Analyzing the cover: New group photo! SHOCKED Hope and Jessica would sully their uniforms by wearing mom jeans.
Another super edition? Didn’t we just have one of those? SIGH. And my alternate title is a joke because this is the most G-rated trip to New Orleans I’ve ever heard of.
Coach Engborg tells the squad that they’re organizing a fundraising drive for the new wing at the hospital. One of the prizes for most money raised is airplane tickets to New Orleans during spring break, which coincides with Mardi Gras. Tara remembers that she has a relative of some kind in New Orleans, and decides to snoop around and see if she could possibly procure an invitation to stay with said relative in the event that she wins the New Orleans trip.
The group decides to host a talent show, and Jessica is jealous when Patrick and Tara agree to do a musical performance together and start spending a lot of time together. After an outing where Tara sits by Patrick the whole time and Jessica sulks, Patrick asks her what’s wrong. “Jessica hated this. It wasn’t like her to be jealous.” Except for every other book where she was jealous of Mary Ellen.
The talent show is a big success and raises a ton of money, so the cheerleaders win the fundraising competition and two tickets to New Orleans. They draw straws to see who gets the tickets, and Jessica and Peter, the ones with the least money, draw the short straws. They both say they can’t go because of money issues, so Tara calls her mom and asks if they could stay with her relative, Melanie LeClaire, which would help cut down on food and lodging expenses. She would also need her parents to buy her a plane ticket. Aunt Melanie sounds thrilled at the idea of having an army of teenagers come stay with her, so Tara opens up the invitation to the rest of the squad. They just need plane tickets and parental permission.
Olivia manages to manipulate her mother into thinking it will be an educational experience. Sean’s father is practically ready to escort Sean to the strip clubs on Bourbon Street himself. The rest get permission with either no or weak arguments from their parents. Coach Engborg is going with them to chaperone.
The cheerleaders are met at the New Orleans airport by Aunt Melanie’s driver. Somehow I doubt they’re in their uniforms like the cover depicts. They arrive at the LeClaire mansion and get shown their rooms. Tara’s cousin Sukie is also living at the mansion and is described as “short and plump” with a flowery dress and wearing multiple shades of eyeshadow “including pink.” Aunt Melanie said the mansion will be host to the LeClaire Mardi Gras ball within the next week, and there will be tons of other costume parties going on. Olivia asks if Sukie just came from a costume party. Annndddd the answer is no, so everyone feels awkward by that unintended insult.
Sukie seemingly gets over the offense and later takes the group to the French Quarter and Cafe Du Monde. Her flirting with Sean annoys Tara. They then head to Bourbon Street. . “What must it be like to live in such a city? How could anyone ever be bored here?” The next day they do tons more sightseeing, and Sean, who has fallen in lust with beignets, insists they go back to Cafe Du Monde. When he spots a beautiful female server, he wastes no time leaving the group and making his move. Somehow he convinces the girl to spend her half-hour lunch break with him. Her name is Lindsay and she’s a freshman at Loyola. She tells him she lives at some fancy apartments and isn’t sure she can make it to the LeClaire Mardi Gras ball because there are so many parties going on at the same time. Sean is upset he can’t get Lindsay to commit to seeing him again, but just like a good Pres imposter, he’s not giving up that easily.
That night Sukie invites some friends over to the mansion, including a rich guy named Charles Alexander. While Sukie clearly has a crush on him, he immediately sets his sights on Jessica, who left Tarenton on shaky terms with Patrick after the Tara-jealousy thing. Charles spends all evening talking to Jessica, and Tara is baffled because Charles looks like someone with impeccable taste, so what is he doing with Jessica? Burn. Olivia is pissed that Jessica would openly entertain Charles’ flirtation with Patrick sitting at home. She confronts her about it: “Patrick wouldn’t do this to you and you know it!” Jessica says she’s not doing anything.
But the next morning, Olivia wants to throw her knife at Jessica when Jessica says she can’t join them that night at the Preservation Hall because she has a date with Charles. Aunt Melanie says she should bring Charles along, and then Sean asks if he can bring Lindsay too. He goes to look her up at the fancy apartments, but her name isn’t listed. He calls Cafe Du Monde and sweet talks someone into giving him Lindsay’s number, which is an out-of-city number according to Aunt Melanie. Lindsay is wary when Sean calls, wondering how he got her number. She agrees to meet them for dinner, and Sean thinks her hesitance in everything is just because she has another guy in her life.
Meanwhile, Sukie is mad because Aunt Melanie is paying all her attention to her guests, while Sean and Charles have found interest in other females. Does she not realize that all these people will be gone in a week? The cheerleaders all talk about making sure Sukie feels more included. They decide that means teaching Sukie how to do some cheers. All’s great until Melanie comes in and compliments Tara’s talent, ignoring Sukie.
Charles and Lindsay join the group for dinner at the Gumbo Shop and music at the Preservation Hall, then back to Cafe Du Monde for the 500th time. When Sukie asks Lindsay where she went to school, Lindsay deflects the question. Charles wants to get Jessica alone, but she is hesitant. Sean wants to get dinner with Lindsay alone the next night, but then Hope suggests they all go together and Coach Engborg says Sean has to stay with the group anyway (but Jessica doesn’t??). When Sean walks Lindsay to her fancy apartment complex, she quickly disappears inside and doesn’t invite him up. Again Sean, dumb as a box of rocks, thinks it’s because she doesn’t want to introduce him to her parents.
Olivia calls Patrick and invites him to come to New Orleans for a day or two. She says Jessica really misses him, but can’t talk to him right then because she’s in the shower. In reality Jessica is sitting on the porch with Charles. Patrick says he’ll think about it. Sukie overhears the whole thing and realizes Jessica has a boyfriend, one Charles probably doesn’t know about.
