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.

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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.

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.

Guess Who’s Back, Back Again (#32 – Together Again)

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Analyzing the cover: BRAIN EXPLODES

The squad is all gathered at the hospital for the senior blood drive. While waiting for their turn to give blood, the squad gives Mary Ellen an update on the latest development – Tarenton is getting a mascot and the squad is on a committee to develop it. “Deep River brought this guy dressed like a kangaroo to the last away game, with his kid brother in his pouch, and they were the hit of the evening. Nobody even cared who scored the most baskets!” After that fit of genius, Garrison brought someone dressed like an ape to their next game and it threw bananas at people, so now Tarenton wants to come up with something to top them all and is having a Rivals Game against St. Cloud where they will do a mascot contest.

Jessica says they’re making a giant, waterproof, paper-mache wolf, and the thing has battery-operated eyes and a tail. Shouldn’t they just make a costume for some guy to wear?

Speaking of wolves, David Duffy is working on a story for the paper about how a man walking his dog spotted a real-life wolf in Tarenton. Even though wolves haven’t been seen since “the turn of the century.” Duffy also makes a random comment about dinosaurs and polar ice caps melting. He’s strange.

Pres picks Mary Ellen up at the hospital, and even though they’re supposed to eat dinner at his parents’ house later, they decide to follow Olivia and David to Benny’s for a burger. Mary Ellen thinks about how great their marriage has been so far, how she was worried it would be a big mistake but nothing has changed for them. Right after that sentiment, they start arguing about how Pres has never had to worry about money like Mary Ellen, so he doesn’t understand her, and also about how Pres thinks blood donation is “gross.”

At the end of the night, Mary Ellen needs to go by her parents’ house, so Pres drops her off with the intention to go by Patrick’s and help him with the accounting books for the moving business. An hour later, Mary Ellen calls Patrick’s to talk to Pres, but Patrick says Pres still hasn’t shown up.

Sean and his girlfriend Kate are jokingly arguing about whose school is going to have the best mascot – Tarenton or St. Cloud – when they come across police lights and a wreck. Sean recognizes Pres’ Porsche immediately. Sean runs over to the ambulance asking if Pres is dead, and a worker says, “He’s not dead, but when he wakes up I bet he’ll wish he was.” Ummmm inappropriate.

A state trooper arrives at Mary Ellen’s parents’ house and tells her about the accident. Do cops routinely get sent out to inform families about non-fatal wrecks? I think a phone call would suffice. The cop says the wreck was not Pres’ fault, and he’s in the hospital. Pres is awake when Mary Ellen gets to his bedside. When she leaves his room, she sees Patrick arriving, and he comforts her. “Patrick – so good, so kind, always there when you needed him. Patrick, the one whom everybody in town had suspected she’d marry. Patrick, Pres’ best friend. His rugged face was creased with concern – for her.” That’s a weird response. In the fictional post-series world of Tarenton, these two will have an affair prior to Pres and Mary Ellen’s 1992 divorce. For sure. As Patrick is trying to get Mary Ellen to the cafeteria for some coffee, she overhears a doctor saying it will be a miracle if Pres ever walks again.

The next day, Mary Ellen goes by the cheerleaders’ practice and tells them that the driver who hit Pres is going to lose his license for a long time. She says Pres is still immobile, and they’ll know more after they can run some tests. Diana slinks in and says she’s surprised to see Mary Ellen there. “Imagine being married to somebody who’s going to be confined in a wheelchair the rest of his life. But he always was a crazy driver, wasn’t he?” she says. Where did this girl come from? Somebody should punch her in the face, but no one does. Everyone blows off Diana, who was looking to start their mascot committee meeting, so she decides to take things into her own hands and sabotage everything.

At the hospital, doctors do tests on Pres by sticking his feet with pins. He doesn’t feel anything. The doctor says it might not be permanent. Pres is pissed and pulls away from Mary Ellen, asking her to let him be by himself.

At the next mascot committee meeting, Diana has taken charge of everything and explains to the cheerleaders how it’s going to work. She chastises them for shirking their mascot responsibilities to go visit their “crippled” friend in the hospital. She spends the rest of the meeting berating everyone, including her dumb boyfriend Beef. Yes, his name is Beef.

Patrick visits Pres in his hospital room, where he tries to cheer Pres up. Pres isn’t having it, and since it’s only been like, a day, I can’t blame him. He says that Mary Ellen married him because he’s “a terrific physical specimen,” and now he’s a shell of what he used to be. Mary Ellen brings his new physical therapist Connie in, and he’s rude to her.

Kate, who has been master-minding the creation of the St. Cloud mascot – a man-sized cloud with sneakers and a basketball at the end of a lightning bolt – is avoiding Sean for the time being until the mascot can be unveiled. She’s worried she might accidentally spill details on the mascot to the cheerleaders or to Diana Tucker. Diana sees Kate and hints that Sean might be a spy, which makes Kate worried. The Tarenton group later freaks out when the wolf tail that Hope spent a lot of time creating disappears. Quelle horreur!

Pres goes home but has no will to try and get better. “Mary Ellen says he sleeps till noon, then watches soaps, reads the paper, and plays Solitaire until dinner.” Sounds pretty great to me! Sean comes up with the idea that they should stage a reunion with all of Pres’ old cheerleader friends from the original squad. Olivia of course loves this idea since she probably still secretly loves the old squad better than the new one.

Diana tells the mascot committee that she has dispatched two of their members to find out all they can on the mascot at St. Cloud before the Rivals Game. She also hints at a plan to sabotage St. Cloud. When she chastises Sean for dating the enemy, he happily quits the committee. The rest of the group feel they have to stay to make sure Diana doesn’t pull any dirty tricks. The next morning, the paper mache wolf, which the committee had locked up the previous night, is outside on the front steps of the school destroyed from the rain. Diana blames Sean and also says he was unaccounted for when the tail disappeared.

Mary Ellen and Olivia sit down to call Walt, Angie, and Nancy, and try to get them to come to Tarenton for Pres. Both Angie and Walt say they will come. When Nancy picks up the phone and Mary Ellen tells her who it is, Nancy says, “Mary who?” LOL. She quickly realizes though and asks how Mary Ellen’s sexy husband is doing. ME explains everything, and Nancy regretfully says she’s too busy to make the trip from Rhode Island. ME is pissed. “If all you can think about is your activities and your exciting life and yourself – “ Nancy explains she also doesn’t think she herself would be very inspirational to Pres since they were never close. ME says he did care about Nancy, and if she cares AT ALL about him, she’ll do it. Thoroughly guilt-tripped, Nancy says she will come. Is Mary Ellen at least going to pay for their plane tickets? Jeez.

With the surprise for Pres planned, he continues to be ornery and stubborn. Mary Ellen wants to sit on his lap but he says no because they’re at his parents’ house. She tries to convince him to go back to their apartment, but he doesn’t want to. The whole group shows up at his parents’ house, and he’s thrilled to see his old friends.

Tara and Nancy start talking about Pres’ personality change, and then Tara gets the bright idea to set up her old boyfriend/teacher Nick Stewart with Nancy. Tara comes right out and says she dated him until she found out he was a faculty member, and if I were Nancy that would send me out the door, but she doesn’t seem to mind.

Outside, Patrick and Walt somehow get Pres to play basketball with them in his wheelchair. But then he loses control of the chair and hits his head on the garage door. At that moment, Pres’ physical therapist Connie shows up. He says she wasn’t invited, and she tells him from now on she won’t bother to try and help him anymore. Mary Ellen says Connie was just doing reverse psychology on him and he should give her a chance, but Pres says maybe he’s happy with the way things are.

Both mascot committees get extra time to work on their mascots, and Diana wants to know what problems have arisen at St. Cloud. When she consults her spies, they are not much help: “It’s a cloud, Diana.” Diana wants more details – accessories, dimensions, etc. Meanwhile, Tarenton is trying to resurrect their messed-up wolf.

Pres gets the casts off his legs and is able to move his foot. Pres is encouraged until he finds his leg is not strong enough to stay propped up on its own. “He had failed. That was that. He wouldn’t try again.” When he and Mary Ellen get home, he is rude to her and she snaps back at him to be polite. “I didn’t realize I was being difficult. Just ignore me, why don’t you, and maybe I’ll go away,” he says. Mary Ellen finally flips out on him and says he hasn’t appreciated anything she’s done for him. She starts angrily making dinner, and he says he does give her credit, she’s the only girl in town who could stand to be around him. “Something inside him, some demon of sorrow and self pity, was making him say these things.” Mary Ellen tells him to make his own stupid dinner, grabs her coat, and leaves the apartment.

Sean and Kate are at Benny’s, teasing each other about spilling mascot secrets, when Mary Ellen walks in looking upset and gaunt. Hearing about what happened, Sean drives over to see Pres and begins to try and provoke a reaction out of him. He does so by insinuating that if Pres loses Mary Ellen, Sean will be first in line to go after her. Pres launches himself out of his wheelchair and lands on top of Sean, punching him. “Pres was crying and yelling, and finally, after a while, he just lay there, and he let Sean put his arms around his shoulders.” Sean says he will pick Pres up on Monday to go to physical therapy.

Nancy and Nick hit it off on their date, bonding over their mutual love of melted cheese. Even though Nancy will eventually have to go back to Brown, they want to spend every second together that they can.

