Analyzing the cover: I would guess this is Mary Ellen, Nancy, and Walt awaiting word on what happened to their significant others: Patrick, Ben, and Olivia. Walt should theoretically be in a uniform too, but I can’t think of any male non-cheerleaders who would be sitting with them.
Olivia is restless. She thinks she might die of boredom. She’s tired of everyone treating her like a fragile Barbie doll. She wants a challenge. “People who don’t know me look at how small I am and think I’m twelve. Maybe ten,” she says. I have the same problem and I’m 30. On a good day a stranger will assume I’m 18 at best. I feel you Olivia.
Pres is excited his girlfriend Claudia is coming back to Tarenton after having a bone fragment removed from her spine in California. Olivia is tired of hearing about it. “You’ve told us a million times. She’s all recovered. That’s great. Now can we get to work?” Claudia’s predicament reminds Olivia of when she was a child, having to be hospitalized and have procedures for her heart defect. She doesn’t want to be reminded of it. “What’d you do, feed her some tiger juice on the way over here?” Pres asks Walt. Not sure what tiger juice is but I want some. Mary Ellen arrives to practice, and Pres takes the opportunity to inform her of Claudia’s homecoming. He’ll be throwing a party for her.
Claudia arrives back to Tarenton, and she and Pres reunite. He also meets her mother, who will be leaving soon. None of Claudia’s family actually lives in Tarenton, so he’s not sure how long she is going to stick around either.
At the next basketball game (this season will never end), Nancy admires her boyfriend Ben as he plays and thinks to herself that she has “everything.” She throws a party after the game, and the cheerleaders’ enemy Vanessa shows up with one of the basketball players even though she wasn’t invited. For some reason Pres leaves Claudia to fend for herself with Vanessa, who tells Claudia how wild and womanizing Pres is.
Pres goes over to talk to Ben and Patrick. They are discussing a possible day trip to go mountain climbing. Bored Olivia is interested in going too, since she took a rock climbing class two years ago. “Nothing’s going to happen. With us three it’ll be as smooth as a summer’s breeze. I guarantee it,” Ben says. So it’s going to go the opposite of that, then.
On the way home Mary Ellen is jealous about Patrick’s closeness to Olivia, even though she knows “she was the one, not Patrick, who controlled their relationship.” Patrick assures her he’s not interested in Olivia.
Nancy and Ben are getting intense. He helps her clean up the party, and she tells him she wishes he wouldn’t go mountain climbing. What if he pulls something before the Garrison game? And she doesn’t want Olivia getting any ideas about him. He tells her he’ll love her forever. Then he starts kissing her “as if it’s a life or death proposition.” Hmmm.
Walt also doesn’t like the idea of his girlfriend going rock climbing. “Something about this is not right. You’re a girl.” Thanks for stating the obvious Sexist Sherlock.
Claudia tells Pres her talk with Vanessa has made her think about going home to Virginia. “Vanessa? All she has to do is breathe on something and it shrivels,” he responds. Does Pres know this from very intimate and personal experience? Claudia says she knows all about his “wild” ways, but she has to slow down after her surgery. Pres insists he can slow down with her, so she tells him she needs his party for her to be earlier in the day. These night parties are too tiring for her. Pres changes it to a brunch, set for the same morning as the trio’s planned rock climbing excursion. But Olivia has no plans on missing rock climbing for a dumb party.
Pres is at the mall when he sees Claudia and Vanessa shopping together. Vanessa drops the bomb on Pres that Claudia’s new doctor is a young, eligible intern, and that Claudia is interested in medical school. (She previously told Pres she had to drop out of high school so maybe she should focus on one thing at at time, like getting her GED.) Pres is shocked that Claudia is telling all these things to Vanessa and not him. He just wants his brunch to impress her and convince her to stay in Tarenton.
Olivia is waiting for Patrick to pick her up at 5 a.m. Saturday for the climb. She lied to her parents and said she had an early practice. Olivia steps outside and breathes it all in – the sky was clear, the air crisp. “It was great to be alive.” They get to the mountain and Patrick registers them with the park rangers, who say they are a little worried about a possible avalanche. Yep, I’d be out of there. But the 3 teens decide to go on ahead despite some concern. Ben says when they get home they shouldn’t tell anyone they had been warned about an avalanche, because then everyone will just tell them how stupid they were to risk it. Well, yeah.
They start climbing, and at first it’s a beautiful day. Patrick scolds Ben for not wearing layers, but he says the weather’s perfect. But then a sudden storm appears and it begins raining, and then Patrick says he smells snow. Ben gets really cold, and Patrick has to start dragging him. Then they get to snow up to their waists. “This is like a nightmare,” Patrick says. The three huddle together under a slim rock covering and share coffee. They didn’t bring a sleeping bag or anything and aren’t sure when the weather will get better. Ben is quiet and freezing.
