Analyzing the cover: The two unhappy cheerleaders reflect my feelings about Mary Ellen this whole series. Here to stay? Thank God this series only lasts two more books.
This book combines multiple plots we’ve already endured before, from the squad suspecting that Coach Engborg is leaving them to Olivia hating Mary Ellen trying to coach the squad. This series was really running out of ideas and steam as it approached its final end.
Mary Ellen is starting to dislike her job at Marnie’s, because instead of just modeling, she has to help customers and stock clothes now, too. Her boss, Mrs. Gunderson, sees how unhappy she is and suggests she just go to college full-time instead of part-time, and figure out what she wants to do. Modeling is a “dead-end job,” as no one wants to see your face once you hit 30. Ouch. Thanks a lot, Mrs. Gunderson.
Mary Ellen sees Olivia, Melissa, Hope, and Tara at the mall and cries to them about her latest conundrum. Melissa basically says she wishes she had Mary Ellen’s problems – “Gee Mary Ellen, you have complete freedom to go wherever you want and do whatever you want, you have a terrific husband, a lovely house, and every opportunity known to man or woman.” Of course, this offends Mary Ellen, but she also probably is wondering who Melissa even is.
The girls tell Mary Ellen about all their problems – homework! Feeding the dog! Doing their nails! Diana Tucker! Then they mention Coach Engborg has been acting really weird lately, running late to practices, going out in the middle of practices to take phone calls, and not acting like she cares as passionately as she always did in the past.
Tara, Jessica, and Sean see Coach Engborg at the dry cleaners, and she has a real estate book under her arm. She hurries to get away from them as fast as possible.
Mary Ellen comes home to find that Pres has purchased a 1969 Mustang without consulting her first. He plans to fix it up with Patrick’s help. Mary Ellen yells at him, saying as soon as he and his “grease monkeys” get done and come inside, she’ll be expected to wait on them. What it all boils down to is Mary Ellen doesn’t know what to do with her life, and everything is making her upset. She goes to their bedroom and tells Pres he can make his own dinner.
Coach Engborg runs into Mary Ellen on the college campus and asks her to lunch. There, she tells Mary Ellen she has accepted a job with the board of directors of the National Cheerleading Association in California. She wants Mary Ellen to consider taking over as coach at Tarenton. Principal Oetjen already agrees ME would be the perfect person. ME has to think about it, as she is in shock.
Peter and Sean pass by Coach’s office and see that it looks as if she’s packing up. Then Coach asks them if they’re okay without her at practice that afternoon – something has come up. THEN she spends most of their game talking to Mary Ellen and disappears at one point, which distracts Hope, causing her to fall. I don’t understand why Coach wouldn’t just tell them already??
Mary Ellen and Pres argue about the cheerleading job. He doesn’t think she’ll have time for it along with school, cooking, and cleaning the house. She points out that if she has a full-time job, they’ll have to split the household chores evenly, which he flips out over. Real winner you married, Mary Ellen. Immediately after their fight, they have to get ready for the party they’re hosting for the cheerleaders.
Everyone is having a good time at the party until Principal Oetjen and Coach Engborg show up. Coach announces she’s leaving. What a buzzkill. “You’re about the best group of kids I’ve ever worked with – except for last year’s squad, of course,” she says. “I’m going to miss you terribly.” She also announces that she has one week left, and when she leaves, Mary Ellen has accepted the offer to be their new coach.
The squad confronts Coach the next time they’re at school, asking if Mary Ellen isn’t too young to be their coach. Engborg says that as captain, Mary Ellen received plenty of experience, and Melissa points out that Olivia is captain but isn’t anywhere near ready to be a coach. “Olivia gave her a look but kept quiet because Melissa was helping prove her point.” They continue asking more questions, not seeing Mary Ellen at the doors listening in on them.
Olivia declares that as captain, she’ll make sure they weather this storm, then the squad breaks out into a routine to practice. Mary Ellen walks out to them, and the first thing she says is a suggestion about something they can change. Then she whips out a notepad with comments and criticisms she made during their last game.
After practice, Mary Ellen hears the girls talking about her in the locker room. “We graduate this year,” Jessica tells Tara. “Hope and Melissa will have to suffer through her all next year.”
Duffy tells Pres that in doing research on school history, he found a treasure map that leads to a time capsule the cheerleaders of 1938 left for the cheerleaders of 1988. He’s having a treasure hunt Friday night, to which everyone is invited to go and find the time capsule.
Then Duffy asks if he can talk to Mary Ellen for his column about the new cheerleading coach. Pres hates Duffy, as does everyone else, and yet, he’s still around, annoying the crap out of everyone. Mary Ellen gets rid of Duffy, but when she tries to talk to Pres about her problems with the squad, he tells her he’s going to be working on the Mustang with Tony and Patrick.
Olivia, Tara, Melissa, and Sean talk about Mary Ellen some more. Olivia wishes they could have gotten a hotshot coach, like a former Olympian or something. Sean thinks they’ll never win nationals if Mary Ellen is their coach. Mary Ellen is slightly late to practice, which Olivia points out to her with an attitude. When ME tries to change something in a routine, Olivia insists it’s perfect as is. Sean calls ME “Melon” and she snaps at him not to use that hated nickname. She critiques every little thing they do, and Jessica asks if they did *anything* correctly. ME also kicks Kate and Walt out from watching practice, saying the “new administration” is different in its policy on visitors.
Olivia tells Coach Engborg that, according to Duffy’s research, the Tarenton cheerleaders didn’t actually have a coach until 1938. “They managed, and we can too.” Yes, reverting back to how it was done 50 years ago is always a great plan. Hope thinks they should give Mary Ellen a chance. Coach says they’ll have to work this all out on her own – she only has one more day left at Tarenton.
