Analyzing the cover: If I had to guess, I’d say this is Patrick picking up Mary Ellen and twirling her around, which has absolutely nothing to do with the main plot. But since Patrick drools over ME every single book, I guess it still fits.
The cheerleaders are moaning and groaning after a tough practice. The reader is reminded that Angie is neither very pretty nor stick thin. “That last thigh stand with you almost buckled my knees!” Pres tells her. “Avoid pizza at all costs!” the coach tells the squad. If there isn’t an eating disorder storyline by the end of this series I might die of shock.
Angie is lamenting the fact that her boyfriend Arne is too wrapped up in his special time with computers to pay her attention. This was back in the day before computers were prevalent and in every home, so he has to take advantage of any time he can get with the computers at school to have a better chance at a scholarship. Angie decides to go home and eat a huge bowl of ice cream. “After all, she could always do aerobics for hours after supper, since it wasn’t likely that Arne would tear himself away from his precious computer to call her.” Ummmm yeah that’s not healthy.
The next day Arne just flat-out breaks up with her. He tells her it’s not fair to her to be waiting around for him while he’s so wrapped up in his computers. Angie takes it to mean she’s just too boring. No Angie, it sounds like Arne is just too boring. Angie throws herself a big ole pity party that includes resentful feelings about Nancy and Mary Ellen, who never get dumped like she does.
Mary Ellen is modeling clothes for her job at Marnie’s when a guy named Reese Oliver approaches her and gives her his business card. He says he’s a freelance photographer and he’d like to take pictures of her sometime. Yeah, sounds legit to me. Mary Ellen is immediately suspicious. He tells her he moves around a lot but he has a motel room in Tarenton right now. When she asks if he has a studio, he sounds insulted. “What’s with the third degree?” I don’t know creeper, sorry for not wanting to get murdered at the Tarenton Motel. When he starts acting like he’s going to leave, ME suddenly panics and asks if he will just give her time to check her schedule. On his way out, he runs into Nancy, who he describes as being almost as pretty as ME. Ouch. Sorry Nance. “He hadn’t expected to run into two cheerleaders in one night.” That sentence just strikes me wrong. A grown man shouldn’t be excited about running into high school cheerleaders. He gives Nancy his card, and Nancy immediately tells him she’s not interested in having her picture taken, even though he didn’t really ask. When ME gets home she checks the credits of a magazine Reese said he had worked for before. What do you know, his name is there under photographers. She calls and leaves Reese a message at the hotel, but he never calls her back.
At practice the next day the girls try to comfort Angie about her breakup, and she blows up at them for having boyfriends while she gets dumped for a computer. While cheering at a game, ME spots Reese Oliver in the crowd. But Reese isn’t watching her, he’s suddenly interested in finding out more about Angie, “the healthy-looking one.” Reese finds out her name and decides he’ll get her address from the phone book and approach her at home. As if that is less messed up than going up to girls at the mall. He thinks Angie will be just perfect for his pictures.
Mary Ellen and Patrick are getting hot and heavy in his garbage truck. While none of the characters have ever actively had sex on the pages of the Cheerleaders books that I’ve read (we can at least assume Pres has done it plenty off the page), it gets hinted at a lot. While making out, “Mary Ellen’s breath would have caused concern at the local emergency center.” Of course she pulls away, and Patrick will need to take his thousandth cold shower. Once inside her house, ME tries to call Reese Oliver again, but no answer. That’s because Reese has wasted no time going over to Angie’s. Angie can’t believe Reese would want to photograph her, and in her fragile state after her breakup, feels overwhelmed and special. He tells her he’ll only charge her half the normal rate, but he likes to get familiar with his subjects first, so he would like her to show him around town. I can’t figure out if this guy just wants some easy money or a date.
ME finally connects with Reese and is devastated when he tells her he found someone else to model for him. Then he tells Angie maybe she should keep the photo shoot to herself so as not to make her friends jealous. When she finds out he turned down Mary Ellen for her, Angie agrees it might be best to keep it a secret. So she tells Olivia and Walt she is going on a date instead of the truth. Brilliant. When it’s time for them to “get to know each other,” Reese turns up in a suit as if he thinks they ARE going on a date, but Angie only feels slightly uncomfortable about that. Well, no one ever claimed she was smart.
