Analyzing the cover: I have no idea. This is Walt and maybe Mary Ellen watching Olivia do a cheerleading move?
We are so close to moving on to the new squad. I would be excited, but from checking out future book descriptions, it looks like we’re never quite getting rid of Mary Ellen. And I’ll miss Angie.
In this installment, Pres calls Mary Ellen to tell her Blake wrote him a letter from New York. In the letter, Blake said ME should send her portfolio and Blake will give it to a modeling agency that might be interested. Mary Ellen says her portfolio is too amateurish, and Pres suggests she seek assistance from a new PR firm that he heard his father talking about. Pres says he’ll see what he can do through his father’s connections, and Mary Ellen fawns all over him telling him how wonderful he is.
Patrick took all the pictures in her portfolio, and people say Patrick’s pictures are as good as the ones in the Tarenton newspaper, but that doesn’t mean much to Mary Ellen: “The Tarenton newspaper was about as rinky-dink as the town itself.” She thinks sometimes it would be nice if Pres tried to date her again, even though she’s crazy about Patrick – “The difference between the two was a Porsche and a garbage truck.” In case you forgot how snobby she is. Pres thinks it would be great to date Mary Ellen, because he’s so lonely lately, but he’s business partners with Patrick, and ME is Patrick’s territory.
Walt is starting to agonize over the fact that he’s going away to state college and leaving Olivia, who’s a year younger, behind in Tarenton. Now a new complication has popped up, the chance for his parents’ local TV show to move to New York and become a nationally syndicated show. The only wrench is he would be a part of the show too, and they would discuss issues that affect adults and teenagers. He’d have to move to NYC and put off college for awhile. He hasn’t been able to find a way to tell Olivia about all his concerns, but she can tell something is wrong.
Nancy surmises that everyone has the Senior Blues. She tells Olivia that she had been planning to go to State, but that would put her several hundred miles away from Eric. He wants her to go to Hillsborough community college, where he attends, but it doesn’t have the program she wants. “You can’t let Eric decide your future for you! You’ve only known him for a little while!” Olivia exclaims. Hear, hear. Nancy’s been dating this guy for like, a week. Nancy tells Olivia that she thinks Walt is having the exact same issue as her, and Olivia should talk to him about it. Walt agrees with Nancy that everyone is preoccupied with thoughts of the future. Olivia says State isn’t that far away, and they’ll still see each other a lot. Walt doesn’t mention the possible New York move.
Angie later tells Olivia that she’s got a scholarship to State, but Chris’ father wants him to go to Yale. Vanessa comes over to them and asks them why they look so sad: “Who’s dead?” They tell her they’re talking about life after graduation. Vanessa says that she wants to write professionally one day, and she’s been made a features writer on their school paper and has gotten a special assignment. Olivia and Angie don’t care, so Vanessa prepares to leave. “I certainly do hope that both of you manage to get your troubles ironed out. It’s such a terrible nuisance to look so pale and washed-out because you’re feeling draggy and way below par, isn’t it?”
Pres sits down by ME at lunch and asks if she knows where Patrick is, because he has to ask him about a moving job they have coming up. She gets all perturbed and says no, she does not know where Patrick Henley is. Pres and Mary Ellen check each other out, and Mary Ellen feels a “tingling” of physical attraction toward him. She leans closer and says, why should she know where Patrick is? They aren’t terribly special to each other. “For a second, the words stabbed her painfully. They weren’t really true.” But what she wants more than anything is to stop having to count every nickel and dime. Patrick can’t help her reach her goal, but Pres might. Pres leans in closer to her, but then thinks about Patrick and backs away. Pres says that might be true for ME, but he’s seen the way Patrick looks at her. “I’ve told him dozens of times I’m not serious about him,” she says. Ummm she told him she loved him just a few books ago! I just read it. I’ve got receipts, Mary Ellen. Pres asks her to go to the Pizza Palace with him after practice, and she says yes. She asks if he talked to the PR agency guy, and Pres says yes – the guy, Paul Howell, is willing to help her.
