It’s (Not) So Hard to Say Goodbye (#20 – Starting Over)

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Analyzing the cover: Last chance to feast your eyes on our original squad. Except for all the times this photo will be used in the background of future covers, even though most of these characters will be long gone. 

And so the transition from original squad to new squad begins with our first Super Edition. This recap is wayyyy too long, but oh well.

Olivia’s mom is saying how glad she is that both football and basketball season are over, so that she doesn’t have to worry about Olivia over-extending herself anymore (we are reminded that Olivia had a heart defect as a child and went through numerous operations – it’s finally relevant again in this book). Olivia tells her that they still have to cheer at Field Day, where they will hand over their megaphones and pompons to the new cheerleading squad. Olivia still isn’t sure if she’s going to try out to be on the squad again. She wants to, but she has misgivings about having to work with 5 new people and she’s worried she won’t match up to the new competition. She’s particularly jealous of Jessica Bennett, a fellow junior who shined at the recent cheerleading clinic and flirted with Walt.

About 30 cheerleading hopefuls are packed into the gym going through exercises led by Coach Engborg and the current squad. These are apparently practices before the real tryouts eventually begin the last week of May. The participants are asked to “leap” across the gym one by one, whatever that means, and Walt and Olivia sit and commentate on each one. When Jessica goes, Walt raves about how good she is, and Olivia’s insecurity starts to fester. It’s made worse when the squad members are sent out to show participants various moves and answer their questions, and Olivia watches Walt demonstrate a lift with Jessica.

Olivia runs into a hopeful named Tara outside the school, and they are headed in the same direction, so they walk together. Tara asks Olivia if she’s burned out on cheerleading. She says she’d be honored to be on the squad with Olivia (mmmhmm, sure), but if she was Olivia she’d have second thoughts about trying out again. Olivia is “touched” by Tara’s perceptiveness and concern, even though to me it looks like Tara is just trying to clear out the competition.

Tara gets home and chats with her mom’s bridge club, and we get some background info on her life. Her dad is a lawyer and dotes on her above all else. She plays the part of the perfect daughter, knowing that will get her more than if she played the part of a spoiled brat. She doesn’t have nor want any female friends, and she prefers to date various guys rather than settle down with one person. As she goes up to her room, she thinks about the chances that she convinced Olivia not to try out. She figures there’s nothing she can do to stop Jessica Bennett from making the squad, and she probably wouldn’t be able to convince anyone else not to try out, but she thinks about two girls named Sally and Betsey, and tries to figure out a way she can mess up their routines. “How pleased Mother and Dad will be when I get on the squad, she thought. I wonder what they’ll give me.” So is this our new villain now that Vanessa is going bye-bye?

Next we meet Hope Chang, who is a straight-A student, reporter on the school paper, and a violinist. Her father is a doctor, and her parents are the ones pressuring her to try out for the squad. She is an obedient daughter who doesn’t want to displease her mom and dad. Angie has made Hope her protegé at practice.

Walt and Sean are walking Jessica home and competing for her attention. Walt isn’t sure why he jumped at the chance to walk with Jessica, and he also can’t explain his impulse to punch Sean for flirting with Jessica. Is this just a momentary transgression or something more? Get a grip, Walt.

Patrick and Pres are riding around talking about life. I could ship this. Pres says if he doesn’t go to Princeton and spend the summer working for his father’s company, he might be disowned and lose his inheritance, but it might be worth it to have the freedom to make his own choices. Patrick tells Pres that maybe if they expand their moving business and get another truck, Pres could go full time with it and tell his father he’s still going to be a businessman – just not in the family business.

At the next practice, Coach Engborg tells the participants that they need to work on their own original routines that will show some originality for tryouts. Meanwhile, she’s going to be working with the varsity squad for their Field Day performance. Olivia wonders how she can be expected to do both things.

Tara shows Betsey some fancy finishing move, and then says Betsey can use it in her routine because Tara plans to do something different. “Tara was pleased that Betsey was so susceptible to her suggestion.” She plans to find Sally and show her the exact same finishing move, so that the judges would be suspicious about the identical endings and note their non-originality. Next, Tara goes up to Mary Ellen and sucks up to her. Mary Ellen is always amenable to some empty flattery.