ME is whining about the photographer to Patrick, who tells her it sounds like “weirdsville” to him. ME insists his name was in a magazine, so he’s legit. “I’m sure you saw the name. I’m just not convinced that it belongs to the guy you met,” Patrick says. Outside of his obsession with Mary Ellen, Patrick is the smartest guy in this series. Olivia tells the others about Angie’s date, and they speculate as to who it could have been with. “Maybe the guy is a well-known nerd and she’s just too embarrassed to tell you,” Mary Ellen says. No wonder Angie hates her right now.
Angie overhears Nancy and Mary Ellen talking about Reese and trying to figure out who his photography subject is. Nancy is convinced the guy is a fake. “Professional photographers don’t run around parking lots looking for potential clients. Do they?” Nancy also points out, like Patrick, that he could have seen the name Reese Oliver in the magazine and used it as his fake name. Angie doesn’t confront the girls and assures herself they are wrong (despite the 4 million red flags Reese should be giving her). He comes by her house without any cameras, and she asks when he’s going to start taking her picture. “I decide when we’re ready to shoot, okay? … If there’s one thing a photographer can’t stand, it’s a thinking model.” Reese also tells her he needs an advance on his fee, and Angie decides she’ll take some money out of her savings account. This poor fool.
After Angie refuses to tell the girls who she had a “date” with and barely talks to them at practice, Mary Ellen rallies the rest of the squad and says they need to figure out what’s wrong with her. They all decide to drop by her house unexpected, and guess who happens to be there too???? ME’s voice gets all high-pitched and squeaky when she sees Reese, and she says the girls are going to get everybody some sodas. “You mean you liberated females are actually going to start waiting on us guys?” Pres asks, completely unaware of what’s happening. Shove it, Pres. The girls confront Angie about Reese – Nancy is still skeptical, while Mary Ellen is hurt and confused about why a photographer would prefer Angie over her. She leaves with Patrick in tears. Drama queen. Since she’s not even good enough for a random photographer in Tarenton, Mary Ellen questions her all-consuming desire to move to NYC and become a model. It would be better to stay in Tarenton where everyone likes her. This makes her decide to have a real, open relationship with Patrick. He can’t hold her back from her dreams if she’ll never accomplish them anyway. So romantic.
Walt is having a party, and for some reason Angie asks Reese if he wants to go. They’re still in the “getting to know each other” stages and he says he can’t find a studio, so they will have to take the pictures in his motel room. Abort. Abort. They go to the party, where Reese is rude and whiny and ME ignores Angie and stays firmly attached to Patrick. Nancy thinks Mary Ellen is trying to see what it would feel like if she married Patrick and stayed in Tarenton forever. Patrick doesn’t know what to make of ME’s newfound attitude and actual willingness to date him seriously. Patrick tells her he tried to talk to Reese about camera lenses and Reese was clueless. ME perks up. If Reese is a fake, then maybe her modeling future isn’t dead in the water. Mary Ellen uses kissing to make Patrick stop talking and trying to figure her out. This author likes writing about Patrick and Mary Ellen making out, because they do that a lot.
The more she thinks about it, the more Mary Ellen decides Reese must be a phony and chose Angie only because she is so much more trusting than ME or Nancy. The girls decide to figure out the truth and call the magazine where Reese’s name was in the credits. Pretending to be a lawyer, ME tries to procure Reese Oliver’s mailing address, and is told that he is out of the country on assignment in Sudan. “Geography wasn’t her strong point, but she knew Sudan wasn’t anywhere near Tarenton.” Kudos to the American education system. Mary Ellen is so excited to find out Reese is a fake because it means his dismissing her meant nothing. Stop being so freaking selfish and think about Angie, Nancy basically says. They don’t think Angie will believe them if they tell her what they found out, so they decide to get more information. Good plan guys. Hope she doesn’t get killed and thrown in a dumpster while you guys try to play Nancy Drew some more.
At the next basketball game against Garrison, Mary Ellen tries to be nice to Angie, and Angie is suspicious. After the game, Nancy goes over to see her boyfriend Ben, who is on Tarenton’s team but used to go to Garrison. He is talking with Garrison’s coach, who calls out to someone passing by – “Hey Billy, how’s it going?” Nancy looks over and sees the guy he called Billy is the person she thought was “Reese Oliver.” She asks for more info and the coach says he’s Billy Slocum, a Garrison alumnus from 3-4 years ago. He works at a camera shop, and it sounds like he didn’t really fit in during high school. Why would Billy/Reese go to a Tarenton-Garrison game where he might see a number of people he knows?? Come on now.
