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The Cheer Leader

3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  401 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
Jo Spencer is a girl who knows what to be and how to be it-straight-A student, cheerleader, May Queen, popular and cute and virginal, and in perfect control. But halfway through her first year in college in the early seventies, her carefully normal life explodes and she comes completely undone. In The Cheerleader, Jo Spencer looks back, as if she were watching reruns of ol ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published September 30th 2003 by Algonquin Books (first published January 1st 1984)
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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellThe Help by Kathryn StockettThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainFried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Best Southern Literature
268th out of 882 books — 2,214 voters
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Quirky Southern Fiction
240th out of 684 books — 1,755 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 680)
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Kristi Lamont
May 11, 2013 Kristi Lamont rated it really liked it
An excellent depiction of the nervous breakdown(s) many young women in their late teens/early 20s experience . . . or come very close to experiencing . . . timeless in many ways, but spectacularly evocative of the teenage experience of the 1970s.

This was my second book by Jill McCorkle in a week. Very frustrated that I have to get on with some basics of daily living and can't start on the next one until probably tomorrow night!
Nov 18, 2007 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who are glad they're done with puberty
Probably as close as I'm ever going to feel to "flowering into womanhood" as it is often referred to? I don't pretend to know how good or bad a term that is for the process. But I digress. An amazing read that proves that Mary Tyler Moore was right. We are going to make it after all.
Feb 10, 2010 Liz rated it really liked it
I started reading this coming-of-age novel in the afternoon and had to read all night to finish it. The author's story line and style compel the reader to press onward. It is easy to read.

The coming-of-age novel in set in a small North Carolina town and begins with a chronology of Jo's life through photographs (pastshots.) Jo seems to have it all--She follows in her older brother's footsteps in that she is both smart and popular. She has a loving, trusting family who have given her a strong foun
Apr 19, 2012 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many years ago, I picked up a book of short stories by Jill McCorkle. I am normally not a short story reader, but I absolutely loved that book. I went on to read every single book in McCorkle's anthology, and for years after, if anyone asked who my favorite author was, I would respond without hesitation, "Jill McCorkle."

I saw recently that McCorkle had published a new collection of short stories, but before reading it, I decided to go back and re-read some of the McCorkle books in my book colle
Jul 14, 2014 Kaethe rated it it was amazing
Speaking of recurring features in my reading: I love stories about college girls who lose it. This and Heartbreak Hotel are two favorites.
Dec 29, 2009 Deb rated it liked it
McCorkle explored the unraveling of a teenage girl who appeared to be successful by all conventional measures - intelligent, popular, athletics, and attractive. The author brought readers through the difficulty of trying to find an identity without the benefit of wisdom or perspective. The main character fell further than most young women experience, but the author captured emotions that are easily identifiable to most women who survived adolescence. By using shifts in narrator perspective, the ...more
Tiny Pants
Aug 25, 2012 Tiny Pants rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, gave-away
This was a random $1 find at the Japanese bookstore. I had a fuzzy idea that I liked McCorkle's short fiction, and on reading the back my husband did say it seemed like my "kind of thing." Sadly, not so much. It begins with an interesting enough set-up (though the format gets tiresome pretty quickly), then it just fizzles. The first act is just guns, guns, guns, and we eventually wind up with, well, barely even one of those flags from old Warner Bros. cartoons that says "BANG!". It was unclear w ...more
Mar 27, 2013 Tony rated it really liked it
One of McCorkle's two debut novels published simultaneously in 1984, The Cheerleader is a flood of pure character. Jo Spenser documents her young life from before it even began through a disastrous first love to the harrowing breakdown during her freshman year of college. What impressed me most was how the author really put Jo out there hovering over the abyss and then reeled her back in. All I could think was "this really happens." People really do lose it sometimes and it doesn't necessarily m ...more
Feb 15, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it
This was an emotional story about the pressure to conform to society's expectations and the consequence of repressing your individual interests. It takes you on a journey through two decades with a girl who creates her own rigid rules to follow and leaves you witnessing her break down as she completely loses control.

