is anymore, but after initially losing herself and her best friend, she begins to find a new version of herself. Things I Liked (usually I would write loved, but I’m not sure I felt that strongly): - Gemma/James -- I was intrigued by Gemma/James’ character being transgender. It didn’t feel over the top, and the arc here seemed to relate more to the relationship James has with Jenna, rather than him being transgendered. It was nice to see that character in the novel; however, it felt tossed in there and underdeveloped. I almost the book had deleted all of the Raejean nonsense at the beginning and just made itself about Jenna and James. That seemed to be the closest the book got to being authentic. Things I Didn't Like: - The sex/drugs content -- While I'm not typically one to censor a novel, I felt like the references to drugs and sex were a bit over the top and unnecessary. It could be because I actually coach cheer, but I would be furious if my athletes participated in this behavior as often as it is portrayed in the book. ESPECIALLY for a team that consistently places well and takes itself so seriously. Obviously, I don't want to think of myself as a naive adult, but I think it's unrealistic that their coach couldn't notice all these behaviors within them and that they wouldn't negatively take a toll on their athletic abilities. Also, while I typically don't have huge problems with sexual content, the sexual content in this book appeared right away, and it felt like it was simply for shock value. The main character describes a lot of "sexual fantasies" with a little too much detail... It's one thing when sexual content is later in the book after it's been built up and developed, but it's another when it's thrown in in the very beginning just to prove the main character isn't a stereotype. It just felt forced. - Speaking of stereotypes... For a book that tried to break the mold of stereotypes, it felt like there were a lot -- Jenna's brother is a "goth" who is into LARP-ing. That's pretty much all the development he got. Jenna "isn't a ditz" but then I didn't see much more to her character other than her mental breakdown. The cheerleaders are supposed to be serious athletes, but they all just come off like the popular crowd from any teen movie ever. - Lack of development - Jenna goes to great lengths to explain her past with Raejean, but then she never really explains why all the sudden she switched into this mental breakdown. It would be one thing if Jenna spent most of the book trying to figure out why she can't even pinpoint what made her come apart, but it seems like the author (and Jenna) don't even care that she's suddenly losing it. It just felt awkward, and the only thing I knew about their friendship was that they shared sexual fantasies over some guy, so I wasn’t really that invested when Jenna decided she suddenly hated her. - This book seems all over the place -- I wasn’t sure if it was trying to prove to me that cheer is more than we think, if it was a novel about female friendship, if it was a novel about sexuality and fluid relationships, if it was a novel about a mental health breakdown, or if it was a novel about discovering oneself. It just felt really disjointed, and none of the plotlines really came together. The closest thing I felt to a really developed idea was that Jenna “finds herself” while LARP-ing. The author could’ve done something great with Jenna and James, but it was over after one date. Overall: I'm not likely to recommend this one. It was trying too hard, and I don't think many of its points ever really landed and felt fresh. It felt underdeveloped and inauthentic. I received a complimentary copy of this book from MacMillan Children's Publishing through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. The book will be published on March 12, 2019.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mari Johnston

