Analyzing the cover: Well, there’s not much to analyze. I would assume this is Nancy, since most of the book is about her, but who can be sure? Not me.
Mary Ellen is preening during Tarenton’s basketball game against its rival Garrison because the captain of the team, Donny Parrish, asked her on a date. Her self-satisfaction is short-lived, though, when she hears one of their fans yell out that Garrison’s cheerleading squad is better than theirs. “If she had been accused of war crimes she could not have been more insulted.”
Nancy is distracted by the hot captain of Garrison’s team, Ben Adamson, especially how his sweaty jersey clings to his body. (Kind of gross). After the game, as she heads to the vending machines, who should she run into but Ben Adamson himself. They are in lust at first sight. They flirt some while they get drinks from the machine and then head out to the parking lot, where members of both teams and cheerleading squads happen to be congregating. Everyone’s eyes immediately go to Ben and Nancy. The Garrison players love it, the Tarenton kids are in shock. Ben, relishing the attention, leans down and kisses Nancy on the lips, which draws AUDIBLE GASPS from some of the Tarenton people. Ben says he’ll pick her up for a date on Saturday and saunters off. Then Nancy has to face the firing squad for her criminal offense.
“If you’re going to be a traitor, admit it,” Mary Ellen says. “That’s the American tradition. Benedict Arnold…” Hey now Mary Ellen, don’t be talking trash about your country! ‘Murica. Most of the gang goes for pizza after, and Mary Ellen basically wishes a disfiguring disease on Nancy for dating the guy who is better than ME’s own little prize, Donny. ME is a real witch with a capital B so far.
On Monday Nancy goes to school and is immediately insulted by some random guy and finds a nasty note taped to her locker. It must be real bad because Caroline B. Cooney never tells us what the note says. Then she goes to class, and everyone including horrible Mary Ellen ignores her. Look, my high school had a #1 enemy that we hated with the fire of a thousand suns, but people in my high school dated people from that high school all the time. Teenagers care more about getting some than they do school loyalty.
At practice, the cheerleaders are trying riskier tricks and intensifying their routines so that no one will ever again dare say that Garrison’s squad is better. Then they all gang up on Nancy about Ben. Mary Ellen says he probably pushes drugs and steals cars. Someone please slap her. Even Doormat Angie tells Nancy she shouldn’t be so disloyal to her school.
Donny comes by practice to watch Mary Ellen, sitting by Pres’ girlfriend Kerry. Poor Perfect Patrick is also there for ME, even though she is an absolute horror show in this book. Then everyone gasps when Ben Adamson walks in, clearly to stir up some trouble and I guess to see Nancy. He and Donny almost come to blows, but Patrick defuses the situation.
Tarenton is suffering from the feet of a vandal, who has been leaving black footprints on its white walls. The principal is out for blood. “Nothing offended her more. Not drugs, not stealing from lockers, not academic failure, not basketball defeat. She had a thing about those white walls.” So the principal cares more about keeping her walls clean than kids on drugs, kids stealing, kids failing out of school. The American education system, everyone. The kid who’s been walking up the walls can go pretty high, and Kerry teases Pres that he can’t go that high. So of course he decides to show her right then and there that he can, and he manages to equal the vandal’s footprints in height. Of course, the principal sees him and thinks he’s the one that did it all along. What an idiot. The principal calls Pres’ dad while he and Kerry continue to plead his case. By the time his dad gets there, the principal has relented slightly and says she won’t dole out any punishment yet because she’s not 100% sure Pres did it. But at least she got both Pres and Kerry’s parents all riled up for nothing.
Nancy rides off with Ben after practice, and they go out for hamburgers. Ben loves that Nancy can barely eat in front of him, and thinks that she’ll be an easy notch to add to his bedpost. Meanwhile, Nancy’s thinking flowers and hearts and romance. Ben wants to take her to breakfast the next morning, but when he picks her up, he tells her they’re actually going to Walt’s house. Ben is that morning’s guest on Walt’s parents’ local talk show, which is discussing local athletes and college scholarships. When they arrive, Ben is rude to Walt, and Walt is pissed at Nancy for her ongoing betrayal. Everyone at school continues to treat Nancy like she’s Joseph Stalin.