Mary Ellen has been sleeping at her parents’ house, and so the gang works with Pres to get her to the medical center when he’s going in for his physical therapy appointment. Angie pretends to be having stomach pains and asks if Mary Ellen can go to the hospital with her. Mary Ellen walks in to see Pres doing exercises with Connie, and they embrace.

Pres does a 180 and puts all his energy into rehabilitation, even reading a book called “Mind over Muscles.” The new and old squads take Pres out to Jessica’s aunt’s horse farm, where her Aunt Madeline introduces Pres to a horse named Confidence that had broken its hind leg. She had been told by a vet to put it down and had a shotgun to its head when something made her decide instead to try and get the horse well. I guess this is some metaphor for Pres, though no one ever put a shotgun to his head. Pres decides he wants to ride Confidence, so everyone helps him mount the horse, and he trots around for awhile. He loses his balance when getting off and falls, but says he’s okay.

Pres keeps progressing at physical therapy and eventually takes his first steps since the accident. He is soon able to ditch the wheelchair and exclusively use crutches. Not long after, he’s able to drive his Porsche again.

The day of the Rivals Game, the squad gets to school and finds the Boss – their wolf mascot – missing. Diana immediately accuses Sean and says she’s going to have him suspended. Sean goes to Mrs. Oetjen’s office. Hope cuts class to go looking for the mascot, and comes back telling everyone she found it. The wolf is in a pickup truck at Beef’s house, which points directly to Diana being behind everything.

As the game gets started, Diana is literally dancing with anticipation of the cheerleaders being humiliated not having a mascot for the competition. But then, after St. Cloud presents its mascot, Olivia and the rest roll out their covered mascot and then present it to the judges. Mrs. Oetjen confronts Diana, who tries to blame Beef, but Beef tattles and says Diana put him up to it. Dumb ole Beef spills everything about how he and Diana stole the tail, left the mascot out in the rain, and then carted it to his house so that no one would know where it was, and how she had wanted to get a cheerleader kicked off the squad so Diana could fill the spot. Then everyone turns their attention back to the judges, who deliver a big old cop-out by declaring the contest a tie. The teams even end regulation in a tie, but Tarenton wins in overtime.

Pres drops Mary Ellen off at the victory party and heads home alone. She is worried about it, but everyone assures her he’ll be fine. When she gets home, though, his car is gone and he’s left her a note saying there’s something he has to go do and he’ll be back in a couple of days. DAYS?! No, that would not fly with me. She sees his hiking boots are gone, and they all freak out thinking he’s gone up to the hills even though that’s where a wolf was spotted. A big group, 12 in all, go out searching for him, and it’s Sean who finds him at sunrise, sitting on a rock. Pres says he saw the wolf, who just looked at him and then went away. The rest of the group catches up and Mary Ellen tells him to never do that again.Pres says he had to find out if he could walk – he couldn’t have just done that in like, his living room??? Pres says he’s been doing a lot of thinking and knows now that Mary Ellen loves him no matter what, and the real Pres is back for good.

Other notes and quotes

  • When Diana is looking for her boyfriend Beef Driscoll, she yells, “Where’s the Beef?”
  • Tara makes Pres brownies and forgets to put sugar in them. She says she’ll feed them to her dog, but I hope she didn’t because that would probably kill it.
  • When the old group is all back together, Angie says it’s better than “chocolate cake with three scoops of ice cream, than a bucket of fried chicken, than pizza with everything on it.” Thanks for reminding us Angie loves to eat. Still shocked she never had an eating disorder storyline as much as everyone teased her about not being a size 0.
  • Nancy and Nick despair over their imminent separation as Nancy prepares to return to school, but “they both felt something important had happened. Perhaps, even something lasting.”

Sign of the Times

  1. When Pres’ condition is unknown, Patrick tells Mary Ellen that Pres will probably be breakdancing in a week.

Book Deets
Author: Jennifer Sarasin
Year: 1987
Pages: 276

Grade: A

Next time on Cheerleaders… Is it time for Tara to say no to cheerleading? Read Cheerleaders #33, SAYING NO.

I Give It a Year (#30 – Saying Yes)

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Analyzing the cover: Everyone in this picture should be asking Mary Ellen if she has brain damage.

Mary Ellen and Pres are holding hands on a flight from NYC to Tarenton. Pres jokes that if they can’t find anything better to do in Tarenton, they can get married. Mary Ellen says the man she marries will “propose right.” She thinks back on all her fallen dreams of New York, how she was just a dime a dozen among countless Midwestern blondes hoping to make it big. “The great Mary Ellen turned out to be ordinary.”

Pres tells Mary Ellen that he has started working at Tarenton Fabricators, the factory his father owns, which I guess means he left Patrick’s moving business. Mary Ellen tries to think of something she could do in Tarenton – work at a daycare center? Pres suggests going to junior college and getting a part-time job. Man, these two are boring. Can we get back to high school drama please?

Again, Pres says they should get married. “Come on, Melon. We’ll have fun.” Mary Ellen still doesn’t take him seriously; good thing, since Pres is wondering to himself if he really does love Mary Ellen – was it a joke or was he serious? If he doesn’t know maybe he should consider that an indication of his answer.

Olivia and Hope are driving home from practice talking about how Tara is suddenly friends with that psycho Diana Tucker. They see Pres and Mary Ellen, who invite them to come hang out at Pres’ house. There Hope meets Pres’ older cousin Avery, and they sort of flirt. She’s still dating Peter for some reason, even though she’s really bored with him.

Everyone is apparently bowled over by how much Pres and Mary Ellen LUV each other. It’s just the sweetest romance anyone ever saw. Tara thinks it’s as dumb as I do, especially when she sees Jessica and Patrick acting all buddy-buddy with them, considering the MaryPatrEllen history. “His crush on Melon was so big that practically nothing else ever happened in Patrick’s life except for the fact that Mary Ellen ignored him.” Tara wants to know why no one is paying attention to her! Tara has been down in the dumps since she had to break off her affair with Nick Stewart the math teacher. She was crying about it one day at school when the only person who noticed and comforted her was Dirty Diana. Since then Diana has been acting like her friend, and Tara hasn’t really known what to do about it.

Patrick watches Pres and Mary Ellen with no jealousy, only hoping that seeing how serious they are about each other will make Jessica want to get serious with him. He could even envision them getting married in June right after Jessica graduates. Yikes! Slow your roll, Patrick. Jessica has no such desire to settle down yet. She thinks 25, maybe 28, is when she’ll end up getting married.

And as Diana watches them all, she just wants to take over the world with another diabolical plan. All the cheerleaders are hanging out in the hallway talking to Pres and Mary Ellen, and while they’re not looking, she moves the clock back 15 minutes so they’ll be late to the game.

The squad, particularly Olivia, gets reamed out by Coach for missing their pregame routine. Coach is practically hyperventilating. She tells Olivia if things don’t improve, she will ask for Olivia’s resignation as captain.

Pres keeps asking Mary Ellen to marry him in casual and dumb ways. Her sister mentions it to their dad, who says ME can get married over his dead body. “You’re 19 and Pres is immature.” ME says Pres is only kidding around and her dad says that proves his point. I like her dad. Pres goes looking for an apartment or house to rent, something that would impress Mary Ellen. She easily gets a job at a daycare center and apparently wants to open one of her own one day.

Tara is getting verbally abused from other students in math class about the fact that the cheerleaders missed the pregame routine, and their rival Garrison’s cheerleaders did it instead. Tara gets thinking and starts to wonder if Diana turned the clock back to make them late. Tara is an unwitting genius, she always figures this stuff out with like zero effort.

Caroline B. Cooney has decided to assassinate the character of my beloved Patrick and has made him into a controlling jerk. He thinks Jessica’s plan to go to college 500 miles away is dumb and why can’t she go to school near Tarenton? He was never so dismissive of Mary Ellen’s plans, even if he didn’t like them. When Jessica puts her hair in a braid, he decides he doesn’t like it and tries to take the braid out. Ugh. How could you do this to him, Caroline??

Pres takes Mary Ellen to see the apartment he’s renting to make sure she likes it. He again proposes, in a deep, fake voice, and she laughs again. This is getting a little lot old. “Do I really love her? he thought. Or am I just playing games?” Again, this is something he should probably know. And it almost sounds like he’s posing questions to himself based on Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up.”

Avery asks Hope out and she says yes, even though I’m pretty sure she hasn’t dumped Peter? Avery gets in a long convo with her dad about how he withdrew from college and needs to go back, and they’re late leaving for their date because of it.

At the next game Olivia is so busy thinking about the possibility of Pres and Mary Ellen getting married (OMG why?) she misses the cue to call a cheer for a basketball player who made a point (or something). Tara calls it instead, and Ardith thanks Tara and berates Olivia. “What if Jimmy Wallace had not gotten his cheer?” Coach asks in a nasty voice. Jeez, I think the whole gym might have exploded, Ardith! Looks like Caroline is trying to destroy Coach too 😦 Tara has been thinking about the chances that she could be named captain over Olivia, so this kind of pleases her.

Pres has a party after the game and everyone gets in a snowball fight. Avery kisses Hope, who seems to have no concern that Peter is around, and I’m pretty sure they STILL haven’t officially broken up. Tara is jealous of everyone’s happiness and closeness again. She sees a car pull up and recognizes the passengers. She calls out to Olivia to throw a snowball at the front passenger when they get out of the car, and Olivia, thinking it’s another student, does so. Instead, it’s actually Coach Engborg, who is pissed again and starts ranting about how immature she is. And again this is just definitely NOT like the Coach we normally read about, so I’m blaming Cooney.