    This review and many others can also be found at Musings of a (Book) Girl. The tone of Squad is one of the most authentic I’ve ever read. Everything, from the characters themselves to the way they talked, the situations they were in and the way they reacted to them, was all so genuine and real. Mariah MacCarthy did such an incredible job bringing us into Jenna’s head and helping us understand not just what she was feeling, but why, which is such an important factor that oftentimes gets missed. One This review and many others can also be found at Musings of a (Book) Girl. The tone of Squad is one of the most authentic I’ve ever read. Everything, from the characters themselves to the way they talked, the situations they were in and the way they reacted to them, was all so genuine and real. Mariah MacCarthy did such an incredible job bringing us into Jenna’s head and helping us understand not just what she was feeling, but why, which is such an important factor that oftentimes gets missed. One of my absolute favorite things about this novel was how Jenna wasn’t always a good person, and it’s not because she’s inherently bad, but instead, because she’s a flawed human being that doesn’t react to situations in the best way every single time. It doesn’t matter how nice somebody is at the core, teenagers are angsty and those feelings are going to come out. Jenna doesn’t always treat her family well and she lets her emotions control how she responds to things instead of logic and reason. Each time something like this happens though Jenna learns from it and we’re really able to see her develop. Not only are relationships mended by her realizing the mistakes that were made, but she also discovers a lot of self-worth. A big theme in Squad is friendship and not just the positive aspects, but what the fallout is like when something goes wrong. As much as we may want every friendship to last forever, the reality is that very few do, and sometimes when it ends it’s incredibly painful. Understanding what went wrong and learning that a lot of times it’s for the best are hard lessons to learn but so important, but learning how to give people second chances is equally important. The way this novel showed both aspects was so relatable and done perfectly. It would honestly be a disservice to not talk about the representation that is shown in Squad. Jenna seems to be questioning her sexuality throughout the book and that was so refreshing to see. Most of the characters I read about seem to have it all figured out, but there are a lot of teens out there that just don’t know yet whom they are attracted to, and that’s okay! We also see queer rep in one of the supporting characters, James, who is a transgender boy. This was a new situation for Jenna, and she didn’t get everything right all the time, but the way she made conscious efforts to be respectful and accepting was wonderful. There is also so much consent, especially between Jenna and James, and I’ve never seen anything like it. We really need to start seeing more authors follow MacCarthy when it comes to this subject. Squad is definitely one that I recommend picking up. It focuses on some important themes and contains lessons we could all use refreshers on. I really hope Mariah MacCarthy keeps writing because I’m wildly excited to see what they might have in store for us next.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Natalie ⭐

    This book was a solid 2/5 stars until it hit chapter 20, when the book has a huge tonal shift. Warnings for mentions of self harm and frank discussions for suicide and death. I went into this book expecting a story about a cheerleader being kicked off her “squad” and falling in love with a trans boy—and that’s ultimately what I got, but for a long time it’s a really sad look into mental health and a friend breakup. Books about being “dumped” by a friend are definitely important and necessary, but This book was a solid 2/5 stars until it hit chapter 20, when the book has a huge tonal shift. Warnings for mentions of self harm and frank discussions for suicide and death. I went into this book expecting a story about a cheerleader being kicked off her “squad” and falling in love with a trans boy—and that’s ultimately what I got, but for a long time it’s a really sad look into mental health and a friend breakup. Books about being “dumped” by a friend are definitely important and necessary, but I felt so completely drained. (Also, the friend who did the dumping... was really rude and mean. So it just hurt extra hard.) Our main character, Jenna, definitely was self-centered and immature, but over the course of the book she grows and changes so much—and the end is actually so sweet that I wanted to cry. As someone who’s definitely had my own fair share of mental health troubles, I could relate to the story quite a bit. I was definitely upset, though, that whenever Jenna opened up about her emotional state it seemed like the other characters lacked empathy for her and instead focused on telling her that she was treating them like garbage. (It’s justified, sure, but also... treat people who you know are having mental health issues with kindness, y’all.) Also, the trans love interest, James, was really realistic and honest. I loved how the main character’s brother, Jack, was extremely “chill” in terms of explaining his friend’s gender—and how he told Jenna to “just Google stuff and leave [Jack] alone.” It was a really great way to sort of exemplify how being trans really shouldn’t be a big deal. I’m just kind of sad because the love story wasn’t a big focus of this book, and I definitely was expecting it to be featured more prominently. (It was only really a thing for maybe 5-10 chapters.) James was super endearing, though, as were all of Jack’s friends. The scenes with LARP’ing were really fun and I loved how Jenna found a new passion. I listened to the audiobook, which was narrated by the author. I found the experience much more enjoyable as a result, since the author’s voice was really emotive and just fun to listen to; I’m not sure I would have appreciated the book as much without their narration.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Wow. This book was so much more than I was expecting.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Belle Ellrich

