Analyzing the cover: Jessica, Hope, Peter, and Sean making that meanie, David Douglas Duffy, eat his words, or something.
Tara has been nominated for homecoming queen, while Jessica has declined to run because it costs too much to be on the court and her stepfather is always complaining about spending money on her. “Olivia was so relieved that the nomination had gone to Tara instead of Jessica that it was easy for her to congratulate the nominee warmly.” Come on, are we still stuck on this jealousy bit?
Hope’s parents sit her down and tell her that they don’t want her going out with Peter anymore because he “isn’t one of us.” She thinks they don’t like him because he lives with just his mom and isn’t socially acceptable, but her dad flat-out says, “The young man is not Chinese.” Her mom adds, “There are still many people out in the world who prefer to see you with members of your own race. Some of them can be very cruel, even violent. We can’t take that chance with your safety.” Wow!
Her dad says they expect her to “respect their wishes,” and Hope is furious. “So unbelievably stupid!” No one has ever even looked at her and Peter funny at school. Peter calls Hope’s house to ask her to the dance, but her mom says she has already gone to bed, even though it’s only 6:30. Hope begins to avoid Peter, and at their next game, her heart clearly isn’t in cheering, which makes Olivia start judging her about her lack of enthusiasm. As if Olivia has any room to talk. The squad starts doing a new, complicated routine, and due to Hope’s distraction and despair, she ends up falling on top of Jessica, causing people to actually laugh at them. People really laughed! What a bunch of jerks.
Jessica is the only one to comfort Hope in the locker room at halftime. Olivia is too angry and Tara is just worried that somehow this is going to affect her chance of getting homecoming queen. Olivia is in the hallway missing the old squad, who I’m sure NEVER messed up EVER, when a random guy comes walking along. He tells her he’s a reporter for the Tarenton Lighter. “Name’s David Douglas Duffy. My friends call me David Douglas Duffy. My dad calls me 3-D.” Cool story bro. David is a freshman at Hillsborough Junior College. He says he knows who she is because he asked around, and he wants her to show him around Tarenton. She invites him to join the squad for what she expects will be a post-game celebration.
Hope hurries home after the game, but the rest go for pizza with Mr. David Douglas Duffy. Everyone thinks he’s awesome and Tara even considers making a play for him, but he’s looking at Olivia with unbridled interest, so she settles for flirting with Sean. David – I guess they call him Duffy, so whatever – Duffy brings Olivia home, and she tells him the squad is helping clean up the field the next day in preparation for the homecoming pep rally. Duffy says he’ll drop by.
The next day at the cleanup, Pres and Patrick are there with their moving van, I guess to help. I hope they’re getting paid for this. Tara watches Sean and Lisa Hutton, a girl he’s been casually seeing, with some sort of jealousy. She wants Sean to ask her to the homecoming dance, but Lisa is in the way. Lisa is also up for homecoming queen.
Peter is upset that Hope is a no-show, so he goes to tell Olivia, who is mad because Duffy hasn’t shown up yet. “Why was he telling her, she wondered crossly.” Maybe because you’re the captain? Good to see Olivia is still a terrible leader. Peter decides he’ll go see Hope at her house later, and Duffy finally shows up. She introduces him to Pres and Patrick, who recognize him as Deep River’s former quarterback. He insists he’s completely impartial now.
Jessica and Patrick chat, and she can’t help thinking that if she were looking for a romance, he would be at the top of her list. She also thinks he still holds a torch for Mary Ellen. “Maybe by the time Patrick is free of Mary Ellen’s ghost, I’ll be ready for a relationship with Patrick,” she thinks. Then Olivia comes over to them and says that Mrs. Gunderson, the owner of Marnie’s where Mary Ellen used to model, is taking a buying trip to NYC and wants to bring Mary Ellen back to model for an upcoming fashion show at the mall. Olivia looks directly at Patrick, who is avoiding looking at Jessica.
Peter tries to go to Hope’s and get her to come out to eat with everyone else, but her mother answers the door and says she’s resting. Peter goes to the restaurant, where the rest of them are listening to Duffy be so completely annoying, I can’t even. He constantly poses questions such as: “Why, exactly, are these called French fries? They’re American potatoes, probably grown in Idaho. Why aren’t they called American fries?” Earlier he had asked Olivia, “What exactly does ‘cute as a button’ mean? Have you ever once looked at a button and thought, ‘Gee, isn’t that cute?'” When Olivia says she might feel safer if she questioned everything like he does, he says, “Safe? Where’s your sense of adventure, girl?” Yes, he calls her girl. And if I were her, I’d have answered back something like, “Oh, I had one, until the time I went mountain climbing and saw one of my friends fall and die, and then almost died myself in an avalanche.”
