Meet the Teams

About the Book

Read the book that inspired The CW's new show, Hellcats, starring Ashley Tisdale and Aly Michalka.

Think cheerleading is just pom-poms, “gimme an ‘R’,” and pleated skirts? Not anymore. Take an exhilarating trip through the rough-and-tumble world of competitive college cheerleading…

College cheerleaders are extreme athletes who fly thirty feet in the air, build pyramids in which a single slip can send ten people crashing to the ground, and compete in National Championships that are won by hundredths of a point. Cheer! is a year-long odyssey into their universe, following three squads from tryouts to Nationals.

Meet the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack cheerleaders from Nacogdoches, Texas, who seem destined to win their fifth National Championship in a row—until they are shaken by the departure of their longtime coach. Fall in love with the Southern University Jaguars from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, an African-American team hoping to raise the $17,000 needed to travel to Nationals and transform their near-win several years ago into a Cinderella victory. Root for the University of Memphis All-Girl cheerleaders from Tennessee—a team that continually struggles for the same respect coed teams get—when their quest for a national title is threatened by injuries and drop-outs. Along the way, meet a cast of unforgettable characters who risk horrifying injuries on a daily basis, battle demons like eating disorders and steroid use, stay in college as long as eight years just to keep cheering, and form intense bonds—in one case a secret society.

In the immersive tradition of Friday Night Lights, Cheer! is a captivating, all-access journey into a deeply absorbing world.

Praise for Cheer!

“Kate Torgovnick has written a spirited, fascinating, at times disturbing and always absorbing book about the obsessive subculture of ‘competitive cheerleading’—a bizarre world she has entered into with sympathy and compassion.”
—Joyce Carol Oates

“A fist-pumping, Astroturf-banging tribute to the women and men who make up the in-world of competitive college cheerleading. It had me rooting from the edge of my seat for the final countdown of Nationals.”
—NY Post

“An engaging, voyeuristic narrative that suggests college cheerleaders are as close to real-life superheroes as exist.”
—Dallas Morning News

“Torgovnick has done an excellent job of reporting, bringing the reader into this world most of us would never see.”
—USA Today

“Fans of Bring It On will find much to cheer about in Kate Torgovnick's meticulously reported account of the often-mocked but fascinating world of cheerleading.”
—Entertainment Weekly

“This book manages to be that unique hybrid of narrative non-fiction that reads like fiction. The characters and story lines are so engaging that we give you this warning: It will be your next page turner.”
—Daily Cents

“Throughout high school, Torgovnick had nothing but disdain for school spirit, blowing off every mandatory pep rally. Cheerleaders weren't on her radar, until one of her classmates fell from a human pyramid. Suddenly, the rebellious writer-to-be thought cheerleading was kind of interesting. Fast-forward a decade later, when Torgovnick's editor at Jane magazine assigned her a story on the rise of cheerleading injuries, and the reporter was sucked into a subculture whose members were more obsessive and competitive than she had imagined. Just as Stefan Fatsis did in Word Freak (2001), Torgovnick strategically incorporates her subject's history into the narrative, giving context and even a bit of gravitas to what could have come off as the print version of a reality show. Also like Fatsis, she finds charm in off-center individuals, such as Casi, the anchor for the human pyramid, or Mary, a gaunt former coke sniffer. By the time readers finish 'The Cheerleader's Dictionary' which closes the book, they'll have gained a real appreciation for the sport—and yes, it is a sport. One of the more successful pieces of narrative nonfiction this year, distinguished by Torgovnick's impeccable ear and canny, original choice of subject matter.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“Kate Torgovnick's Cheer! is the Friday Night Lights of a new generation.”
—Courtney E. Martin, author of Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters

“There's a lot more to cheering than short skirts and 'fight, fight, fight' says Torgovnick. Cheer has a long distinguised history, is a demanding sport, and deserves to be taken seriously. So make some noise!”
—Newsweek

“A fascinating look at something most people misunderstand.”
—Good Morning America

“Torgovnick has written an energetic book...[She] destroys the stereotype of cheerleaders as a bunch of blonde Barbies faliing out of pink boxes.”
Daytona Beach News-Journal

“Reading Cheer!, I felt intimately involved in the lives of Tarianne, Chassity, Sierra, Kali and the rest. Because Kate Torgovnick has captured every voice in this fascinating world verbatim, crack open the book to read just one sentence and you too will be instantly immersed in these characters' riveting ups and downs (pun intended).”
—Jane Pratt, founder of Jane and Sassy magazines

“A great read.”
—NPR

“Torgovnick spent a year tracking the travails of three teams in pursuit of national championship rings...You'll get sucked into this book.”
—Salon.com

“Sparking with energy...In describing the youthful, energetic, upbeat world of cheerleading, the author felicitously uses a matching writing style, full of current pop culture references, picturesque observations, and keen characterizations. Readers will find whatever stereotypes they may have about cheerleaders quickly overturned.”
—Library Journal

“In this unexpectedly engrossing book, Torgovnick focuses on three university cheerleading teams as they compete for national supremacy. But this is no light, fluffy look at a bunch of boys and girls in colorful clothing—the book has real weight and a lot of surprises. Who knew the first cheerleaders were men? (It wasn't until World War II that women stepped into the role.) Who knew just how celebrity-filled a history cheerleading has? (Madonna, Meryl Streep, and Samuel Jackson were cheerleaders; so were Ronald Reagan and both Bushes.) Torgovnick tackles some of cheerleading's biggest issues—its effect on sexual mores and its links to eating disorders—head on, but at the same time, she doesn't sneer at the thrill of competition or the enthusiasm of its participants. What could have been a superficial look at a seemingly insubstantial subject is, instead, very close to the kind of hard-edged investigative reporting done by writers like Jessica Milford, who find the darkness behind the seemingly ordinary aspects of social life.”
—Booklist

“In Cheer!, Kate Torgovnick takes us an exuberant journey into one of America's least-explored and most iconic team sports. In the tradition of intrepid subculture reporting, this former blue-haired rebel steps into the world of the other, even putting down her notebook to join the pre-competition prayer circle. Whether you tried out for the pom squad yourself, or blew off every high-school pep rally like Torgovnick did, this suspenseful tale of cheerleading's glorious and addictive highs, and dangerous and pressure-cooked lows will give you an insight into an ever-growing national phenomenon.”
—Lauren Sandler, author of Righteous: Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement

Cheer! jumps off the page like one of the gravity-defying stunts described in the book. Kate Torgovnick brings us so close that we actually feel the adrenaline pulse through our own bodies. Emotionally raw, and often beautiful.”
—Kimberlee Auerbach author of The Devil, The Lovers, and Me

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