    *I WAS PROVIDED A PHYSICAL ARC IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW.* You know, I always thought that my cheerleading days were behind me. That I'd forgotten everything about tuck jumps, and toe touches, and high and low v's. But this book brought aaaalll of those memories back. I almost felt attacked while reading this book. Mariah MacCarthy really hit the mark with the MC being a teen girl, and it was a little terrifying. They managed to capture the feelings, emotions, and actions of a teen girl perfe *I WAS PROVIDED A PHYSICAL ARC IN RETURN FOR AN HONEST REVIEW.* You know, I always thought that my cheerleading days were behind me. That I'd forgotten everything about tuck jumps, and toe touches, and high and low v's. But this book brought aaaalll of those memories back. I almost felt attacked while reading this book. Mariah MacCarthy really hit the mark with the MC being a teen girl, and it was a little terrifying. They managed to capture the feelings, emotions, and actions of a teen girl perfectly, and again, it was a little terrifying. "I think I was eight when I realized you could be surrounded by people and still be alone." This quote really hit me hard, because this was the same age I was when I also realized this. This is true for many people, and especially for me. One thing that sticks with me is that I—like the MC—lost my best friend. I completely understood what Jenna was feeling when Raejean started to leave her out. And the author really pulled me in with that detail. Though, some things I didn't really like was how—in certain parts—the story really began to drag on. Especially after the big event of this novel. It seemed like the story was a brand new one that should have been separate. On top of that, I felt like a few of the characters were lacking. Specifically Jenna. It seemed like she just kind of stayed in place in a few parts, saying different things, but acting the same. Altogether, I did like the story. For that, I rate this story 3.5 stars. I do suggest reading this story when it release, as I know many of you who'd like it. I'm excited to see what will come next from the author!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sara Gregory

    Charming book about a teen girl that goes from self-absorbed to scrappy.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Matt Tynan

    I’m not usually one for stories about cheerleaders, but MacCarthy’s debut was engaging, authentic, and tender. I finished it in three days and could hardly put it down. Jenna, a very human cheerleader, starts to feel a growing distance between her and her best friend Raejean. She tries desperately to double down on being besties, only to have it backfire and make things worse and worse. This sense of the friendship being a Sisyphusian boulder of hopelessness grows until Jenna snaps and decides to I’m not usually one for stories about cheerleaders, but MacCarthy’s debut was engaging, authentic, and tender. I finished it in three days and could hardly put it down. Jenna, a very human cheerleader, starts to feel a growing distance between her and her best friend Raejean. She tries desperately to double down on being besties, only to have it backfire and make things worse and worse. This sense of the friendship being a Sisyphusian boulder of hopelessness grows until Jenna snaps and decides to cut ties. In an idiotically obvious and malicious way. What follows is a Jenna’s desertion of her cheerleading life, a self-imposed exile stemming from her shame in how terribly she reacted to suddenly finding out she was not on the same page as her now-ex-best friend. She makes friends with her brother’s goth friends and, in the process of figuring out what she wants her LARP character to be, she starts figuring out who she wants to be herself. She begins dating the transgendered Gemma/James, which is handled respectfully and beautifully and contributes to, but doesn’t distract from, Jenna’s own personal journey of growth. Jenna comes to realize her squad is whoever she wants it to be. She may not have as much in common with her cheer crew as she thought, but she still wants them in her life. She makes amends as best she can and owns up to the horrible and childish things she did. There is catharsis and a definite feeling of Jenna having changed for the better. But there is also a sense that things aren’t really over because there is so much of life still to come. Being a teenager is confusing and chaotic. I often shy away from YA novels specifically because this chaos is not represented and hence doesn’t feel authentic to the teenage experience. But in MacCarthy’s “Squad,” the intersectionality of trying to figure yourself out amidst conflicting pressures, desires, and duties is front and center. And I loved it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ashley Rogers

