The Best & Worst of Cheerleaders

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Favorite character: For much of the series this would have been Patrick, but then he started coming off a little too desperate and pushy, especially when he kept trying to pressure Jessica into getting more serious with him. I also never understood why he let Mary Ellen get away with her shenanigans. So I would have to say, my favorite character overall was Angie. She was never rude, she never set out to hurt anyone, she LOVED to eat, she never let anyone’s comments about her weight get her down, and when the new hot guy Christopher Page liked her, she had no idea – she was just trying to set him up with Nancy, who had recently lost Ben. Angie was the best.

Least favorite character: If I had to pick a cheerleader, I would pick Mary Ellen, who was an absolute horror show during her time as a student. She got better after she graduated, but I could never forget how terrible she had been. But if I was going to pick anyone out of the main and recurring characters, it would without a doubt be David Douglas Duffy, who was SO FREAKING ANNOYING, I wanted to punch Olivia just for dating him.

Favorite couple: Sean and Kate. They were pretty great throughout their whole relationship. They even got tested a bit when she broke up with him to date that loser limerick-writer, but then she realized Sean was the guy for her. Also, Sean never cheated on her or even looked at another girl when he was with her, which was so unlike his character. The rest of the main relationships were unhealthy or boring or unstable. Sean and Kate were pretty good.

Least favorite couple: David Duffy and Olivia. My least favorite couple would be David Duffy and anyone. I hated him!

Best one-book storyline: I actually think two of the last books were the best as far as one-book hooks – #44 Pretending, where Sean writes love poems to win Kate back, and #47 Dating, where Peter creates a computer program to match students together for dates, were both enjoyable overall.

Worst one-book storyline: That would have to be #13 Hurting – there were actually two ridiculous storylines in that book, with Walt and Nancy caught “parking” and Walt randomly accused of a burglary, along with Pres’ new girlfriend Claudia needing back surgery, and Mary Ellen’s inexplicable obsession with making Pres change her mind about not getting the operation.

Best temporary love interest: Ben Adamson, the Garrison basketball player who has a Romeo/Juliet romance with Nancy, then transfers to Tarenton and later dies. It certainly wasn’t the best relationship, but he provided some interesting storylines before his demise.

Worst temporary love interest: I won’t count Duffy in this since he lasted way too long. Instead I will have to go with another Nancy boyfriend, Eric Campbell, who wanted Nancy to forego attending Brown University and instead attend community college with him. Please!!!

Best overall book: I really liked #16 In Love. It had a few different interesting storylines, and I enjoyed the development of Angie and Chris’ new romance.

Worst overall book: Tie between #9 Playing Games, #13 Hurting, and #43 Telling Lies. All were just disjointed, not enjoyable to read, all over the place.

Favorite author: It probably would be Judith Weber if she had written more – she did two books, and I gave both of them As. Of the authors with a much larger sample size, Jennifer Sarasin seems to have gotten the best grades from me, with two As, several Bs, and a small handful of Cs, plus one D.

Least favorite author: Lisa Norby’s books got the most F grades from me. I found several of her books to have some convoluted side plots that I just could not get into.

Where Are They Now?

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The Cheerleaders series abruptly ended in 1988 with its 47th book. Based on what we know about the characters when the series ended, I tried to envision how everyone turned out in the future.

Where they left off…

Tara and Patrick were still together and engaged, and Tara wasn’t planning to go to college. They were building a house and hoping to get married by the end of the year.

Pres and Mary Ellen were still happy newlyweds, with Pres working for his father and Mary Ellen coaching the Tarenton squad.

Hope was dating Tough Tony, Sean was still with Kate, and Olivia was still juggling David Douglas Duffy and Walt. Peter and Jessica were single. No one had spelled out their post-graduation plans too clearly, with the exception of Tara.

Last we heard, Angie and Nancy were still off at their respective colleges. It was unclear whether Angie had ever broken up with Chris, her boyfriend from senior year. Nancy was still dating the math teacher Nick Stewart, and she was visiting Tarenton to see him pretty regularly.

Where they ended up (in my mind!)…

Patrick and Tara break off their engagement after she graduates from high school and realizes she’s way too young to settle down. She ends up marrying a rich businessman at the age of 23 and thoroughly enjoys continuing the coddled, rich life she’s always been accustomed to. Bitter about all of the women who have spurned him, Patrick realizes he’s only 20, shuns his serial monogamy, and starts seeing as many women as he can.

Pres moves up to vice president of Tarenton Fabricators, preparing to take over the company once his father retires. Mary Ellen quits coaching and becomes one of those Ladies who Lunch, doing all the fancy, rich lady things she’d longed to do when she was just a poor high schooler. Unfortunately, that life isn’t as wonderful as she’d imagined, and neither is Pres, whose deep-rooted womanizing rears its ugly head during the third year of their marriage.

Discontent and lonely, Mary Ellen falls prey to nostalgia for the good old days when she was cheerleading queen, and Patrick was madly in love with her. Patrick and Mary Ellen embark on a torrid affair, but when she STILL has reservations about ever ending up with a garbage collector, Patrick dumps her once and for all.

Mary Ellen and Pres divorce before their fifth anniversary. Pres marries another blonde within a year. Mary Ellen moves to Chicago, enrolls in that modeling school that was recommended to her once back in high school, and settles in the Second City as she starts getting small modeling jobs. Patrick meets a local schoolteacher in Tarenton – who has never once been a cheerleader – and marries her around the age of 30… a husband at last, 11 years later than he originally planned.

Nancy graduates from Brown, goes to law school, and later marries a gorgeous, Jewish musician who played basketball in college. He is the perfect combination of her three high school boyfriends – Ben (basketball), Alex (music), and Josh (Jewish).

Angie moves back to Tarenton after college and becomes a kindergarten teacher. After a chance meeting at the grocery store with her old boyfriend Arne, who is visiting home for the holidays, Angie reconnects with him and they end up getting married. Arne, who was obsessed with computers in the mid-80s, gets a job with Microsoft and they move to Seattle, where they become very rich.

Olivia finally realizes what a monumental idiot Duffy is and chooses Walt. They get married after Olivia graduates from college, and they settle in New York City, where she trains gymnasts and he works on his parents’ television show. They have six children.

Jessica goes to college in California and never returns to Tarenton except for occasional visits to see her mother. She becomes an accountant and remains happily unmarried, never being willing to settle down or commit to one guy.

Hope becomes a professional violinist and moves abroad to play with the London Symphony Orchestra. She marries a hot British guy who her parents only slightly approve of.

Peter and Diana Tucker go off to the same college, where she undergoes intensive therapy for all of her issues and is redeemed of her psychotic ways by Peter’s unconditional love. The two get married right out of college. The rest of the cheerleaders are mildly amused, mildly horrified, and all have excuses not to attend the ceremony.

Sean and Kate break up when she goes off to college, and Sean follows in his dad’s footsteps to become a perennial bachelor. He even gets a job as a salesman at Tarenton Fabricators like his dad, with help from his connection to Pres. One day, Sean is knocked upside the head when he runs into Kate, who has become a museum curator. He immediately turns his life upside down to pursue her, and after a few months – when she’s convinced he’s good enough for her – she gives in, and they reunite.

The Original Match/Eharmony/Tinder (#47 – Dating)

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Analyzing the cover: This is a pretty awesome depiction of computers at the time – I am old enough to remember that type of computer paper that was perforated at the end of each piece, and also those side edges with the holes that were also perforated and torn off (this is all very technical speech, I know). Also looks like a big floppy disk in Olivia’s hand, and gotta love the phone with the super long cord.