When Jessica says she’s going to lunch with Charles, Olivia rips into her again and Jessica offers the lame excuse that Patrick never said she couldn’t see anyone else while she was in New Orleans. Then she tells Olivia that she may be captain of the cheerleading squad but she’s not captain of Jessica’s life.
Charles takes Jessica to some fancy place for lunch. They and Lindsay join the rest of the group for dinner, and at the most opportune time, Sukie asks Jessica who Patrick is in front of Charles. Jessica stammers and says “a friend.” Olivia makes some more pointed comments, and then Jessica and Charles go off to talk. He asks if he’s “trespassing” and she says she’s no one’s property. They end up kissing, and ugh, will anyone ever be good enough for my sweet Patrick??? Sean is the only one on Jessica’s side, which should tell her something.
Later, Jessica asks where Sukie found out about Patrick, and she won’t say because she doesn’t want to admit to eavesdropping. They argue about Charles, and then Tara comes in and tries to defend Sukie. Jessica yells at everyone to mind their own business, and then Sukie tells Tara she doesn’t need her help. Olivia tells Tara to be wary of Sukie, who seems to really be resentful of Tara. Girl drama for pages and pages.
Sean is still obsessed with Lindsay who keeps being secretive and dodging him, and so he goes to the cafe where she works to find her, but she isn’t there. Someone who works there ends up telling him that if he rides a certain bus to the very last stop, that’s where she lives. Sean gets on the bus, which takes him to the outskirts of town. There is one house at the last stop, a small, unimpressive cottage. He sees Lindsay on the porch and realizes she lied to him and was ashamed of where she lived. He leaves without her seeing him.
The rest of the squad is at an art museum when Charles comes and tries to lure Jessica away. She says she can’t leave the group, but when Charles persists, Olivia yells at him to stop bugging Jessica. Charles asks Sukie if she wants to leave with him, and they go. Jessica wants to kill Olivia, and I want to kill myself because this book managed to make a group of teenagers’ trip to New Orleans for spring break sound super boring.
Sean goes back to the cafe later, where Lindsay at first refuses to see him, having found out from her coworker that he now knows where she really lives. Finally she talks to him and says she doesn’t have money and doesn’t yet attend Loyola because she has to save up money to be able to afford it. He asks her to come to the LeClaire ball with him, but she says no. Tara suggests that Sean talk to Aunt Melanie, which he does, and Melanie calls Lindsay’s house to personally invite her to the ball. Melanie even offers her a choice of ball gowns she has at the mansion.
Charles comes over and Sukie happily greets him, but then he asks to see Jessica so he can ask her to the ball. Sukie leaves upset, and Tara turns to him: “Do you have to work at things like that, or are you just naturally obnoxious?” Sukie runs to Jessica’s room and takes out her ball gown, ripping it to shreds. Then she finds Tara’s dress and hides it. Tara finds Sukie crying next to Jessica’s dress, and then realizes her own is missing. Someone needs to get Sukie to a psychiatrist ASAP. This is not normal behavior. Aunt Melanie says it would be best if Sukie doesn’t come to the ball, and Sukie says they all make her sick.
Charles is still trying to pressure Jessica to go off with him alone, but she wants to buy Patrick a present and is annoyed with Charles’ persistence. Aunt Melanie offers Jessica a different dress to wear in place of the one Sukie destroyed, and then Jessica sees Sukie and is gracious to her instead of yelling at her, which takes Sukie by surprise. Back on the porch with Charles, they are sitting there when Lindsay walks up, arriving to pick out her dress for the ball. Charles asks her again where she went to school, and she says public school. She goes inside with Sean, and Charles says, “Public school?” in disgust. Jessica, who happens to attend a public school, realizes Olivia was right to call him a snob.
Patrick shows up at the LeClaire House, thanks to Olivia’s previous invitation. Tara and Jessica had gone shopping earlier, but aren’t home by dark, which makes everyone worried. It turns out the two had gotten separated and lost each other. Some of the group goes to the French Quarter to look for them, and Patrick finds Jessica first. Olivia catches up with them and they call the house to let the rest know that Tara is still missing. Charles decides to check out and go to a party now that Patrick is around and Jessica isn’t coming back to him. Aunt Melanie tells Sukie about Tara, and Sukie finds her resentment being wiped away.
A Mardi Gras parade is coming through and Tara gets caught up in the crowd. A guy tries to grab Tara, and then she hears her name being chanted by her searchers. She slugs the guy and finds her squad. This drama went on for many many many many pages, but it can all be summed up in those few sentences.
Aunt Melanie says Sukie can now go to the ball, and Jessica explains everything about Charles to Patrick, who handles it pretty well. Everyone gets dressed up and goes to the ball. Sean promises Lindsay they’ll see each other again someday. (I would laugh at this, except Blake from the NYC trip showed up again later, so you never know). They all enjoy the party, Sukie is crowned queen of the ball, and Tara sings her song from the talent show for everyone in attendance.
Other notes and quotes
- At the talent show, Peter sings “Oklahoma,” Hope performs on violin, Olivia does an acrobatic routine, Jessica and Sean dance the Charleston, and Tara sings with Patrick on guitar.
- Regarding Sukie, Jessica wonders “how one round face could bear under all the makeup. Didn’t she ever look in the mirror?”
Sign of the Times
- Tara knows she doesn’t sing as good as say, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, or Whitney Houston.
- The way certain people in the French Quarter are dressed “make Madonna look like a librarian.”
Author: Diane Hoh
Next time on Cheerleaders… Read Cheerleaders #28 SCHEMING.