Back in Tarenton, Walt drives Mary Ellen, Nancy, and Angie to Pres’ Impress-Claudia-Brunch. They talk about how cold it is and how much colder it must be on the mountain. One basketball player mentions snow, which catches Nancy by surprise. Vanessa shows up wearing the same dress as Claudia, except it’s red instead of white. She looks much better than Claudia in it, Mary Ellen thinks, because white isn’t Claudia’s color. ME thinks Vanessa must have made the bad choice for Claudia on purpose. It starts to snow, and Nancy gets really concerned, but the other 2 cheerleaders who have significant others out on the mountain tell her it’s probably fine.
The climbers decide they need to start trying to get back down the mountain or they’ll be stranded where they are. Ben wants to do it quickly, but Patrick says they need to be slow and careful. They start heading back down with Patrick in the lead, Olivia in the middle, and Ben bringing up the rear. As they head down, Patrick and Olivia look up and see Ben going away from them. He motions for them to follow him and approaches a snowy ledge. Then suddenly, Ben disappears. “Olivia let out a sound she didn’t know she was capable of making.” They peer over the ledge and see that Ben has fallen over 100 feet. This is terrible! They climb down to where Ben is and check him out. “He broke his neck. He’s dead,” Patrick says. They both begin to sob, and have to leave him and try to get themselves back home.
When Olivia, Patrick, and Ben don’t show up to the brunch and still aren’t back when it’s time to go to the gym for pregame practice, everyone starts to get really worried. Coach Engborg tries to convince them that Olivia would want to them to go on without her, but Walt doesn’t agree. “How can we cheer and shoot baskets when three of them are missing?” Pres says he feels like cheering FOR the three of them, as if that will help anything. Angie says they can cheer for them “with all of their hearts.” Oh jeez.
Back on the mountain, Olivia is so devastated about Ben that she no longer cares if she lives or dies. As they continue to try and get down, an avalanche breaks and moves over them. They both survive it and find each other again. They decide they might have to stay the night, so Patrick builds a snow cave and they settle inside.
The Tarenton game against Garrison starts, and word has spread about the missing climbers. None of them are at area hospitals and the police haven’t gotten any reports about them either. The rangers say they haven’t seen anyone since Patrick registered that morning, and there have been several avalanches throughout the day. The principal makes this announcement at halftime during the game, and all the remaining cheerleaders are in despair. The game continues on “for the climbers.”
Patrick wakes up the next morning, and the sun is out. Olivia is unconscious from being too suffocated in the snow cave. He drags her out, and shakes her awake. They hike the rest of the way down and see helicopters searching for them above. When they reach the ground, Olivia is sent to the hospital for exposure and shock. Patrick finds out that all the cheerleaders spent the night at Angie’s house waiting for word. Ben’s parents are called, but Patrick wants to tell Nancy in person.
Patrick walks in the house unannounced and everyone freaks. They can tell by his face something is wrong. He approaches Nancy and tells her Ben is dead, then holds her while she cries. This is really sad 😦
Olivia is bombarded by her mother in her hospital room and receives flowers from Claudia. Then that terrible sea monster Vanessa is for some reason allowed in her room. “You look like the cat that swallowed the canary,” Vanessa says. WTF? Someone kill this chick. Vanessa tells Olivia that her father the superintendent sent her to get a full report on what happened. Ben’s parents might sue the school or even Olivia and Patrick themselves for what happened. Olivia agrees to talk to her for some reason. I don’t know why anyone listens to anything this girl says.
Patrick is part of the recovery team to get Ben’s body, and Ben’s parents ask him to speak at the funeral. He is racked with guilt about it all. At the funeral there is no comforting Nancy. Angie’s brother Andrew tells her there is a rumor going around the basketball team that the cheerleaders are being accused of a cover-up. Andrew says word is Olivia was at fault for Ben’s fall, that she put the guys at risk and caused it all. They figure out pretty quickly that heartless wench Vanessa is responsible for the rumor. Patrick clears up what really happened, and then pays the principal a visit to tell her what Vanessa did. Vanessa gets suspended, and the next basketball game is dedicated in Ben’s memory.
Other notes and quotes
- One of Nancy’s nicknames for Ben is “Legs”
- Patrick says the team’s game against Garrison is important for Tarenton’s standing in the district, even though beating Garrison in Book #11 had supposedly won Tarenton… something important. A seasonal championship?
Sign of the Times
- Claudia says she glued her Walkman to her mom’s ears to keep her from eavesdropping.
- “The breakdancing routine Walt wrote, I want to see that,” Coach Engborg said.
Author: Jody Sorenson
Next time on Cheerleaders… Is there a new boy in Angie’s life? Read Cheerleaders #16, IN LOVE.