I made it! This is the final Cheerleaders book, which gives no indication that the series was over, except for the lack of a “next time on Cheerleaders” promo at the end of the story. The ending tagline only implores readers to check out #20 Starting Over to see how the new squad came to be. I wonder when and why it was decided to axe this series – I would guess not long before the final books were written, since there is no real resolution. It would have been nice to end the series with the seniors graduating or something like that, but I will be writing out my own thoughts about what happened to each character after the series ends, so don’t you worry!  Now on to this book:

The squad is cheering at a game without Hope, who didn’t show up and didn’t call to say why. The group is worried about her.

Diana is getting the mascot ready at Mary Ellen’s request when she hears ME’s office phone ring. Diana answers, and it’s Hope, saying she’s at the emergency room. She asks Diana to tell Mary Ellen, but of course, Diana does not.

After the game, Mary Ellen and some of the cheerleaders go to Hope’s house, but no one is there. Then Hope drives up, wondering why they didn’t get her message – her brother, James, fell and hurt his arm. They realize it was probably Diana who took the message and purposefully failed to let them know. “I’d like to toast that girl on a stick,” Tara fumes. That’s graphic.

Peter has been feeling lonely lately. He wishes there was a way to guarantee yourself a date whenever you wanted one. In his computer science class, Peter teams up with a guy named Ken to develop a computer program for a grade. They come up with the idea of developing a matchmaking program. Their teacher suggests they have participants fill out a questionnaire to match interests and priorities. Ken says he wants to fix the program to set him up with a cheerleader.

Peter and Ken make a questionnaire and give it to 60 people throughout the junior and senior classes. Peter asks the cheerleaders to participate, even though most of them already have a significant other. “You don’t have to make a date with your match unless you want to,” he says. One by one, they give in and agree to participate. Ken comes in to watch them practice, then tells Peter that Melissa is the cheerleader he wants to be paired up with.

Pretty soon, everyone in school is clamoring to be a part of the project, and Peter has to keep turning people down. Ken spots Diana, and Peter tells him how horrible she is. Ken comes up with an idea to match her up with a guy who doesn’t even exist.

Peter and Ken feed the data into their program and begin printing out the results. Peter’s match is a girl named Terri Rogers, who he’s not very familiar with. They also print out the fake guy for Diana, and spend the rest of the night processing the rest of the results. Patrick, Duffy, and Kate are all jealous that their significant others are getting matched with other people. Olivia wonders if she’ll end up going with her match to the prom instead of Duffy OR Walt. Jessica and Melissa, both single, are kind of excited to see who they get.

After a cheerleading practice where everyone is dizzy with anticipation, Peter pulls out the envelope with their results. Jessica got Adam Logan, the gorgeous swim team captain. Sean and Tara get each other. “That’s not fair, I want someone I don’t know,” Sean complains. Melissa is confused to see that she got Ken. Hope got the captain of the debate team, Matthew Nikolias, and Olivia got Scott Prescott, a football player. Peter says it would be fun if everyone went on a date with their match, even though previously he’d promised them they didn’t have to do that. He plans to have a party that everyone can go to with their matches. One by one, they agree.

Jessica and Adam go out for a Coke, and they’re getting along great, but then he gets this weird obsession with insisting that Jessica should be captain over Olivia since she’s the best gymnast on the squad. Later, he calls her and invites her to his swim meet.

Diana tracks Ken down for her results, and he gives her the printout. He says there’s no name on it because the guy wants to remain anonymous and will set up a blind date with her. “He’d better call me soon or you’re dead!” Diana says. Later, Ken works up the courage to call Melissa and ask her to Peter’s party. When she says yes, he does a somersault of joy on his bed.

Peter takes awhile to get up the courage to call Terri, and he asks her out by calling and saying they should get together to “discuss” their results. He goes to her house, where she offers him a beverage. “It’s a regular Coke – my family doesn’t believe in artificial sweeteners.” They chat for a while, and she says yes when he invites her to his party, but something about her makes him feel insecure, like she’s not really his perfect match.

Scott asks Olivia to go for pizza and a movie. She thinks he seems a little insecure and nervous, and their dinner discussion gets too heavy when she talks about her heart problems as a child, and he talks about his brother who died of a genetic disorder – they had both put “health” as a top priority on their questionnaire. After the movie, Scott takes Olivia’s hand, but she wonders what she is doing. She already has two guys to worry about and doesn’t need another!

Jessica goes to Adam’s swim meet. Afterward, he talks about how he’s the best swimmer, which is why he’s captain. He again says Jessica is the best cheerleader and should be captain, and they make a perfect pair. He sounds like a robot. Jessica calls several members of the squad to ask them if they think Olivia is the best cheerleader and should be captain, but none of them will give her a straight answer.

Peter calls Diana and pretends to be her blind date. He tells her to meet him at the Pizza Palace. “It was the perfect way to get even with her for not giving Hope’s message to Mary Ellen.”

Sean and Tara meet up at Dopey’s to compare their printouts. They have the same priorities listed – school, social activities, sports. “We could be twins,” Sean says. Peter comes over and asks how it’s going. “We’re too alike; I think opposites attract,” Tara says.

As they get ready for the game, Hope, Tara, and Melissa talk about Jessica’s strange phone calls and the debate about what makes someone fit to be a captain. Jessica comes in, and Mary Ellen listens in as the conversation gets heated. Then when Olivia shows up, everyone changes the subject. Mary Ellen wonders if she should change the position of captain, since this seems to be causing some unrest among the squad.

During the game, Jessica shows off for Adam, which annoys Olivia. Mary Ellen tells her to calm down. Jessica requests to do a new difficult stunt called “The Bird.” She completes the stunt, and Adam goes crazy in the stands. Afterward, Mary Ellen tells Jessica she was trying to upstage Olivia and wasn’t being a team player. “Maybe I’m just a better cheerleader!” Jessica cries. Mary Ellen realizes Jessica wants to be captain, and says she will think about what Jessica said.

Peter drives Terri to his house, and she talks the whole way about her college plans. Peter just listens. When Peter’s party begins, Terri immediately starts talking to Matt, Hope’s date, about how they’re both perfectionists. Hope watches them and doesn’t want to interrupt. Peter sees and doesn’t mind – he never felt comfortable with Terri. Olivia dances with Scott, but the “special ‘it'” she feels with Walt and Duffy isn’t there.

Adam starts talking loudly to some of the cheerleaders about how Jessica should be captain over Olivia. Even though she was thinking the same thing very recently, Jessica yells at him for suggesting it to her fellow squad members. “No one is number one, and you have no right to talk about me to my friends.”

Peter tells the squad about his joke on Diana, and invites a few of them to go with him to the Pizza Palace for some pizzas, and to see how Diana is handling being stood up by her imaginary perfect guy. Sean, Olivia, and Hope go with him, and they talk about their matches in the car. Sean says he and Tara are like brother and sister. Olivia feels no spark with Scott. Both Hope and Peter are okay with their matches being more into each other. “Perhaps the ‘birds of a feather flock together’ theory creates friends and not couples,” Hope says. They also all hope Jessica drops Adam. They run into Mary Ellen and Pres outside the Pizza Palace, and all go in expecting to see Diana sitting alone and miserable. Instead, she has several Deep River basketball players paying her attention and fawning all over her. Oh, well.

Ken confesses to Melissa that he fixed the results to be paired with her. She is flattered, not angry. Adam drops Jessica off with a kiss on the cheek, but when he asks her to go out with him again, she says she doesn’t want to make any plans right now.

At the next practice, Mary Ellen says she and Olivia talked, and Olivia feels if the squad wants to hold an election for captain, she would understand. Jessica is the first to speak up and say no – Adam put the idea of her being captain in her head, but she’s fine just being part of the team, and she’s not even dating him – “He can put his name back into Ken’s computer.” Everyone else agrees, and then they do a cheer for Olivia. Jessica says Olivia is the best.

And with that, the last line of the Cheerleaders series is spoken by Olivia – “I’m not the best. We’re the best. And we’re getting better all the time!”