The next morning, Tara calls Olivia early in the morning, super angry about an article in the paper. The article states that while the Tarenton Wolves are in top form, the same can’t be said of the cheerleading squad. “Their half-time demonstration Saturday afternoon turned into an exercise of how-not-to. The Wolves deserve better than this.” The words were written by none other than 3-D himself. Olivia can’t believe it. She fields calls from the rest of the squad and other fellow students all morning long, asking how she knows “this Duffy person.” Peter is worried about Hope blaming herself, Tara is worried about homecoming queen, Sean wants to wring Duffy’s neck. Duffy finally calls her, and she hangs up on him at first, but when he calls back, she listens to his excuses about how he wrote it before he got to know her and his editor had been on his case to make his column more interesting. So he went with trashing cheerleaders? Do football fans really want cheerleading analysis too? I highly doubt it. Olivia feels the same. “Interesting? Ruining a cheerleading squad is interesting?” He says he meant to scratch those lines out but forgot before he dropped off the copy. Olivia wants to believe him, but she hangs up the phone and bursts into tears.
Hope is devastated and goes to school in a zombie-like state. Sean, ever the considerate gentleman, corners her and tells her that Lisa Hutton treated him like he has a “contagious disease” all because of that article. Is he sure it’s not because he seems like the type of guy riddled with STDs? Sean says it’s not really Hope’s fault, he wants to get his hands on Duffy. Again, only Jessica, who is becoming my second fave character after Perfect Patrick, is the one to offer comfort.
At practice, Tara and Sean rip into Olivia for buddying up to Duffy, and Olivia tells them what Duffy’s side of the story was. Jessica is in Olivia’s corner, while Sean’s head almost cartoon explodes as he recounts how Lisa Hutton blew him off. Coach Engborg points out that athletic teams get criticized like that all the time, which is a very good point. She says they should just work hard to prove him wrong. Making Duffy look wrong and stupid is enough motivation for Olivia, who suddenly is trying to pep everyone up.
After practice, Peter finally gets Hope to sit down with him at the park, and she explains everything about her parents. He says they can try to figure something out, and kisses her just as her little brother bicycles by. She hurries to catch up with him and make sure he doesn’t snitch, but he doesn’t appear to have even seen her.
Tara calls an emergency meeting for the squad at her house. Right before leaving, Olivia gets a call from Duffy again, who pleads his case one more time and asks Olivia to think about forgiving him because they could have something really special. At the meeting, Tara has a girl named Holly Hudson, who is good at writing cheers but didn’t make the squad, come up with a new routine that will knock David Duffy’s socks off. It involves flipping Olivia and Hope off of three-person shoulder stands. They argue for several pages about whether or not it’s too dangerous of a routine, and my eyes started to glaze over.
As Olivia is walking home, Duffy, who is now coming off like a stalker, pulls up in his car and calls out to her. She tries to walk away from him faster, but he comes after her. He tries to cajole her into talking to him, and she almost gives in, but he’s stupid enough to be wearing a Tarenton Lighter T-shirt, which reminds her what he did, and she says if the squad knew she’d spoken to him, they’d hate her. She runs away while he calls out that he doesn’t give up easily. Psycho.
Olivia gets home and has an “urgent” message from Walt to call him. Walt asks her if she wants him to take her to the homecoming dance, since he’s going to be home for the weekend. She doesn’t really want to go with him, but she says sure. It’s kinda nice of him to offer.
When the cheerleaders show the plan for the new routine to Coach Engborg, she thinks they’re crazy. She says she can’t allow something so dangerous and they’re not ready. Of course, Tara thinks they should try it anyway, practicing in her poolhouse and demonstrating the routine to coach when they’re sure they have it perfect. “‘Well,’ Peter said softly, ‘the poolhouse is a good idea. That way, whenever one of us gets killed practicing this stunt, we can just throw the body into the water.'” Tara says they’ll just do some beginning work on it and go from there.
They practice the flips with air mattresses to fall back on, and Olivia lands on her back every time. Everyone is also exhausted from having to fit in the extra practices. This all sounds like a terrible idea. After making decorations for homecoming, the group goes out for pizza, where Olivia spots Duffy across the room. He leaves before any of the other members see him, but he calls her that night and says he does eventually want to face the squad and straighten things out with them. She warns him that Sean wants to punch him out.