Nancy has apparently received early admittance to Brown University, which she says is the reason she’d fought with her boyfriend Eric. He wants her to go to community college with him instead. (Last book, it was said she had been considering going to State.) She and Eric have made up because she told him she would reconsider going to Brown. Really – she’s going to consider going to a community college over Brown??? For some dumb guy she met two weeks ago??? PLEASE!!! I can’t. Nancy’s mom suggests she throw an end-of-the-year party, and Nancy decides to make it a cheerleader mixer where all the tryout participants can come and mingle with the squad.

Nancy makes an invite list for the party. Walt tells the girls he hopes they’re inviting some of the “new talent.” Ugh. Olivia knows he’s thinking about Jessica. She needs to hit him upside the head. The girls invite Walt and Pres over to help with the invitations, but Walt says he’s already got plans – Jessica asked him for some help going over specific cheerleading moves. Ugh again. Slap him.

Peter Rayman has a bit of an inferiority complex, and envies guys like Sean Dubrow, who apparently brags about being a bachelor with his dad (since his mom died when he was a child). Peter lives with his mom and has to help around the house and make dinner when she’s working late. “He tried not to let it bother him that Sean invariably mentioned some swinging restaurant he and his father had gone to – even on school nights!” I’m not sure if “swinging” is just a term to mean “cool” or “fancy,” or if Sean and his father are going to some kind of brothel type establishment. Peter’s not very experienced with girls, but he has a huge crush on Hope Chang. “Just thinking about clasping Hope around the waist and lifting her up in the air made Peter flush.”

Peter gets to the next practice early, hoping to ask Hope to practice lifts with him, but he arrives to see Sean already chatting her up. A girl named Carla, who Peter notes is about 15 pounds heavier than him, asks if he wants to be her partner for lifts. Because he doesn’t want to hurt her feelings, he says yes. As he and Carla are walking across the gym, he passes Sean, whose foot is suddenly stuck out and almost trips him. Sean sounds way worse than Pres, who he has been compared to.

Mary Ellen’s boss at Marnie’s calls and says they’re having a last-minute fashion show to benefit the World Drought Relief that Saturday. Mary Ellen says she will recruit the squad to participate. Olivia asks her mother, who says she doesn’t want Olivia to model: “Those cheerleaders – I’m not surprised. Their main purpose in life is to show off their bodies.” Olivia has been feeling some chest pains lately, and after telling her mom fine, she won’t do the show, she falls on her bed weak and dizzy.

The other three girls arrive at Marnie’s on Saturday morning to go through clothes, and they find Jessica there too. Jessica’s mother works at the store and suggested Jessica for the fashion show as well. ME’s boss says Jessica has arranged for Walt to do the music, and he’ll be coming soon for their run-through. The other 3 look at each other, wondering if Jessica is moving in on Walt. I highly doubt it. He’s Walt. Then Jessica says she also invited Pres and Patrick to help out, at Walt’s suggestion. This really gets ME’s hackles up. “If anyone was going to ask Pres or Patrick to help, it should have been her!” Patrick says he can take pictures of the show for publicity, and ME calls Olivia to ask her to write up a story about it for the school newspaper.

When Olivia arrives shortly before the show, she is upset to see Jessica there, and doubly upset to find out Walt is doing the music and never told her. Each girl struts on the runway, and when Jessica comes out, she trips. But she recovers quickly, doing a few twirls, and receives “thunderous applause”  as a result. As soon as the show is over, Olivia hurries out without speaking to anyone.

Later, Olivia is home working on her story. Walt has long had plans to visit his grandmother that night. Patrick calls and invites her to come over and work on her story while he develops his photos. All the other cheerleaders are going to be there, in addition to Jessica, Sean, and Nancy/Angie’s boyfriends. Olivia says okay, and Patrick tells her someone will pick her up. She is surprised to see Sean be the one to pull up in the driveway. Uh oh – “It would be fun to get to know somebody new – someone who wasn’t graduating, and someone who was incredibly good looking as well.” Sean immediately comes on to her, saying he knows she’s with Walt, but Walt’s leaving. He almost misses Patrick’s house and has to slam on his brakes: “Talking to you makes my mind wander. Maybe if you gave me a kiss, I’d feel better.” This guy! She tries to resist, but he leans forward to kiss her, and she kisses him back. Jeez, this is the second time she’s cheated on Walt. Sean wants to lean their seats back right there in Patrick’s driveway, but she insists they go inside. Olivia is relieved when Sean doesn’t say anything about their encounter. She does dance with him later.