Olivia starts crying and thinks she doesn’t fit in. Everyone gathers around the fire except for Hope, who goes off with Avery. Finally we get some recognition from Peter that they are still technically together when he watches her go and thinks, “Some girlfriend.” Sean says Peter should go fight for her, but Peter is not sure if he cares enough.

Jessica and Patrick fight when he tells her he wants what Pres has, and he loves her. Jessica says she doesn’t want anything serious and she just wants to enjoy the rest of high school, and if he can’t just have fun with her, they’re finished. She makes him drop her off at Tara’s.

Tara has the idea for everyone to go to the park. Hope invites Avery, which draws the glares of Peter. “Peter had slipped from her mind so fast it was embarrassing.” These two really are ridiculous. Jessica tells Patrick she just wants to be friends on the way to the park. “A good thing his hands were on the wheel. It gave him something to strangle.”  Cooney! Stop turning Patrick into a cave man loser!

Pres takes Mary Ellen to the Tarenton football field and she looks up in the sky to see a small plane carrying a banner that says “MARY ELLEN, MARRY ME?” She hesitates at first but says yes.

All the adults in their lives want them to wait a year, but they want to do it quickly. Patrick is best man. Awkward. Avery is an usher, and Sean ends up being an usher too, even though he and Pres had practically hated each other. Angie comes back to be a bridesmaid, though she herself would never give up four years of fun at college to settle down and get married so fast. Smart girl. I love how Mary Ellen’s big dreams don’t work out the way she planned, so the only thing left for her to do is move home and immediately get married. The bulk of the book tries to convince the reader that these two selfish twits are just soooooo in lurve after dating for 5 minutes, but come on.

I don’t know how much time passes, but Pres and Mary Ellen get married pretty quickly. Tara and Olivia do a “LOVE” cheer after the wedding, and Olivia gives Tara all the credit for thinking it up, and somehow that solves all of Tara’s issues about being looked over and wanting to be captain. Pres and ME leave for their honeymoon to Hawaii. Bon voyage. I give it one to five years (so, let’s just assume they got divorced by 1992).

Other notes and quotes

  • Continuity error – Jessica is given the last name Armstrong. She’s Bennett, Tara is Armstrong.
  • Mary Ellen’s wedding dress described: The gown was fitted very tightly. Slender sleeves clung to Mary Ellen’s graceful arms like a leotard. The neckline dipped so that the magnificent jewelry that had once belonged to Pres’ grandmother could hang perfectly at Mary Ellen’s throat. The seams curved sharply in at the waist and then flared out into yards of fabric. Delicate lace covered the entire top of the gown, and the little beads sewn into flowers caught the light and gleamed like a thousand prisms.”
  • Walt can’t make the wedding but sends a note to Pres asking if he needs to visit Walt in NYC to regain his sanity. How nice.

Book Deets

Author: Caroline B. Cooney
Year: 1987
Pages: 180

Grade: D

Next time on Cheerleaders… Who is the girl who is knocking Sean off his feet? Read Cheerleaders #31, SHOWING OFF.

It’s (Not) So Hard to Say Goodbye (#20 – Starting Over)

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Analyzing the cover: Last chance to feast your eyes on our original squad. Except for all the times this photo will be used in the background of future covers, even though most of these characters will be long gone. 

And so the transition from original squad to new squad begins with our first Super Edition. This recap is wayyyy too long, but oh well.

Olivia’s mom is saying how glad she is that both football and basketball season are over, so that she doesn’t have to worry about Olivia over-extending herself anymore (we are reminded that Olivia had a heart defect as a child and went through numerous operations – it’s finally relevant again in this book). Olivia tells her that they still have to cheer at Field Day, where they will hand over their megaphones and pompons to the new cheerleading squad. Olivia still isn’t sure if she’s going to try out to be on the squad again. She wants to, but she has misgivings about having to work with 5 new people and she’s worried she won’t match up to the new competition. She’s particularly jealous of Jessica Bennett, a fellow junior who shined at the recent cheerleading clinic and flirted with Walt.

About 30 cheerleading hopefuls are packed into the gym going through exercises led by Coach Engborg and the current squad. These are apparently practices before the real tryouts eventually begin the last week of May. The participants are asked to “leap” across the gym one by one, whatever that means, and Walt and Olivia sit and commentate on each one. When Jessica goes, Walt raves about how good she is, and Olivia’s insecurity starts to fester. It’s made worse when the squad members are sent out to show participants various moves and answer their questions, and Olivia watches Walt demonstrate a lift with Jessica.

Olivia runs into a hopeful named Tara outside the school, and they are headed in the same direction, so they walk together. Tara asks Olivia if she’s burned out on cheerleading. She says she’d be honored to be on the squad with Olivia (mmmhmm, sure), but if she was Olivia she’d have second thoughts about trying out again. Olivia is “touched” by Tara’s perceptiveness and concern, even though to me it looks like Tara is just trying to clear out the competition.

Tara gets home and chats with her mom’s bridge club, and we get some background info on her life. Her dad is a lawyer and dotes on her above all else. She plays the part of the perfect daughter, knowing that will get her more than if she played the part of a spoiled brat. She doesn’t have nor want any female friends, and she prefers to date various guys rather than settle down with one person. As she goes up to her room, she thinks about the chances that she convinced Olivia not to try out. She figures there’s nothing she can do to stop Jessica Bennett from making the squad, and she probably wouldn’t be able to convince anyone else not to try out, but she thinks about two girls named Sally and Betsey, and tries to figure out a way she can mess up their routines. “How pleased Mother and Dad will be when I get on the squad, she thought. I wonder what they’ll give me.” So is this our new villain now that Vanessa is going bye-bye?

Next we meet Hope Chang, who is a straight-A student, reporter on the school paper, and a violinist. Her father is a doctor, and her parents are the ones pressuring her to try out for the squad. She is an obedient daughter who doesn’t want to displease her mom and dad. Angie has made Hope her protegé at practice.

Walt and Sean are walking Jessica home and competing for her attention. Walt isn’t sure why he jumped at the chance to walk with Jessica, and he also can’t explain his impulse to punch Sean for flirting with Jessica. Is this just a momentary transgression or something more? Get a grip, Walt.

Patrick and Pres are riding around talking about life. I could ship this. Pres says if he doesn’t go to Princeton and spend the summer working for his father’s company, he might be disowned and lose his inheritance, but it might be worth it to have the freedom to make his own choices. Patrick tells Pres that maybe if they expand their moving business and get another truck, Pres could go full time with it and tell his father he’s still going to be a businessman – just not in the family business.

At the next practice, Coach Engborg tells the participants that they need to work on their own original routines that will show some originality for tryouts. Meanwhile, she’s going to be working with the varsity squad for their Field Day performance. Olivia wonders how she can be expected to do both things.

Tara shows Betsey some fancy finishing move, and then says Betsey can use it in her routine because Tara plans to do something different. “Tara was pleased that Betsey was so susceptible to her suggestion.” She plans to find Sally and show her the exact same finishing move, so that the judges would be suspicious about the identical endings and note their non-originality. Next, Tara goes up to Mary Ellen and sucks up to her. Mary Ellen is always amenable to some empty flattery.

Nancy has apparently received early admittance to Brown University, which she says is the reason she’d fought with her boyfriend Eric. He wants her to go to community college with him instead. (Last book, it was said she had been considering going to State.) She and Eric have made up because she told him she would reconsider going to Brown. Really – she’s going to consider going to a community college over Brown??? For some dumb guy she met two weeks ago??? PLEASE!!! I can’t. Nancy’s mom suggests she throw an end-of-the-year party, and Nancy decides to make it a cheerleader mixer where all the tryout participants can come and mingle with the squad.

Nancy makes an invite list for the party. Walt tells the girls he hopes they’re inviting some of the “new talent.” Ugh. Olivia knows he’s thinking about Jessica. She needs to hit him upside the head. The girls invite Walt and Pres over to help with the invitations, but Walt says he’s already got plans – Jessica asked him for some help going over specific cheerleading moves. Ugh again. Slap him.

Peter Rayman has a bit of an inferiority complex, and envies guys like Sean Dubrow, who apparently brags about being a bachelor with his dad (since his mom died when he was a child). Peter lives with his mom and has to help around the house and make dinner when she’s working late. “He tried not to let it bother him that Sean invariably mentioned some swinging restaurant he and his father had gone to – even on school nights!” I’m not sure if “swinging” is just a term to mean “cool” or “fancy,” or if Sean and his father are going to some kind of brothel type establishment. Peter’s not very experienced with girls, but he has a huge crush on Hope Chang. “Just thinking about clasping Hope around the waist and lifting her up in the air made Peter flush.”

Peter gets to the next practice early, hoping to ask Hope to practice lifts with him, but he arrives to see Sean already chatting her up. A girl named Carla, who Peter notes is about 15 pounds heavier than him, asks if he wants to be her partner for lifts. Because he doesn’t want to hurt her feelings, he says yes. As he and Carla are walking across the gym, he passes Sean, whose foot is suddenly stuck out and almost trips him. Sean sounds way worse than Pres, who he has been compared to.