Other notes and quotes

  • Tara thinks Patrick has the quiet strength of a young Clint Eastwood and the sensitive looks of Rob Lowe.
  • Peter had a crush on Mary Ellen when he was a sophomore.
  • One girl tells Peter she thinks it’s “demented” Tara and Sean got matched. “I don’t think it’s healthy for cheerleaders to date each other.”
  • Olivia asks Scott to dance, and he warns her that he’s better at disco – which has surely been out of style for quite a while at this point?

Sign of the Times

  1. Ken asks Peter if he remembers “that Matthew Broderick movie,” referring to Ferris Bueller.
  2. Ken asks Peter if Diana is Madonna’s little sister, and Peter says “More like Sean Penn’s!”
  3. Tara tells Patrick she wouldn’t date her computer match even if it turned out to be Rob Lowe.
  4. The cheerleaders warm up to the theme from Flashdance.
  5. The match party at Peter’s house is decorated with floppy disks hanging along a string.
  6. “Jessica and Adam were the first to dance to a new Lionel Richie release.” 

Book Deets
Author: Judith Weber
Year: 1988
Pages: 137

Grade: A

To read the recaps from the very beginning, see my post on Cheerleaders #1, TRYING OUT.

Ship of Fools (#46 – Overboard!)

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Analyzing the cover: Uhhhhhh I don’t even know. The fake background is pretty obvious. Mary Ellen is the one in the swimsuit, since she’s the non-cheerleader on the trip? Isn’t it a little warm for these long-sleeved sweaters?

The cheerleaders have won a cruise trip to St. Thomas and San Juan after winning the Midwest Regional Cheerleading competition in Chicago the month before. They have to do three exhibits while on the ship. Patrick, Tony, and Duffy have come to Fort Lauderdale to see their girlfriends off, which seems really stupid and ridiculous unless they’re making a boys’ trip out of it after the cruise ship leaves.

Olivia is fooling around on the railing and falls in the water. She’s wearing a life jacket, and a redheaded guy jumps in and fishes her out. She feels like an idiot, but is more interested in finding out who the hot guy was that saved her. Olivia later spots the guy who rescued her and runs to introduce herself. His name is Michael, and it turns out he’s a dancer on the cruise. She offers to buy him a Coke for saving her.

Jessica meets an Italian guy named Aldo who works on the ship, and for some reason, she pretends to be French. She insists that they should only speak English to each other, and she does so with a heavy accent. The squad all gets in on the charade and helps her pretend she’s a French exchange student to Tarenton.

Peter meets an elegant, European, and rich-looking lady named Clare Petrov, who asks him to go to an art and antiques tour with her. She was previously with a guy named Karl Voronsky, and Peter wonders if that is her boyfriend or fiance. Later he runs into her on the deck, and she asks him to run to her room and get her sweater since it’s chilly. He does so, and sees that her room is very fancy and has lots of valuables. He brings her the sweater, and she says she’ll see him at the tour. Not that much later, she runs up to him and says her diamond watch is missing. Peter tells her he saw it when he grabbed her sweater. The next day, Peter goes on the art and antiques tour with Clare. They are told about Rajah’s Dagger, the most expensive item on the ship, valued at over $1 million.

Peter is upset when Clare doesn’t show up to the squad’s exhibition, as she promised, but she sends him a note and says she will be at their next performance. He and Sean are getting ready for their night performance when Sean finds a diamond watch in Peter’s drawer. A security officer has come into their room and catches them with it. Peter claims it was planted on him, but the officer does not believe him. Clare refuses to press charges against Peter, much to his relief. Peter wonders if Karl Voronsky is the one who planted the watch.

The ship docks at St. Thomas, and the squad spends the day walking around. Later, Mary Ellen tells Jessica, Olivia, Tara, and Hope that the Rajah’s Dagger has been stolen, and Peter is the top suspect.

Peter is questioned, but there’s no proof he did anything. The ship docks at San Juan the next day, and Hope asks Peter where Clare is. He says he hasn’t seen her. “I guess she doesn’t want any more to do with a thief.” The squad agrees to help find the real thief, keeping their eyes on Clare, Karl, and even other people like Aldo and Michael, much to Jessica and Olivia’s chagrin.

Peter talks to Clare and Karl, who claims the officer told him the Rajah’s Dagger was stolen by cutting the glass case it was contained in. Peter was also questioned about his knowledge of security systems, since whoever stole the item bypassed the alarms. Clare invites Peter to play gin rummy later and gives him a kiss goodbye, which makes him feel all warm inside.

Olivia is talking to Aldo and Jessica about how Michael got called in to talk to security. Aldo says Michael joined a gang when he was 13 and stole a bracelet from a department store on a “dare.” He was sent to military school and ran away, but found happiness when he became a dancer. His teenage theft has made him a suspect in the disappearance of the Rajah’s Dagger.

Sean sees Karl going into Clare’s cabin, and he bangs on the door to confront him. A masked figure comes up and hits him over the head with something. When he awakens, Clare and Peter are standing over him. Clare is holding a paperweight. Clare says she had sent Karl to get a deck of cards from her room. She and Peter came to look for him when he took too long. Peter and Sean report the assault to security. Later, Peter sees Karl throwing something overboard.

Sean tackles an old lady wearing the blue and white sweats that his attacker was wearing. She says she did find this outfit crumpled up in a corner next to her laundry, as if someone had taken it from her clothes and then returned it later. Hope and Tara want Peter to keep Clare occupied while they search her cabin. Peter is hesitant, and Sean interjects that he saw Karl throw something overboard. Oh, but wait, flip back a few pages, and – yep, it was Peter who saw Karl do that. Wish these facts could be kept straight.

Jessica has been feeling guilty about her French deception and wonders if her and Aldo’s love “hinges on a lie.” I’d say so. Then she overhears Aldo and his friend Nick talking about her. Apparently it’s the job of officers on the ship to keep guests happy. Aldo says Jessica is okay, he could have done worse, but he’s tired of being an escort service. Nick imitates Jessica’s French accent, and Aldo laughs. Jessica is supposed to meet Aldo for coffee, but instead she goes back to her cabin and cries. Olivia answers when he calls, and tells him Jessica isn’t there.

Tara and Hope search Clare’s cabin but can’t find anything incriminating. They return to dinner, where the security officer comes by again to ask Peter more pointed questions. Peter shakes out his handkerchief, and a red ruby flies out. The officer says the ruby is just like the ones on the Rajah’s Dagger.

Peter gets taken into security again. Sean is trying to sleep when someone comes into his cabin. He realizes it’s not Peter, as the person kneels down to slip something inside a drawer. Sean jumps on the person and they wrestle in the dark, but the person gets away. Sean calls security and finds a piece of black velvet with the imprint of a dagger in the drawer. Sean throws the item into the sea.

The next day, Mary Ellen says the security officer thinks Sean would say anything to clear Peter, but Peter is being released in order to perform in their cheerleading exhibition that night. Well,  thank God for that.

Tara has an epiphany and gets Hope to go with her back to Clare’s cabin. She remembered seeing an old-fashioned porcelain doll that looked to be out of place with everything else in the room. Tara rips open the back of the doll’s body and finds the Rajah’s  Dagger. Then, Clare and Karl appear in the doorway with a pistol pointed at Hope and Tara. Clare tells Karl to get the rope to tie them up. Karl tells them that he threw the glass cutter and gloves that he used during the theft overboard. They plan to be off the ship before anyone else, and will leave a note for the rest of the squad explaining Tara and Hope’s absence for the night. “We’ll be on our way to South America by the time they untie you.”

Hope kicks Clare’s hand, knocking the gun away. Tara knocks Karl off balance, and then the door swings open with the rest of the cheerleaders and the security officer rushing inside. Clare tries to rush out the door, but Peter restrains her. Clare and Karl are thrown in “the brig,” and the dagger is returned to a safe.