Olivia tries to convince Walt that they shouldn’t go to Nancy’s cheerleader mixer, but he thinks that’s a crazy notion. Once they arrive, Walt makes his rounds while Olivia sulks on the couch with Angie and Chris. When Walt comes back around and asks her to dance, she says no – she doesn’t want to dance near Jessica and feel inferior. She suggests they go play Trivial Pursuit with some others in the den. Walt was starting to think Olivia was trying to spoil the party for him: “If you want to sit around playing some board game, fine. I’m here to dance, and if you won’t dance with me, I’ll find someone else.” No one can stop Walt from DANCING!!! How dare you, Olivia. Of course, Walt makes a beeline for Jessica and they start dancing.

Sean shows up to the party and suggests he and Nancy run away together. He tells her he’s extremely attracted to “older women.” He’s so terrible, I might like him. He tells Nancy he normally wouldn’t try to come between a girl and her boyfriend, but he’s had a crush on her all year and he thinks he’s in love. Nancy smiles and says sorry, not happening. Not that much later, she is heading for the den when she comes across Olivia and Sean by the stairwell. He is telling her exactly the same thing he just told Nancy – “I think I’m in love.” Nancy almost laughs out loud. Olivia is unsure and ends up walking away, and Nancy threatens to dump a plate of food on his head. “You can’t have a crush on every girl in school, Sean Dubrow.” Sean thinks actually, he does have a crush on every girl in school – well, almost every girl. “My problem, Sean thought, is no one appreciates a lover.” Then he spots Hope and asks her to dance.

Olivia doesn’t show up for the next practice, which pisses Coach Engborg off. Walt and Pres talk about who’s going to make the squad. When Pres says the girls don’t like Jessica, Walt feels the urge to jump to her defense. He feels guilty every time he even thinks about her. Tara overhears them saying she could make the squad on her looks alone, and it annoys her: “It burned her up that so many people assumed her red hair and great build were all she had going for her.” After hearing Pres and Walt saying that Hope was too quiet, Tara runs over and tells her that the guys were criticizing another girl for being too loud, and she would be sure to avoid that. Hope says thanks for the tip.

Vanessa sees Walt at the gas station and asks him about the rumors regarding Olivia missing the last practice. Walt is annoyed and tells her Olivia just had something else to do, and Vanessa tells him she saw Olivia riding in Sean’s car the other day. Walt suggests Vanessa have a zipper installed over her mouth. He had already known about Olivia riding with Sean, because she told him (guessing she left out the kissing part). He does worry that next year when he’s gone, Sean might appeal to Olivia if they’re both on the squad. Maybe he shouldn’t encourage Olivia too much to try out again, he thinks.

Pres’ dad says maybe Pres should put aside his Porsche and start driving an Oldsmobile sedan, which is a better car for someone attending Princeton and working at Tarenton Fabricators. Pres tries again to make his parents understand he plans to do the moving business full time with Patrick and is not going to Princeton. Pres says if they really want to get him a new car, there’s a secondhand truck he and Patrick could use for their business. He leaves in a huff and goes to the Pizza Palace, where he runs into Jessica and her brothers. Jessica is very interested in cars, and Pres offers to let her drive it to school the next morning.

Olivia leaves the next practice early, and Walt resumes helping Jessica. He keeps thinking about Olivia, though, and is distracted as Jessica does a move and almost falls. Nancy, Angie, and Mary Ellen are talking in the locker room about how Jessica seems to be making a play for both Walt and Pres when Jessica walks in and overhears them. She vehemently denies going after either guy and storms out. Later, Walt and Olivia are spending time together at his house watching old movies. Walt tells her he’s going to be in a theater program in another town during the summer, which upsets Olivia because it’s a couple hours away. That night she has nightmares about Walt and everyone else leaving her, and awakens with a pounding heartbeat.

Tara is shopping for a new leotard for tryouts when she runs into Hope. She tries to manipulate Hope into picking a boring color, but Hope sticks to her guns and holds onto a black and pink striped one. Then Hope tells her about Sean and how he’s been paying a lot of attention to her lately. Tara is tempted to encourage Hope to get serious with Sean, knowing he’ll probably have broken her heart by the time tryouts come around, but instead she decides to do the right thing and warn her that Sean is just going to chase after other girls whenever he can. Hope does not appreciate this advice and tells Tara she will make up her own mind about Sean. Tara is stunned: “In the future she’d remember that sincerity does not pay off.”