Patrick hasn’t asked Jessica to the dance because he doesn’t think she’s interested, and Pres hasn’t asked Tara because she still seems focused on Sean. IMO the reason for them not asking those girls SHOULD be the fact that they are no longer in high school. If the girls who are still actually attending the school for which the dance is held want to ask them, then fine. P&P hanging around high schoolers so much is kind of sad.
The squad still doesn’t have the dangerous stunt down pat, but they are all determined to keep trying. Hope tries to talk to her mom about how silly it is that they won’t let her see Peter because he’s not Chinese, but her mom shuts her down by saying maybe she needs to quit cheerleading if she can’t obey her parents.
At the next game, Duffy finds Olivia in the hall during halftime again and tells her he’s tired of her “nonsense.” “You’re acting like a 2-year-old; I apologized and I meant it. Why can’t you accept that?” Yeah, that’ll make a girl fall right at his feet. Olivia says he humiliated them and it’s not nonsense. He kisses her, and the other girl members walk out and see it. Olivia says until he apologizes to the other 5 members of the squad, he’s not her friend. Duffy says he admires her loyalty, and Olivia explains to the other girls what happened.
Sean strikes out with Lisa for the 50th time, so he asks Tara to homecoming, and she accepts. Olivia says that Mary Ellen, Pres, and Walt are going to cheer with the squad for the homecoming game, since they’ll all be there.
The squad keeps trying and failing to do their three-person shoulder stand flips, and so Tara suggests they get Pres to come over and give his opinion as to what they’re doing wrong. Pres takes one look at it and says they’re not ready to try something like that. He gives them one more chance, but their stunt still falls apart, and they finally, finally have to admit defeat and admit they should have just listened to their coach. Olivia says they need to be honest and admit to Engborg that they had been trying to do it even though she told them not to. Engborg is pissed, but no one gets in any real trouble.
Inspired by the nice resolution that came from telling Coach the truth, Hope goes home to do the same with her parents. She tells them she intends to keep seeing Peter, that it’s not fair to treat him unfairly because he’s not Chinese, and that she’s growing up and can protect herself. Her parents give in pretty easily, with her dad saying perhaps they are out of touch with her generation. Maybe just a smidge. She calls Peter and they plan to go to the dance.
Tara loses homecoming queen, but so does Lisa – it goes to a girl named Samantha. Jessica’s mom buys her a homecoming dress, but she says she isn’t going – three boys asked her, but she told them all no because none of them were Patrick.
At the fashion show, Jessica runs into Patrick and Pres, who asks if anyone has seen Mary Ellen yet. “Jessica knew Patrick hadn’t. The anticipation was written all over his handsome face for everyone to see.” No one sees Mary Ellen until she is walking the runway, looking older and more sophisticated. Jessica looks over at Patrick as he watches Mary Ellen, and is surprised to see him frowning. “When Mary Ellen saw him and smiled, he smiled back, but Jessica couldn’t help thinking, I’ve seen him smile bigger and better than that over a Tarenton touchdown. What’s with him anyway?” Of course, ME is wondering the same thing. “He should be happier to see me,” she thinks. Good to see Mary Ellen has still not gotten over herself. She wonders if he’s still mad at her for leaving Tarenton, then spots Jessica in front of him and wonders if this girl has anything do with it.
As soon as the show is over, Patrick offers Mary Ellen a ride home. She tells the rest of them that she’s exhausted and will hang out with them the next day. Jessica watches them leave, unhappy. Patrick tells ME she looks different, and this annoys her: “Why couldn’t Patrick just take the weekend for what it was – a nice, pleasant, fun time for the two of them – and quit making such a big deal over the fact that she had changed? And so, whether he knew it or not, had he. He hadn’t even tried to put his arm around her.”
Patrick tells her he’s finally realized she really doesn’t belong in Tarenton. He asks if she’s happy in NYC, and since she has perceived that there’s someone else in his life, she lies and says it’s great. In truth she is dealing with a lot of lonely nights, rejections, and money issues. She had deep down thought he might get on his knees and beg her to stay, but that’s not what’s happening. And she wouldn’t stay even if he begged. She says she’s tired and needs to go to bed, and he seems relieved as he walks her to the door and kisses her cheek. “Her cheek, for Pete’s sake! When in her life had Patrick Henley ever kissed only her cheek?” I enjoyed that a little too much. I have been waiting for Patrick to get over this chick, I just wish he had really kicked her to the curb.
At the homecoming pep rally, Jessica feels awkward and unattractive next to Mary Ellen as the squad and alumni cheerleaders run onto the field. Jessica tries to find Patrick to see who he’s looking at, and Mary Ellen is asked to address the crowd. “Jessica groaned inwardly as the crowd roared its approval.” I feel you Jess. Jessica hopes Mary Ellen trips on her way back from the podium, but no such luck.
