August 13, 2021

Seanan McGuire: "Dying with Her Cheer Pants On"

Title: Dying with Her Cheer Pants On  [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: far
Author: Seanan McGuire [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural, Urban Fantasy
Year: 2020
Age: 14+
Stars: 4.5/5
Pros: Inventive twist on the cheerleader + teens-save-the-world tropes. Nice blend of humorous and poignant. Some excellent characterisation. 
Cons: Not all the leads are equally developed. Due to the stories being written in the span of a few years, there are some continuity errors/inconsistencies. The change in tone from story to story might not work for everyone.
WARNING! Blood and gore.
Will appeal to: Those who enjoy a humorous approach to horror. Those who like the Chosen One(s) trope. In short, those who dig a Buffy the Vampire Slayer kind of vibe.

Blurb: Cheerleaders are seriously injured and even killed at a higher rate than other high school sports. The Fighting Pumpkins take that injury rate as a challenge. Students of Johnson’s Crossing High School, they answer to a higher calling than the pyramid and the basket toss, pursuing the pep rally that is rising up against mysteries and monsters, kicking gods with the pointed toes of professional athletes chasing a collegiate career. Meet Jude, half-vampire squad leader; Laurie, who can compel anyone to do as she asks; Heather, occasionally recreationally dead; Marti, strong enough to provide a foundation for any stunt; Colleen, who knows the rule book so well she may as well have written it; and Steph, who may or may not be the goddess of the harvest. The rest of the squad is ready to support them, and braced for the chaos of the big game, which may have a big body count. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: This collection started off as as seven individual short stories published in different anthologies over the span of ten years, to which the author ultimately added three brand new ones when they became their own book in 2020. Please note: the physical release is out of stock (you can only buy ridiculously priced second-hand copies on Amazon), but of course the ebook version is still available. Please also note - I did my research and peppered my review with cheerleading-related puns 😉. Finally, lo and behold...after 8 year and 10 months, I finally got to feature a book that matches my blog aestethic! 💃 😂


It's no secret that I pretty much love (or, at worst, like) everything Seanan McGuire writes. This collection is a litte different from her usual production, in that the stories it incorporates are more humorous/over the top than average - though, as the author herself states in prefacing one of them,
The more time I spend with the Fighting Pumpkins, who are in some ways the comedy relief of my ongoing universes, the more I come to understand how tragic they really are, and how many terrible things are lurking in the corners of their lives.
In short, the Fighting Pumpkins are a cheerleader squad - or, it turns out, a whole legacy of them - tasked with battling monsters and restoring the world's balance both via some superpower-fueled kick-assing and the actual, fine art of cheerleading. It's true that - regardless of the consequences and the body count - these stories (except for Turn the Year Around, easily my favourite) have a somehow lighter, more absurdist feel than I usually dig in my books, but the fact is, McGuire can get away with anything. Her characters are solid and sympathetic (which doesn't necessarily mean likeable, but you never fail to understand what makes them tick and to feel for them nevertheless), her imaginations knows no bound but is disciplined enough to build worlds you can buy into, and her writing is masterful (because yeah, the patches of telling-not-showing in her Wayward Children series are intentional, and they fit that kind of stories). So it comes as no surprise that, even when tackling the cheerleader trope and placing it in a universe where they can have a pep rally context with their alien counterpart, McGuire would pull it off (though the moments when she gets more serious/deep/philosophical are still my favourite, and oh, there are a few, and they will break your heart a little). So, yeah - DWHCPO is, ultimately, a book with two souls from an author who's strong enough to support (and juggle) both of them. [...]


What with these stories having been written without a collection in mind at first, and during a ten-year-long span of time, they aren't always what you would call cohesive. In a note, McGuire mentions revising them before the book came out, but even then, there's at least a continuity error in Heather's backstory when it comes to her first encounter with Jude, which gets retconned (and while there are instances of memories being erased in the whole book, it's not the case here, because Heather does remember something that, according to Tryouts, didn't happen).
The first story suffers from a lack of logic in my opinion, because I can't see how the final solution wouldn't annihilate all the good guys along with the villains (to be fair, McGuire notes "I had wiped out a little too much of the planet in the process of meeting the broader anthology guidelines", but it's not like she addresses the problem in the following stories and finds a way around it).
From the core group of five girls, Marti (an African-American cheerleader, yay!) could have used more screen time and development, though she does eventually get her own story - and a good one at that - while on the other hand, Heather steals the scene (not that I'm complaining, because dead girls are my favourite 🤩).
Also, there's what feels like a deus ex machina regarding a certain character, though I suppose it can be explained with the reawakening theme around which Turn the Year Around revolves - but it still feels like the easy way out.
And oh, I managed to notice a few typos (genuine ones - not errors).
Despite all the points I made above, I really enjoyed DWHCPO, and since McGuire promised more stories set in this universe, I hope Subterranean Press will let her write them. The way she both pays homage to the cheerleader and Chosen One(s) tropes and gently pokes fun at them - while simultaneously exploring their tragic side and making us care for her characters - is literary Attack the Crowd [3] at its best. But then again, that's McGuire for you 🙂.

Cheerleading references:
[1] a single-based double cupie is a number in which a single base supports two top persons who each have both feet in a separate hand of the base;
[2] a stunt is a building performance displaying a person's skill or dexterity;
[3] Attack the Crowd is a technique used to whip the crowd up and get them involved in a cheer, dance or song.

For more Supernatural books click here.


  1. You crack me up! The kid was actually a cheerleader in high school, so I knew the terms (yeah!). Cheerleaders saving the world makes me go immediately to Buffy (who I love). Sounds like a fun one.

    1. I could have saved time and asked you LOL. Some of those terms are pretty far out though!

      Fun, but dark. That's McGuire for you 😉.

  2. I've read a couple of her books and liked parts of them but they aren't really my favorite kid of books unfortunately.

    1. She's got a very distinctive style that is not for everyone.

  3. What a title. and why not cheerleaders to save the world? Someone's gotta do it, right? :)

    Seriously though, nice work on matching the blog aesthetic. they are eerily similar! :) This does sound like a fun, light hearted collection.

    Attack the Crowd. I love jargon.

    1. My blog background is called "pumpkin" or something, so yeah, on point 😂.

      It's light-hearted...until it isn't. McGuire blends the two things so nicely though.

  4. Like Sam, cheerleaders who save the world makes me think of Buffy. This book sounds very fun!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction


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