The next day, the squad is about to disembark the ship when Aldo runs over, asking Jessica where she’s been. She admits her charade of pretending to be French. “I just hate frauds, don’t you?” she asks pointedly. Aldo looks upset, and Jessica walks away. Sean tries to comfort her, but she says she’ll be just fine.

Other notes and quotes

  • It is noted that Walt is still considered Olivia’s “other boyfriend” who wasn’t able to come to Fort Lauderdale like Duffy because he couldn’t get off work.

Book Deets
Author: Vivian Schurfranz
Year: 1988
Pages: 154

Grade: C

Next time on Cheerleaders… A computer dating project has the cheerleaders’ romances all mixed up! Read Cheerleaders #47, DATING.

Coach from Hell (#45 – Here to Stay)

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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

  1. 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.
  2. Mary Ellen wears shiny blue Lycra tights and a hot pink bodysuit to cheerleading practice.

Book Deets
Author: Jennifer Sarasin
Year: 1988
Pages: 170

Grade: B

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!

Cheerleaders = Bring It On

“Bring It On” was recently added to Netflix, and in celebration I decided to compare the main characters in the Cheerleaders series with the main characters of the movie. Some of these may be a reach, but others were extremely comparable.

Torrance

Torrance = Mary Ellen
The blonde, popular captain of the squad who falls in love with the dark-haired guy who isn’t normally her type. She also basically leads him on because she has another guy in her life. She’s a good captain, but screws up a lot and encounters resistance from her cheerleaders at times.
Quote that sums them up:  “I *am* only cheerleading.” – Torrance

Cliff

Cliff = Patrick
The non-cheerleader who lusts after Torrance/Mary Ellen and is supportive of her cheerleading aspirations. Cliff feels hurt and led on when he finds out Torrance has a boyfriend – Patrick feels hurt and led on every time Mary Ellen makes out with him and then goes on dates with rich basketball players because they fit her social status better.
Quote that sums them up: “Regardless of all the politics and the doubts and the crap, you just have to know that you can do it. And if it helps, I know you can.” – Cliff

Missy

Missy = Jessica
Jessica and Missy are both no-nonsense girls who are tops at gymnastics and don’t need a guy to be happy. This gets a little awkward though when you consider the fact that I’ve equated Cliff to Patrick, and Missy is Cliff’s sister, while Jessica dated Patrick.
Quote that sums them up: “I’m a hardcore gymnast.” – Missy

courtney whitney

Courtney and Whitney = Nancy and Tara
Courtney and Whitney are the two feistiest cheerleaders who sometimes try to undermine their captain, but ultimately come together with the rest of the squad. Nancy and Mary Ellen butted heads a lot, and Nancy could be rebellious when she wanted to be. Tara started out as a manipulative schemer with a heart of gold, and at times wanted to be captain over Olivia.
Quote that sums them up: “We learned that routine fair and square. We logged the man-hours. Don’t punish the squad for Big Red’s mistake. This isn’t about cheating. This is about winning. Everyone in favor of winning?” – Courtney

Kasey

Kasey = Angie
Kasey, like Angie, is sweet and kinda dumb.
Quote that sums them up:
Darcy: Remember – They give extra points for alacrity and effulgence.
Kasey: Did we bring those?

darcy

Darcy = Hope
Hope and Darcy both really care about their grades – Darcy spends the whole movie talking about the SATs – and they both have rich daddies.
Quote that sums them up: “Bring on the tyros, the neophytes, and the dilettantes.” – Darcy

Jan

Jan = Sean/Pres
Just like Jan, Sean and Pres love them some females, would take on any basketball/football player who dared laugh at male cheerleaders, and have flirtations with their fellow cheerleaders.
Quote that sums them up: “Hey, ladies, wanna see my spirit stick?” – Jan

Les

Les = Peter/Walt
This series was written in the 80s and wasn’t going to do anything considered controversial, so neither Peter or Walt is gay like Les is, but both guys are the male cheerleader who stands in contrast to the conceited, womanizing guy that Pres, Sean, and Jan all are. They are also good friends to their fellow cheerleaders, whereas the girls always have to wonder about whether the other guy (again, Sean/Pres/Jan) is hitting on them.
Quote that sums them up: “It’s just wrong. Cheering for them is just plain mean!” – Les

Big Red

Big Red = Vanessa/Diana
Big Red is a former cheerleader no longer on the squad but still trying to control what they do and still trying to manipulate things from behind the scenes. She’s also the only real villain in the movie, as she stole cheers from the Clovers and wants to undermine Torrance, who is trying to do the right thing in throwing out the stolen cheers. Vanessa and Diana are both cheerleader wannabes who do everything they can to try and get one or more cheerleaders kicked off the squad so that they can take the vacant spot. They are the quintessential villains that the cheerleaders are always fighting.
Quote that sums them up: “Look, the truth is I was a real leader, okay? I did what I had to do to win nationals. And ever since I handed the reins over to you, you’ve run my squad straight into the ground!” – Big Red

Sparky

Sparky Polastri = Slammer Akins
Slammer is the weirdo who takes over the squad in Book #26 and wants to whip the cheerleaders into shape, while insulting them at every turn. Sparky comes in to teach the cheerleaders a routine and tells them how terrible they all are.
Quote that sums them up: “What you do is a tiny, pathetic subset of dancing. I will attempt to turn your robotic routines into poetry, written with the human body. Follow me or perish, sweater monkeys.” – Sparky

Olivia

Other nondescript cheerleaders = Olivia
Olivia is just too boring to match up with any of the characters in the movie.

Lil’ Romeo (#44 – Pretending)

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Analyzing the cover: This is actually a pretty good one! Hope gets to be featured for once, as she plays Cyrano in Sean’s attempts to win Kate back. 

Sean’s girlfriend Kate says she’s working on a class project with a guy named Teddy Miller. Sean is slightly jealous. But Kate gets aggravated because Sean barely pays attention to what she’s saying. “Cars and sports, cars and sports. Sometimes I think all we ever talk about is what you’re interested in!” she says.

Teddy Miller’s girlfriend moved away, so Kate listens to him talk about the difficulties of a long-distance relationship as they work on their project. He’s so touched by her advice that he writes a little lame poem about her and how nice she is. The poem makes her FEEL THINGS, which then makes her feel guilty and confused.

Sean tells Kate that he and Peter need to go to the car shop, and asks if they can drop her off at Marnie’s and pick her up when they’re done. She’s offended by his “sexist” suggestion of a clothing store, and instead she waits for him at the bookstore. There, she runs into Teddy, who magically has the same interest in art books as her. She mentions that she’s waiting on “the cheerleader” and is going to be late getting home for dinner, and Teddy offers her to give her a ride back to Sean to see if he’s almost done. Sean is not done yet, so Teddy says he’ll give Kate a ride home. When Peter calls out Sean for being worried about the competition, he plays it off: “She’d be crazy to give up Sean Dubrow.”

Ted writes Kate another dumb limerick, this time mentioning how much better it would be to be on a date than studying. Kate plays it off that she would have more fun on a date with SEAN, her boyfriend, and Ted doesn’t say anything to correct her. Sean rushes to the library to find Kate after she didn’t show up for the end of his cheerleading practice. He gives her a ride home, and she acts fidgety and weird. When she gets out the car, she accidentally leaves some papers behind, which includes Ted’s latest poem. Sean reads it and is not happy.

Sean carries the poem with him to school, and when he runs into the worst person possible, Diana Tucker, he drops it on the floor and she reads it. When she sees Sean and Kate out at a restaurant, she recites the first line of the poem, which tips Kate off that Sean knows about it. She’s pissed, thinking he read it to the squad and to Diana, of all people. He explains what really happened and demands to know why Ted is writing her poetry. She insists they’re just working on their project, and asks Sean to bring her to Ted’s house because they still have work to do. They fight all the way there, and Sean drops her off with them on bad terms.