Mary Ellen’s boss at Marnie’s calls and says they’re having a last-minute fashion show to benefit the World Drought Relief that Saturday. Mary Ellen says she will recruit the squad to participate. Olivia asks her mother, who says she doesn’t want Olivia to model: “Those cheerleaders – I’m not surprised. Their main purpose in life is to show off their bodies.” Olivia has been feeling some chest pains lately, and after telling her mom fine, she won’t do the show, she falls on her bed weak and dizzy.

The other three girls arrive at Marnie’s on Saturday morning to go through clothes, and they find Jessica there too. Jessica’s mother works at the store and suggested Jessica for the fashion show as well. ME’s boss says Jessica has arranged for Walt to do the music, and he’ll be coming soon for their run-through. The other 3 look at each other, wondering if Jessica is moving in on Walt. I highly doubt it. He’s Walt. Then Jessica says she also invited Pres and Patrick to help out, at Walt’s suggestion. This really gets ME’s hackles up. “If anyone was going to ask Pres or Patrick to help, it should have been her!” Patrick says he can take pictures of the show for publicity, and ME calls Olivia to ask her to write up a story about it for the school newspaper.

When Olivia arrives shortly before the show, she is upset to see Jessica there, and doubly upset to find out Walt is doing the music and never told her. Each girl struts on the runway, and when Jessica comes out, she trips. But she recovers quickly, doing a few twirls, and receives “thunderous applause”  as a result. As soon as the show is over, Olivia hurries out without speaking to anyone.

Later, Olivia is home working on her story. Walt has long had plans to visit his grandmother that night. Patrick calls and invites her to come over and work on her story while he develops his photos. All the other cheerleaders are going to be there, in addition to Jessica, Sean, and Nancy/Angie’s boyfriends. Olivia says okay, and Patrick tells her someone will pick her up. She is surprised to see Sean be the one to pull up in the driveway. Uh oh – “It would be fun to get to know somebody new – someone who wasn’t graduating, and someone who was incredibly good looking as well.” Sean immediately comes on to her, saying he knows she’s with Walt, but Walt’s leaving. He almost misses Patrick’s house and has to slam on his brakes: “Talking to you makes my mind wander. Maybe if you gave me a kiss, I’d feel better.” This guy! She tries to resist, but he leans forward to kiss her, and she kisses him back. Jeez, this is the second time she’s cheated on Walt. Sean wants to lean their seats back right there in Patrick’s driveway, but she insists they go inside. Olivia is relieved when Sean doesn’t say anything about their encounter. She does dance with him later.

Olivia tries to convince Walt that they shouldn’t go to Nancy’s cheerleader mixer, but he thinks that’s a crazy notion. Once they arrive, Walt makes his rounds while Olivia sulks on the couch with Angie and Chris. When Walt comes back around and asks her to dance, she says no – she doesn’t want to dance near Jessica and feel inferior. She suggests they go play Trivial Pursuit with some others in the den. Walt was starting to think Olivia was trying to spoil the party for him: “If you want to sit around playing some board game, fine. I’m here to dance, and if you won’t dance with me, I’ll find someone else.” No one can stop Walt from DANCING!!! How dare you, Olivia. Of course, Walt makes a beeline for Jessica and they start dancing.

Sean shows up to the party and suggests he and Nancy run away together. He tells her he’s extremely attracted to “older women.” He’s so terrible, I might like him. He tells Nancy he normally wouldn’t try to come between a girl and her boyfriend, but he’s had a crush on her all year and he thinks he’s in love. Nancy smiles and says sorry, not happening. Not that much later, she is heading for the den when she comes across Olivia and Sean by the stairwell. He is telling her exactly the same thing he just told Nancy – “I think I’m in love.” Nancy almost laughs out loud. Olivia is unsure and ends up walking away, and Nancy threatens to dump a plate of food on his head. “You can’t have a crush on every girl in school, Sean Dubrow.” Sean thinks actually, he does have a crush on every girl in school – well, almost every girl. “My problem, Sean thought, is no one appreciates a lover.” Then he spots Hope and asks her to dance.

Olivia doesn’t show up for the next practice, which pisses Coach Engborg off. Walt and Pres talk about who’s going to make the squad. When Pres says the girls don’t like Jessica, Walt feels the urge to jump to her defense. He feels guilty every time he even thinks about her. Tara overhears them saying she could make the squad on her looks alone, and it annoys her: “It burned her up that so many people assumed her red hair and great build were all she had going for her.” After hearing Pres and Walt saying that Hope was too quiet, Tara runs over and tells her that the guys were criticizing another girl for being too loud, and she would be sure to avoid that. Hope says thanks for the tip.

Vanessa sees Walt at the gas station and asks him about the rumors regarding Olivia missing the last practice. Walt is annoyed and tells her Olivia just had something else to do, and Vanessa tells him she saw Olivia riding in Sean’s car the other day. Walt suggests Vanessa have a zipper installed over her mouth. He had already known about Olivia riding with Sean, because she told him (guessing she left out the kissing part). He does worry that next year when he’s gone, Sean might appeal to Olivia if they’re both on the squad. Maybe he shouldn’t encourage Olivia too much to try out again, he thinks.

Pres’ dad says maybe Pres should put aside his Porsche and start driving an Oldsmobile sedan, which is a better car for someone attending Princeton and working at Tarenton Fabricators. Pres tries again to make his parents understand he plans to do the moving business full time with Patrick and is not going to Princeton. Pres says if they really want to get him a new car, there’s a secondhand truck he and Patrick could use for their business. He leaves in a huff and goes to the Pizza Palace, where he runs into Jessica and her brothers. Jessica is very interested in cars, and Pres offers to let her drive it to school the next morning.

Olivia leaves the next practice early, and Walt resumes helping Jessica. He keeps thinking about Olivia, though, and is distracted as Jessica does a move and almost falls. Nancy, Angie, and Mary Ellen are talking in the locker room about how Jessica seems to be making a play for both Walt and Pres when Jessica walks in and overhears them. She vehemently denies going after either guy and storms out. Later, Walt and Olivia are spending time together at his house watching old movies. Walt tells her he’s going to be in a theater program in another town during the summer, which upsets Olivia because it’s a couple hours away. That night she has nightmares about Walt and everyone else leaving her, and awakens with a pounding heartbeat.

Tara is shopping for a new leotard for tryouts when she runs into Hope. She tries to manipulate Hope into picking a boring color, but Hope sticks to her guns and holds onto a black and pink striped one. Then Hope tells her about Sean and how he’s been paying a lot of attention to her lately. Tara is tempted to encourage Hope to get serious with Sean, knowing he’ll probably have broken her heart by the time tryouts come around, but instead she decides to do the right thing and warn her that Sean is just going to chase after other girls whenever he can. Hope does not appreciate this advice and tells Tara she will make up her own mind about Sean. Tara is stunned: “In the future she’d remember that sincerity does not pay off.”

Hope had already figured out what Tara was trying to do when she warned her not to be too loud. Hope is determined to project her voice as best as she can during tryouts. Meanwhile, Betsey and Sally had gotten together to work on their routines and realized that Tara had shown them the same finishing move, so they work on something new.

Olivia has continued to feel an ache in her chest and has woken up twice more with a pounding heart. She decides to go for a walk and is working herself up about all her worries, which brings the ache in her chest back. Then she realizes her pulse is racing, and so she starts to make her way back home. She isn’t paying attention and almost gets run over by Patrick’s moving truck. She tells him she was afraid she was having an attack, and he races her to the hospital.

The doctor tells her there’s nothing wrong with her heart, the ache in her chest was likely a pulled muscle and some cartilage inflammation. They are still working on the mystery of her heart pounding so much, but the doc says her symptoms may have been psychosomatic. The doctor encourages her to still try out for the squad.

Tryouts begin, and Tara makes a point to flirt with Sean in front of Hope as a way to throw Hope off. But Hope informs her that her anger at Tara will only fuel her during tryouts. Olivia shows up right on time. The individual routines are done privately in front of the judges. When Olivia comes out, she tells the squad that they already told her she’s in.

Field Day has arrived, and the girls talk about their plans. Angie is going to State, and Nancy mailed off her acceptance to Brown. Vanessa is mad because her grades weren’t good enough for college, so her dad is sending her to an all-girls’ finishing school in Switzerland. The squad lines up to present pompons and megaphones to the new squad, as a way to pass the torch. The new squad is Sean, Peter, Jessica, Hope, Tara, and Olivia, who is the new captain.

Mary Ellen leaves the locker room and finds Pres and Patrick in the parking lot with their new truck, which Pres’ parents bought as a graduation present. Patrick and Mary Ellen go off to the side, and she tells him she’s still going to try for New York. Patrick says maybe she’ll go and realize he and Tarenton are her dream after all. She says maybe. They say goodbye, and Patrick and Pres drive off. “Maybe Patrick’s faith would win out after all, and a year from now she’d be answering the same question from him in a different way. But deep down inside, she had a feeling that a chapter of her life had ended once and for all.”

Good! Patrick deserves better! On to the next.