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading Squad. I think what I enjoyed most about it was McCarthy's ability to create really awesome characters and a plot that made me feel for Jenna, her plight, and how sometimes friends drift apart and the jealousy and lack of understanding we feel when this happens. McCarthy also tackles the anxiety of "Having to find a new friend group," and participating in new experiences (Vampire LARPing) really well. I also just straight up loved James, and how, yeah Jenna is coming I thoroughly enjoyed reading Squad. I think what I enjoyed most about it was McCarthy's ability to create really awesome characters and a plot that made me feel for Jenna, her plight, and how sometimes friends drift apart and the jealousy and lack of understanding we feel when this happens. McCarthy also tackles the anxiety of "Having to find a new friend group," and participating in new experiences (Vampire LARPing) really well. I also just straight up loved James, and how, yeah Jenna is coming to terms with herself and it has some of the "This character is learning" moments but that /isn't/ what Squad, or James, is all about. It exists because it's a real issue that Jenna hasn't had to deal with before, and because James is still working himself out (They're High Schoolers, the point isn't to tell the full story or have all the answers, it's to show satisfying growth of character) and you can tell McCarthy took time to figure out how to balance all the characters but reading James I identified with him and really loved getting to know him in the book. (Full disclosure McCarthy hired me in to read drafts of Squad in it's development... And I'm REALLY glad they did, I really love it.)

  18. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Sometimes I think cheerleaders get a bad rap. They're so often objectified and seen as Barbie dolls and potential sex objects or even the school's Mean Girls. While clearly some of those assumptions might be true in some cases, it isn't always the case as shown in this novel. Junior Jenna Watson is part of the cheerleading squad at Marsen High School. But she and her teammates are all about dance and acrobatic routines and staying in tip-top shape for competition. When the locals come to watch s Sometimes I think cheerleaders get a bad rap. They're so often objectified and seen as Barbie dolls and potential sex objects or even the school's Mean Girls. While clearly some of those assumptions might be true in some cases, it isn't always the case as shown in this novel. Junior Jenna Watson is part of the cheerleading squad at Marsen High School. But she and her teammates are all about dance and acrobatic routines and staying in tip-top shape for competition. When the locals come to watch sporting events, they actually come to see the girls perform. By the way, the cover is simply perfect for the book's contents, showing as it does seven perky cheer ribbons with one being cut in half. That's how things feel for Jenna in the year described in the book. Suddenly everything seems off, and she is on the outs with everyone, but especially her best friend Raejean. The two girls are long-time friends, even sharing a crush on the same boy, but this year, for some unfathomable reason--of course, it turns out to be a boy but also maybe from some fears about the truth--Raejean starts spending more and more time with Meghan Finnegan. Anger and resentment build up in Jenna and she behaves aggressively--and foolishly--while the squad is out of town for a competition. When Raejean is accidentally injured, Jenna blames herself and quits the team. She remains mired in depression off and on for months, but rallies herself to follow her brother's lead in some Live-Action Role Playing where she catches the eye of James, a trans boy who seems to woo her and then drop her out of fear that the transition will be too much for Jenna. Eventually, Jenna realizes she still loves cheering and dancing. While my heart went out to Jenna because no one feels comfortable when their peers seem to dismiss them and it seems that they are moving in different directions, I also felt that she spent an inordinate amount of time feeling sorry for herself. As much as she liked Raejean, it was clear from the start that theirs was not the healthiest relationship--at least for Jenna. As the book ends, it is clear that Jenna is learning to accept the different parts of herself, especially those that might not typically be associated with cheering and the squad. As I finished the book, I found myself bemoaning our tendency to put others in boxes so that you can't be this if you're that or you can't be that if you're this other thing. If this book does nothing else other than start a conversation about that and about identity and fitting in, then it will have served an important purpose.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Annie

