Analyzing the cover: There is one pool scene in this book, when the squad goes swimming after a game. I think this is the model portraying Mary Ellen, but at no point does Mary Ellen bump her head, as this picture indicates, and I’m pretty sure none of the guys are walking around in full uniform. So this picture make absolutely no sense for the book.
Pres has a fight with his parents after his dad says he wants him to get a job with a family friend’s investment company and stop messing around with cheerleading. Pres is so distracted during the next game (football this time) that he drops Nancy. Everyone gets on his case, but he tells them to buzz off and leave him alone, stalking off the field and leaving them high and dry. For some reason Coach Engborg berates the rest of the squad as if this was their fault. Walt offers to give Olivia a ride home, and Nancy watches them with eyebrows raised. Looks like Walt is finally going to have a storyline that doesn’t revolve around being annoying.
Pres goes by his house and packs a duffel bag. He’s running away from home. Poor little rich boy. He decides to go to his Uncle James’ house. Uncle James is an “artist and loner,” rejected his inheritance, and is estranged from his brother, Pres’ dad. Uncle James is pretty cool and doesn’t mind Pres staying with him, though he shares his brother’s opinion on male cheerleaders. “You’re not really dancing around out there with the pompons, are you?”
Walt kisses Olivia and she likes it but is socially awkward, so she just asks him to take her home. “Why didn’t girls put up signs when they wanted to be kissed?” Walt wonders. “I’m in the mood or Not today thanks.” Walt, just assume no girl wants to kiss you and you’ll be right 99 percent of the time. But Olivia is in the 1 percent and before they get to her house, she asks him to stop so he can kiss her again.
Angie gets home and finds a letter from her college boyfriend, Marc. She opens it and it’s actually a Dear John letter and he’s breaking up with her. He actually signs the letter with “Best, Marc.” Nancy comes by and says she saw Pres’ car by his uncle’s house, so they can all go ambush him and find out what his problem is. Angie starts to cry and tells Nancy about the letter. “I should have gone to bed with him,” Angie cries. Ugh, NO. At least she gets over this notion pretty quick.
Vanessa finds out about Pres’ new living situation and tattles on him to the principal. Apparently this is something the school can punish, so since Pres isn’t living at home he’s on probation and can’t participate in cheerleading anymore. He says fine, he doesn’t need cheerleading anyway (I thought this all started because his dad wanted him to quit the squad). Coach Engborg brings on a replacement for Pres named Josh who has experience in gymnastics. Nancy is mad because Josh is the son of her parents’ best friends, who they are always trying to force her to date. “He’s a nice Jewish boy. He’s smart. He’s probably going to get into Harvard. He’s everything they ever wanted. Ugh!” Yeah, sounds like a total nightmare.
Mary Ellen is currently juggling Perfect Patrick and Donny, the captain of the basketball team. She’s always juggling Patrick and somebody. She wonders if life would be easier if she just didn’t date at all, but then decides no, life would be miserable without guys (and/or the validation of guys fighting over you). The first game without Pres arrives, and Pres watches from the stands while Patrick blows kisses and makes gestures at Mary Ellen. This distracts dumb Donny, who plays like crap and basically loses the game for the whole team. As soon as it’s over he confronts Mary Ellen. ME wants to be mad at him for losing, but she’s too busy being flattered that he cares about her more than a game! Ugghhh. Donny demands that she stop playing the two guys off each other and choose.
Josh has been trying to win Nancy over, and she finally gives in and agrees to go out with him. Everyone else is starting to catch on to Walt and Olivia’s new relationship. Pres is so depressed he just leans against a tree for 40 minutes after the game. He thought he didn’t care about losing the squad, but he was all kinds of jealous seeing someone replace him. The next day his mom comes over and begs him to come home, but since his dad is still mad at him and didn’t also beg, Pres refuses. Then the squad sans Josh arrives to help him spruce up his new living quarters. They try to do some reverse psychology on him by raving on and on about Josh, but Pres pretends not to care. Pres’ cousin AJ – Uncle James’ son – drops in and says he needs a place to stay for a few weeks. He’s a college student in New York and seems like a loser. He visits Pres at school the next day for some reason and ends up hitting on Vanessa. They leave together, as if that isn’t totally weird.
There is a school dance in this book, and everyone goes. Since Marc dumped Angie via snail mail, she goes with her brother Andrew. Yeah, I’d rather just stay home. Pres and Kerry, Walt and Olivia, Nancy and Josh, and Mary Ellen and Donny also show up, along with Vanessa and AJ.
They have all been there for about 5 minutes and AJ is already hitting on other girls and Mary Ellen is already crying. Turns out Vanessa found ME in the bathroom and told her that Angie had just come to the dance to see Patrick. “She loved to drop megaton bombs, then waltz away before everything crashed around her.” Even though she came with Donny, he’s off talking to other basketball guys, so when Patrick leads her out onto the dance floor Mary Ellen asks him to kiss her. This is going to end up great. Donny wrenches them apart and has to be held back by some basketball players. Then he says eff it, he and Mary Ellen have been over for weeks. Patrick takes ME home, though she STILL won’t commit to him. Pres comes home from the dance and walks in on Vanessa and AJ in a compromising position. He kicks them both out and feels like an adult, or something.
At the next basketball game (how many games do they play, five thousand?) Mary Ellen watches Donny and thinks about how she dated him for his looks, status, and self-assurance, but after breaking up… it’s now clear to her how shallow DONNY was. Wait, what? Oh and as a side note she maybe kinda sorta was shallow for wanting someone like him.
After the game the squad goes swimming, and Josh drops the bomb that when track season starts he won’t be able to cheer anymore. Olivia says she heard the pompon squad members saying that if the squad loses another Varsity member, the whole squad may be disbanded and they’ll have to start over from scratch for the spring events. AS IF. That sounds like a lot more work than just finding yet another guy.
Walt comes up with the idea that if Pres comes and lives at his house instead, the school might be okay with that and let him back on the squad. Never mind that he hasn’t asked his parents, Pres, the coach or the principal yet. Angie has a better idea and goes to see Pres’ dad and try to explain to him that the reason Pres hasn’t come home is because he thinks his father doesn’t care that he’s gone. At first Mr. Tilford brushes her off, but then he ends up relenting and visiting Pres at his brother’s house. They make up, Pres encourages his father to go see Uncle James, AJ goes back to New York, and everyone is happy again.
Other notes and quotes:
- Mary Ellen still wishes Pres would ask her out again. “Donny was a lap-dog at her feet; Pres was a dangerous cougar, daring her to chase him down.” I don’t think she and I view the word “cougar” the same way.
- Walt thinks of himself as “The Amazing Rubber Man,” the guy who bounces back. If I was going to be a superhero that’s not the name I would pick for myself.
- Mary Ellen thinks if she marries Patrick the headline in the paper will be “Bus Driver’s Daughter Weds Trash Collector,” they’ll only go to NYC on vacation, she’ll start popping out babies, and her looks and figure will be gone by 25.
- Vanessa tells Pres’ girlfriend Kerry that they used to call Pres “Presto Chango” because he was with a different girl every night. Pretty clever…not.
Sign of the Times
- Vanessa teases Patrick and Mary Ellen about their school being a Love Boat. The show ran from 1977-1987.
- Walt and Olivia compare Josh to a “John McEnroe type” of athlete.
Author: Jennifer Sarasin
Next time on Cheerleaders… Can one wild party change Olivia’s life? Read Cheerleaders #7, FLIRTING.