Camp Hell (#21 – Pulling Together)

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Analyzing the cover: The squad is never at any point in the locker room during this book, so I suppose this was the publisher’s best option. It appears to be Olivia looking annoyed while Jessica and Tara are having THE BEST conversation.

Coach Engborg has rented a cabin on the lake for cheerleading camp the last week of summer, so the new squad can spend time practicing and gelling together.

Jessica is relieved to get away from her critical stepfather for a week. Sean is happy because he wants to flirt with all of the girls. Hope is not excited about it at all, just nervous. Tara is relieved it’s finally here, and Olivia is worried that all of the new cheerleaders will be better than her. Peter is glad to get a break from his overbearing mom and the chance to have some healthy competition with Sean.

Hope and Tara ride with Sean, while Jessica and Olivia ride with Peter. Hope would have rather been with Peter, as she’s been thinking about him all summer. Olivia has only been there for 5 minutes and she’s already reminiscing about the last time she was at the cabin with the old squad, and wishing they were all here. “Mary Ellen would be flirting with Pres, Nancy would be planning the afternoon for them, Angie would be cheerfully complaining that she was eating way too much, and Walt would keep them all laughing with his jokes.” Everyone is kind of quiet while they eat, then Coach explains the schedule for their week of camp. She then lets them go off to relax for the afternoon.

Everyone is inside changing clothes except for Jessica when Walt’s Jeep pulls up with Patrick and Pres in tow. Walt is just a few weeks away from leaving for college, but Pres and Patrick are staying in Tarenton, expanding their moving business. Jessica notices how gorgeous Patrick is, but tells herself she isn’t interested. Until she greets them, and then: “Patrick smiled at her, and something inside her woke up and stretched.” Walt feels jealous watching Patrick and Jessica exchange glances. Olivia comes over and he greets her with a kiss, then drags her over to everyone else. During dinner, Olivia keeps noticing Walt looking at Jessica, bringing Jessica’s tray to the trash, then joking around with Jessica’s broom during cleanup. As he “gallops” by her with the broom between his legs, she moves her mop in front of him, causing him to trip. When he yells at her and asks what her problem is, she yells back, “You’re my problem!”

Olivia runs off, and Jessica commands Walt to go after her. He doesn’t want Jessica to think he’s a jerk too, so he does as she says. Patrick compliments Jessica, and she gets flustered. She wants to ask him about Mary Ellen, who is off in New York City, but doesn’t want to seem too interested.

Olivia calls out Walt for always looking at Jessica, and he admits she’s right and says he’s a jerk. Olivia says she’s worried he wants to break up with her, and he stays quiet, because the thought has crossed his mind. “He should have said something sooner, when he first realized he didn’t want to go off to the exciting world of a college campus attached to a girl back in Tarenton.” He doesn’t want to ruin her concentration while she’s at camp, so he’s waiting to talk to her about it afterward. Later at the bonfire, Olivia walks up to see Walt sitting by Jessica again. She realizes Walt never really reassured her of anything. But Jessica is only paying attention to Patrick as they talk about his garbage collection business. “Patrick really liked the way Jessica listened.” He probably also likes the way she doesn’t demean him for being a garbage man, like a certain wannabe model always did.

Meanwhile, Hope and Peter are sitting by each other, both trying to think of something to say to each other, and Tara flirts with Sean and Pres. When it’s time to leave, Jessica tries to act casual with Patrick and see if he’ll visit the camp again. Olivia asks Walt the same question, and he gives her a non-committal answer. Hope brings Peter some sunburn ointment for his back and rubs it on for him. Ooh la la.

Pete’s sunburn is making practicing very painful for him, and Hope’s ointment is all gone, so Coach Engborg asks Sean to drive into town and get some more. Tara begs to go with him, and despite her reservations, Coach says yes. Sean is the one who needs some supervision, though, as he decides they’ll make a detour to The Lounge, some dance club he likes. Tara tries to tell him they shouldn’t, but he doesn’t listen. While he’s off dancing with a random blonde, Tara spots Pres walking in. She asks him to drive her back to the lake before she gets kicked off the squad. Tara gets a tongue lashing and is told she’s not allowed to leave camp again.

When Sean finally returns, Coach Engborg revokes all of his free time. Remarkably, Sean is angry at Tara for not covering for him. By the next day, he’s shifted blame to Peter for getting sunburned and needing the ointment in the first place.

Olivia keeps talking about how awesome the old squad was, to everyone’s annoyance, making them feel like they will never measure up. When Jessica tries to pep everyone up, Olivia gets insecure and irritated again and tries to call her out for something: “Jessica, if you’re going to wear your hair shoulder-length like that, maybe you should tie it up in a ponytail or a braid. That’s what Mary Ellen always did. She was really clever with her hair.” This reminds Jessica of her stepfather’s constant criticism.

Peter is obsessed with not looking like a baby in front of everyone, since his mother babies him so much. When Sean yells at Peter for needing the ointment which led to Sean getting in trouble, Hope yells at Sean that it wasn’t Peter’s fault. Peter tersely says he can fight his own battles, which hurts Hope’s feelings. Tara tries to suck up to Olivia and ask for help, but then Sean comes over and brings up something negative Tara had said about Olivia earlier, which makes Olivia mad. Olivia continues to compare the new members to the old members, out loud, and the new members are always found lacking.