    There are some things I liked about this book, and some things that I disliked. You can find out the specifics in my blog review, here, but here is the main gist: Likes: - A portrayal of cheerleading that isn't a total stereotype - Relatable depictions of common teenage struggles like loneliness and friendship break-ups - Super interesting exploration of intense friendship - Inclusion of a unusual hobby that I had never heard of (LARP-ing) that was very interesting to read about Dislikes: - Some as There are some things I liked about this book, and some things that I disliked. You can find out the specifics in my blog review, here, but here is the main gist: Likes: - A portrayal of cheerleading that isn't a total stereotype - Relatable depictions of common teenage struggles like loneliness and friendship break-ups - Super interesting exploration of intense friendship - Inclusion of a unusual hobby that I had never heard of (LARP-ing) that was very interesting to read about Dislikes: - Some aspects of the romance (mainly that it felt a little disjointed in relation to the rest of the story) - Lots of drugs and alcohol...it felt kind of excessive to me personally, 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. 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) 3.5 stars Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! Blog | Instagram | Pinterest | Bloglovin' | Facebook | Tumblr | Twitter

  20. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

    One of the main thing I liked about this book was Jenna's best friend, Raejean, and her cheerleading team slowly distancing from her. I personally thought that Jenna's experience with the whole passive aggressive behavior of her friends and her reaction felt real and relatable. So though Jenna made some questioning decisions throughout the book in response to those experience, I was able to empathize with her. I was intrigued to see LARPing (Live action role playing) in a YA novel. I personally One of the main thing I liked about this book was Jenna's best friend, Raejean, and her cheerleading team slowly distancing from her. I personally thought that Jenna's experience with the whole passive aggressive behavior of her friends and her reaction felt real and relatable. So though Jenna made some questioning decisions throughout the book in response to those experience, I was able to empathize with her. I was intrigued to see LARPing (Live action role playing) in a YA novel. I personally haven't heard of LARP before so it was cool seeing it. I wish we could have seen more of Jenna's participation in it. I also really liked Jenna's romance with a transgender guy. I think this is my first time reading a book where there is a relationship with someone who is transgender. I also wish I could have seen more in this book and developed more. I wasn't a huge fan of the pacing of this book. Nothing really happened much in the first half of the book. Also in the beginning of the book, there were things that Jenna told the readers that wasn't really necessary for us to know at the moment and could have been told or shown throughout the noevel. For example, in the first chapter, Jenna rambles on about everything of her life like she is introducing herself. She introduces me about her hobbies, her friends, her families and the things going around them, her grades etc. I didn't need to know all of that in the first chapter. Also some of the things she tells us in the beginning doesn't even seem that important too. Jenna mentions how she has good grades but we don't really see her working for it. That information seemed like it was added just to show us that Jenna isn't your stereotypical cheerleader. The writing also felt like a diary too, especially in the beginning. Overall, this was a light read with some interesting elements that you don't see that much is many YA books. I wish some of the things were more developed and shown more to the audience.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Vivien

