Analyzing the cover: Everyone in this picture should be asking Mary Ellen if she has brain damage.
Mary Ellen and Pres are holding hands on a flight from NYC to Tarenton. Pres jokes that if they can’t find anything better to do in Tarenton, they can get married. Mary Ellen says the man she marries will “propose right.” She thinks back on all her fallen dreams of New York, how she was just a dime a dozen among countless Midwestern blondes hoping to make it big. “The great Mary Ellen turned out to be ordinary.”
Pres tells Mary Ellen that he has started working at Tarenton Fabricators, the factory his father owns, which I guess means he left Patrick’s moving business. Mary Ellen tries to think of something she could do in Tarenton – work at a daycare center? Pres suggests going to junior college and getting a part-time job. Man, these two are boring. Can we get back to high school drama please?
Again, Pres says they should get married. “Come on, Melon. We’ll have fun.” Mary Ellen still doesn’t take him seriously; good thing, since Pres is wondering to himself if he really does love Mary Ellen – was it a joke or was he serious? If he doesn’t know maybe he should consider that an indication of his answer.
Olivia and Hope are driving home from practice talking about how Tara is suddenly friends with that psycho Diana Tucker. They see Pres and Mary Ellen, who invite them to come hang out at Pres’ house. There Hope meets Pres’ older cousin Avery, and they sort of flirt. She’s still dating Peter for some reason, even though she’s really bored with him.
Everyone is apparently bowled over by how much Pres and Mary Ellen LUV each other. It’s just the sweetest romance anyone ever saw. Tara thinks it’s as dumb as I do, especially when she sees Jessica and Patrick acting all buddy-buddy with them, considering the MaryPatrEllen history. “His crush on Melon was so big that practically nothing else ever happened in Patrick’s life except for the fact that Mary Ellen ignored him.” Tara wants to know why no one is paying attention to her! Tara has been down in the dumps since she had to break off her affair with Nick Stewart the math teacher. She was crying about it one day at school when the only person who noticed and comforted her was Dirty Diana. Since then Diana has been acting like her friend, and Tara hasn’t really known what to do about it.
Patrick watches Pres and Mary Ellen with no jealousy, only hoping that seeing how serious they are about each other will make Jessica want to get serious with him. He could even envision them getting married in June right after Jessica graduates. Yikes! Slow your roll, Patrick. Jessica has no such desire to settle down yet. She thinks 25, maybe 28, is when she’ll end up getting married.
And as Diana watches them all, she just wants to take over the world with another diabolical plan. All the cheerleaders are hanging out in the hallway talking to Pres and Mary Ellen, and while they’re not looking, she moves the clock back 15 minutes so they’ll be late to the game.
The squad, particularly Olivia, gets reamed out by Coach for missing their pregame routine. Coach is practically hyperventilating. She tells Olivia if things don’t improve, she will ask for Olivia’s resignation as captain.
Pres keeps asking Mary Ellen to marry him in casual and dumb ways. Her sister mentions it to their dad, who says ME can get married over his dead body. “You’re 19 and Pres is immature.” ME says Pres is only kidding around and her dad says that proves his point. I like her dad. Pres goes looking for an apartment or house to rent, something that would impress Mary Ellen. She easily gets a job at a daycare center and apparently wants to open one of her own one day.
Tara is getting verbally abused from other students in math class about the fact that the cheerleaders missed the pregame routine, and their rival Garrison’s cheerleaders did it instead. Tara gets thinking and starts to wonder if Diana turned the clock back to make them late. Tara is an unwitting genius, she always figures this stuff out with like zero effort.
Caroline B. Cooney has decided to assassinate the character of my beloved Patrick and has made him into a controlling jerk. He thinks Jessica’s plan to go to college 500 miles away is dumb and why can’t she go to school near Tarenton? He was never so dismissive of Mary Ellen’s plans, even if he didn’t like them. When Jessica puts her hair in a braid, he decides he doesn’t like it and tries to take the braid out. Ugh. How could you do this to him, Caroline??
Pres takes Mary Ellen to see the apartment he’s renting to make sure she likes it. He again proposes, in a deep, fake voice, and she laughs again. This is getting a
little lot old. “Do I really love her? he thought. Or am I just playing games?” Again, this is something he should probably know. And it almost sounds like he’s posing questions to himself based on Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up.”