The time capsule opening is turning into a big to-do that is attracting media and community attention. The cheerleaders are all going to be there and lots of pictures will be taken of them with their new coach. Olivia is desperate to get this situation sorted out before then, when Mary Ellen will be cemented as their coach in the public eye. Hope says Olivia is being as bad as Diana.
Olivia goes to see Mary Ellen at Marnie’s and lays it all out on the table. “The squad and I feel strongly that you can’t take this job. It’s no good for any of us.” Olivia says Mary Ellen can’t just come in and try to change their routines and everything about them. “Everybody’s starting to hate you, Mary Ellen.” Mary Ellen stands her ground and says she’s not backing down. Olivia starts to cry, and then Patrick pops in, looking for Mary Ellen.
Olivia leaves, and Mary Ellen is very upset. Patrick notices: “For heaven’s sake, Melon, you have this great new job and you’re simply more gorgeous every day, and you’re a wonderful person – so why do you look so forlorn, huh?” Patrick asks. She starts to cry, and he tells her she’s going to do a great job as coach. He is the first person to show sympathy for her and give any words of encouragement, including her dumb husband. They hug, and he makes her laugh through her tears. Affair incoming. Red alert. Red alert.
Tara goes to find Patrick and walks in on him and Mary Ellen holding each other and laughing. She is pissed and runs off, and Patrick chases after her. Mary Ellen goes home, and Pres yells at her for being gone all day and not being a good partner and wife. She leaves and goes to spend the night at her parents’ house. This is at least the second time she’s done this, and they’ve been married for all of three months.
Olivia goes to the time capsule treasure hunt and feels a “spark” with Duffy again. Blech. Some other kids find the time capsule instead of Duffy, proving he is worthless as always.
The squad goes to see Coach Engborg off at the airport, and it gets real awkward when Mary Ellen shows up too. Coach Engborg hugs them all goodbye and leaves them with two words: “Make peace.” At the next practice, none of them take that advice to heart as they continue to give Mary Ellen a hard time. She is STILL staying at her parents’ house, but feels lonely when her sister and both parents are gone and she goes home to an empty house.
Tara and Jessica overhear Diana telling Holly that the new cheerleading coach is getting rid of the squad and forming a new one, since none of them are working out with Mary Ellen. Diana claims she overheard Mary Ellen’s father bragging about how his daughter wants to make cheerleading an Olympic sport, and she needs freshmen to fill the squad for “maximum preparation if it happens in 1992.” Jessica doesn’t believe a word of it, but Tara is scared.
Pres sends Patrick to talk to Mary Ellen for him. What a wuss. “He’s desperate to have you home, Mary Ellen, but he’s so upset about you walking out he can’t even pick up the phone.” Patrick says Pres is sorry, and Mary Ellen cries and says she wants him back too. Patrick encourages her to call Pres and make it right. “But why is he acting like such a coward?” she asks. Patrick says he’s afraid Mary Ellen is furious and doesn’t want to talk. “You’re the best friend a couple ever had,” Mary Ellen says. (Until they have an affair within the next few years, that is).
Of course, Tara and Jessica see Patrick talking to Mary Ellen in her office and Tara is mad, again. “She wasn’t going to stand by and let Mary Ellen ruin everything in her life.” Mary Ellen goes home and makes up with Pres, who has tried to make dinner, but burned whatever it was he was cooking.
Before the time capsule opening, Mary Ellen is more lenient with the squad as they practice, which surprises Olivia. Everyone is starting to feel good except for Tara. The time capsule is opened and includes a record of the squad’s favorite cheers for the captain, an extra key to some guy named Jack Farthingale’s convertible – “Sigh! Maybe you can get a date with him by 1988!” – some bandages, a stopwatch, a jar of wrinkle cream, and a “new slimming diet.” For the coach, six cheerleading uniforms from 1938.
The girls work on altering the vintage uniforms so they can wear them at the next game. Olivia is talking about writing a letter to the school board about getting rid of Mary Ellen when Mary Ellen shows up. She asks Olivia to take a drive with her, and then confronts her about everything that has happened. Mary Ellen explains that she has to act differently as coach than she did when she was just captain and still a student. Olivia apologizes for being difficult and Mary Ellen assures her that she does think the squad is really good. Mary Ellen also clears up that Diana’s rumor about the Olympics is not true, and that there’s no reason for Tara to be upset about her and Patrick.
Tara has been avoiding Patrick’s calls, so he shows up before the game and demands to talk to her. She yells at him about paying more attention to Mary Ellen than her, and he chastises her for getting all bent out of shape over him comforting “a good friend.” He says Mary Ellen’s been having a really hard time with her new job and her marriage. “If you don’t understand my giving support to people, you’re not the Tara I thought you were.”
The squad goes out in their vintage uniforms and cheers for their first game with Mary Ellen as coach. Everything turns out fine, and Tara makes up with Patrick afterward. The rest of the squad asks Mary Ellen for forgiveness, and then they do a cheer for her.
Other notes and quotes
- Olivia is still torn between Duffy and Walt. Tara says she needs “a scorecard to tell whether Walt or Duffy’s in favor.”
Sign of the Times
- Diana Tucker gets a perm. “All that perfectly normal blonde hair crimped into a rat’s nest. Gee, it’s too bad – Diana’s hair was the only nice thing about her,” Tara says.
- Mary Ellen wears shiny blue Lycra tights and a hot pink bodysuit to cheerleading practice.
Author: Jennifer Sarasin
Next time on Cheerleaders… It’s romance, fun in the sun, and a dangerous mystery, when the cheerleaders win a vacation on a luxurious cruise ship! Read Cheerleaders #46, OVERBOARD!