Ted buys Kate a book of limericks, then offers to take her to Wolfe College, which is named after Margaret Wolfe, the person they’re doing their project on. It’s over 2 hours away, and they’ll eat lunch in the dining hall and watch a drama competition. Ted says he’d love to call it a date, but they don’t have to. Where is this loser’s boundaries? She has a boyfriend, and that would be a terrible date anyway. But Ted is making Kate start to wonder if Sean understands her or even has anything in common with her.

Kate goes to Wolfe College with Ted and has a wonderful day. He again tries to broach the subject of them dating, and she says she needs to have a talk with Sean. Meanwhile, Sean asks Peter to talk to Corey – Kate’s friend who Peter has gone on dates with – to see if Corey knows what’s going on. Corey says Kate is confused.

Kate comes to Tarenton to see Sean, and basically says she wants a chance to explore things with Ted. Ugh. Sean is very hurt and says she should have just called to break things off. He says he’ll have someone else by Monday.

All of the cheerleaders quickly learn that they should just steer clear of Sean, who is miserable, heartbroken, and nasty to anyone who tries to talk to him about Kate. They have a game against St. Cloud, Kate’s school, coming up, and everyone is dreading it. Sean tries to write a poem: “Roses are red, violets are blue, I feel like a jerk, and this won’t rhyme.” Hope suggests he get someone to ghostwrite a poem for him since he’s having trouble doing it himself, like Cyrano de Bergerac.

At the St. Cloud game, Sean spots Kate in the crowd with Ted, and misses the cue for a cheer. Kate comes to talk to him at halftime and see how he is, and he plays it off like he’s great. She goes back over to Ted.

Sean goes to Hope’s house so she can help him write a poem for Kate. Tony rides by on his motorcycle and gets mad seeing that Sean is there. Kate gets the poem from Sean, but because it’s not signed, she assumes it’s from Ted. Ted has actually been a little TOO attentive lately. She liked being the center of his attention at first, but he’s becoming a little smothering.

Through Corey, Sean finds out that Kate is confused about the poem and who it is from, and he loves it. It’s like a mystery, which he thinks Kate will like. He goes to the sports clinic to volunteer, and he sees Kate there. She feels disappointed when he doesn’t bring up the poem and rose she received, so she thinks it must really have been Ted. She watches Sean talking to the kids he’s coaching in gymnastics, and then glances at Ted, who’s reading a book and is only there to be near Kate. Yikes. Get a life, dude.

Tony walks in on Hope helping Sean write another poem. All he hears is Sean telling Hope that she’s special, and he assumes Sean is making a play for her. They end up fighting about it and don’t talk for several days.

Kate gets a limerick from Ted asking her to the St. Cloud dance, and then she gets the couplet written by Hope from Sean. She wonders why Ted would send her two different poems in one morning. She decides to stop by the sports clinic even though she wasn’t scheduled to be there, and she runs into Sean. She tries to ask him about the couplet, but doesn’t quite get the question out, and Sean pretends to be confused. He offers her a ride home, and she asks again if he’s been writing to her. He asks if it would make a difference, and she says she needs time.

Kate gets another couplet, and still isn’t sure if it’s from Sean. Corey makes a comment about Sean having another girl, and Kate feels a stab at the thought. Corey says she doesn’t know for sure, she just figures he would already be going out with someone new. Next, Sean has Corey plant a “bus stop” sign for Kate to remember the time they went and saw the play “Bus Stop.” Kate realizes it must be from Sean and figures out that Corey was helping him. Corey says she likes Teddy, but Sean is better for Kate.

Kate shows up to the Tarenton game and watches Sean “wistfully” throughout. They talk after, and she tells him she was impressed by his poems and the sign. She has felt like an outsider in his life, always tagging along with the squad, and she just needs to figure things out and she still has to go to the dance with Ted. Sean doesn’t let her know that the whole squad has been helping him, and Kate asks him not to tell anyone else about what’s been happening.

Of course, Diana Tucker, who had previously eavesdropped on the girls talking about Sean’s mission to win Kate back, runs into Kate playing tennis and tells her all about how it’s practically been a squad project. “Hope writes the poems, Peter delivers them, Tara buys the reminders, and somebody must have picked up the roses along the way, too.” Kate is pissed that the squad knows everything about her life.

She writes Sean a letter saying she knows everything, and tells him not to send her any more notes. He drives to her house and tells her he’s sorry, he just wanted to show her that he cared, but he sucks at writing poems so he asked Hope to help him. It was never a secret that he wanted her back, and the squad got into it because he’s been miserable and hard to live with ever since she dumped him. He hands her a matchbook from Dopeys, a playbill from Bus Stop, a barrette she left at his house one time – all things he’s saved from their relationship. She laughs and says she believes him, and he begs her to tell Teddy that she’s going back with Sean. She says she will call him Saturday morning, but she still has to go to the dance on Friday night.

Kate shows up to the Tarenton game Friday in her green silk dress from the dance. A note gets passed around until it reaches Sean: “Ted understands why I left the dance; will Sean give me another chance?”

As she leaves the school, Hope watches Sean and Kate kiss and get into his car. She is happy at least one couple got a happy ending, and then Tony walks up behind her. She had written him a note apologizing for getting distracted by Sean’s mission to win Kate back, and now Tony is accepting her apology. Tony unknowingly prophesizes a future Justin Bieber song when he asks, “Is it too late to say I’m sorry?” Hope says that’s all she wanted to hear.

Other notes and quotes

  • Sean is distracted at cheerleading due to his girl problems, and he blames his off timing on Hope being “much lighter” than Jessica. Ouch.

Book Deets
Author: Leslie Davis
Year: 1988
Pages: 149

Grade: A

Next time on Cheerleaders… Mary Ellen is hired as the new cheerleading coach, and the squad is up in arms! Read Cheerleaders #45, HERE TO STAY.

NOT Hot for Teacher (#43 – Telling Lies)

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Analyzing the cover:  Hope, Jessica, Olivia, and probably Sean, who gossips like an old lady. 

Tara and Diana are both taking a review seminar with Nick Stewart, Tara’s old love interest and their math teacher. Tara gets the highest grade on a test while Diana does poorly, and Tara is dumb enough to taunt her about it. Diana accuses Tara of making goo-goo eyes at Nick the whole class. Come on Tara, you should have known she would go there.

Diana’s father tells her he’s going to be running for school board next month, and he doesn’t want her to do anything to embarrass him in the meantime. “You’re already on academic probation and social probation. And if they had any other kinds of probation, I’m sure you’d be on them too.” Then he threatens her if she fails any of her courses, there’s a Vermont school for troubled girls he might consider sending her to. Diana goes to Nick and tells him all he has to do is give her an A, and she won’t tell the principal about his relationship with Tara. Nick says there’s nothing going on between him and Tara. “You know how easily rumors get started,” Diana threatens. Nick says he’s not giving in to extortion, and she needs to earn her grades.

Nick is still dating Nancy, the former cheerleader who attends Brown. Nancy has apparently been visiting a lot because her dad is sick. Nancy and Nick go to the Pizza Palace together, where they sit with Sean and Peter. Tara comes in and sits with them, and Diana, sitting across the restaurant, yells something about a teacher’s pet. When Nick tells Nancy that Diana threatened to spread rumors about he and Tara, Nancy grows uncomfortable and asks to be taken home.

The cheerleaders are baking items for a bake sale-auction, which will help fund the Pompon Squad’s new uniforms. Tara visits a caterer in Tarenton Towers, an apartment complex, to order a fancy cake. Patrick had teased her about her baking skills, so she wants to surprise him by auctioning off an amazing cake and play a prank on him, making him think she made it.

Nick happens to live in the same building, and they run into each other on their way out the doors. Patrick just so happens to be driving by and sees them leave together. He tries desperately to come up with an innocent explanation for what he saw. Patrick stops at the Pancake House for coffee, and Diana’s boyfriend Mark, who’s apparently in on her plan, tries to tell Patrick about Nick and Tara. Patrick calls Tara to ask her what she’s been up to all day, and because the cake thing is a surprise, she lies and says she was home all day.