Avery asks Hope out and she says yes, even though I’m pretty sure she hasn’t dumped Peter? Avery gets in a long convo with her dad about how he withdrew from college and needs to go back, and they’re late leaving for their date because of it.
At the next game Olivia is so busy thinking about the possibility of Pres and Mary Ellen getting married (OMG why?) she misses the cue to call a cheer for a basketball player who made a point (or something). Tara calls it instead, and Ardith thanks Tara and berates Olivia. “What if Jimmy Wallace had not gotten his cheer?” Coach asks in a nasty voice. Jeez, I think the whole gym might have exploded, Ardith! Looks like Caroline is trying to destroy Coach too 😦 Tara has been thinking about the chances that she could be named captain over Olivia, so this kind of pleases her.
Pres has a party after the game and everyone gets in a snowball fight. Avery kisses Hope, who seems to have no concern that Peter is around, and I’m pretty sure they STILL haven’t officially broken up. Tara is jealous of everyone’s happiness and closeness again. She sees a car pull up and recognizes the passengers. She calls out to Olivia to throw a snowball at the front passenger when they get out of the car, and Olivia, thinking it’s another student, does so. Instead, it’s actually Coach Engborg, who is pissed again and starts ranting about how immature she is. And again this is just definitely NOT like the Coach we normally read about, so I’m blaming Cooney.
Olivia starts crying and thinks she doesn’t fit in. Everyone gathers around the fire except for Hope, who goes off with Avery. Finally we get some recognition from Peter that they are still technically together when he watches her go and thinks, “Some girlfriend.” Sean says Peter should go fight for her, but Peter is not sure if he cares enough.
Jessica and Patrick fight when he tells her he wants what Pres has, and he loves her. Jessica says she doesn’t want anything serious and she just wants to enjoy the rest of high school, and if he can’t just have fun with her, they’re finished. She makes him drop her off at Tara’s.
Tara has the idea for everyone to go to the park. Hope invites Avery, which draws the glares of Peter. “Peter had slipped from her mind so fast it was embarrassing.” These two really are ridiculous. Jessica tells Patrick she just wants to be friends on the way to the park. “A good thing his hands were on the wheel. It gave him something to strangle.” Cooney! Stop turning Patrick into a cave man loser!
Pres takes Mary Ellen to the Tarenton football field and she looks up in the sky to see a small plane carrying a banner that says “MARY ELLEN, MARRY ME?” She hesitates at first but says yes.
All the adults in their lives want them to wait a year, but they want to do it quickly. Patrick is best man. Awkward. Avery is an usher, and Sean ends up being an usher too, even though he and Pres had practically hated each other. Angie comes back to be a bridesmaid, though she herself would never give up four years of fun at college to settle down and get married so fast. Smart girl. I love how Mary Ellen’s big dreams don’t work out the way she planned, so the only thing left for her to do is move home and immediately get married. The bulk of the book tries to convince the reader that these two selfish twits are just soooooo in lurve after dating for 5 minutes, but come on.
I don’t know how much time passes, but Pres and Mary Ellen get married pretty quickly. Tara and Olivia do a “LOVE” cheer after the wedding, and Olivia gives Tara all the credit for thinking it up, and somehow that solves all of Tara’s issues about being looked over and wanting to be captain. Pres and ME leave for their honeymoon to Hawaii. Bon voyage. I give it one to five years (so, let’s just assume they got divorced by 1992).
Other notes and quotes
- Continuity error – Jessica is given the last name Armstrong. She’s Bennett, Tara is Armstrong.
- Mary Ellen’s wedding dress described: The gown was fitted very tightly. Slender sleeves clung to Mary Ellen’s graceful arms like a leotard. The neckline dipped so that the magnificent jewelry that had once belonged to Pres’ grandmother could hang perfectly at Mary Ellen’s throat. The seams curved sharply in at the waist and then flared out into yards of fabric. Delicate lace covered the entire top of the gown, and the little beads sewn into flowers caught the light and gleamed like a thousand prisms.”
- Walt can’t make the wedding but sends a note to Pres asking if he needs to visit Walt in NYC to regain his sanity. How nice.
Author: Caroline B. Cooney
Next time on Cheerleaders… Who is the girl who is knocking Sean off his feet? Read Cheerleaders #31, SHOWING OFF.