Pres sits by ME and tells her she looks great. He asks her if Patrick is taking her to the dance. UMMMMM YOU ALL AREN’T STUDENTS ANYMORE. Why would two graduates go to a high school dance together??? She says no, and she figures Patrick is taking someone else. Pres says she should go with him. Again I say – WTH? Pres tells her he was waiting for her, which isn’t really true because he had also been interested in Tara, who’s going with Sean. She says yes and Pres is happy, but he wonders why Patrick hadn’t asked her. He figures it must be because of Jessica.
The cheerleaders do the routine that Hope fell during a few weeks prior, and they do it perfectly this time. Duffy smiles at Olivia from the bleachers. After the pep rally, Patrick comes over to the squad, and Pres asks him why he hadn’t told him he was taking Jessica to the dance. Jessica, standing right there, goes wide-eyed, and Patrick turns red. Pres realizes his mistake as Jessica hurries away and Patrick follows. Mary Ellen feels sick – “If Patrick hadn’t asked Jessica to the dance, why on earth hadn’t he asked her?” Because you’re not Queen of the Universe!! “The unthinkable had happened – Patrick no longer loved her.” Nope!! She asks Pres to take her out to eat, and he asks jokingly if he’s just a meal ticket to her. Considering that yes, that’s ALL he ever was to her for most of this series, I wouldn’t take that as a joke.
Patrick goes to Jessica’s house and asks her to go to the dance with him, if she doesn’t already have a date. She wants to ask a million questions, but just says yes. He assures her she’s the first girl he’s asked.
The squad performs well at the homecoming game, which Tarenton wins. They have four hours to get dolled up for the dance.
Walt tells Olivia he won’t be coming back to Tarenton too often, because he’s moving with his parents to NYC and transferring to Columbia. They got an offer from a television station they couldn’t refuse (I was wondering what happened to this dropped plot point from #19). At least Patrick and Walt are escorting high school seniors to the dance, but I can’t get over Pres and Mary Ellen attending together. It’s just laughable! What’s even worse is David Duffy coming into the dance. Not only is he a freshman in college but he didn’t even go to Tarenton for high school! Do they just let any riffraff off the street into their dances?
Duffy asks Olivia to come outside with him, where he gives her a stuffed puppy. Earlier in the book she had told him her mom never let her get a dog. So I (begrudgingly) guess that’s kind of cute. He also tells her he’s going to have a special article in the newspaper the next day, and he wants her to make sure the whole squad reads it. He asks what she’s doing the next day, and says he’ll stop by as she helps clean up the gym. Then he gives her a quick kiss and walks her back into the gym.
Olivia dances with Duffy three times and goes with the squad to the Pancake House after the dance. When she and Walt say goodbye, she feels sad thinking she might never see him again. He promises to write.
Pres says he might visit Mary Ellen in NYC one day and kisses her goodbye. Mary Ellen vows to herself this isn’t the last time she’ll ever see Pres, which seems a little dramatic considering her whole family still lives in Tarenton and surely she’ll come visit again. Patrick also kisses Jessica goodnight, and she’s happy because he didn’t really pay any special attention to Mary Ellen and only danced with ME once, along with Olivia.
Olivia gets the paper and reads Duffy’s special article. He says he has to eat crow and apologize for not giving the new squad time to pull itself together, but that the squad also owes him an apology: “A squad as new as this one has no business being as good as these folks were this past weekend.” The squad is happy and accepts Duffy’s apology, so when he shows up later when they’re cleaning up the gym, they let him in with no problem.
Other notes and quotes
- When Olivia meets David in the hallway at school, he is actually wearing a yachting cap. She later daydreams about dancing at homecoming with a handsome man… wearing a yachting cap.
- Tara is okay with losing queen because she is too busy as it is. “I’d have to buy the time at Sears, because I don’t have any to spare!” Oh, Sears. Do people still shop there?
- When Patrick tells Mary Ellen she looks different, she thinks that’s what mothers tell their daughters to imply they aren’t pretty.
Sign of the Times
- Mary Ellen compares Jessica to Jane Fonda.
- Walt promising to write Olivia, and Olivia saying Mary Ellen never writes her from NYC. Thank goodness for the Internet.
Author: Diane Hoh
Next time on Cheerleaders… Who’s the new guy in the cheerleader uniform? Will he destroy the squad? Read Cheerleaders #24, GOING STRONG.