Jessica and Olivia volunteer to do community service with the Tarenton Environmental League. Sean and Tony (Hope’s boyfriend) see them getting into a black van during their service time, and both guys wonder desperately who the van belongs to. OMG who cares?!?? A 12-year-old at the community service project flirts with Jessica and Olivia, so they joke with Tony that they have a mystery man they’re both dating. Tony buys it, as does Sean, who demands more information about their new boyfriend. They refuse to tell anyone the truth. Is this seriously a storyline? It is eventually resolved when Jessica tricks Sean into thinking she and Olivia are going on dates at the movie theater. Sean and Peter follow them there and then they are surprised when the 12-year-old kid shows up. It’s really stupid.

A rumor starts going around that Tara and Nancy got in a fight over Nick. Tara gets a note from Nick that says he needs to meet her at a Greek diner outside of town and that it’s an emergency. When she gets there, she asks Nick what he wants, and he says he’s only there because he got a note from her saying she needed to talk to him there… it was an emergency. Then they look over and see Superintendent Barlow, our old villain Vanessa’s father, eating at a table nearby with Diana’s dad.

Barlow spots them and goes over to talk. Tara introduces herself with a fake name, but Barlow knows who she is. After he leaves, Tara says they were set up by Diana, and Nick for some reason says they can’t jump to conclusions. No, I’m pretty sure you SHOULD jump to conclusions in this case. Nick comes up with a really stupid theory and asks if Tara might have set this up to make Patrick jealous. Are you concussed, Nick?

Hope’s mom says she ran into Diana’s mother at the grocery store and was asked if Hope would help Diana with math. Hope feels guilted into offering her help, but Diana really just wants Hope to do her homework for her. Hope of course says no, but then she talks to Tony, who for some inexplicable reason says maybe Hope should just do it for her. Hope then actually considers it. Why? Why would you even want to help her of all people? Do a nice person’s homework if you feel the need to cheat. Jeez.

The principal calls Tara into her office to check her story regarding Nick, and Tara assures Mrs. Oetjen that there is nothing going on. Nancy also hears the rumors, and declares that she trusts Nick, but she doesn’t trust Tara 100%.

Diana is mad when she hears that Principal Oetjen believed Nick and Tara. She makes her boyfriend Mark go pick up some little books of matches from the Co-Zee Lounge that have the lounge’s name printed on them. She plans to plant them on Nick. She writes a letter to the superintendent Dr. Barlow saying she can’t believe Nick and Tara are getting away with their relationship, and to check his desk drawer for some matches that prove the location they use to meet up. She signs it “A Concerned Student.”

Mark goes to hide the matches in Nick’s desk drawer and is almost caught by the superintendent, who comes in after getting the letter from Diana. Mark hides in the closet while Dr. Barlow opens the drawer and finds the matches.

Hope is at Diana’s house trying to help her with math again when Diana gets a call from Mark. Hope picks up the receiver to listen in on Diana’s conversation and hears Diana tell Mark she’s “sorry you had to hide in the closet” and Mark complaining that he could have gotten caught with the matches.

A special meeting is called to confront Nick about the accusations regarding Tara. The superintendent and Diana’s father are at Tarenton Towers getting ready to notify Nick about the meeting when they see Tara walking inside. She is there to pick up her cake from the caterer.

Sean and Peter arrive at Tarenton Towers too, apparently wanting to warn Nick about the meeting, which they heard about through the grapevine. They see the superintendent and Tara’s car. Superintendent Barlow and Mr. Tucker go knock on the door of the apartment Tara went into, and the caterer, Mrs. Pascoe, opens it. “Where is he, little lady?” Dr. Barlow demands as Tara looks on, confused. Sean and Peter rush in as well, and Mr. Tucker starts to realize this doesn’t look like the apartment of a 21-year-old teacher. Mrs. Pascoe says the men need to leave before she calls the police.

Meanwhile, Patrick is irate thinking Tara is cheating on him, and decides to leave town for a few days.

Hope figures out what happened thanks to her phone call eavesdropping earlier, and she tricks Mark into thinking Diana is about to be caught and will blame everything on him. He goes to the superintendent before the school board meeting and tells him everything that Diana did. Diana’s father also has no trouble believing his daughter was behind the scheme, and the notes used to lure Tara and Nick to the diner resemble the same way his typewriter at home types (or something). Diana is kicked out of Nick’s class and will have to go to summer school.

At the bake sale auction, Patrick shows up and bids $35 on a dessert (in 2016 that equals $73). He and Tara make up, so I guess he heard somewhere that she was cleared.

Other notes and quotes

  • Tara and Hope talk about all of Diana’s schemes – “Anyone else who did the stuff Diana has done would have been bounced out of school.”
  • Peter decides at the end of the book that he has a crush on Jessica.

Sign of the Times

  1. “Diana’s wardrobe ran to miniskirts, off-the-shoulder sweaters, hip-hugging belts, and lizard-look boots and handbags, ostentatiously fake in a rainbow of unsubtle shades.”
  2. “Her clock radio was playing the Cyndi Lauper song from a few years back – Girls Just Want To Have Fun.” Tara later has an argument with her teacher that this song is a feminist anthem.

Book Deets
Author: Lisa Norby
Year: 1988
Pages: 139 (shortest book yet)

Grade: F

Next time on Cheerleaders… Who is writing those love poems and sending all the flowers to Sean’s girlfriend Kate… and why? Read Cheerleaders #44, PRETENDING.

Kidnapped, the Sequel (#42 – Fighting Back)

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Analyzing the cover: I guess I could buy that Tara was in her uniform since she did have a game the night they were kidnapped, but I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have actually changed into the uniform until she got to school. I don’t know why I’m analyzing this, these covers once portrayed the group as wearing their uniforms to go ice skating. 

Mary Ellen invites the squad to come to her house after the game for a party, and Pres reams her out for doing so without consulting him first. Tara calls Patrick as she goes to bed, but he’s super busy and distracted during their conversation, and she falls asleep while they’re still on the phone.

The next day, Tara runs into Mary Ellen at the mall. Neither one has gotten to make things right with their men since the miscommunications of the night before. Mary Ellen offers to take Tara to the school for the basketball game, but when they get in her car in the mall’s parking garage, a person with a stocking over their head pops up from the backseat and points a gun at Mary Ellen’s head. The masked figure calls Mary Ellen “Mrs. Tilford,” so clearly he knows she’s married into the Tilford family and their money. Should’ve married poor Patrick and this wouldn’t have happened.

The masked figure makes Mary Ellen drive to another location. As Mary Ellen drives, she notes the scenery: “It was as though she’d landed in another country, where she didn’t speak the language and couldn’t read the signs. She must have bought hundreds of hot dogs from that stand on the corner, but now the cheerful man who knew she liked them with ketchup looked like a stranger. She’d waited at that bus stop through snow and rain and ninety-degree temperatures, but now the people standing there seemed like extras in a movie. She’d driven this street almost every day since she got her license, but she couldn’t remember if Birch Road had a stop sign or traffic light.” (Nice descriptive writing by Point Horror writer Carol Ellis here).

They meet up with a second kidnapper who asks why there are two girls in the car. Apparently Tara is just very unlucky, and Mary Ellen was the sole target. The girls are tied up and deposited into the back of a van, and the kidnappers take off. This isn’t even ME’s first time – she was kidnapped before with the old squad in book #17. Tarenton must be a rough place to live.

Mary Ellen tries to call Pres (forced by the kidnappers) to tell him what the ransom is, but he is vacuuming and doesn’t answer the phone. She and Tara have been taken to some house and locked in the bathroom, with the window nailed shut. Hey, at least they have a toilet available. Mary Ellen and Tara argue about what they should do – Mary Ellen thinks they should sit tight or risk getting shot. Tara thinks she can outsmart the kidnappers. Still waiting for Mary Ellen to pull the “I’ve been through this before” card.