I'll admit, I describe much of this book as "painful." The book itself has a great impact, however, McCorkle forces you to be a part of a girl's mental disintegration that you can e
Jun 19, 2014 Sue rated it liked it
THis was a pretty entertaining coming-of-age story of a teen girl who becomes unraveled when she gets to college. I like Jill's writing alot, just didn't feel totally overwhelmed or invested in this character.
Apr 09, 2009 Christine rated it really liked it
I read this book in one sitting, so I felt like I really got to know Jo Spencer's story and point of view from start to finish. The unraveling of a high school "it" girl is something that doesn't happen all the time, but certainly wasn't suprising when it did in this book. Mccorkle speaks to the idea that we can try to hold all the pieces together on the inside in order to look perfect on the outside, but this carefully constructed house of cards can easily come tumbling down.
Jun 22, 2008 Carrah rated it it was amazing
This book has a strong character--Jo Spencer--who wants a perfect life. She does obtain it; she's perfect in high school, the cheif cheer leader, has popular friends, becomes May Qeen. It is set in North Carolina, and captures innocence, pain, hardship, joy, and aching love--some of the things living in a small southern town exposes one to.

I loved this book because it had a touch of everything that was familiar, and yet explored new territory. It is worth reading.
Jul 30, 2013 Kristie rated it it was amazing
When I realized this book had first been published in 1984, I started to just put it away. I am so glad I didn't! This isn't the best book I've ever read, but it is the only book I have ever read that the author could have picked straight from my brain! Now, this admits I am a bit crazy, but I honestly could have let the author into my head and this is what would have come out of it! This is one of the most profoundly honest books I have ever read.
Mar 15, 2012 Diana rated it it was ok
Shelves: no-thanks
My two stars for this book are very generous. I could not get into this book no matter how hard I tried. I finished it, but it was a painful job. The writing is not bad, that's not the case at all. The main thing is, I found myself constantly wondering, "what the hell is the point of this story?". I mean, when I finished I just felt confused and disappointed, like my time with Jo had been wasted.
Nov 12, 2009 Sarah rated it liked it
Joslyn Marie Spencer. Jo with a "J," not a "G," which would be "Go." I wouldn't call her a hero (even the "daily, ordinary" kind), and I don't wholly believe her ins and outs, however, the book was an interesting read. Completely fascinating in its oddness. Notable is how Mccorkle changed voice from first to third to omniscient and back again often and without measured rhyme or reason.
Dec 17, 2012 MissAnnThropy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
I haven't read this book since my pre-teen days, so I have no idea how it actually holds up. I remember it as being perhaps the best account of adolescent mental illness I have read, up with I Never Promised You A Rose Garden. (
Apr 21, 2009 SA SuSu rated it really liked it
Jill McCorkle is a sorority sister, which is what prompted me to seek her books. This is a dark story that perfectly captures a woman's coming of age. I felt very connected to the narrator and very sad for her.
Dichotomy Girl
I bought this thinking it was The Cheerleader by Ruth Doan MacDougall, so we'll see what this REALLY ends up being!
Feb 09, 2010 Alicia rated it it was ok
I read this for a Lit class. I enjoyed the writing style, the book flows very well. The story was very frustrating and whiny, definitely not my type of book.
May 09, 2008 Rae rated it liked it
Shelves: other-fiction
The story of a young girl's adolescence and growth in a Southern town. Jo Spencer, a cheer leader, meets Red Williams, who is older and daring. This changes her life.
Jul 14, 2007 Sarah rated it liked it
I liked this, but I don't absolutely love coming of age stories. I do think it's worth the read, but I liked Carolina Moon more.
Sep 02, 2007 Beth rated it really liked it
Great Southern coming-of-age tale. If you grew up as a girl in the South, this book will resonate with you.
Jul 29, 2008 Lois rated it really liked it
Read this quite a few years ago and I remember that I liked it. May have to re-visit this one soon.
Mar 11, 2008 Lori rated it it was amazing
A book I could read over and over again. It really tells a story in a descriptive way.
Feb 10, 2008 Rachel rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who liked The Bell Jar
Interesting book. Very much like "The Bell Jar," but set in the 70s.
Sep 26, 2007 Courtney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing coming of age novel from an NC writer! Woo hoo!
Sara Lamers
Very, very light and quick
May 30, 2007 Walker rated it it was amazing
One of my all-time favorites.
Inger Alice
Inger Alice marked it as to-read
Jun 19, 2016
D added it
May 25, 2016
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Five of Jill McCorkle's seven previous books have been named New York Times Notables. Winner of the New England Booksellers Award, the Dos Passos Prize for Excellence in Literature, and the North Carolina Award for Literature, she has taught writing at the University of North Carolina, Bennington College, Tufts University, and Harvard. She lives near Boston with her husband, their two children, se ...more
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