Other notes and quotes

  • Patrick says Pres can call himself a “relocation engineer” if it will make his father more accepting of him doing the moving business full time.
  • Mary Ellen comes up with a cheer for Nancy’s party invitation – “Chica chica boo, chica chica crash, You’re invited to Nancy Goldstein’s for a cheerleader’s bash!”  Yikes.
  • I noted quite a few inconsistencies in this book – besides saying Nancy was considering Brown even though in the last book it was State, in only a matter of pages Sean’s car is described as a red Fiero and then a black Mazda. Another portion starts off saying Peter is reading Olivia’s article, then it changes to “Patrick finished reading.”
  • There are some small side stories about a girl trying out named Samantha who comes off as snobby even though she’s really mostly shy, and who Angie finds crying in the locker room after Nancy doesn’t invite her to the cheerleading mixer. Nancy later calls and invites her. Also, a guy trying out named Rob invites Samantha to go hiking, and then he sprains his ankle. But it heals in time for him to try out, so… I’m not sure what the point of any of that was. And neither one makes the squad.

Sign of the Times

  1. So many leotards and leg warmers. Soooo glad leotards went out of style.
    Patrick has 3 cameras around his neck to photograph the fashion show. Is that really necessary?
  2. Olivia wears stirrup pants to the gathering after the fashion show.
  3. Sean drives a red Pontiac Fiero (which was only manufactured from 1984-1988).
  4. Walt gets some Fred Astaire videocassettes for he and Olivia to watch at his house.

Book Deets
Author: Patricia Aks and Lisa Norby
Year: 1986
Pages: 219

Grade: B

Next time on Cheerleaders… Read Cheerleaders #21, PULLING TOGETHER.

Someone Finally Punches Pres (#19 – Making It)

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Analyzing the cover: I have no idea. This is Walt and maybe Mary Ellen watching Olivia do a cheerleading move? 

We are so close to moving on to the new squad. I would be excited, but from checking out future book descriptions, it looks like we’re never quite getting rid of Mary Ellen. And I’ll miss Angie.

In this installment, Pres calls Mary Ellen to tell her Blake wrote him a letter from New York. In the letter, Blake said ME should send her portfolio and Blake will give it to a modeling agency that might be interested. Mary Ellen says her portfolio is too amateurish, and Pres suggests she seek assistance from a new PR firm that he heard his father talking about. Pres says he’ll see what he can do through his father’s connections, and Mary Ellen fawns all over him telling him how wonderful he is.

Patrick took all the pictures in her portfolio, and people say Patrick’s pictures are as good as the ones in the Tarenton newspaper, but that doesn’t mean much to Mary Ellen: “The Tarenton newspaper was about as rinky-dink as the town itself.” She thinks sometimes it would be nice if Pres tried to date her again, even though she’s crazy about Patrick – “The difference between the two was a Porsche and a garbage truck.” In case you forgot how snobby she is. Pres thinks it would be great to date Mary Ellen, because he’s so lonely lately, but he’s business partners with Patrick, and ME is Patrick’s territory.

Walt is starting to agonize over the fact that he’s going away to state college and leaving Olivia, who’s a year younger, behind in Tarenton. Now a new complication has popped up, the chance for his parents’ local TV show to move to New York and become a nationally syndicated show. The only wrench is he would be a part of the show too, and they would discuss issues that affect adults and teenagers. He’d have to move to NYC and put off college for awhile. He hasn’t been able to find a way to tell Olivia about all his concerns, but she can tell something is wrong.

Nancy surmises that everyone has the Senior Blues. She tells Olivia that she had been planning to go to State, but that would put her several hundred miles away from Eric. He wants her to go to Hillsborough community college, where he attends, but it doesn’t have the program she wants. “You can’t let Eric decide your future for you! You’ve only known him for a little while!” Olivia exclaims. Hear, hear. Nancy’s been dating this guy for like, a week. Nancy tells Olivia that she thinks Walt is having the exact same issue as her, and Olivia should talk to him about it. Walt agrees with Nancy that everyone is preoccupied with thoughts of the future. Olivia says State isn’t that far away, and they’ll still see each other a lot. Walt doesn’t mention the possible New York move.

Angie later tells Olivia that she’s got a scholarship to State, but Chris’ father wants him to go to Yale. Vanessa comes over to them and asks them why they look so sad: “Who’s dead?” They tell her they’re talking about life after graduation. Vanessa says that she wants to write professionally one day, and she’s been made a features writer on their school paper and has gotten a special assignment. Olivia and Angie don’t care, so Vanessa prepares to leave. “I certainly do hope that both of you manage to get your troubles ironed out. It’s such a terrible nuisance to look so pale and washed-out because you’re feeling draggy and way below par, isn’t it?”

Pres sits down by ME at lunch and asks if she knows where Patrick is, because he has to ask him about a moving job they have coming up. She gets all perturbed and says no, she does not know where Patrick Henley is. Pres and Mary Ellen check each other out, and Mary Ellen feels a “tingling” of physical attraction toward him. She leans closer and says, why should she know where Patrick is? They aren’t terribly special to each other. “For a second, the words stabbed her painfully. They weren’t really true.” But what she wants more than anything is to stop having to count every nickel and dime. Patrick can’t help her reach her goal, but Pres might. Pres leans in closer to her, but then thinks about Patrick and backs away. Pres says that might be true for ME, but he’s seen the way Patrick looks at her. “I’ve told him dozens of times I’m not serious about him,” she says. Ummm she told him she loved him just a few books ago! I just read it. I’ve got receipts, Mary Ellen. Pres asks her to go to the Pizza Palace with him after practice, and she says yes. She asks if he talked to the PR agency guy, and Pres says yes – the guy, Paul Howell, is willing to help her.

At practice, everyone is sniping at each other, and Coach Engborg yells at them to cut it out and get over the Senior Blues. She says they have a problem, because next year, 5 out of the 6 cheerleaders will be brand new. Only Olivia will be familiar with how things work. Engborg says she’s seen many students out on the lawn during lunch practicing cheers and moves, as if they are already preparing for tryouts. The school’s newspaper is also doing a feature story on trying out, to pump up interest among the underclassmen. Olivia and Angie look at each other – this must be the article Vanessa was talking about writing. Engborg thinks they ought to have a cheerleading clinic for all the kids who want to try out.

Mary Ellen and Pres walk into the Pizza Palace. She’s enjoying the fact that Pres drives such a nice car, and everyone is looking at them together, and she doesn’t have to worry about money with Pres (even though Patrick technically has two jobs and in other books doesn’t have to worry about money either, while Pres used to have a limited allowance from his father. But let’s not worry about consistency). They talk about the clinic and how ME doesn’t really want to do it, but Pres thinks they should support their coach’s idea. Pres wants to go for a ride,  and says he can tell her more about Paul Howell. As they’re getting in his car to leave, Vanessa comes by (always in the right place at the right time!) and asks what Patrick would think of this.

Mary Ellen and Pres ended up making out, and even though it wasn’t as good as with Patrick, it was good enough (This seems like a redux of book #2). She and Angie watch the younger students practicing on the lawn, and Mary Ellen is not willing to compliment them too much, and she’s still bitter about the clinic. She doesn’t have time to “babysit” when she needs to meet with Mr. Howell and get her portfolio together. Meanwhile, Pres and Walt are also watching the underclassmen. “Some body, wouldn’t you say?” Pres says, pointing at a brunette. “I mean, even under that warm-up suit, I can tell she’s got what it takes.” Always a pig, that one. Pres says he has his hands full already with Mary Ellen, and Walt says she’s Patrick’s girl. Pres says she doesn’t act like it.

At the next practice, Angie is upset because Chris is going with his parents to visit Yale for the weekend. He says he isn’t really interested and just has to act like he is for his father, but she still feels threatened that he’s going to end up attending and they’ll eventually break up. She’s distracted during a routine, and Olivia ends up falling and spraining her ankle. Everyone gets over that pretty quickly, though, and they tell the coach that they are willing to help put on a clinic. It’s decided that it will be all day the Saturday after next, and they’ll have a party at Walt’s house afterward.

Pres goes with Mary Ellen to her appointment at the PR agency, and Paul Howell tells her to leave her photos with him and he’ll think about what he can do for her.

Vanessa corners Olivia coming out of the library, and asks if it’s true that the clinic is just a way for the current squad to handpick who’s going to make next year’s squad. Olivia says that’s crazy.

That’s not the only rumor Vanessa’s been spreading, but in this other case, she’s only speaking truth. Patrick confronts Pres about him being seen out with Mary Ellen – Vanessa told him all about it. Pres admits they were out together: “So what?” Patrick asks if he kissed her. Pres says it’s none of his business, and everybody knows Mary Ellen’s attracted to Patrick, but she’s just not the type to get involved with a …. “Just not the type to get seriously involved with a garbage man, huh?” Patrick asks. “You said it, not me,” Pres replies. Patrick says he just has one thing to say about Pres and Mary Ellen, and proceeds to punch Pres in the face. YES!

Pres shows up late to the gym with a black eye. He immediately cries to everyone that Patrick hit him. Mary Ellen has the idiocy to ask why. “Dear little Van blew the whistle,” Pres says. Walt, who previously warned Pres about Patrick, has an “I-told-you-so grin” on his face. Good to know I’m not the only one enjoying this. Coach Engborg says he has to cheer in the game with the swollen-shut eye and she doesn’t care if he were blind. Nancy is also late and shows up right before the game, crying, because she and Eric broke up. Thank goodness.

As they cheer during the game, Pres contemplates what to do about Mary Ellen and Patrick. Mary Ellen is angry that Patrick would go that far. “It was all Vanessa’s fault, really.” Yep, Mary Ellen leading on Patrick all year, finally telling him she loves him, and then making out with Pres was all Vanessa’s fault. When she saw Patrick she would tell him just what she thought of his “barbaric behavior,” but deep down she was smug about the fact that one boy had hit another over her. Mary Ellen, you are the worssttttttt.

