Analyzing the cover: I suppose this is the sophisticated and worldly Blake (don’t all New Yorkers wear berets?) admiring Mary Ellen doing a cheer move. Not weird at all.
Mary Ellen has received a letter from a modeling agency in Chicago that saw her in the squad’s Clean Soap commercial and is interested in meeting with her. It would be her dream come true, but she doesn’t have enough money for food and lodging during the trip. (This agency isn’t going to foot the bill?)
Coach Engborg has noticed the squad is extra tired and distracted, so she gives them a week off from practice. They are mystified at Engborg’s sudden benevolence, but aren’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Mary Ellen sees Patrick driving his moving van, and he offers her a ride. (Ugh, I thought he dumped her in the last book? I knew it wouldn’t last.) Mary Ellen is still down about her Chicago conundrum, and she pulls away from Patrick’s embrace. “If only those arms didn’t heave 20-pound bags of trash into the back of a smelly truck, she would have gladly stayed in them, and maybe Tarenton, forever.” He asks ME what’s wrong, and she reads him the letter from the agency.
The gang is hanging out at Gino’s Pizza. Tarenton must have 50 different types of pizza places. They are talking about possibly having a party during their cheer vacation and organizing some workouts on their own so they don’t get rusty. Vanessa and Pres walk in. Pres, ever so desperate for female companionship, keeps going back to the one Nancy deems “the spider woman.” Vanessa drops some sick burns on the squad, then she and Pres leave.
By the time he gets home, he’s already tired of her. “Vanessa was good for the short term, but Pres knew from experience she tended to fade in the long run.” He hasn’t been home long when he gets a fortuitous phone call – it’s Blake, the sophisticated and jaded New Yorker he flirted with in NYC while he was still dating Claudia. Blake asks if he remembers her, and he says of course. Then she says her parents are going to a conference in Chicago and Tarenton is on the flight path, so she thought she’d stop there and visit him. Pres is super excited – he was too loyal to Claudia last time he was with Blake, so now he gets a second chance for some action. Yay for him, I guess. Blake says she was worried she’d seem too pushy. “You can push your way into my life anytime,” Pres says.
Mary Ellen had secretly been hoping Patrick would lend her the money for Chicago, but instead he is lecturing her that she needs to be careful not to get taken advantage of. When Nancy tries to tell her about the practices they want to organize during their break, Mary Ellen says she doesn’t care. They demand an explanation for this egregious behavior, and she finally tells them. “So that’s why I’ve been acting like a… a….” Mary Ellen stutters. “A witch,” Angie supplies. With a capital B.
Blake shows up at the tail end of the squad’s practice, and everyone is excited to see her. Vanessa is there too, and she immediately starts sniping at Blake about what she’s wearing. Blake shrugs her off. Pres is in awe. “From the moment he’d seen Blake standing in the open door of the gym, he’d felt himself falling further and further in love.” So he’s been in love with her for about 4 minutes now. He pulls her to him and gives her a big kiss. Let’s not forget he hadn’t thought about her for a single second since he left New York. Pres brings her back to his house where she impresses his parents. He has to leave for a moving job with Patrick, so he hesitantly lets her borrow his Porsche. It must really be love.
Blake eats with Angie and Nancy and then goes to watch the basketball game and cheerleaders. She tells Pres she’s impressed, and he tries to make out with her in his car. He even almost starts to tell her he thinks he’s in love with her, but she quickly interrupts him. Basically Pres is acting like a Stage 5 Clinger. At an after-game party at Pres’ house, Angie is noticing the same thing: “We’ve been talking about how hard Pres has fallen for Blake. I was wondering if Blake feels the same way.” Yep, Blake is feeling smothered and is starting to wish she was staying at a motel instead of at Pres’ house.
Patrick leads Mary Ellen into the pantry to make out, but then he brings up the Chicago job again and they start arguing. Mary Ellen feels like a gold digger because she keeps hoping Patrick will offer to help pay for the trip. But instead she accuses him of not wanting her to have a shot, at wanting her to marry him and be barefoot and pregnant, in the kitchen to boot. Patrick says that’s not fair. Blake walks in on them arguing, Patrick leaves, and Mary Ellen confides in Blake about the Chicago job. Then they talk about Pres. ME says it’s been awhile since he had a girlfriend. Two whole books ago! As she falls asleep, Blake is unsure if she can handle Pres for another hour, let alone another four days. Ouch.
After the first squad-organized practice during their cheer break, Pres and Blake go out. He tells her that his father goes to NYC once or twice a month for business, and he’s supposed to take over the company one day, so he could start going with his dad as a way to see Blake. Then they can figure out something to do together during the summer and then go to the same college. !!! Blake’s like, ummmm, no. She says she thinks he just wants to be in love with somebody, and her being there just fit the timing. She felt like his wife at the party, but she’s only 17. Pres gets upset, because he’s petulant. “Blake was talking to him like he was a 12-year-old in the throes of his first crush, and it was humiliating.” Blake tells him she’s going to go ahead to Chicago where her parents are, and then she’ll come back to Tarenton on her way home for a day or two.
Pres has to leave for a moving job, so Blake hangs back at Gino’s and finishes her pizza. Mary Ellen and Nancy come in and sit with her. Vanessa comes by their table and starts to rub it in Mary Ellen’s face that she had to turn down the Chicago modeling job, and then Blake pipes up and says actually, Mary Ellen can come with her to Chicago and stay at her parents’ suite. Blake thanks Vanessa for reminding her, and they all laugh at her.