At practice, everyone is sniping at each other, and Coach Engborg yells at them to cut it out and get over the Senior Blues. She says they have a problem, because next year, 5 out of the 6 cheerleaders will be brand new. Only Olivia will be familiar with how things work. Engborg says she’s seen many students out on the lawn during lunch practicing cheers and moves, as if they are already preparing for tryouts. The school’s newspaper is also doing a feature story on trying out, to pump up interest among the underclassmen. Olivia and Angie look at each other – this must be the article Vanessa was talking about writing. Engborg thinks they ought to have a cheerleading clinic for all the kids who want to try out.
Mary Ellen and Pres walk into the Pizza Palace. She’s enjoying the fact that Pres drives such a nice car, and everyone is looking at them together, and she doesn’t have to worry about money with Pres (even though Patrick technically has two jobs and in other books doesn’t have to worry about money either, while Pres used to have a limited allowance from his father. But let’s not worry about consistency). They talk about the clinic and how ME doesn’t really want to do it, but Pres thinks they should support their coach’s idea. Pres wants to go for a ride, and says he can tell her more about Paul Howell. As they’re getting in his car to leave, Vanessa comes by (always in the right place at the right time!) and asks what Patrick would think of this.
Mary Ellen and Pres ended up making out, and even though it wasn’t as good as with Patrick, it was good enough (This seems like a redux of book #2). She and Angie watch the younger students practicing on the lawn, and Mary Ellen is not willing to compliment them too much, and she’s still bitter about the clinic. She doesn’t have time to “babysit” when she needs to meet with Mr. Howell and get her portfolio together. Meanwhile, Pres and Walt are also watching the underclassmen. “Some body, wouldn’t you say?” Pres says, pointing at a brunette. “I mean, even under that warm-up suit, I can tell she’s got what it takes.” Always a pig, that one. Pres says he has his hands full already with Mary Ellen, and Walt says she’s Patrick’s girl. Pres says she doesn’t act like it.
At the next practice, Angie is upset because Chris is going with his parents to visit Yale for the weekend. He says he isn’t really interested and just has to act like he is for his father, but she still feels threatened that he’s going to end up attending and they’ll eventually break up. She’s distracted during a routine, and Olivia ends up falling and spraining her ankle. Everyone gets over that pretty quickly, though, and they tell the coach that they are willing to help put on a clinic. It’s decided that it will be all day the Saturday after next, and they’ll have a party at Walt’s house afterward.
Pres goes with Mary Ellen to her appointment at the PR agency, and Paul Howell tells her to leave her photos with him and he’ll think about what he can do for her.
Vanessa corners Olivia coming out of the library, and asks if it’s true that the clinic is just a way for the current squad to handpick who’s going to make next year’s squad. Olivia says that’s crazy.
That’s not the only rumor Vanessa’s been spreading, but in this other case, she’s only speaking truth. Patrick confronts Pres about him being seen out with Mary Ellen – Vanessa told him all about it. Pres admits they were out together: “So what?” Patrick asks if he kissed her. Pres says it’s none of his business, and everybody knows Mary Ellen’s attracted to Patrick, but she’s just not the type to get involved with a …. “Just not the type to get seriously involved with a garbage man, huh?” Patrick asks. “You said it, not me,” Pres replies. Patrick says he just has one thing to say about Pres and Mary Ellen, and proceeds to punch Pres in the face. YES!
Pres shows up late to the gym with a black eye. He immediately cries to everyone that Patrick hit him. Mary Ellen has the idiocy to ask why. “Dear little Van blew the whistle,” Pres says. Walt, who previously warned Pres about Patrick, has an “I-told-you-so grin” on his face. Good to know I’m not the only one enjoying this. Coach Engborg says he has to cheer in the game with the swollen-shut eye and she doesn’t care if he were blind. Nancy is also late and shows up right before the game, crying, because she and Eric broke up. Thank goodness.
