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Reviewed by Amy Powers for Readers' Favorite
Cutthroat Cheerleader by Zachary Ryan is a young adult mystery novel about a small-town murder. Madison Taylor never claimed to be a nice girl; she's quite proud of the crude and cutthroat attitude that scored her the position as captain of the cheerleading squad. Unfortunately, it might have resulted in her being murdered, and now she is wandering around town as a ghost, witnessing the after-effects of her death. Despite her popularity, it seems that very few people even miss Madison, and a lot of people are benefiting from her death. Her best friend, for example, doesn't have to play the flamboyant gay cheerleader role that Madison forced upon him, and Madison's rival is now the new captain. As she has no choice but to watch from the sidelines, Madison witnesses her friends begin to make the same mistakes that she now realizes that she had made in life, and one of them could end up as her murderer's next victim.
Told from Madison's perspective in a lighthearted, casual voice, it is easy to pick up “Mean Girl” vibes from Cutthroat Cheerleader. Although she is crass and has a foul mouth, it is easy to find humor in and appreciation for Madison's straight-to-the-point thoughts. As she follows around a variety of characters from her life, it is fun to see how they interact without her and how all of their lives intertwine with Madison being their common connection. The mystery of the story is also very well-played, with a surprise ending and a few more surprises along the way. I love when an ending is not predictable, and Zachary Ryan managed to pull this one off perfectly, combining mystery with suspense, romance, and a whole lot of teen drama.