Analyzing the cover: Based on scenes in the book, this should be Walt and Olivia at the phone, but from other covers, I’d guess this is the models representing Pres and Nancy, which makes this make no sense. I’m also pretty sure they used totally different models for other books, so how am I ever supposed to know who these people are?
The squad goes to see a movie together, and they spot Nancy’s old flame Ben Adamson hanging out with two Tarenton basketball players. Since Ben plays for their arch rival Garrison High, a fact that resulted in Nancy dumping him previously (they were a less depressing, less romantic Romeo and Juliet), it is an odd sight. Then Walt drops the bomb that Ben is transferring to Tarenton.
The cheerleaders’ practice is interrupted by the basketball team invading the gym for team photos. Nancy is distracted by Ben who has joined the team, while Mary Ellen is getting turned on by Patrick taking pictures. “All she could think about was Patrick’s hands, steadying the Nikon; Patrick’s graceful body, moving around the court for the best angles; Patrick’s mouth, so often curved into the most seductive smile imaginable.” Is it hot in here or is it just me?
Nancy and Ben approach each other and it takes him about 2.5 seconds to convince her to go out with him. Then they are suddenly making out while Patrick takes pictures. (??) The world’s biggest tease Mary Ellen begrudgingly agrees to get a ride home with Patrick, who has the saddest outlook I’ve ever heard: “Mary Ellen might go for rides in Pres’ fancy red Porsche and she might fool around with Donny Parrish because he was a Big Man on Campus and therefore worthy of her consideration, but she always came back to him.”
Nancy and Angie get called out by their teacher in front of everyone for doing poorly on a recent test. I’m pretty sure this kind of public shaming today would result in a viral news story across the country and a mob of parents protesting at the school board office. Nancy did bad because she has been overwhelmed focusing on Ben. She tells him they should stop making out all the time and actually have conversations and hang out with other people. Ben says, “Like those cheerleaders?!?” as if she has suggested they hang out with some white supremacists.
Pres has been messing around with Vanessa again, for some unknown reason. No self-respect, perhaps? “Even though he was turned on by Vanessa and dated her when no one else was available, he didn’t like her very much.” Vanessa is also seeing Johnny Bainbridge, the basketball captain of Tarenton’s rival Garrison. Nancy was basically crucified for doing the same thing, but Vanessa apparently can get away with it. Vanessa suspiciously goads Pres into making a bet with her for $50 that Tarenton won’t beat Garrison the next time they play, despite getting Ben on their team. At the next game, Ben inexplicably plays like crap and gets benched. Sadly, even the cheerleaders’ “Growl Wolves Growl” cheer can’t will their team to a win. Ben gets his groove back in the next two games, but then he is back to sucking again. Is he on drugs, maybe? Oh wait, this book is called “Cheating.” Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
Mary Ellen gets a visit from a college-aged guy who works for a lawyer’s office saying a great-aunt she met once as a child has died and left ME $2,000 in her will. The guy, Barry, is obviously interested in Mary Ellen, which seems a little unprofessional.
Barry shows up at the next basketball game and makes some excuses to Mary Ellen that he had driven 4 hours just to update her on the status of her inheritance, but he’s full of it. He asks her to go out with him, and they run into Patrick as they’re leaving the school. If looks could kill, possibly both Barry and Mary Ellen would have holes in their heads. Later, Mary Ellen informs the squad she has to go to Mayville or wherever her great-aunt lived to finalize the inheritance thing at the law office. Why she needs several days to do this is beyond me, but Pres and Angie decide to tag along so they can practice their “trio dance” with Mary Ellen in Mayville whenever she has free time.
At the next game, Tarenton is losing yet again and the cheerleaders cheer their hearts and souls and brains out trying to will them to a win. Mary Ellen even thinks she can show Patrick how she really feels about him this way. “It was almost as if she was trying to tell him with her frenzied cheering that everything was going to be okay between them.” Yep, I bet he got that message loud and clear in between her going out on dates with other people and telling him he’s not good enough for her. She runs after him after the game and asks him why he’s ignoring her and treating her so poorly. Get a clue Melon. “Like how you normally treat me?” he asks. Boom. Got her. But of course he’s a pushover and they kiss and he wants her to promise not to see Barry again, but Melon will never change. “Am I a masochist?” Patrick asks. Yes. Patrick walks away from her and sends Mary Ellen into a tailspin of self-introspection. “She wondered what she was doing – with her life, with her friendships, with her very soul.” Her VERY SOUL!