For some reason Nancy doesn’t run right over to Angie with this information – and Billy gets to her first. He wants to take pictures of her in her cheerleading uniform the next day at the motel. “Everybody loves cheerleaders, especially the cheerleaders themselves.” Angie is offended. Billy sounds racist against cheerleaders. He says he needs the money in the morning to buy lighting for their photo shoot, and Angie agrees to go to the bank and get it for him. She is still completely clueless.
ME tells Patrick about Reese possibly being a phony, and Patrick realizes that she’s returning to her old self in not taking their relationship seriously. Her dreams about modeling in NYC are resurfacing. To protect himself, he brushes her off and leaves. She is hurt, but then turns her focus to Angie. “She’d put Patrick first once before, and it had nearly ruined her relationship with Angie.” No, pretty sure that was your petty and immature jealousy and ignoring your friend because she got chosen over you. How is this brat blaming Perfect Patrick for that? Ughhhhh Mary Ellen.
It takes Nancy until the next morning to call ME and tell her about Reese actually being Billy. ME says they should go to the library and find an old yearbook with his picture to prove to Angie who he is. Nancy says that’s a great idea. “Mary Ellen flushed with pleasure – it wasn’t every day Nancy paid her a compliment.” Good old Mary Ellen still finding time to bask in her own greatness when her friend is in trouble. They drive 40 minutes to Garrison and find his picture in the yearbook, listing his sole school activity as photography club. On the way back to Tarenton with the yearbook, Nancy tells Mary Ellen off for treating Angie like garbage when she was jealous of her. Mary Ellen “shrugs” and says she’ll make it up to her. I can’t stand this chick! When they get to Angie’s house, whoops too late, her brother says she’s already at the motel with Reese. He says he tried to stop her, but whatevs. She left. “Sometimes I wish I was only four years old again,” Mary Ellen says. “Things were so much easier then.” Why is Billy doing this, Nancy asks as they drive to the hotel. “Whatever it is, it better be good!” Mary Ellen proclaims. She’d hate it if she’d done all this work for something boring.
The girls bust into the hotel room and show Angie the yearbook photo. Billy seems to actually enjoy the reveal. “I’m not that stupid,” Angie says to herself, devastated. “Guess again,” the loser creep retorts. Mary Ellen yells at him to shut up and tries to comfort Angie. “I would have done it too, if El Creepo here hadn’t decided on you.” Aw, that was nice. It turns out Billy really IS prejudiced against cheerleaders because in high school he grew a huge resentment towards the popular girls that wouldn’t give him the time of day. “The only guys you lend your precious time to are the jocks, the Student Council guys, or class officers,” he says. “‘That’s not true!’ Mary Ellen cried angrily, forgetting that Patrick was in the Student Council and Ben was definitely a jock.” Billy says at least with his scheme he had something a cheerleader wanted and had a cheerleader all to himself for awhile. What a freak.
He says he would have kept the pictures of Angie in his wallet and “whipped them out of my wallet when I needed to impress someone.” Because people are super impressed when a 21-year-old shows them pictures of an underage cheerleader posing in front of a white sheet tacked to a wall. Angie wants her money back, but Billy only gives her what’s left after he bought film and lights. He says they could try to go after him for fraud but Angie never signed a contract so she has no proof. They make him promise he won’t do it to another girl, and he says sure, he already got what he wanted. I hope they made him pinky swear. Angie tells him he needs help, and the girls leave.
They drop Angie off and give her some privacy to cry it out, then re-assemble that night with the guys including Patrick to comfort her. Angie is cheered up, and Patrick warms back up to Mary Ellen, who he decides would be boring if she didn’t have her big dreams. Angie says she feels sorry for Billy and will pay more attention to people who have no friends. They all nod in agreement, except Mary Ellen who says she’s ALWAYS friendly and not conceited just because she’s a cheerleader. Everyone just looks at her and says, “Sure, you bet!”
“Once more they were a team… but for how long?” Such an ominous last sentence. I’m worried.
Interesting notes and quotes:
- “Pretty soon you’re going to have to install a switch on him, just to turn him on!” Mary Ellen says to Angie about Angie’s boyfriend. That would have gone right over my head when I was reading this as a 12-year-old.
- Mary Ellen says Vanessa has a “fox like” face and after reading that I had the stupid “What Does the Fox Say” song in my head for 30 minutes.
Sign of the Times:
- Pres says “Arne’s idea of a good time is indexing floppy discs.”
- Angie thinks if she was a computer or “maybe even a typewriter” she’d get Arne’s attention.
Author: Diane Hoh
Next time on Cheerleaders… Is Pres finally, really in love? (I doubt it) Read Cheerleaders #13, HURTING.