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Well, this book was not a total love for me, but I have to say it contained some really interesting idea. First of all the way the main character, Jenna was written was refreshing and absolutely believable. The struggles of her could seem self-centered, but honestly, the way she handled the situations felt okay for me. Being a teenager is never easy and instead of sugar-coating the raw emotions, I respect that the author chose to show the highs and lows of Jenna. I think the other positive aspect Well, this book was not a total love for me, but I have to say it contained some really interesting idea. First of all the way the main character, Jenna was written was refreshing and absolutely believable. The struggles of her could seem self-centered, but honestly, the way she handled the situations felt okay for me. Being a teenager is never easy and instead of sugar-coating the raw emotions, I respect that the author chose to show the highs and lows of Jenna. I think the other positive aspect of the book was how it handled the whole transgender theme. I loved that the relationship between the characters was portrayed as perfectly normal. I know it is an illusion that in real-life everyone would act so accepting, but it was nice to read about it in this book. The "love scene" was particularly tender and well-written. Unfortunately, the positive things in the book couldn't balance the negative. The lack of development in case of the supporting characters, like Jack, Jenna's mom or Raejean is kind of a huge missing area. My issue was mostly with Raejean her character seemed like a shadow, not fully written or alive. No background or reason was shown for her actions, which is an issue as a big part of the book is centers around the friendship of Jenna and Raejean. Jenna's mom and brother are also missing some characteristics and it felt like they were only appearing for short episodes to give advice to Jenna then they would disappear until the next time. Besides that I disliked the "happy ending", the closures were rushed and the suddenly disappearing mental issues are kind of annoying. The problems which were built up during the whole book has been solved instantly. For me, this was just poor writing and mainly because of this I can't give more than three stars on this review. The book is not a bad one, definitely has an underlying positive message, but in the end, this reading experience was an average to me.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Squad is an intriguing, if uneven, story of a teen cheerleader named Jenna who tries to navigate a world without her best friend, Raejean. Their relationship had been off since junior year started and, unable to understand why, Jenna proceeds to drive herself a little bit mad in attempts to endear herself to her friend, and feel part of the team of her cheer squad. After an official falling out, Jenna looks for a life outside of cheer and re-connects with her older brother, pursues a new relatio Squad is an intriguing, if uneven, story of a teen cheerleader named Jenna who tries to navigate a world without her best friend, Raejean. Their relationship had been off since junior year started and, unable to understand why, Jenna proceeds to drive herself a little bit mad in attempts to endear herself to her friend, and feel part of the team of her cheer squad. After an official falling out, Jenna looks for a life outside of cheer and re-connects with her older brother, pursues a new relationship, and attempts to forge her identity. Sounds great right? Well... I felt like this book couldn't quite decide what it wanted to be. It starts off almost like a thriller, and I half expected Jenna to be a murderer...then it sort of turns into a realistic contemporary full of angst...then there's a few chapters of romance...then it transforms into a female empowerment novel. It was a bit confusing, to be honest, although I think the second half worked better than the first. I actually almost gave up on it, but once the plot started to move along, I felt like Jenna's story found its footing. I'm not quite sure who to recommend this book to; I can see readers of Malinda Lo enjoying it, sort of, but then again maybe I would just suggest to read a A Line in the Dark for a better treatment of the subject of intense female friendship. I was initially drawn to this book because of the inclusion of a trans love interest, but just be aware going into this book that the heroine is clueless about trans experiences, so there's quite a bit of instruction: "this is what pronouns are appropriate/don't call someone by their deadname, etc." At least Jenna does change (thank God) throughout the book, and in turn the writing improves as the book goes on; I think moving forward this author might have some offerings that stick with me more than Squad probably will. Note: I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sara Grossaint

    I'm overflowing with affection for this book. My only complaint is that it wasn't just a little bit longer...but that's something that's wrong with most YA contemporaries. I just hardcore identified with our main character, Jenna throughout basically this entire book. I've never quite gotten to the point where I (view spoiler)[cut my ex-best friend's ponytail off (hide spoiler)] but a similar anger and desire has been there before. I know there are million books, movies, and tv shows that push t I'm overflowing with affection for this book. My only complaint is that it wasn't just a little bit longer...but that's something that's wrong with most YA contemporaries. I just hardcore identified with our main character, Jenna throughout basically this entire book. I've never quite gotten to the point where I (view spoiler)[cut my ex-best friend's ponytail off (hide spoiler)] but a similar anger and desire has been there before. I know there are million books, movies, and tv shows that push this same sentiment, but being friends with other girls is so hard when you're a teenager and this captured that specific anguish of being replaced by someone you thought was your BFF so well I got so emotional about my own falling out with several girls over the years. It's a hard thing to go through, losing a best friend like that. But man, this book was great. I loved the whole LARPing plot line and how it brought Jenna closer with her brother and all his friends. Poignant and lovely. A particular ache I could also sympathize was getting old and mature enough to realize your brother is fucking awesome and is your best friend no matter what only to have him move away shortly thereafter. That one was a gut-punch for me. I also really loved Jenna's relationship with James and both of them being an escape and comfort for each other. They were really, really sweet. (view spoiler)[I just would have liked to see them really end up together. Fingers crossed that they do after James finishes his transition and comes back or something like that. They were just so great together, it hurt me that they didn't end up together because I am soft and romantic like that. (hide spoiler)] Anyway, this book was great, I adored it to pieces. Check it out if you love coming of age YA; I know I do, which is why I loved this book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jessie