As they cheer during the game, Pres contemplates what to do about Mary Ellen and Patrick. Mary Ellen is angry that Patrick would go that far. “It was all Vanessa’s fault, really.” Yep, Mary Ellen leading on Patrick all year, finally telling him she loves him, and then making out with Pres was all Vanessa’s fault. When she saw Patrick she would tell him just what she thought of his “barbaric behavior,” but deep down she was smug about the fact that one boy had hit another over her. Mary Ellen, you are the worssttttttt.
After the game, Olivia, who had to watch the squad due to her sprained ankle, tells Walt that a girl named Jessica Bennett came over to her during the game. Jessica is the girl Walt and Pres were checking out earlier when they were watching the aspiring cheerleaders at lunch. “She wanted to know what she had to do to get chosen for the squad next year.” Olivia says Jessica acted like there was some magic secret, something they had to do at the clinic.
Seventeen people sign up for the cheerleading clinic. As Walt and Pres are shopping for food for the after party, Pres says a guy came up to him talking about the clinic and said he would get “the inside edge.” The guy also said they shouldn’t pay any attention to the kids who are upset. Pres isn’t sure what he’s talking about.
The morning of the clinic, Walt brings in extra pompons to Mary Ellen and says he was just approached by a girl who was really talking herself up to him, as if she wanted him to remember her. Then Angie and Nancy come in saying two sophomore guys who are attending the clinic made a big fuss over them in the parking lot and treated them like royalty. But after that, a girl came up to them all angry. “She said she thought it was an insult to have to butter somebody up to get to be a cheerleader.” They are all puzzled.
The clinic consists of 11 girls, six guys. Nancy points out a guy named Sean Dubrow and says his dad is a salesman at Tarenton Fabricators, Pres’ father’s company. Mary Ellen checks him out and says she definitely wants him in her group. “Hey I’m the one without a boyfriend,” Nancy says. “You’ve got two.” Mary Ellen says she thinks she’s actually down to zero.
As they start the clinic with a cheer, they notice that only half of the participants seem to be into it. The rest look like they don’t even want to be there. Meanwhile Walt is showing extra attention to Jessica, which is making Olivia jealous. Vanessa strolls in, saying she’s there because she’s writing a feature article about the clinic for the school paper. She remarks on the people there who don’t look very happy, then asks Olivia if it’s true that her ankle will keep her from trying out for next year’s squad. Olivia says no. Vanessa then says that she has something for Angie – it’s Chris’ shirt, which Vanessa says he left at her house the night before. Angie wants to know why he was there – Vanessa says he came for a little visit and they played some Ping Pong, then he took off his shirt. She insinuates something more might have happened and says Angie should get him to play Ping Pong with her before he goes off to Yale.
Vanessa waves at Jessica, who she says is a family friend. Vanessa says Jessica would make a wonderful replacement as captain for Mary Ellen, implies to Olivia that Walt certainly seems to like Jessica, and then flounces. Top notch troll job. Angie is super upset, but Chris left for Yale that morning so she can’t even call him to ask what happened at Vanessa’s.
At lunchtime, Mary Ellen sits next to a girl named DeDe and asks her what’s wrong with some people at the clinic. “Everybody knows the Varsity Squad staged the clinic just so they could give their favorites a chance to show off,” DeDe says. She says Jessica Bennett was the one who told her that, and Jessica thinks sucking up to Walt will be enough to get her on the squad. Mary Ellen tells DeDe that’s all wrong, and there are no sure things. ME consults with the squad and coach, and they agree she should address the rumors with the entire clinic. Coach Engborg also says she will make sure the newspaper adviser checks Vanessa’s article very carefully.
Mary Ellen addresses the clinic to clear up the misconception, and everyone seems to believe her. Jessica comes up to her and apologizes, saying she had a part in spreading the rumor because she heard it from somebody she trusts. “She had a feeling Jessica had been used by Vanessa, for Vanessa’s own dark purposes.” For the rest of the afternoon, everyone has a good attitude and they get a better idea of the participants who might make good cheerleaders. Jessica and Sean still stand out. Mary Ellen tells Olivia she’s lucky to get to cheer with them next year, assuming they get picked during tryouts, and Olivia says she’s thinking she might not even try out again. “I don’t think I could bear to work with another team,” Olivia said. The squad is her family, and she can’t imagine having a new family. Mary Ellen tells her she’ll feel about the new squad the way she feels about them, and that way she’ll actually have two families. Olivia also worries she might not even make it, which ME says is ridiculous. Then they sit and watch Walt continue to act really close with Jessica.
