Shauna is in the midst of getting everything her 15-year-old heart desires, including making the cheerleading squad and catching the eye of Tommy, a football player she’s had a crush on for quite some time.
The only problem is that her newfound hobby and romance have taken her attention off her schoolwork, which has sent her grades plummeting and puts her position on the squad in jeopardy. Tommy is kind of an airhead and doesn’t see what the big deal is, but Shauna’s parents disagree and sign her up to get tutored at the “Brain Drain,” the tutoring center at school. Shauna is so embarrassed to be seen going into the Brain Drain, as she always thought kids who needed tutors were stupid.
Chad has been tutoring at the Brain Drain for the small paycheck it provides and because it will look good on his college applications. He gets assigned to tutor Shauna in math three days a week, and finds a very annoyed student waiting for him when he’s unintentionally late to their first session. Chad’s lateness is only the first obstacle they encounter – Shauna keeps calling him Brad and then skips doing the worksheets he assigned when Tommy wants to go out with their friends after a big game. She also lies on the ground and does leg lift exercises while Chad’s checking her work. After Chad chastises her for wasting his time and hers, then walks out, Shauna runs after him and promises to take the tutoring seriously from now on.
Soon enough, they’re actually friendly with each other and enjoy their talks among the tutoring. Chad even decides for the first time to go to a football game with his girl-crazy friend Jamie, who notices Chad’s attention on one particular cheerleader. Chad and Shauna chat after the game and he offers her a ride home, but she’s going off with Tommy. Chad realizes it’s not that he doesn’t want a shot with Shauna – it’s that he doesn’t have one.
Meanwhile, Tommy and Shauna are drifting further apart as he’s focused on partying and she’s actually getting serious about school. No matter how he tries to cajole her, she stands strong and insists on getting more rest and devoting more time to homework so that her grades will pick up. Tommy is not happy about it, but when they do spend time together, he always invites a bunch of friends rather than be alone with Shauna, which in turn annoys her.
Chad comes to Shauna’s house for dinner and more studying, and he hits it off with her baby sister, Lindsey, which endears him to Shauna even more. Her friend Holland starts teasing her about Chad and how much fun Shauna seems to have with him.
When Shauna gets every question on her work correct, Chad rewards her with a little trip to the beach, where they get ice cream and feed fish, and Shauna buys him a gift. They also do one last big study session at the pizza place before her math exam, and she has a blast. Then her mom informs her that she’s been doing so well, her parents think she’s ready to stop being tutored. Shauna is surprised at how sad that makes her. She realizes she has feelings for Chad beyond friendship, but doesn’t know how he feels.
Chad plays it cool when she informs him she can stop being tutored, but he is disappointed as well. After Shauna’s math exam, she sees Chad waiting for her in the hall, and she flies into his arms, excited at how well she thinks she did. They are still hugging when Tommy comes upon them, unaware of what she’s so excited about and unhappy to see her in another guy’s arms. He pulls her away from Chad, and she helplessly waves goodbye as Tommy drags her down the hall.
While Tommy said they could celebrate her good exam, she ends up watching him talk about football for 15 minutes with two other players, watches him flirt with three different girls they pass, and then they end up going to McDonald’s. Right there in the drive-through line, Shauna realizes physical attraction isn’t all she wants in a relationship – she needs more depth, like what she has with Chad. On the way home, she breaks it to Tommy that she doesn’t want to date him anymore. She wants to find a way to let Chad know she likes him and see if he feels the same way.
Chad gives Shauna a fun kids book about a “math curse” that he thought she would find amusing. She says thanks and says she needs to talk to him later. Chad decides to go by the gym during cheerleading practice to wait for her so they can talk, and on the way he runs into Tommy, who asks Chad why he’s been “bothering” Shauna and says that Shauna doesn’t want him around. Chad, who still doesn’t know they broke up, is not intimidated and keeps going on to the gym. He stops at the doors when he hears the girls talking about Shauna being “glad it’s over.” Holland makes a comment about “the little gift he gave you,” which Shauna says she doesn’t want. Chad, sure they’re talking about him, hurries away, feeling hurt and humiliated.
Shauna gets her math exam back and scored a 92. She tries to call Chad to tell him, but he’s not home and never returns her calls. When she finds him and tells him at school, he is cold in return and walks away. Shauna leaves a secret admirer note in his locker that she’s sure he’ll know came from her, but he never says anything to her. As a last-ditch effort, Shauna decides to purposefully suck at math for a week in order to get put back in the Brain Drain. That way Chad will have to talk to her.
When she walks in the Brain Drain, she’s met by a girl named Lizbeth, even though she had requested Chad. Lizbeth tells her that Chad asked not to be assigned to her, and Shauna breaks down in tears, telling Lizbeth that she just wanted to see him because she’s in love with him.
As she’s walking home feeling sorry for herself, she feels an acorn whiz by her. She turns around, and there’s Chad. He says Lizbeth told him what Shauna said, and he wants to know if it’s true. He says he feels the same way, and she asks why he’s been avoiding her. He tells her he overheard what was said in the gym – but Shauna tells him they were actually talking about Tommy, that she was glad it was over with him. The “gift” they referred to was a 5×7 glossy photo of himself that he had left in her locker. Chad also didn’t know the secret admirer note was from her, he thought it was Lizbeth playing a joke on him. Chad and Shauna smile as they realize their misunderstanding, kiss, and live happily ever after… for high school, at least.
Grade: A – I had checked this out from the library back in the day, and always remembered it, even though I only read it once back then. It’s a very simple, sweet story with no big plot twists, just nice character and relationship development, and one misunderstanding.
Author: Wendy Loggia