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 '70s, her carefully normal life explodes and she comes completely undone. In The Cheer Leader, Jo Spencer looks back, as if she were watching reruns of old syndicated TV shows, to figure out what happened.
Ordinary chance has dumped Sam Swett, age 21, in the Marshboro, North Carolina, Quik Pik in the middle of a murder. Sam has shaved his head, given away all his belongings except his typewriter; he's drunker than he's ever been and running as fast as he can from his upper-middle-class upbringing. For the next 24 hours, Sam is propelled straight into the very core of this small Southern town as it sorts through the facts.