Tara doesn’t show up for the basketball game, and everyone is disappointed in her. Pres gets a call from the kidnappers telling him they have his wife, and they want money. They say not to tell anyone what’s happening, and that they’ll call him back. So Pres immediately leaves to go find Patrick at the game. I call BS. Wouldn’t he stay glued to the phone for their next call? Pres lies to the squad and says Mary Ellen has a cold (and thus their party is cancelled), but finds Patrick to tell him the truth.

Patrick and Pres argue just like their beloveds were arguing. Patrick insists he’s going to the police even though Pres says they can’t. Patrick wins, and pretty soon they have an Inspector Albright going with them to the Armstrong residence to inform Tara’s parents about her kidnapping. Mary Ellen’s parents are out of town. The police are going to set up shop in Pres’ house to tap any future phone calls from the kidnappers. Pres is no Liam Neeson in the movie “Taken,” that’s for sure.

Meanwhile, the squad still has no idea what happened. Olivia calls Tara’s house, and the maid, putting up the front that was advised by police, says Tara has a really bad case of the flu. Sean and Kate go hiking and find what Sean thinks looks like Mary Ellen’s car abandoned, but because he has no reason to think Mary Ellen is in trouble, and can’t open the locked doors to check the registration, they move along. Kate also finds a butterfly clip in the grass, which unbeknownst to her was worn by Tara, and puts it in her pocket.

Tara wants to pretend she has Stockholm Syndrome and make the kidnappers think she’s on their side, but Mary Ellen still wants to play it safe. It is Monday morning (they were kidnapped Saturday evening) when a kidnapper motions for Mary Ellen to come with him. He puts her on the phone with Pres to ensure him she’s okay, but when Pres demands (as advised by police) to hear Tara’s voice as well, the kidnappers hang up. Pres is angry, and the call wasn’t long enough to be directly traced, but police are able to determine that it was made in Tarenton.

Sean decides to go back and see if that abandoned car is still there, and it is. It looks so much like Mary Ellen’s he decides to call and see if she “lost” her car. Pres asks where it is, and he, Patrick, and a cop go out to get it. Sean is confused about what is going on, and Patrick thinks he’s going to start asking a lot of questions and the squad will figure it all out. Pres thinks about whether or not they should inform the squad. “What if something like this had happened when he’d been on the squad?” IT DID YOU IDIOT, YOU WERE ALL KIDNAPPED INCLUDING PATRICK. Yikes, the problem with multiple authors strikes again. Inspector Albright goes and informs Coach Engborg about the situation at the gym. After the game, she tells the squad and asks them to keep it quiet but keep their ears open for any leads.

The next time Pres is called, they have Tara and Mary Ellen ready to tell Pres they are both okay. They tell Pres they want $500,000. Pres tries to keep them on the phone longer, but they hang up before the call can be traced.

Sean remembers that on Saturday evening, he was running late to the game and got stuck behind a big passenger van that was going really slowly. Thinking back on it, he wonders if that was the kidnappers’ van. He remembers the license plate had SLO as the last three characters, because he’d thought it ironic at the time. The police search a database for vans including those letters in the license plate, and narrow it down to a vehicle registered to a Martin Wyman.

The kidnappers call again and accuse Pres of going to the police. He yells at them that he has the money and they just need to tell him what to do with it, and they hang up. The police say Pres was just being tested, they were just guessing, and he played it convincingly.

By Friday, six days after the kidnapping, police believe they’ve found the suspect vehicle, but it’s parked in an alley by some townhouses, so they’re trying to figure out a way to determine which townhouse it goes with. Then Pres gets a call from the kidnappers instructing him to be at a certain payphone at the library with the money in a canvas bag at 6:35. At the library, Pres answers their call and is instructed to walk 20 blocks to an all-night diner where they will call at 7:45. At the diner, they tell him to go into the movie theatre, buy a ticket for a certain movie, and leave the bag under a seat in the third row. He does so and leaves the theatre, then is shoved into a police car down the street. Pres for some reason is shocked that they have been following him. Inspector Albright says they saw the kidnapper come out of the theatre with the bag, and police are tailing him.

When one of the kidnappers comes in the bathroom to get their leftover food, the thunderstorm raging outside causes the lights to go out. The girls take that opportunity to run out of the open door. He chases after them, but then the police are there and everything is over. I guess they followed that guy back to the townhouse.

Both kidnappers are apprehended, and Mary Ellen and Tara go home. The squad finds out that they are safe and sound during the middle of a game, so even though the basketball team is losing, the squad “cheers their hearts out” in happiness.

Other notes and quotes

  • Olivia decides she wants to break things off with both Walt and Duffy for now. She sees Duffy at the pizza place and groans “It’s do or die time.” Yes. Die, Duffy. Die.
  • The cops at Pres’ house eat doughnuts. How cliche…

Sign of the Times

  1. Basically just the payphone mention, and the fact that there’s no such thing as cell phones or caller ID at this point in time.

Book Deets
Author: Carol Ellis
Year: 1988
Pages: 156

Grade: A

Next time on Cheerleaders… Tara finds out it isn’t the truth that hurts – it’s the lies! Read Cheerleaders #43, TELLING LIES.

You’re a Virgin Who Can’t Drive (#41 – Having It All)

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Analyzing the cover: They were really short of ideas for this one, weren’t they? Peter is such a loser and Olivia’s hair is way blonder than normal. 

The entire first chapter deals with Tara accidentally scratching Sean during practice, and Coach Engborg demanding she trim her nails to the same length as Jessica’s.

Peter is tired of having to get rides with Sean. He wishes he had a sweet car like Sean’s red Fiero. Peter also wishes for a lady friend. “What he wanted was a smile that showed they thought he was the most desirable hunk in town.” He gets home and finds out that his mom is off to the will reading of his Uncle Ned, who has passed away and is leaving money to Peter’s mom and her three cousins. After getting off the phone with his mom, Peter tries to call Stephanie Carlisle, a girl in his math class, to ask her out, but she isn’t home.

Peter’s mom tells him Uncle Ned left her $30,000. She wants to put $10,000 of it in a savings account for his college education. Peter’s not exactly grateful. “Ten thousand to waste in a savings account? It seemed criminal. They should be able to use some of the dough for fun stuff, he thought unhappily.”

Ugh, Duffy is back. He’s done waiting around while Olivia dates Walt and keeps him on the hook, so he wants to take her to a fancy restaurant. “Puttin’ on the glitz was the way he’d phrased it.” Ugh. I hate him so much. When Walt calls her, Olivia tells him about her date with Duffy, and he seems bothered but asks her to go out with him a different day.

Olivia feels “like a queen” out on her date with Duffy, who is wearing a leather yachting cap and oversized leather trench coat. UGH. But then Duffy starts acting like his radio show personality, which gets on her nerves. She tells him to cut it out, and he says, “Listen, woman, if you want to date a celebrity, you’ve got to get used to the persona.” Olivia says drop the act or take her home, so he stops. By the end of the night, “Olivia was starting to wonder why she had decided to cool things with such a cool guy.” Um, maybe because he’s a grade A tool who needs to be punched in the face?

Meanwhile, Walt buys an old motorcycle for 30 whole dollars and rides around angrily thinking about Olivia and Duffy on their date. Later, he finds out that the old bike he bought could be worth thousands of dollars. When he tells Olivia, she instantly fears that if he gets enough money, he’ll go back to New York City permanently. If she cares so much, why is she still dating this other loser?

Peter’s mom gives him a cashier’s check for $10,000 to open a college education fund, and tells him he can take $200 out of it to use for something fun. On the way to the bank, Peter sees a 1979 MG convertible for sale, and strikes a deal to buy it for $2,700.