    In some ways, this centers on a friendship breakup, but it's also about Jenna moving from self-centeredness to finding new community and caring about it. Jenna is an unreliable narrator in many ways, and I know her self-centeredness is a big part of the story. But I wish the difference in her perception and Raejean's had gotten more time, or that we had gotten more at the beginning. (The first chapter felt really different from the others to me.) Not so that we know which one to believe; I don't In some ways, this centers on a friendship breakup, but it's also about Jenna moving from self-centeredness to finding new community and caring about it. Jenna is an unreliable narrator in many ways, and I know her self-centeredness is a big part of the story. But I wish the difference in her perception and Raejean's had gotten more time, or that we had gotten more at the beginning. (The first chapter felt really different from the others to me.) Not so that we know which one to believe; I don't think either one of them is wrong about what happened. It feels like it would fill out the friendship part of the story more. Jenna is questioning queer. It's very lightly there, but I appreciated it. Jenna has a trans LI (James), at least for a while. The trans rep in this book felt mostly written for cis people, and it's pretty 101-y. We see really similar 101 conversations between Jenna and Jack (her brother, who is friends with James) and then between Raejean and Jenna. It feels like it's supposed to be growth for Jenna, that she goes from being insensitive to educating and calling out someone else's insensitivity, but... I don't know, the repeat of the ignorance and anti-transness didn't feel great to me? That said, there's a really lovely conversation between Jenna and James when they're first starting to flirt that touched on transition and queer politics, and those moments are brief, but it felt much less for cis readers than the rest. All the consent involved in the scenes with Jenna and James was really lovely. CW: anti-transness, sexual cuddling (but no sex), references to sex, romance, sports injury, cutting someone's hair without consent.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Wolf

    This book started out well, but it becomes clear as the story goes on that the author had no real idea of what story she was telling. The development of characters were as deep as a kiddie pool. The title only fits the first couple chapters of the book and could be better named. Parts of the book were good but most of it was crap. The story had to no visible progression of growth, and the plot was barely there. The main character is barely developed and by the end, all that is left is to feel un This book started out well, but it becomes clear as the story goes on that the author had no real idea of what story she was telling. The development of characters were as deep as a kiddie pool. The title only fits the first couple chapters of the book and could be better named. Parts of the book were good but most of it was crap. The story had to no visible progression of growth, and the plot was barely there. The main character is barely developed and by the end, all that is left is to feel unfulfilled. If the narrator spent as much time talking about the others characters as she did about her (badly written and hard to follow) LARP, there might have been a chance to give a crap about the characters in the novel. The story is rushed. One page is read and suddenly it’s 3 months later and the character has suddenly grown. None of the development happens on paper, only in the jumps of time. This book needs to be rewritten, with better developed characters, and a more cohesive ending. The author gives us no chance to find any connection to any of the characters other than the main (who is self absorbed and that continues through the rest of the novel). The resolution of the “conflict” of the story is anticlimactic and unfulfilling. TLDR: the book is an undeveloped waste of time.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Teresa in ohio