After the game, Olivia, who had to watch the squad due to her sprained ankle, tells Walt that a girl named Jessica Bennett came over to her during the game. Jessica is the girl Walt and Pres were checking out earlier when they were watching the aspiring cheerleaders at lunch. “She wanted to know what she had to do to get chosen for the squad next year.” Olivia says Jessica acted like there was some magic secret, something they had to do at the clinic.

Seventeen people sign up for the cheerleading clinic. As Walt and Pres are shopping for food for the after party, Pres says a guy came up to him talking about the clinic and said he would get “the inside edge.” The guy also said they shouldn’t pay any attention to the kids who are upset. Pres isn’t sure what he’s talking about.

The morning of the clinic, Walt brings in extra pompons to Mary Ellen and says he was just approached by a girl who was really talking herself up to him, as if she wanted him to remember her. Then Angie and Nancy come in saying two sophomore guys who are attending the clinic made a big fuss over them in the parking lot and treated them like royalty. But after that, a girl came up to them all angry. “She said she thought it was an insult to have to butter somebody up to get to be a cheerleader.” They are all puzzled.

The clinic consists of 11 girls, six guys. Nancy points out a guy named Sean Dubrow and says his dad is a salesman at Tarenton Fabricators, Pres’ father’s company. Mary Ellen checks him out and says she definitely wants him in her group. “Hey I’m the one without a boyfriend,” Nancy says. “You’ve got two.” Mary Ellen says she thinks she’s actually down to zero.

As they start the clinic with a cheer, they notice that only half of the participants seem to be into it. The rest look like they don’t even want to be there. Meanwhile Walt is showing extra attention to Jessica, which is making Olivia jealous. Vanessa strolls in, saying she’s there because she’s writing a feature article about the clinic for the school paper. She remarks on the people there who don’t look very happy, then asks Olivia if it’s true that her ankle will keep her from trying out for next year’s squad. Olivia says no. Vanessa then says that she has something for Angie – it’s Chris’ shirt, which Vanessa says he left at her house the night before. Angie wants to know why he was there – Vanessa says he came for a little visit and they played some Ping Pong, then he took off his shirt. She insinuates something more might have happened and says Angie should get him to play Ping Pong with her before he goes off to Yale.

Vanessa waves at Jessica, who she says is a family friend. Vanessa says Jessica would make a wonderful replacement as captain for Mary Ellen, implies to Olivia that Walt certainly seems to like Jessica, and then flounces. Top notch troll job. Angie is super upset, but Chris left for Yale that morning so she can’t even call him to ask what happened at Vanessa’s.

At lunchtime, Mary Ellen sits next to a girl named DeDe and asks her what’s wrong with some people at the clinic. “Everybody knows the Varsity Squad staged the clinic just so they could give their favorites a chance to show off,” DeDe says. She says Jessica Bennett was the one who told her that, and Jessica thinks sucking up to Walt will be enough to get her on the squad. Mary Ellen tells DeDe that’s all wrong, and there are no sure things. ME consults with the squad and coach, and they agree she should address the rumors with the entire clinic. Coach Engborg also says she will make sure the newspaper adviser checks Vanessa’s article very carefully.

Mary Ellen addresses the clinic to clear up the misconception, and everyone seems to believe her. Jessica comes up to her and apologizes, saying she had a part in spreading the rumor because she heard it from somebody she trusts. “She had a feeling Jessica had been used by Vanessa, for Vanessa’s own dark purposes.” For the rest of the afternoon, everyone has a good attitude and they get a better idea of the participants who might make good cheerleaders. Jessica and Sean still stand out. Mary Ellen tells Olivia she’s lucky to get to cheer with them next year, assuming they get picked during tryouts, and Olivia says she’s thinking she might not even try out again. “I don’t think I could bear to work with another team,” Olivia said. The squad is her family, and she can’t imagine having a new family. Mary Ellen tells her she’ll feel about the new squad the way she feels about them, and that way she’ll actually have two families. Olivia also worries she might not even make it, which ME says is ridiculous. Then they sit and watch Walt continue to act really close with Jessica.

Everyone gathers at Walt’s to prep for the after party, marveling at what a disaster the clinic almost was. “Do you really think Vanessa was responsible for all those rumors?” Pres asks. Mary Ellen looks at him with amazement for asking such a stupid question. Chris calls Walt’s house for Angie, who rushes to talk to him. Mary Ellen notes that Pres never called her again after Patrick punched him, and it doesn’t really bother her, so her feelings for him must just be casual. Sean asks Mary Ellen to dance, and as they’re dancing, all of a sudden Patrick is there and he asks to cut in.

Mary Ellen yells at him for punching Pres, and he says Pres is the one who invited him, after he apologized. She forgives Patrick pretty quickly. “No matter how hard she tried to get away from Patrick Henley, he was always there.” Sean recovers and asks Nancy to dance. Olivia sits miserably on the couch with her crutches and watches Walt and Jessica talking. Eventually Walt comes over and asks Olivia to go to the den with him, and she decides not to confront him about Jessica. They go off and make out.

Pres dances with Jessica for a half-hour, then runs into Mary Ellen who asks him why he didn’t tell her that he and Patrick had made up. He says girlfriends are easy to come by, but good business partners are hard to find, and he would hate to lose Patrick over “a little territorial dispute.” “That’s a disgusting phrase to use about any girl,” ME says. Agreed, but Pres can be pretty disgusting.

Sean ends up taking Nancy home, Pres is taking Jessica home, and Mary Ellen is going with Patrick. Pres tells ME that Paul Howell called and wants to see her on Monday.

At the next practice, the girls talk about their guys. Nancy says Sean is fun for now. Mary Ellen says nothing has really changed with Patrick. Angie breezes in, in a great mood. Olivia missed what happened with Chris, so Angie fills her on – he did go to Vanessa’s, but he was there with his father, who is planning a Yale reunion with Vanessa’s father. They were also talking about trying to get Chris into Yale. Chris took his plaid shirt off because it was hot, but he had a T-shirt on underneath. His trip to Yale was also a disaster, which Angie is not unhappy about. Coach Engborg brings them a thank-you note that Jessica wrote and got all 17 clinic participants to sign, then shows them a story Vanessa had written with the word “KILL” over it in red. It was full of innuendos and mistruths about the squad and the clinic, and when Engborg told the newspaper adviser how wrong it was, he said Vanessa would not get another assignment.

Patrick waits outside for Mary Ellen as she visits Paul Howell again. Howell tells her that her portfolio is pretty good and she should keep using the same photographer (Patrick). He says his sister is a model and gives Mary Ellen her address in order to write and ask questions, and then he suggests she look into the Bartlett School of Modeling in Chicago and consider studying there for about 6 months. She’ll learn all she needs to know, they’ll help her begin to get jobs and help develop a portfolio. She tells Patrick all about it. “If it’s worth having, it’s worth sacrificing for. No matter what you have to give up to get it,” he says. She knows he’s talking about them.

Other notes and quotes

  • Riding on Pres’ “sheepskin seat covers” in his Porsche makes Mary Ellen feel special. Doesn’t take much.
  • A girl named Monica gossips to Olivia at the party, telling her that Jessica’s father died when she was 10, which accounts for why she acts the way she does: “She always has plenty of dates, but she doesn’t want anything permanent.” So, daddy issues.
  • Vanessa tells Olivia and Angie she’s gotten accepted to the Madison School of Design in Chicago, and they joke about her failed attempt to pay off the Vassar admissions rep in a previous book.

Book Deets
Author: Susan Blake
Year: 1986
Pages: 170

Grade: B

Next time on Cheerleaders… The seniors are graduating. What will happen to the squad? Read the Super Edition, Cheerleaders #20, STARTING OVER.

Underground Underwear Deal (#18 – Looking Good)

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Analyzing the cover: I suppose this is the sophisticated and worldly Blake (don’t all New Yorkers wear berets?) admiring Mary Ellen doing a cheer move. Not weird at all.

Mary Ellen has received a letter from a modeling agency in Chicago that saw her in the squad’s Clean Soap commercial and is interested in meeting with her. It would be her dream come true, but she doesn’t have enough money for food and lodging during the trip. (This agency isn’t going to foot the bill?)

Coach Engborg has noticed the squad is extra tired and distracted, so she gives them a week off from practice. They are mystified at Engborg’s sudden benevolence, but aren’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

Mary Ellen sees Patrick driving his moving van, and he offers her a ride. (Ugh, I thought he dumped her in the last book? I knew it wouldn’t last.) Mary Ellen is still down about her Chicago conundrum, and she pulls away from Patrick’s embrace. “If only those arms didn’t heave 20-pound bags of trash into the back of a smelly truck, she would have gladly stayed in them, and maybe Tarenton, forever.”  He asks ME what’s wrong, and she reads him the letter from the agency.

The gang is hanging out at Gino’s Pizza. Tarenton must have 50 different types of pizza places. They are talking about possibly having a party during their cheer vacation and organizing some workouts on their own so they don’t get rusty. Vanessa and Pres walk in. Pres, ever so desperate for female companionship, keeps going back to the one Nancy deems “the spider woman.” Vanessa drops some sick burns on the squad, then she and Pres leave.