Olivia tells Tara about a new college scholarship that only senior cheerleaders are eligible to apply for. It’s worth $10,000. Peter thinks applying for the scholarship will get his mom off his back about buying a car, but she’s furious. Peter somehow turns this around on her and accuses her of not believing that he could win the scholarship, and says he would need a car at college anyway. Then he storms out! What a brat!

Tara’s parents hear about the scholarship and try to pressure her about applying, even though she doesn’t plan to go to college because she’s getting married to Patrick within the next year. They tell her if she decides to go to college and applies for the scholarship, they will support her marriage to Patrick and give her money to go toward furniture for the house he’s building. Tara knows a bribe when she hears one. Surprisingly, Patrick sides with her parents. “I don’t expect you to just sit at home twiddling your thumbs all day. Especially since you’re not exactly panting to have babies right away.” I mean, she’s 18 at best. He reasons one year of college nearby wouldn’t hurt, and they could use the monetary gift. Tara finally relents.

The next practice is strained with all 5 seniors on the squad applying for the scholarship. Diana gets wind of the news, and it angers her that these cheerleaders could possibly have something else to be proud of if one of them wins the scholarship. She plans to find a way to undermine their chances. WTH? This Diana stuff is just getting more and more ridiculous. She’s not even a senior, so it’s not like she’s being kept from the scholarship just because she’s not a cheerleader.

Diana sees how much the cheerleaders are arguing and competing with each other due to the scholarship, and corners to Jessica to plant bad thoughts in her head about Sean. Then she goes over to Peter and tries to make him worried that his grades aren’t good enough to win.

Walt arranges for a motorcycle dealer/expert to fly into town and appraise his motorcycle. Duffy is mad when he hears Olivia is going to be with Walt for the visit. He claims he’s the one with a bright future: “This deejay job in lil’ old Tarenton is just the springboard to bigger and better things. It’s NBC, ABC, or CBS after this.” Olivia laughs at him, and he gets mad and tells her to have fun with her “rinky-dink salesman.” Walt sells his motorcycle for $5,000, and Olivia is happy for him but sad that he might end up leaving again.

Walt takes Olivia dancing to celebrate, and they run into Duffy, who’s there with another girl. He takes a jab at Walt for not usually being able to afford the cover charge at this kind of place, and Walt asks if he’s spying on them. “Just here kicking back with a PYT from the station,” Duffy says. Duffy again talks about how he’s going to make it on one of the big networks, and Walt says he’s kidding himself, he doesn’t have enough talent. Olivia defends Duffy and tells Walt to take her home if he’s going to take potshots. Ugh, Olivia is so stupid. Walt says sorry, but inside is disgusted (as am I). “Why couldn’t Olivia see that Duffy was full of hot air?” Then, he asks her to go with him to New York City. He’ll pay for her plane tickets and they’ll stay with his parents. She says yes and gets permission from her parents to go.

Peter peels out of the school parking lot, showing off his new car, and gets reprimanded by the principal the next day. Sean says he tried to warn Peter that he was going too fast, and Peter thinks Sean is just jealous of him. Peter starts getting asked by girls to give them rides in his car, so he thinks he’s hot stuff. He picks up Stephanie Carlisle, the girl he’d been wanting to ask out, and takes her for a ride. She’s so excited, she asks him to do figure eights in the school parking lot (I guess I always called them donuts), and he does so. A janitor still at the school writes down his license plate number and tells on him to the principal. She gives Peter one final warning to stop acting like an idiot with his car on school grounds.

Olivia listens to Duffy’s radio show, thinking how embarrassed she would be if any of her friends listened to him and how he talks these days, like some big-shot DJ using Valley language. “She wanted to tell him how ridiculous he sounded.” So tell him! He calls her as a song plays and asks how he sounds. She tells him that Walt says Duffy doesn’t have a shot to make it in the big leagues, and she doesn’t want him to get his hopes up and get hurt. He’s satisfied knowing she still cares about him.

Diana targets Sean, telling him he’ll look second rate next to Jessica, who’s a real star, when the scholarship judges come to see them perform. Next she makes sure Olivia overhears Diana talking about how bad Olivia has been performing, and that she’s dragging down Peter with her. Olivia does hear and gets mad, thinking it’s actually been all Peter’s fault that their stunts aren’t working. Meanwhile, Hope and Melissa, the two juniors who aren’t going for the scholarship, put their heads together to try and find a way to heal the divisiveness in the squad.

Diana heard about Peter getting in trouble with the principal, so she goes to Stephanie and calls Peter a stick-in-the-mud who probably never takes his car over 30 MPH. Stephanie says that’s not true, and vows to get Peter to do a car trick in the school parking lot where Diana can see him. When she tells Peter she wants him to do a demo of some tricks at school, and he says he can’t because of Mrs. Oetjen, she basically calls him a loser for being afraid of the principal. When he drops her off and asks if she’ll go out with him again, she says, “I don’t date wimps,” and tells him to call her when he’s a man instead of a boy.

At the next practice, all of Diana’s meddling comes to a head – Jessica yells at Sean, who yells at Peter, who yells at Olivia. Coach Engborg flips her lid and cancels the rest of practice. Diana smiles from the shadows.

Olivia and Walt have a great time in New York, but she’s annoyed that he has his TV show host parents listen to Duffy’s radio show and call it “amateur,” and that he harped on Duffy’s flaws all the way home. When she gets home, Duffy shows up with a limousine and insists on taking her out even though it’s a school night and she says she has to study. He says they’re having pheasant and caviar for dinner, and she thinks both he and Walt are acting like children in their war to impress her.

At the next game, Walt and Duffy start fighting in the stands, which leads Olivia to fall in distraction. Olivia has to get her ankle wrapped, and Coach Engborg yells at the boys and banishes them from the gym.

Hope and Melissa go to Mrs. Perfect Mary Ellen for advice on how to fix the squad. She suggests they have a party and invite everyone including Walt and Duffy and Patrick. She and Pres will go too. Of COURSE a party is the solution! Duh!

At the party, Hope and Melissa get everyone’s attention and tell them that they need to settle their differences. All they get is backlash from Sean, who points out that those two don’t have to worry about the scholarship like the rest do. Everyone starts arguing again. Olivia tells Walt and Duffy they need to stop acting like “men of the world” and go back to being themselves, or else she wants nothing to do with them. Peter storms out of the house after being insulted by Sean and yells, “Nice party!” One by one, everyone leaves. Great idea, Mary Ellen.

Peter is leaving school when he hears Stephanie call out, “Look, there goes Peter the Wimp. He’s got a nice car – and no guts.” Who talks like that? She continues to taunt him and he thinks, “That little witch!” I think he meant another word that rhymes with that one. He decides to accelerate the car and then screech to a stop in front of Stephanie, and suddenly a girl he didn’t see from Stephanie’s group is walking backwards into his path. He has to turn the wheel sharply to avoid hitting her, and the girl dives into the sidewalk. The girl fractures her wrist, and Peter gets a ticket for reckless endangerment from the police. Peter also gets suspended for three days and is banned from bringing his car to school.

The incident brings the squad together, and they all apologize and promise not to let stupid things tear them apart again (until the next book, I’m sure). Diana tries to taunt them again and say that none of them are worthy of the scholarship, but they stand up against her and tell her they’re a TEAM. So Peter almost killing someone brought them all together again. A happy ending indeed.

Sign of the Times

  1. The guy selling Peter the MG says he is hoping to find an ’88 model in England and ship it back to the U.S.
  2. Diana wears a black tube top and acid washed jean jacket and miniskirt to school, and has used pink mousse to temporarily dye one side of her hair. She gets reprimanded in the principal’s office for her “wild” and “revealing” appearance.

Book Deets
Author: Ann E. Steinke
Year: 1988
Pages: 168

Grade: C

Next time on Cheerleaders… When Mary Ellen and Tara are kidnapped, who will save them? Read Cheerleaders #42, FIGHTING BACK.