After dinner, Peter and Hope go for a walk and he apologizes for being rude. The rest of the squad plays Monopoly, and to Sean and Olivia’s annoyance, Jessica is winning in a landslide. Tara is talking about homecoming, and Olivia tries to make Jessica upset by mentioning how Patrick couldn’t take his eyes off Mary Ellen at last year’s dance. Olivia is really aggravating in this book.

Later Jessica asks to talk to Olivia and wonders if she did something wrong. Olivia is embarrassed and mad that she picked up on her jealousy. “Had she really been that obvious, or was perky little Miss Bennett able to read minds as well as do great back flips and cartwheels and jumps and play a smashing game of Monopoly?” Olivia tries to play it off and lies that she has no problem with Jessica.

When Walt, Pres, and Patrick arrive the next night for another visit, Walt immediately wants to talk to Olivia, while Patrick resumes his conversation with Jessica. Walt tells Olivia he thinks they should date other people while he’s away at college, as it’s not fair for her to sit around at home during her senior year. He glances back toward the fire, where Jessica is, and Olivia gets angry. “He was using her senior year as an excuse, when it was obvious that he had his eyes on someone else.” Olivia decides to act like she was thinking the same thing, which makes Walt suspect she already had her eye on someone. He guesses Sean, and she doesn’t answer, which makes him think he was right. Now Olivia has to act like she really does like Sean. As soon as they get back to the fire, “Walt pushed in between Jessica and Hope, looking at Jessica in the same longing, eager way.” Ugh. Olivia wants to go back to her room and cry, but instead she sits next to Sean and starts flirting.

Sean realizes Olivia is putting on an act in front of Walt, and he decides he’s okay with her using him. He also keeps her from running after Walt when the guys get up to leave. Jessica walks with them to the Jeep, and when Patrick suggests the other guys get in, wanting to be alone with Jessica for a minute, Walt tries to stand firm. Pres makes Walt get in the Jeep with him, and stupid Walt is mad: “Henley doesn’t have any claim on Jessica.” Pres tells him he could see that Jessica wanted to be alone with Patrick, and since Walt is leaving for college, he needs to forget about her anyway. Patrick asks Jessica if she wants him to come back on Friday, and she says sure.

Olivia verbally attacks Jessica when she enters the cabin, and Jessica had been clueless that Olivia and Walt broke up or that Olivia even thought Jessica had any kind of designs on Walt. She thought it was pretty clear that she didn’t. The next day is pretty miserable for Olivia, who continues to be a beyotch to Jessica. Hope is sick, but for some reason doesn’t want to admit it to Coach, as she is already feeling like she doesn’t belong on the squad.

It’s about to rain, but Hope, feeling sorry for herself, walks off into the woods by herself. Peter follows her and tries to get her to go back, but she doesn’t want to. They go and sit in an empty cabin, and she tells Peter how she doesn’t feel like she fits in. They have a good talk, and then he kisses her. They start to make their way back to their cabin, but a small creek dividing the way has turned into a raging torrent.

From the other side, Coach Engborg tells them to take shelter and not try to cross until it settles down. Hope and Peter go back to the empty cabin, and the squad reluctantly returns to their cabin, where they find Walt, Patrick, and Pres arriving. Don’t these guys have lives? Walt says they brought their sleeping bags to spend the night. “Nothing like inviting yourself,” Olivia snipes. Walt asks to talk to her, and asks if she’s mad at him. He says he didn’t mean to hurt her feelings, and asks if she’ll write him at college. “Sure… if I have time. It is my senior year, after all,”   she says.

Peter decides to go check the creek, and says he will motion to Hope if it’s safe to pass. He sees that it’s passable and waves her over. Just as he does so, lightning strikes a pine tree a few feet from the cabin where Hope stands in the doorway. She jumps back into the cabin, and then the burning tree falls onto the roof, setting it ablaze. SO MUCH DRAMA. Peter runs over and breaks a window, then helps Hope climb out of the burning cabin. They run through the woods bloodied and singed, and find the squad, who had been coming after them.

Back at the cabin, Patrick brings up how last time they came to the cabin Angie fell through the ice, and now Hope and Peter almost burned to death. “Maybe you should think about staying in town from now on.”

Olivia felt as much worry for Hope and Peter as she would have for any of the old squad, she realizes, and she feels bad for not trying to reach out to Hope earlier when it was clear Hope was having a hard time. She makes a point to try and be more helpful.

On the last morning before they leave, they do a cheer for Pres, Patrick, and Walt, and are pretty sure they NAILED IT. Walt says it wasn’t bad, and Olivia scoffs. Jessica tells Walt to get going, they have work to do.

Other notes and quotes

  • Sean’s middle name is Avery

Sign of the Times

  1. “Maybe Sean would stay home tonight. They could rent a movie for the VCR.”
  2. All the leotards

Book Deets
Author: Diane Hoh
Year: 1986
Pages: 171

Grade: C

Next time on Cheerleaders… Sean and Tara think flirting and cheerleading mix. But do they? Read Cheerleaders #22, RIVALS.

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One thought on “Camp Hell (#21 – Pulling Together)

  1. Pingback: It’s (Not) So Hard to Say Goodbye (#20 – Starting Over) – We've Got Spirit

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