Everyone gathers at Walt’s to prep for the after party, marveling at what a disaster the clinic almost was. “Do you really think Vanessa was responsible for all those rumors?” Pres asks. Mary Ellen looks at him with amazement for asking such a stupid question. Chris calls Walt’s house for Angie, who rushes to talk to him. Mary Ellen notes that Pres never called her again after Patrick punched him, and it doesn’t really bother her, so her feelings for him must just be casual. Sean asks Mary Ellen to dance, and as they’re dancing, all of a sudden Patrick is there and he asks to cut in.
Mary Ellen yells at him for punching Pres, and he says Pres is the one who invited him, after he apologized. She forgives Patrick pretty quickly. “No matter how hard she tried to get away from Patrick Henley, he was always there.” Sean recovers and asks Nancy to dance. Olivia sits miserably on the couch with her crutches and watches Walt and Jessica talking. Eventually Walt comes over and asks Olivia to go to the den with him, and she decides not to confront him about Jessica. They go off and make out.
Pres dances with Jessica for a half-hour, then runs into Mary Ellen who asks him why he didn’t tell her that he and Patrick had made up. He says girlfriends are easy to come by, but good business partners are hard to find, and he would hate to lose Patrick over “a little territorial dispute.” “That’s a disgusting phrase to use about any girl,” ME says. Agreed, but Pres can be pretty disgusting.
Sean ends up taking Nancy home, Pres is taking Jessica home, and Mary Ellen is going with Patrick. Pres tells ME that Paul Howell called and wants to see her on Monday.
At the next practice, the girls talk about their guys. Nancy says Sean is fun for now. Mary Ellen says nothing has really changed with Patrick. Angie breezes in, in a great mood. Olivia missed what happened with Chris, so Angie fills her on – he did go to Vanessa’s, but he was there with his father, who is planning a Yale reunion with Vanessa’s father. They were also talking about trying to get Chris into Yale. Chris took his plaid shirt off because it was hot, but he had a T-shirt on underneath. His trip to Yale was also a disaster, which Angie is not unhappy about. Coach Engborg brings them a thank-you note that Jessica wrote and got all 17 clinic participants to sign, then shows them a story Vanessa had written with the word “KILL” over it in red. It was full of innuendos and mistruths about the squad and the clinic, and when Engborg told the newspaper adviser how wrong it was, he said Vanessa would not get another assignment.
Patrick waits outside for Mary Ellen as she visits Paul Howell again. Howell tells her that her portfolio is pretty good and she should keep using the same photographer (Patrick). He says his sister is a model and gives Mary Ellen her address in order to write and ask questions, and then he suggests she look into the Bartlett School of Modeling in Chicago and consider studying there for about 6 months. She’ll learn all she needs to know, they’ll help her begin to get jobs and help develop a portfolio. She tells Patrick all about it. “If it’s worth having, it’s worth sacrificing for. No matter what you have to give up to get it,” he says. She knows he’s talking about them.
Other notes and quotes
- Riding on Pres’ “sheepskin seat covers” in his Porsche makes Mary Ellen feel special. Doesn’t take much.
- A girl named Monica gossips to Olivia at the party, telling her that Jessica’s father died when she was 10, which accounts for why she acts the way she does: “She always has plenty of dates, but she doesn’t want anything permanent.” So, daddy issues.
- Vanessa tells Olivia and Angie she’s gotten accepted to the Madison School of Design in Chicago, and they joke about her failed attempt to pay off the Vassar admissions rep in a previous book.
Author: Susan Blake
Next time on Cheerleaders… The seniors are graduating. What will happen to the squad? Read the Super Edition, Cheerleaders #20, STARTING OVER.