    The back cover hints as a book on bullying with mean girls but I am not sure that is what really happened. Jenna and Rajean have been best friends since grade school bonding over cheer and dance. As they enter tenth grade a rift happens. Jenna no longer finds Rajean funny, her cute names are just mean and most things bother her that she once admired. Rajean has found a new best friend and Jenna feels lost since she centered her life around this relationship. Jenna feels isolated, kept from knowi The back cover hints as a book on bullying with mean girls but I am not sure that is what really happened. Jenna and Rajean have been best friends since grade school bonding over cheer and dance. As they enter tenth grade a rift happens. Jenna no longer finds Rajean funny, her cute names are just mean and most things bother her that she once admired. Rajean has found a new best friend and Jenna feels lost since she centered her life around this relationship. Jenna feels isolated, kept from knowing what the inside jokes are about, and being left off group texts. She feels invisible even surrounded by her teammates, so she thinks in her head ways to make Rajean feel guilty for deserting her. Jenna does something very shocking and the results make her see her life in a new life. As cheer is no longer the focus of her life, she reconnects with her brother but takes all this all on her mother. It was a very emotional chapter when her mother checks her behavior and really makes her think about was she bullied, did she bullied or did a friendship just die after running its course.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This story captures the essence of extreme, volatile, confusing teen emotions (and, if we're being real, some adult emotions!). I loved visiting Jenna's world and found myself very invested in her happiness by the end of the book, despite wincing at the impulsive poor decisions she makes along the way. I especially appreciated the moments where Jenna channels her intensity into bursts of creative expression, either through dance/cheerleading routines or through the creation of an RPG character w This story captures the essence of extreme, volatile, confusing teen emotions (and, if we're being real, some adult emotions!). I loved visiting Jenna's world and found myself very invested in her happiness by the end of the book, despite wincing at the impulsive poor decisions she makes along the way. I especially appreciated the moments where Jenna channels her intensity into bursts of creative expression, either through dance/cheerleading routines or through the creation of an RPG character with a well-researched back story - her excitement is contagious when we see her geeking out over these things. Jenna's relationship with James is also VERY sweet and I love the way the author modeled enthusiastic consent between these characters in a way that added to the charm of their romance. Full disclosure: I'm acknowledged in this book as one of the author's Patreon supporters, and I am not usually a YA reader, so I probably would not have sought this one out without the personal connection to Rae. It's hard for me to hold their work up to other examples of the genre, but it was an engaging read for me, and I'm excited to see more from them!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Tarr

    I liked the first half of the book better than the second half - the first half was "as advertised" about a girl being passive-aggressively mean-girled on her cheerleading squad. It was interesting and well-written, and very believable about how the other girls were acting and the hurt it caused. The second half of the book was unexpectedly about the main character making new friends and having a new romance. This second story was interesting and nuanced, but did not feel related to the original I liked the first half of the book better than the second half - the first half was "as advertised" about a girl being passive-aggressively mean-girled on her cheerleading squad. It was interesting and well-written, and very believable about how the other girls were acting and the hurt it caused. The second half of the book was unexpectedly about the main character making new friends and having a new romance. This second story was interesting and nuanced, but did not feel related to the original story. The second story was then dropped abruptly in favor of resolving the original story. I would have enjoyed either of the plot lines separately, but together it felt like the author had two shorter novellas written and decided to put them together.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mo

    If you've ever thought, “Hey, wouldn't a Mean Girls update be 1,000 times better if it included LARPing, more racial and ethnic diversity, consent, and an important secondary trans character,” you need to read this book. It's delightful. Okay, I've never thought those words exactly, but it's Sunday morning, and my brain is fuzzy. This is still an absolutely delightful short novel. I think maybe the key to how much readers like this book is whether you've ever been gradually frozen-out by a best If you've ever thought, “Hey, wouldn't a Mean Girls update be 1,000 times better if it included LARPing, more racial and ethnic diversity, consent, and an important secondary trans character,” you need to read this book. It's delightful. Okay, I've never thought those words exactly, but it's Sunday morning, and my brain is fuzzy. This is still an absolutely delightful short novel. I think maybe the key to how much readers like this book is whether you've ever been gradually frozen-out by a best friend you might be in love with, but you haven't really let yourself consider that, so instead you kind of act like an asshole in a big way. *coughs, not that I have any personal experience in that area*

  30. 4 out of 5

    Susan Mesler-Evans

    I picked this book up when I was in the middle of an AWFUL reading slump (one I still haven't fully kicked, tbh), precisely because I figured it'd be light and easy to get through. I was right; I got through it in one day. And this book is addicting. Even when I had to take a break to do my homework, I kept having to fight off the urge to pick it back up and keep reading. Our heroine, Jenna, is... a lot. She's self-centered; sometimes in the normal teenaged way, sometimes in the "I want to slap y I picked this book up when I was in the middle of an AWFUL reading slump (one I still haven't fully kicked, tbh), precisely because I figured it'd be light and easy to get through. I was right; I got through it in one day. And this book is addicting. Even when I had to take a break to do my homework, I kept having to fight off the urge to pick it back up and keep reading. 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.

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