Analyzing the cover: “Is it too late?” For what? I have no idea what this question is referring to. Whoever was in charge of the cover blurb got really lazy.
Tara hears that there’s going to be a local production of “Bus Stop” and is determined to land a part. She’s been yearning for something more lately, and has always wanted to be an actress.
Tara arrives at tryouts and finds out she has a lot of competition for the role of Cherie, who was played by Marilyn Monroe in the movie version of “Bus Stop.” Tara meets the rude director, Mr. Dextor, along with Jeffrey, who says he has the male leading role and flirts with her some. Then Diana Tucker shows up, even though you have to be 17 to try out and she’s only 16. When Tara points this out, Diana says if anyone snitches on her, it will be their word against hers. I’m pretty sure her real age would be easy to prove, but whatever.
After she auditions, Tara fills Jeff in on Diana’s true age and how terrible she is. Mr. Dextor calls Jeff up to read lines with Diana, and he intentionally throws her off and gives her the most bland co-reading ever. Diana accuses him of sabotaging her and storms out. Jeff smiles at Tara and says “Got rid of her for you.” Tara is shocked that he did it deliberately, and he says he was just weeding out an undesirable. Diana glares at them, believing them to be in cahoots.
Tara is named as one of the “semifinalists” to stay and read again. Diana is not called. Someone else named Grace has been chosen to play Cherie, but there is still another part for the character of Elma to be decided. Tara wins the part and excitedly tells the squad, but Olivia warns her that Coach Engborg may not give her permission to leave cheerleading practices early in order to go to rehearsals.
Coach Enborg does in fact forbid Tara from missing any part of practice for her play rehearsals. During practice, Tara is daydreaming and makes a mess of a routine, and Engborg starts contemplating the idea of forming an alternate squad from which to pull replacements when regular cheerleaders aren’t up to par.
Coach runs the squad ragged at the next practice, refusing to even give them a break. Olivia goes to her office afterward to talk to her, but she’s not there. Olivia finds a list of other students who had tried out for the squad, along with a tryout schedule that was much too early for the usual June tryouts. Olivia thinks Coach is planning to replace the whole squad. She runs out and cries to David about it.
Tara is late to play rehearsal since Coach wouldn’t let her leave practice early, so she is verbally abused by the director the entire time. Olivia tells the rest of the group about Coach Engborg’s replacement plans, and they have to find a way to convince her not to get rid of them.
Tara pretends to have the flu to get out of cheerleading practice so she can go to play rehearsal on time. Engborg doesn’t buy it and point blank asks her the next day if she was genuinely sick. Tara, having felt guilty already, fesses up, and Engborg warns her that if she can’t stay fully committed to the squad, she will be replaced.
Tara’s co-star Jeff says he sweet talked the director into letting her be late to two rehearsals a week as long as she and Jeff rehearse their scenes alone at his house on Sundays. He gives her directions to his house, and she shows up the following Sunday night. Jeff is immediately all over her, just wanting to make out, and she tries to push him off and asks if they’re actually going to go over the script. He accuses her of leading him on and angrily grabs her, but she kicks him in the shin and gets away. She runs out to her car and drives away, but then her motor dies, and it starts raining. It’s always Murphy’s Law with these people.
Tara is walking along the road when Mary Ellen drives along. She gives Tara a lift and commiserates about the scummy guys she dealt with while trying to model in NYC. ME encourages Tara to get help from the squad, so Tara goes to them and asks if they’d be willing to help her. They all ask Coach Engborg if she’d let Tara miss some practice time as long as they put in extra practice on the weekend to make sure Tara doesn’t miss anything. Coach begrudgingly agrees, thinking she might keep her substitute idea in the back of her mind.
Everyone attends Tara’s play on opening night, then goes to Pres and Mary Ellen’s for an after-party. Olivia thinks that the squad has worked the hardest it ever has over the past few weeks, but she’s not sure if it was enough to impress Coach Engborg.
Other storylines in this book:
>> Hope is once again feeling suffocated by Peter and wants to let him know she needs some space. She was going to wait until he graduated, but can’t take it anymore. Especially when Peter informs her he can’t afford to go to college, and if he stays in Tarenton, he doesn’t have to leave her. Hope and Peter argue again over scholarships that Hope is encouraging him to apply for. She realllly wants him to go to college and get the heck away from her. Peter resents her interference, and they both come to realize their feelings for each other are gone. Hope finally tells Peter she wants to break up, and he responds in a very angry, passive aggressive way. I thought he had realized his feelings were gone?
>> Jessica is also feeling a little overwhelmed with the intensity of Patrick’s devotion and knowledge that he wants to get married really young. She wants to go away to college, so their desires aren’t exactly mutual. Jessica is looking at applying to colleges that will get her far away from Tarenton, but she has not informed Patrick of this yet. Jessica tries to work up the courage to tell Patrick about her college plans, thinking, “I’ve got to tell you something that will ruin your night – if not your life.” Drama. She explains to him that she had firmly decided that she was going off to college, and that she hopes he will wait for her but knows she can’t just expect him to do that. Patrick sits in stunned silence for a moment, then relents and asks her what colleges she has in mind. Jessica is relieved that he’s not angry. “She raised her head and gave him a kiss that she hoped was filled with promise. But not too much promise.” Yeah, these two need to break up too.
>> Sean doesn’t care to think or talk about college, which gets him reprimanded by his girlfriend Kate. Kate tries to get Sean to figure out what he wants to do with his life. She even has to explain to him what an electrical engineer or technician does. He keeps purposefully being dense and stubborn, making her wonder what she ever saw in this doofus. Eventually she gets him to agree to talk to his dad about college and go see the school guidance counselor.
Other notes and quotes
- The book states that Hope met Pres’ cousin Avery at Pres and Mary Ellen’s wedding. Nope, she met him before they even got engaged and basically made out with him while her boyfriend Peter was around the corner.
- Tara drives a gold convertible and has a white Princess phone
Author: Ann E. Steinke
Next time on Cheerleaders… Mary Ellen was a tough cheerleading captain – but is she tough enough to be a coach for the new squad? Read Cheerleaders #34, COMING BACK.