By the time he gets home, he’s already tired of her. “Vanessa was good for the short term, but Pres knew from experience she tended to fade in the long run.” He hasn’t been home long when he gets a fortuitous phone call – it’s Blake, the sophisticated and jaded New Yorker he flirted with in NYC while he was still dating Claudia. Blake asks if he remembers her, and he says of course. Then she says her parents are going to a conference in Chicago and Tarenton is on the flight path, so she thought she’d stop there and visit him. Pres is super excited – he was too loyal to Claudia last time he was with Blake, so now he gets a second chance for some action. Yay for him, I guess. Blake says she was worried she’d seem too pushy. “You can push your way into my life anytime,” Pres says.

Mary Ellen had secretly been hoping Patrick would lend her the money for Chicago, but instead he is lecturing her that she needs to be careful not to get taken advantage of. When Nancy tries to tell her about the practices they want to organize during their break, Mary Ellen says she doesn’t care. They demand an explanation for this egregious behavior, and she finally tells them. “So that’s why I’ve been acting like a… a….”  Mary Ellen stutters. “A witch,” Angie supplies. With a capital B.

Blake shows up at the tail end of the squad’s practice, and everyone is excited to see her. Vanessa is there too, and she immediately starts sniping at Blake about what she’s wearing. Blake shrugs her off. Pres is in awe. “From the moment he’d seen Blake standing in the open door of the gym, he’d felt himself falling further and further in love.” So he’s been in love with her for about 4 minutes now. He pulls her to him and gives her a big kiss. Let’s not forget he hadn’t thought about her for a single second since he left New York. Pres brings her back to his house where she impresses his parents. He has to leave for a moving job with Patrick, so he hesitantly lets her borrow his Porsche. It must really be love.

Blake eats with Angie and Nancy and then goes to watch the basketball game and cheerleaders. She tells Pres she’s impressed, and he tries to make out with her in his car. He even almost starts to tell her he thinks he’s in love with her, but she quickly interrupts him. Basically Pres is acting like a Stage 5 Clinger. At an after-game party at Pres’ house, Angie is noticing the same thing: “We’ve been talking about how hard Pres has fallen for Blake. I was wondering if Blake feels the same way.” Yep, Blake is feeling smothered and is starting to wish she was staying at a motel instead of at Pres’ house.

Patrick leads Mary Ellen into the pantry to make out, but then he brings up the Chicago job again and they start arguing. Mary Ellen feels like a gold digger because she keeps hoping Patrick will offer to help pay for the trip. But instead she accuses him of not wanting her to have a shot, at wanting her to marry him and be barefoot and pregnant, in the kitchen to boot. Patrick says that’s not fair. Blake walks in on them arguing, Patrick leaves, and Mary Ellen confides in Blake about the Chicago job. Then they talk about Pres. ME says it’s been awhile since he had a girlfriend. Two whole books ago! As she falls asleep, Blake is unsure if she can handle Pres for another hour, let alone another four days. Ouch.

After the first squad-organized practice during their cheer break, Pres and Blake go out. He tells her that his father goes to NYC once or twice a month for business, and he’s supposed to take over the company one day, so he could start going with his dad as a way to see Blake. Then they can figure out something to do together during the summer and then go to the same college. !!! Blake’s like, ummmm, no. She says she thinks he just wants to be in love with somebody, and her being there just fit the timing. She felt like his wife at the party, but she’s only 17. Pres gets upset, because he’s petulant. “Blake was talking to him like he was a 12-year-old in the throes of his first crush, and it was humiliating.” Blake tells him she’s going to go ahead to Chicago where her parents are, and then she’ll come back to Tarenton on her way home for a day or two.

Pres has to leave for a moving job, so Blake hangs back at Gino’s and finishes her pizza. Mary Ellen and Nancy come in and sit with her. Vanessa comes by their table and starts to rub it in Mary Ellen’s face that she had to turn down the Chicago modeling job, and then Blake pipes up and says actually, Mary Ellen can come with her to Chicago and stay at her parents’ suite. Blake thanks Vanessa for reminding her, and they all laugh at her.

Patrick and Pres drop Blake and Mary Ellen off at the airport. As they watch them head for their gate, Pres says, “If they’re looking so good, why are we feeling so bad?” “Sounds like a country western song,” Patrick says.

Mary Ellen and Blake/her parents are staying at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. Nice. Blake accompanies Mary Ellen to the office where she has an appointment with Futura Modeling Agency, and something about it strikes Blake as not being quite right. She warns Mary Ellen not to sign anything right away. Mr. Seltzman, the director of Futura, tells Mary Ellen that the company is only three years old but has helped several models who are now in magazines get their start. He offers her a three-year contract, which sends ME’s head spinning. He says they can meet again tomorrow to go over the contract, so Mary Ellen takes it and shows it to Blake.

Olivia and Walt are at the ice skating rink with Angie and Chris. Angie and Chris are laughing as they skate, when Vanessa comes over and asks Angie how she can look so happy when she should be in mourning over Coach Engborg. “She’s taking another job, at another school,” Vanessa says. Angie runs to tell Olivia and Walt, and none of them can believe it. They try to call Engborg and even their principal, neither of which is at home.

Blake tries to read Mary Ellen’s contract and can’t understand a lot of it, but notes that it says Futura would basically own Mary Ellen for the duration of the 3 years – she couldn’t do any assignments without their permission. While ME goes to the bathroom, Blake looks through some Futura catalogs Mr. Seltzman gave ME along with the contract. They’re like department store inserts that come in the newspaper, but everyone in them is modeling underwear. “So? Modeling underwear isn’t my dream, but I have to start somewhere. Mr. Seltzman called it bread-and-butter work,” ME says. Blake opens up another catalog. “The whole thing looked, to Blake, like a real sleaze job.” Mary Ellen is unsure. She wants the contract so badly, but Blake thinks she’d be wasting 3 years doing this kind of work: “Bread-and-butter models are a dime a dozen, but there’s only one Mary Ellen Kirkwood.”

The rest of the cheerleaders sit around being depressed about the possibility of Coach Engborg leaving. Walt thinks Engborg wouldn’t quit before telling them, but Angie thinks that’s why they got their unexpected break – for their coach to go interview somewhere else and finalize her move. Chris writes Angie one of his super lame poems to cheer her up:
Roses are red, Angie is blue
If I can’t cheer her up,
I belong at the zoo
The zoo’s not so bad
For lions and seals
But without Angie’s smile
My whole world is unreal

Pres is still crazy about Blake, but he found himself extremely attracted to a nursery school worker whose stuff he and Patrick helped move earlier. The teacher was engaged and didn’t give him a passing glance, but Pres realized that even if he was in a long-distance relationship with Blake, he might not be able to control himself if he ever got so interested in someone who wasn’t engaged and was interested in him.

In Chicago, Blake is looking forward to seeing Pres again but hopes he’s gotten over his urge to propose marriage. With Blake’s encouragement, Mary Ellen calls Futura and says her “lawyer” advised her not to sign such a binding contract. She feels disappointment but assurance she did the right thing.

Walt and Olivia are staking out Coach Engborg’s apartment. A neighbor tells them that she’s out of town. They wait until the mailman comes, and then look through her mail (pretty sure that’s very illegal!) She got a letter from the athletics department at Carleton College, but they’re not sure what that means. Nancy is distracted about Coach Engborg, and tells Eric if Engborg leaves, there won’t be a squad. Eric rationally points out that they will just get a new coach. This is like a Eureka moment for Nancy. Even if their coach does up and leave, isn’t it almost the end of the year? Aren’t they getting ready to graduate? Shouldn’t basketball season have been over like 5 books ago?

Angie finds another poem from Chris in her mailbox. Carol Ellis, please stop making Chris so lame. This was literally the only romance of this series that I actually liked. “Angie is dandy, Angie is great, I’ll give her some candy, if she’ll be my date!” Ugh.

Patrick and Pres pick Mary Ellen and Blake up at the airport. Blake says she thinks the Futura job might have been a front for something seedy, but Mary Ellen just says it wasn’t for her. Pres relays the drama with Coach Engborg to ME, and then after they get home, Pres and Blake have a talk. Pres says he realizes now where Blake was coming from, that he doesn’t want a long distance romance either, and they agree to just have fun for the next 2 days.

The squad is at the gym waiting for Coach Engborg to arrive. Blake is there too, and when Vanessa arrives being catty, Blake gives her a business card for Futura Modeling and says she’s just what they’re looking for. Vanessa leaves and they all laugh about the “underground underwear deal.”

Coach Engborg arrives, and she asks them why they basically look like they’re at a funeral. They ask if it’s true she told the superintendent she’s “moving on,” which is what Vanessa overheard. Coach Engborg says she was gone visiting her sick uncle, and by moving on, she meant she’s moving to a new apartment. So you mean Vanessa took something and twisted it the wrong way and tortured the cheerleaders with it? I’m shocked. They all exhale in relief and get back to work.

Other notes and quotes

  • “Pres doesn’t need me,” Blake said. “Pres just needs, period.”
  • Olivia enjoys playing Nancy Drew with Walt. He says they should open their own private eye agency – “Manners and Evans: Four private eyes for the price of two!” Groan. Oh Walt.

Sign of the Times

  1. Blake shows up wearing “black jersey stirrup pants tucked into tangerine ankle high boots. To top it off, she wore an enormous loose-knit sweater striped in every color of the rainbow.”

