Seanan McGuire’s “Dying with Her Cheer Pants On”

“Biology may vary from world to world, but school spirit is universal.”

McGuire, Seanan. Dying With Her Cheer Pants On: Stories of the Fighting Pumpkins (p. 184). Subterranean Press.

Seanan McGuire is one of my favorite authors. Her October Daye series is my favorite modern urban fantasy series. Her Newsflesh horror series (under her Mira Grant pseudonym) is a great and well-researched take on a zombie plague. Her Wayward Children series is a unique and interesting version of the portal fantasy genre. (I hadn’t thought about it this way before, but it’s definitely an isekai series of some sort- post-isekai?) Her works are popular, and she’s been nominated for and won tons of awards for her series and standalone novels.

Her Twitter’s worth reading, too.

There are some books she has that are equally as good and need wider release. One of these days, when I have a chance to re-read the series, I’ll write about her terrific superhero novels- the Velveteen vs Everything series. They absolutely need to get wider publication and we need to see more.

This post, though, is about Dying With Her Cheer Pants On, which plays with and deconstructs cheerleader tropes in the shadow of eldritch horror.

“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.”

McGuire, Seanan. Dying With Her Cheer Pants On: Stories of the Fighting Pumpkins (p. 29). Subterranean Press.

That line stuck with me through the entire book. You might come in thinking that the book is tongue-in-cheek- and it most definitely is, at times- but the interwoven stories in this book are also filled with tragic moments of heroism and self-sacrifice.

The cheerleaders of this book are a group separated from the rest of their community. Their individual supernatural origins and quirks brought them together to protect humanity from the capricious forces and beings outside of human knowledge, part of a mysterious pact with similar creatures that they do not understand but joined the team anyway because they had to, because the consequences of doing otherwise are unthinkable.

Part horror, part superhero (think Justice League: Dark), I found the individual character stories fun and compelling, from the half-vampire captain to the young lady whom the world wants to obey. For me, the standout story was “Turn the Year Around,” telling the story about the cheerleader who came from the Woods in the wintertime.

Dying with Her Cheer Pants On: Stories of the Fighting Pumpkins has 11 connected stories and 224 pages, and extols the virtues of teamwork and bringing hope. I was lucky enough to pick up one of the limited hardback copies; a digital version of this book is currently available on Amazon Kindle and I hope to see a wider print release in the future. :)

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