Patrick and Pres drop Blake and Mary Ellen off at the airport. As they watch them head for their gate, Pres says, “If they’re looking so good, why are we feeling so bad?” “Sounds like a country western song,” Patrick says.
Mary Ellen and Blake/her parents are staying at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. Nice. Blake accompanies Mary Ellen to the office where she has an appointment with Futura Modeling Agency, and something about it strikes Blake as not being quite right. She warns Mary Ellen not to sign anything right away. Mr. Seltzman, the director of Futura, tells Mary Ellen that the company is only three years old but has helped several models who are now in magazines get their start. He offers her a three-year contract, which sends ME’s head spinning. He says they can meet again tomorrow to go over the contract, so Mary Ellen takes it and shows it to Blake.
Olivia and Walt are at the ice skating rink with Angie and Chris. Angie and Chris are laughing as they skate, when Vanessa comes over and asks Angie how she can look so happy when she should be in mourning over Coach Engborg. “She’s taking another job, at another school,” Vanessa says. Angie runs to tell Olivia and Walt, and none of them can believe it. They try to call Engborg and even their principal, neither of which is at home.
Blake tries to read Mary Ellen’s contract and can’t understand a lot of it, but notes that it says Futura would basically own Mary Ellen for the duration of the 3 years – she couldn’t do any assignments without their permission. While ME goes to the bathroom, Blake looks through some Futura catalogs Mr. Seltzman gave ME along with the contract. They’re like department store inserts that come in the newspaper, but everyone in them is modeling underwear. “So? Modeling underwear isn’t my dream, but I have to start somewhere. Mr. Seltzman called it bread-and-butter work,” ME says. Blake opens up another catalog. “The whole thing looked, to Blake, like a real sleaze job.” Mary Ellen is unsure. She wants the contract so badly, but Blake thinks she’d be wasting 3 years doing this kind of work: “Bread-and-butter models are a dime a dozen, but there’s only one Mary Ellen Kirkwood.”
The rest of the cheerleaders sit around being depressed about the possibility of Coach Engborg leaving. Walt thinks Engborg wouldn’t quit before telling them, but Angie thinks that’s why they got their unexpected break – for their coach to go interview somewhere else and finalize her move. Chris writes Angie one of his super lame poems to cheer her up:
Roses are red, Angie is blue
If I can’t cheer her up,
I belong at the zoo
The zoo’s not so bad
For lions and seals
But without Angie’s smile
My whole world is unreal
Pres is still crazy about Blake, but he found himself extremely attracted to a nursery school worker whose stuff he and Patrick helped move earlier. The teacher was engaged and didn’t give him a passing glance, but Pres realized that even if he was in a long-distance relationship with Blake, he might not be able to control himself if he ever got so interested in someone who wasn’t engaged and was interested in him.
In Chicago, Blake is looking forward to seeing Pres again but hopes he’s gotten over his urge to propose marriage. With Blake’s encouragement, Mary Ellen calls Futura and says her “lawyer” advised her not to sign such a binding contract. She feels disappointment but assurance she did the right thing.
Walt and Olivia are staking out Coach Engborg’s apartment. A neighbor tells them that she’s out of town. They wait until the mailman comes, and then look through her mail (pretty sure that’s very illegal!) She got a letter from the athletics department at Carleton College, but they’re not sure what that means. Nancy is distracted about Coach Engborg, and tells Eric if Engborg leaves, there won’t be a squad. Eric rationally points out that they will just get a new coach. This is like a Eureka moment for Nancy. Even if their coach does up and leave, isn’t it almost the end of the year? Aren’t they getting ready to graduate? Shouldn’t basketball season have been over like 5 books ago?
Angie finds another poem from Chris in her mailbox. Carol Ellis, please stop making Chris so lame. This was literally the only romance of this series that I actually liked. “Angie is dandy, Angie is great, I’ll give her some candy, if she’ll be my date!” Ugh.
Patrick and Pres pick Mary Ellen and Blake up at the airport. Blake says she thinks the Futura job might have been a front for something seedy, but Mary Ellen just says it wasn’t for her. Pres relays the drama with Coach Engborg to ME, and then after they get home, Pres and Blake have a talk. Pres says he realizes now where Blake was coming from, that he doesn’t want a long distance romance either, and they agree to just have fun for the next 2 days.
The squad is at the gym waiting for Coach Engborg to arrive. Blake is there too, and when Vanessa arrives being catty, Blake gives her a business card for Futura Modeling and says she’s just what they’re looking for. Vanessa leaves and they all laugh about the “underground underwear deal.”
Coach Engborg arrives, and she asks them why they basically look like they’re at a funeral. They ask if it’s true she told the superintendent she’s “moving on,” which is what Vanessa overheard. Coach Engborg says she was gone visiting her sick uncle, and by moving on, she meant she’s moving to a new apartment. So you mean Vanessa took something and twisted it the wrong way and tortured the cheerleaders with it? I’m shocked. They all exhale in relief and get back to work.
Other notes and quotes
- “Pres doesn’t need me,” Blake said. “Pres just needs, period.”
- Olivia enjoys playing Nancy Drew with Walt. He says they should open their own private eye agency – “Manners and Evans: Four private eyes for the price of two!” Groan. Oh Walt.
Sign of the Times
- Blake shows up wearing “black jersey stirrup pants tucked into tangerine ankle high boots. To top it off, she wore an enormous loose-knit sweater striped in every color of the rainbow.”
Author: Carol Ellis
Next time on Cheerleaders…. Who nearly ruins the fabulous cheerleading clinic? Read Cheerleaders #19, MAKING IT.