Dumb Cheerleaders & Dumber Criminals (#17 – Taking Risks)

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Analyzing the cover: Olivia and Pres get tied up for about two seconds in the book. Unfortunately, the criminals don’t leave them there.

Pres and Patrick are planning to use the van for their moving company to take the squad to the away basketball game in Kensington. Patrick wants to deck it out to impress Mary Ellen.

As the group meets up to go to the game, Angie says goodbye to Chris and he gives her a love poem, Pres thinks about what kind of substitute he can get for Claudia, and Nancy thinks about Eric, the guy in charge of the handicapped swimming program, who she is now sort of dating.

Not long after the group sets off in the van, they come across a wrecked car on the side of the road. Stopping to help, they examine the car, which was a piece of junk even before the wreck. Then, two men with guns step out from the trees and corner them. It was all a set-up. The two hoodlums start to tie up the cheerleaders, but then one of them gets worried about what will happen if police find the teens tied up by his car, which is registered in his name. They didn’t think this out very well. So, the criminals decide to bring the group along with them.

The criminals make Patrick get in the driver’s seat of the van, since they don’t know how to drive it, and say they want him to drive them to Canada. “But what about the game?!” Mary Ellen gasps.

Meanwhile, Chris’ previous engagement that was going to keep him from going to the game gets cancelled, so he decides to race his “tangerine Camaro” and try to catch up with the cheerleaders’ van, since he is obsessed with Angie.

In the van, everyone is in stunned silence, until Pres asks Walt how long it should take to get to Canada. Walt guesses 2 hours. One of the criminals they have dubbed “Scarface” tells them to shut up. Walt somehow convinces Scarface that he should let them talk to each other since they’re being held at gunpoint and there’s nothing else for them to do, and he relents. I feel like Scarface is going to screw up this whole plan somehow.

Walt keeps talking to Scarface, asking him if he knows why the teens are dressed in cheerleading uniforms. Then he asks if they’re from the area, and Scarface says no, “Unless you think the state reformatory is local.” Walt knows the reformatory is in St. Cloud – so is Tarenton in Minnesota, then? I don’t think that has ever been expressly stated. Walt asks their names – Scarface is Slim, the other is Lee, and apparently Lee is the one who broke out of the reformatory, so police are looking for him.

At the gym for the game, Coach Engborg is wondering where the squad is, worrying that they broke down somewhere. She decides to go looking for them. Maybe she was thinking of that time those idiots tried to walk across a frozen lake. She drives back at least 20 miles and sees no sign of the van.

Patrick tells Slim and Lee they need to stop for gas.  They get to a gas station, and Lee makes Patrick pull up to full-service, which apparently still existed back then, because he doesn’t want Patrick getting out of the van. The girls beg to go to the restroom, so Lee says they can go one at a time with Slim escorting each one (yeah, that won’t look weird to the gas station workers).

Olivia tries to write a note on a paper towel in the bathroom, but she can’t find her pen and Slim only gives her 60 seconds before he barges in. She whispers to Mary Ellen and Nancy that they can do it, and they go inside together with Slim. Nancy writes a note on a paper towel saying two men have kidnapped the cheerleaders and are holding them hostage in the van, but she can’t remember any important details, like the license plate number. When Mary Ellen goes in, she says she needs more paper towels from the attendant. Slim lets Nancy go ask the attendant, and then she pretends to fall and tells Slim to bring the paper towels to ME. As soon as he is out of earshot, Nancy starts to tell the attendant what happened, but she doesn’t even get to any important details before Slim comes bursting back in and drags them out. The stupid attendant doesn’t figure anything out as he watches them leave. “Teenagers, he thought. Who understood them? They were always pulling some prank.”

Mary Ellen had added to Nancy’s note, but there was no telling when the attendant would ever find it. Pres wonders “what would happen if these goons knew they had Preston Tilford III as a hostage. They would hold him for ransom.” Then don’t tell them your name! Easy! Pres thinks if they demanded ransom, his father would call the FBI before parting with a single dollar. Well, that kind of sounds like the smart thing to do. Two idiots are walking in the road and Patrick almost hits them. Patrick stops even though Lee tells him not to, and one of the two people comes over and opens Patrick’s door to yell at him. Lee points his gun at the guy and demands that the two new people also get into the van. Wouldn’t it have been more prudent to act like everything was fine and just leave?

The two new people’s names are Matt and Vicky. They had been hiking and Vicky had fallen and sliced open her leg, which is still bleeding and badly in need of bandaging. Despite just being taken hostage and tearing her leg open, Vicky takes a moment to appreciate how hot Pres is. They all insist that Lee and Slim need to drop Vicky off at a hospital, but Lee refuses. Meanwhile, Slim is making Mary Ellen feel very uncomfortable with his leering and closeness, and Patrick is continuing to drive with Lee’s gun pressed to his side.

Matt looks at Mary Ellen. “Now here was a beautiful girl!” I’ve never been a traumatic situation like this before, but would I be checking people out who were being held hostage with me? I’m thinking no? Slim is wondering why Lee hasn’t killed everyone yet. They have fake birth certificates for the border and will have to find some way to explain Patrick – the rest will be dead before they get there. Mary Ellen starts flirting with Matt. Seriously? Patrick can hear her and it’s pissing him off even more than he already is with a gun pressed to his side. “He wanted to grind the truck to a halt and then grind Matt what’s-his-name to a pulp.