In another pointless plot, Kerry has been working on knitting a wool sweater for Pres. She is devastated when she sees him at school wearing a wool sweater almost identical to the one she had been making. She realizes it must be a gift from his mother, who just returned from a trip to Scotland. One time when she was at Pres’ house, his mom saw her looking at a pattern of the sweater she wanted to make, so now Kerry thinks his mom did it on purpose. This is so dumb. Pres can have more than one sweater. Kerry ultimately decides not to say anything to Pres, but she makes a comment to his mom about how nice his new sweater is, so his mom will know Kerry is on to her.
Olivia’s mom is very against the new risky tricks the cheerleaders are learning. She complains to Coach Engborg and then goes to their practice to tell them all she forbids Olivia to participate, but Olivia tells her off and her mom eventually leaves. At the next game, they plan to shock everyone with their new moves at halftime. Mary Ellen says they’ll get a standing ovation, which Nancy has never heard of happening for cheerleaders, but since everyone hates her, she keeps her mouth shut. They do their routine, and stupid ME was right. The crowd goes nuts. Olivia’s mom realizes how great her daughter is at the stunts, so I guess she will magically not complain anymore.
After the game, Nancy goes to the locker room and everyone ignores her again. Mary Ellen even decides she hates Nancy, and when Nancy leaves on the verge of tears, ME thinks, “Good, I hope she cries and her mascara runs and her eyes get red and her cheeks get all blotchy. Traitor.” Efffffff Mary Ellen.
While waiting for Pres, Kerry goes down the dark corridor at the gym and sees someone she thinks is Pres running up the wall, making those footprints. She runs toward him to yell at him for being so stupid, and the guy pushes her and she hits her head. She screams as the guy runs away, which sends people running in her direction. Some adults catch the culprit, who turns out to be a random sophomore named Jimmy Dill. He has acne and an ugly nose and fat lips. (I guess only ugly people commit crimes). So just like that, Pres is really cleared with the principal for the crime, and they can all go party.
Nancy is meeting Ben outside a local burger place, with plans to go somewhere in Garrison with him, but he insists on going inside to get a Coke. A bunch of Tarenton students are there, and Nancy realizes that Ben just wants the attention from everyone and is enjoying stoking everyone’s anger. Nancy goes with Ben to a party in Garrison, where some stupid girl keeps calling Nancy a “rah rah” from Tarenton. I find this equivalent to calling a dog a “woof woof” or a cat a “meow meow.” While everyone in Tarenton is threatened and pissed about Nancy dating Ben, everyone in Garrison thinks it’s hilarious and asserts their dominance over Tarenton when their star basketballer can get a Tarenton cheerleader. Nancy feels lonely and disrespected, while Ben doesn’t even notice her discomfort. She yearns for her “friends” back in Tarenton (though personally I think they’re pretty terrible too!) Ben kisses her, and she starts to cry.
She asks Ben to take her back to Tarenton, where he drops her off at Pres’ party. Things are over between them. When she walks in, only Mary Ellen looks up at her, and then ME promptly turns her back to continue dancing with Donny. Nancy bursts into tears again, and this time ME goes over to her and asks what’s wrong. Isn’t it obvious??? Magnanimous Mary Ellen hugs her, and then suddenly the ice in the rest of the room melts and everyone forgives her. Nancy is too grateful to think of what phony friends they all turned out to be. They all celebrate that she and Ben broke up, and then Mary Ellen kisses Donny in front of everyone. A happy ending?
Apparently the name of this book comes from the fact that Tarenton has a cheer called “All the Way,” and Ben also thinks he’ll easily get Nancy to go all the way with him, which she does not.
Other notes and quotes
- Olivia wears a “Cheerleaders make better lovers” shirt to practice, even though she wouldn’t know because she’s a virgin.
- Mary Ellen spots Donny sitting by Kerry at practice and is happy she doesn’t have to worry about that. “At last Mary Ellen had found something worthwhile in Kerry – no competition.” Cooney wrote ME like a real witch in this book.
- Kerry thinks that basketball season is too long. If only she knew!!
Author: Caroline B. Cooney
Next time on Cheerleaders… Even for beautiful cheerleaders, love doesn’t last forever. Read Cheerleaders #6, SPLITTING.