Walt has started to suspect some Tarenton basketball players of throwing games, so he tape-records them in the locker room. (Pretty sure that is illegal). He hears a vague phrase said by Donny that convinces Walt he is correct. Olivia points out after I have already considered it that taping the players like that might not be legal and he should quit while he’s ahead. But Encyclopedia Brown is determined to crack the case.
Nancy thinks her and Ben need to take a break because their relationship might be distracting him and causing him to play badly. She also isn’t as attracted to a loser. For reals. She starts to worry that Ben has been playing bad on purpose to make Donny look bad (not sure about this logic).
Mary Ellen is getting ready for her trip to Mayville when she hears music outside. It’s Patrick, playing a song for her on the guitar. Patrick is wearing a blue pin-striped three-piece suit with a burgundy tie. Snazzy. She tells him he looks lovely, and then he gives her a speech about clothes not changing a person. Then he drops his mic and leaves.
The next day Mary Ellen, Pres, Angie, and ME’s little sister head to Mayfield where they go to ME’s Uncle Roger’s house. Barry comes around and ME realizes he’s boring and she is just so much more into Patrick (same story book after book!) The cheerleaders end up going to eat with Barry and some of his college friends, who just randomly start talking about the prevalence of point shaving in college sports. Later ME and Barry go on a date alone and she ends up dumping him. And I’m left wondering what the point of this trip to Mayville was.
Back in Tarenton, the cheerleaders all come together again and talk about the possibility of point shaving on their own basketball team. Nancy mentions that Ben has seemed to have a lot of extra money lately, buying her gifts.Walt is still convinced that it was Donny, thanks to his vague illegally recorded tape.
Mary Ellen drives in a snow storm to go see Patrick. Her car slides out of control and she starts to walk toward his house. Patrick meets up with her and scolds her. “You little idiot! What in the name of Pete are you doing out in this storm?” You little idiot. That’s my new fave nickname for Mary Ellen. ME tells Patrick she’s sorry for always leading him on and going out with other guys, and no one is as special to her as he is. Patrick once again falls for it. Personally I’ll believe it when I see it.
Nancy is studying at Ben’s when a strange car pulls up outside. Ben goes out to talk to the driver, and Nancy watches through the window. It’s the captain of the Garrison team, Johnny, who hands Ben a brown envelope. Ben tries to throw it back at Johnny, but it lands in the snow. Johnny drives off, and Ben puts it in his pocket. So Nancy plays coy when Ben comes back in, but she tries to take his jacket from him and he jerks it away. Money flies out like confetti. Ben tells her Johnny tried to bribe him to throw the Tarenton/Garrison game and gave him a $50 advance. That was how Ben paid for Nancy’s gifts, but Ben paid him back and insisted he wasn’t going to do it. Johnny had collected $200 from other players at Garrison to pay Ben if he would throw the game. He insists his bad play in previous games was just because he was uptight and not because he got paid. Nancy gives him back the earrings he got her because they were bought with “blood money.” A little dramatic, Nance.
Before the game Walt says he is going to confront Donny with his “magic tape recorder.” Sometimes I root for Walt to get his butt kicked. Walt’s magic tape recorder gets jammed at the moment of truth, so Walt just lays out his accusations himself. Walt sounds like a raving lunatic and the guys express zero concern about him calling them out. The game starts and both Ben and Donny play like they want to win, and wonder of wonders, Tarenton beats Garrison. Walt is super confused. So apparently Ben gave Johnny the money back, and Donny was never actually involved?
Everyone has their happy ending – Pres wins the bet against Vanessa, and Nancy takes Ben and his earrings back. That was anti-climactic.
Other interesting notes and quotes:
- Pres says, “Maybe I am just talking through my hat.” I have never heard someone utter that phrase in my life.
- The lyrics to Patrick’s song for Mary Ellen are:”Oh, sweet lady, hear my plea/I’m the one for you/Clothes don’t make the man, you see/Tell me that’s not true/I’m no lawyer, I’m no prince/I’m no shining knight/But this heart that loves you so/Will see you through the night”
Sign of the Times:
- Nancy and Ben hang out in the basement with a stack of tapes to watch on the VCR.
- Pres tells ME she should use her inheritance to “buy one of those new compact disc players. The sound is like you’re right there in the recording studio.”
- Mary Ellen tells Walt, Nancy and Olivia to come up with their own trio dance, but “no slam dancing.”
Author: Jennifer Sarasin
Next time on Cheerleaders… Who is the strange young man who has been approaching the girls? Read Cheerleaders #12, Staying Together.