Pres and Vicky are also flirting. WTH? “Vicky had that earthy attraction that so enticed Pres.” What does that even mean? Angie meanwhile is drawing strength from Chris’ love poem he gave her right before they left. That makes more sense. It’s a pretty terrible poem, but she loves it. “Just when I get this fabulous guy to like me, I’m going to be killed!” she cries. That does suck. Lee had considered not killing them, but now he needs to because they could describe him. If he is already supposed to be in prison and the police are looking for him, why does it matter if the teens could describe him?? He’s already in trouble!

Lee tells Patrick to stop at the next convenience store so they can get some food. Mary Ellen almost stupidly tells them about the food they have in a cooler, but then decides they don’t deserve it. Maybe it’s also not a good idea to give them a reason not to stop where, you know, you might be able to get help. So she goes back to flirting with Matt. “It was exciting to have Matt under her spell. Mary Ellen couldn’t get enough approval and attention. I’m like an addict, she thought, needing my fix.” And since Patrick is kind of busy, she needs that attention from somewhere! Mary Ellen is abominable.

Back at the gas station where Nancy failed at her one chance to tell someone what was happening, a customer asks the attendant if he saw the story in the paper about the criminal who escaped from the St. Cloud reformatory and killed a guard. Police are setting up roadblocks in the area trying to find him. The attendant looks at the paper and recognizes a picture of Slim, then hurries to the phone.

Patrick pulls up to a convenience store, and Lee makes everyone empty their wallets. They rack up $135 in cash, and Lee picks Angie to go along with Slim to buy some food. Angie grudgingly goes in with him, and starts to make fun of his food choices. “Animal crackers? They’re for kids! What have you got, arrested development?”

In the van, Lee tries to make Patrick find a route on the map, and Walt whispers a plan he has with Matt, something involving the soda cans in the cooler. As Matt whispers the plan to Mary Ellen, he softly kisses her neck in between sentences. “Matt was exciting! Almost as exciting as Patrick.” Who is sitting 10 feet away. She looks up and sees him watching her in the rearview mirror. “He looked as if he had been knifed in the heart.” I can’t wait for the day he dumps this skank! Pres tells Vicky the plan and then kisses her when he sees Lee eyeing him. That draws Matt’s ire. These people are all so ridiculous.

Coach Engborg has been stopped at one of the police roadblocks and is told about the hitchhikers who might include a reformatory escapee. She doesn’t tell the police about her missing squad because she’s still not sure if she’s overreacting. She makes her way back to Kensington to see if the squad ever showed up. When she gets there and sees they’re not there, she calls the police with a worried Chris at her side. The police had also received a call from the gas station attendant who saw one of the fugitives with girls dressed as cheerleaders. An APB is sent out to be on the lookout for the van.

Walt starts to enact his plan, which involves the soda cans, but when he starts to open the cooler, Lee fires a shot right near his head. Olivia begs Walt to sit back down and says they will have to think of something else.

They drive by a state trooper, who turns on his sirens and attempts to pull the van over. Lee says Patrick better get rid of the police or he’ll start getting rid of everyone in the back, starting with Mary Ellen. Patrick accelerates and the van lurches forward. Everyone is flying around, and while Lee is distracted, Walt goes for a soda can and tells everyone to do their plan. They all start shaking cans and then open them so the soda gushes out like a volcano eruption. Ummm I would have thrown the full soda cans at the guys’ heads. Patrick stops the van, and Pres reaches for Lee’s arm to grab the gun, and it goes off. Pres knees Lee in the face, and Patrick joins in to help Pres subdue Lee. Meanwhile Matt and Walt are taking down Slim. Angie helps by grabbing Mary Ellen’s apple juice bottle and slamming it over Slim’s head. They tie up Lee and Slim, and gag them with bandages from the first aid kit. THEN they are so proud of themselves, they do a cheer!  Really?

Police approach the van and apprehend the criminals, leaving the cheerleaders to sort out their ridiculous personal dramas. “I was so worried about you up there with Lee aiming the gun at you all the time,” Mary Ellen tells Patrick. “It seemed to me you found plenty to distract you back there,” he says. He walks away from her and thinks maybe it’s time to let her go. I wish! Matt is back to cuddling with Vicky, who will be transported to a hospital. ME knows he was just someone to pass the time with. “Now just when they’d survived this grueling ordeal together, it looked like she’d lost Patrick. Maybe forever this time.” I wish!

The cheerleaders are now back at practice. Pres tells them Vicky got patched up in the hospital and she and Matt took a bus home. If she lived closer, he’d have tried to steal her away from Matt. Mary Ellen is sad because Patrick isn’t there. “She’d lost it all because she was a fool!” You are a fool. A FOOL. Mary Ellen is beginning to suspect that she doesn’t deserve Patrick. Just STARTING to suspect????????? Surprisingly they do not make up before the end of the book, but I will not hold my breath that Patrick can stand firm.

Sign of the Times

  1. Mary Ellen bobs her head up and down, which reminds the group of “those weird ceramic animals some people have on the ledge of their cars, whose heads bounce at every bump in the road.”
  2. Lots of pay phones used.

Book Deets
Author: Anne Reynolds
Year: 1986
Pages: 152

Grade: B

Next time on Cheerleaders… Who will keep Mary Ellen from doing almost anything to become a model? Read Cheerleaders #18, LOOKING GOOD.

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One thought on “Dumb Cheerleaders & Dumber Criminals (#17 – Taking Risks)

  1. Pingback: Bring It On, Tarenton Style (#16 – In Love) – We've Got Spirit

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