Hope had already figured out what Tara was trying to do when she warned her not to be too loud. Hope is determined to project her voice as best as she can during tryouts. Meanwhile, Betsey and Sally had gotten together to work on their routines and realized that Tara had shown them the same finishing move, so they work on something new.

Olivia has continued to feel an ache in her chest and has woken up twice more with a pounding heart. She decides to go for a walk and is working herself up about all her worries, which brings the ache in her chest back. Then she realizes her pulse is racing, and so she starts to make her way back home. She isn’t paying attention and almost gets run over by Patrick’s moving truck. She tells him she was afraid she was having an attack, and he races her to the hospital.

The doctor tells her there’s nothing wrong with her heart, the ache in her chest was likely a pulled muscle and some cartilage inflammation. They are still working on the mystery of her heart pounding so much, but the doc says her symptoms may have been psychosomatic. The doctor encourages her to still try out for the squad.

Tryouts begin, and Tara makes a point to flirt with Sean in front of Hope as a way to throw Hope off. But Hope informs her that her anger at Tara will only fuel her during tryouts. Olivia shows up right on time. The individual routines are done privately in front of the judges. When Olivia comes out, she tells the squad that they already told her she’s in.

Field Day has arrived, and the girls talk about their plans. Angie is going to State, and Nancy mailed off her acceptance to Brown. Vanessa is mad because her grades weren’t good enough for college, so her dad is sending her to an all-girls’ finishing school in Switzerland. The squad lines up to present pompons and megaphones to the new squad, as a way to pass the torch. The new squad is Sean, Peter, Jessica, Hope, Tara, and Olivia, who is the new captain.

Mary Ellen leaves the locker room and finds Pres and Patrick in the parking lot with their new truck, which Pres’ parents bought as a graduation present. Patrick and Mary Ellen go off to the side, and she tells him she’s still going to try for New York. Patrick says maybe she’ll go and realize he and Tarenton are her dream after all. She says maybe. They say goodbye, and Patrick and Pres drive off. “Maybe Patrick’s faith would win out after all, and a year from now she’d be answering the same question from him in a different way. But deep down inside, she had a feeling that a chapter of her life had ended once and for all.”

Good! Patrick deserves better! On to the next.

Other notes and quotes

  • Patrick says Pres can call himself a “relocation engineer” if it will make his father more accepting of him doing the moving business full time.
  • Mary Ellen comes up with a cheer for Nancy’s party invitation – “Chica chica boo, chica chica crash, You’re invited to Nancy Goldstein’s for a cheerleader’s bash!”  Yikes.
  • I noted quite a few inconsistencies in this book – besides saying Nancy was considering Brown even though in the last book it was State, in only a matter of pages Sean’s car is described as a red Fiero and then a black Mazda. Another portion starts off saying Peter is reading Olivia’s article, then it changes to “Patrick finished reading.”
  • There are some small side stories about a girl trying out named Samantha who comes off as snobby even though she’s really mostly shy, and who Angie finds crying in the locker room after Nancy doesn’t invite her to the cheerleading mixer. Nancy later calls and invites her. Also, a guy trying out named Rob invites Samantha to go hiking, and then he sprains his ankle. But it heals in time for him to try out, so… I’m not sure what the point of any of that was. And neither one makes the squad.

Sign of the Times

  1. So many leotards and leg warmers. Soooo glad leotards went out of style.
    Patrick has 3 cameras around his neck to photograph the fashion show. Is that really necessary?
  2. Olivia wears stirrup pants to the gathering after the fashion show.
  3. Sean drives a red Pontiac Fiero (which was only manufactured from 1984-1988).
  4. Walt gets some Fred Astaire videocassettes for he and Olivia to watch at his house.

Book Deets
Author: Patricia Aks and Lisa Norby
Year: 1986
Pages: 219

Grade: B

Next time on Cheerleaders… Read Cheerleaders #21, PULLING TOGETHER.

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One thought on “It’s (Not) So Hard to Say Goodbye (#20 – Starting Over)

  1. Pingback: Someone Finally Punches Pres (#19 – Making It) – We've Got Spirit

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