Analyzing the cover: None of the cheerleaders are actually as happy about this engagement as the cover makes them seem. Note – this is the first book of the series that has the red Scholastic bar at the bottom left of the cover.
The squad is complaining because the whole school has to do some sort of community work. Mary Ellen tells them the daycare she used to work for is desperate for help. The squad was going to volunteer all together somewhere, but Sean says “that’s women’s work.” His girlfriend asks what’s wrong with him and says he must come from another century. She shames him into agreeing to go with the rest of the group to talk to the daycare director.
The squad visits the daycare and reluctantly agrees to volunteer there, since they are out of time to decide and Coach Engborg refused their ridiculous request to be excused from the project. Their first day is a disaster, and they all think children are little monsters by the end of the day. “There’s nothing wrong with children that a few years won’t cure,” Sean says.
Patrick and Tara are being super cheesy and obsessed with each other, like they can barely contain themselves from ripping each others’ clothes off when they see each other. He tells her he’s thinking of buying a piece of land and wants to know her opinion, if she would visit him a lot.
Tara is getting ready to leave for a date with Patrick when her father says she’s getting too intense in the relationship and should date around. Tara ignores him. Patrick takes her up to the lake to see the property he bought, and he walks her around showing her where each room will be in the house he’s going to build. Then he asks her to marry him. She says yes, and he pulls out an emerald and diamond engagement ring. They have been going out for a few months, and not that long ago Patrick was pressuring Jessica to think about marriage. This will end well.
Tara and Patrick are keeping their engagement a secret until they can sit their parents down and tell them, and Tara has been, in Olivia’s words, “a total space cadet” at cheerleading and school. She is so distracted that she messes up terribly while cheering at a game, and Coach Engborg sends her to the locker room and has Melissa fill in for the rest of the game. The squad is trying to figure out what’s wrong and thinks maybe she and Patrick are breaking up.
Tara feels terrible about her performance at the game. Patrick and her parents meet her outside, and she suggests they all go out to eat. At the restaurant, they tell her parents the news that they’re getting married. Patrick says they “think this is the right move.” Like it’s a business transaction. Tara’s mom cries that she’s still a little girl. Her dad is aggravated but says they will at least wait a year. Nope, Tara says, they want to do it right after graduation. When her father says that’s out of the question, Tara yells at them and runs out. Real mature, you’re totally ready to get married. Then they tell the Henleys, who think it’s great that their 19-year-old son and his 17 or 18-year-old high school senior girlfriend want to get married ASAP.
Tara tells the squad about her engagement, and they ask her a million questions about if it’s the right thing to do. She rejoins them at practice after getting kicked out of the game and knows she has to concentrate or risk getting kicked off the squad.
At the daycare, Peter and Sean try to manage infants while Jessica tries to have a heart-to-heart with Tara while watching toddlers: “I probably know Patrick better than anyone except you and Mary Ellen.” Good opening line, Tara won’t see any ulterior motives in a speech from the ex who talks about how well she knows your fiance’. Jessica tries to encourage her to wait a year or more to get married, but Tara says it’s none of her business and they’re going to have a June wedding. Then Tara asks if Jessica is jealous, and they argue some more. “Do you think the only thing you can do out of high school is snag a husband?” Jessica asks. Tara ends up running out of the daycare in tears. Again, so mature.
While hiding in a bathroom stall, Diana overhears some of the girls talking about how messed up Tara is and her marriage plans. She realizes if she can get Tara to mess up badly again, Melissa will take Tara’s place on the squad and Diana can become the new alternate. (Same motivation for Diana’s misdeeds as every other book – no wonder this series ends soon, new ideas were long gone!) She decides to target Tara’s wedding plans – “Poor Patrick – he’s about to get a nasty shock.”
Diana confronts Patrick, tries to jab him about how he’s only been with Tara for 3 months – starting about a second after he broke up with Jessica – and that the ring he bought her was really small. Then she tells him a bold-faced lie that Tara was engaged to the teacher, Nick Stewart, and they had a date set and everything, but Tara got cold feet and broke it off. Please God, why would anyone continue to believe anything Diana says? Especially something as stupid as this. But Patrick seems to buy it and gets angry.
Patrick asks Tara if she was ever engaged to Nick, and she laughs and says that’s such a ridiculous question. He thinks her not directly answering the question means something. Sigh. Tara confronts Diana about planting that in Patrick’s head. Diana claims ignorance/innocence, then says, “Oh, I just noticed your itsy-bitsy ring. Congratulations!”
Tara hadn’t been paying attention when Olivia mentioned an extra practice where the kids from the daycare center are going to watch, so she doesn’t show up to the gym with the rest of the squad after school. Olivia says maybe Tara should be benched for awhile. Tara shows up to the daycare center and finds out about the practice, so she rushes back to the school. Patrick yells at her about driving him and the squad crazy.
When she goes to Coach’s office, Coach basically tells her she needs to quit the squad or Coach will be forced to kick her off. Tara tells Melissa that Melissa would be a better team member than her right now. Melissa refuses to accept the full-time position, saying this isn’t the way she wants the spot. Coach sighs and says fine, Tara can stay. That was easy. Melissa and Tara hug.
Tara confronts Patrick about believing Diana Tucker of all people, then clarifies that NO, she was not engaged to Nick, how could he even think that? “You jump to conclusions much too easily. Are you always like that?” He drops her off without another word.
Tara rejoins the squad at the next game, they all apologize for judging her engagement, and she says sorry for being so flighty. Things are still tense between her and Patrick, and Mary Ellen asks Patrick if he’s sure deep down they are ready for marriage.
Tara and Patrick talk again, and she says she might want to go visit Hollywood and see about acting for a little while, rather than settling down right after graduation. Patrick fears she is breaking off their engagement, but she says she would come back before their wedding. This sounds like a weird and flimsy plan, but Patrick is happy and they kiss. They tell everyone that they won’t be getting married in June, but will take more time to work out their plans and set a date later.
Storyline not really worth recapping – Sean befriends a little girl named Megan at the daycare center, and he ends up having to babysit her off the clock, so he finds at least one kid he likes. He also offers to film a promotional video for the daycare center. At the end of their volunteering time, the daycare director tells them they’re the best volunteers she’s ever had! Yawn.
Other notes and quotes
- In history class, “when the teacher had asked what had been the primary factor in Reconstruction after the War Between the States, Tara had actually stood at her place and stated – seriously – that it was lumber and nails!”
- Diana tries to torment Tara about the daycare job by saying “Boy, you wouldn’t catch me with a bunch of cranky, dirty babies.”
- Turns out Coach Engborg got married her 2nd year of college. Never heard a husband mentioned until this book, #40.
Sign of the Times
- “Sean snapped off the sweatband around his head and threw it at her.” (Tara)
- Patrick also wears a sweatband around his head as he’s moving furniture.
Author: Jennifer Sarasin
Grade: D – the daycare storyline was super boring. I skimmed a lot.
Next time on Cheerleaders… Peter inherits money and suddenly has a lot of girlfriends – and a lot of problems! Read Cheerleaders #41, HAVING IT ALL.