Book Deets
Author: Carol Ellis
Year: 1986
Pages: 151

Grade: C

Next time on Cheerleaders…. Who nearly ruins the fabulous cheerleading clinic? Read Cheerleaders #19, MAKING IT.

Dumb Cheerleaders & Dumber Criminals (#17 – Taking Risks)

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Analyzing the cover: Olivia and Pres get tied up for about two seconds in the book. Unfortunately, the criminals don’t leave them there.

Pres and Patrick are planning to use the van for their moving company to take the squad to the away basketball game in Kensington. Patrick wants to deck it out to impress Mary Ellen.

As the group meets up to go to the game, Angie says goodbye to Chris and he gives her a love poem, Pres thinks about what kind of substitute he can get for Claudia, and Nancy thinks about Eric, the guy in charge of the handicapped swimming program, who she is now sort of dating.

Not long after the group sets off in the van, they come across a wrecked car on the side of the road. Stopping to help, they examine the car, which was a piece of junk even before the wreck. Then, two men with guns step out from the trees and corner them. It was all a set-up. The two hoodlums start to tie up the cheerleaders, but then one of them gets worried about what will happen if police find the teens tied up by his car, which is registered in his name. They didn’t think this out very well. So, the criminals decide to bring the group along with them.

The criminals make Patrick get in the driver’s seat of the van, since they don’t know how to drive it, and say they want him to drive them to Canada. “But what about the game?!” Mary Ellen gasps.

Meanwhile, Chris’ previous engagement that was going to keep him from going to the game gets cancelled, so he decides to race his “tangerine Camaro” and try to catch up with the cheerleaders’ van, since he is obsessed with Angie.

In the van, everyone is in stunned silence, until Pres asks Walt how long it should take to get to Canada. Walt guesses 2 hours. One of the criminals they have dubbed “Scarface” tells them to shut up. Walt somehow convinces Scarface that he should let them talk to each other since they’re being held at gunpoint and there’s nothing else for them to do, and he relents. I feel like Scarface is going to screw up this whole plan somehow.

Walt keeps talking to Scarface, asking him if he knows why the teens are dressed in cheerleading uniforms. Then he asks if they’re from the area, and Scarface says no, “Unless you think the state reformatory is local.” Walt knows the reformatory is in St. Cloud – so is Tarenton in Minnesota, then? I don’t think that has ever been expressly stated. Walt asks their names – Scarface is Slim, the other is Lee, and apparently Lee is the one who broke out of the reformatory, so police are looking for him.

At the gym for the game, Coach Engborg is wondering where the squad is, worrying that they broke down somewhere. She decides to go looking for them. Maybe she was thinking of that time those idiots tried to walk across a frozen lake. She drives back at least 20 miles and sees no sign of the van.

Patrick tells Slim and Lee they need to stop for gas.  They get to a gas station, and Lee makes Patrick pull up to full-service, which apparently still existed back then, because he doesn’t want Patrick getting out of the van. The girls beg to go to the restroom, so Lee says they can go one at a time with Slim escorting each one (yeah, that won’t look weird to the gas station workers).

Olivia tries to write a note on a paper towel in the bathroom, but she can’t find her pen and Slim only gives her 60 seconds before he barges in. She whispers to Mary Ellen and Nancy that they can do it, and they go inside together with Slim. Nancy writes a note on a paper towel saying two men have kidnapped the cheerleaders and are holding them hostage in the van, but she can’t remember any important details, like the license plate number. When Mary Ellen goes in, she says she needs more paper towels from the attendant. Slim lets Nancy go ask the attendant, and then she pretends to fall and tells Slim to bring the paper towels to ME. As soon as he is out of earshot, Nancy starts to tell the attendant what happened, but she doesn’t even get to any important details before Slim comes bursting back in and drags them out. The stupid attendant doesn’t figure anything out as he watches them leave. “Teenagers, he thought. Who understood them? They were always pulling some prank.”

Mary Ellen had added to Nancy’s note, but there was no telling when the attendant would ever find it. Pres wonders “what would happen if these goons knew they had Preston Tilford III as a hostage. They would hold him for ransom.” Then don’t tell them your name! Easy! Pres thinks if they demanded ransom, his father would call the FBI before parting with a single dollar. Well, that kind of sounds like the smart thing to do. Two idiots are walking in the road and Patrick almost hits them. Patrick stops even though Lee tells him not to, and one of the two people comes over and opens Patrick’s door to yell at him. Lee points his gun at the guy and demands that the two new people also get into the van. Wouldn’t it have been more prudent to act like everything was fine and just leave?

The two new people’s names are Matt and Vicky. They had been hiking and Vicky had fallen and sliced open her leg, which is still bleeding and badly in need of bandaging. Despite just being taken hostage and tearing her leg open, Vicky takes a moment to appreciate how hot Pres is. They all insist that Lee and Slim need to drop Vicky off at a hospital, but Lee refuses. Meanwhile, Slim is making Mary Ellen feel very uncomfortable with his leering and closeness, and Patrick is continuing to drive with Lee’s gun pressed to his side.

Matt looks at Mary Ellen. “Now here was a beautiful girl!” I’ve never been a traumatic situation like this before, but would I be checking people out who were being held hostage with me? I’m thinking no? Slim is wondering why Lee hasn’t killed everyone yet. They have fake birth certificates for the border and will have to find some way to explain Patrick – the rest will be dead before they get there. Mary Ellen starts flirting with Matt. Seriously? Patrick can hear her and it’s pissing him off even more than he already is with a gun pressed to his side. “He wanted to grind the truck to a halt and then grind Matt what’s-his-name to a pulp.

Pres and Vicky are also flirting. WTH? “Vicky had that earthy attraction that so enticed Pres.” What does that even mean? Angie meanwhile is drawing strength from Chris’ love poem he gave her right before they left. That makes more sense. It’s a pretty terrible poem, but she loves it. “Just when I get this fabulous guy to like me, I’m going to be killed!” she cries. That does suck. Lee had considered not killing them, but now he needs to because they could describe him. If he is already supposed to be in prison and the police are looking for him, why does it matter if the teens could describe him?? He’s already in trouble!

Lee tells Patrick to stop at the next convenience store so they can get some food. Mary Ellen almost stupidly tells them about the food they have in a cooler, but then decides they don’t deserve it. Maybe it’s also not a good idea to give them a reason not to stop where, you know, you might be able to get help. So she goes back to flirting with Matt. “It was exciting to have Matt under her spell. Mary Ellen couldn’t get enough approval and attention. I’m like an addict, she thought, needing my fix.” And since Patrick is kind of busy, she needs that attention from somewhere! Mary Ellen is abominable.

Back at the gas station where Nancy failed at her one chance to tell someone what was happening, a customer asks the attendant if he saw the story in the paper about the criminal who escaped from the St. Cloud reformatory and killed a guard. Police are setting up roadblocks in the area trying to find him. The attendant looks at the paper and recognizes a picture of Slim, then hurries to the phone.

Patrick pulls up to a convenience store, and Lee makes everyone empty their wallets. They rack up $135 in cash, and Lee picks Angie to go along with Slim to buy some food. Angie grudgingly goes in with him, and starts to make fun of his food choices. “Animal crackers? They’re for kids! What have you got, arrested development?”

In the van, Lee tries to make Patrick find a route on the map, and Walt whispers a plan he has with Matt, something involving the soda cans in the cooler. As Matt whispers the plan to Mary Ellen, he softly kisses her neck in between sentences. “Matt was exciting! Almost as exciting as Patrick.” Who is sitting 10 feet away. She looks up and sees him watching her in the rearview mirror. “He looked as if he had been knifed in the heart.” I can’t wait for the day he dumps this skank! Pres tells Vicky the plan and then kisses her when he sees Lee eyeing him. That draws Matt’s ire. These people are all so ridiculous.

Coach Engborg has been stopped at one of the police roadblocks and is told about the hitchhikers who might include a reformatory escapee. She doesn’t tell the police about her missing squad because she’s still not sure if she’s overreacting. She makes her way back to Kensington to see if the squad ever showed up. When she gets there and sees they’re not there, she calls the police with a worried Chris at her side. The police had also received a call from the gas station attendant who saw one of the fugitives with girls dressed as cheerleaders. An APB is sent out to be on the lookout for the van.

Walt starts to enact his plan, which involves the soda cans, but when he starts to open the cooler, Lee fires a shot right near his head. Olivia begs Walt to sit back down and says they will have to think of something else.

They drive by a state trooper, who turns on his sirens and attempts to pull the van over. Lee says Patrick better get rid of the police or he’ll start getting rid of everyone in the back, starting with Mary Ellen. Patrick accelerates and the van lurches forward. Everyone is flying around, and while Lee is distracted, Walt goes for a soda can and tells everyone to do their plan. They all start shaking cans and then open them so the soda gushes out like a volcano eruption. Ummm I would have thrown the full soda cans at the guys’ heads. Patrick stops the van, and Pres reaches for Lee’s arm to grab the gun, and it goes off. Pres knees Lee in the face, and Patrick joins in to help Pres subdue Lee. Meanwhile Matt and Walt are taking down Slim. Angie helps by grabbing Mary Ellen’s apple juice bottle and slamming it over Slim’s head. They tie up Lee and Slim, and gag them with bandages from the first aid kit. THEN they are so proud of themselves, they do a cheer!  Really?

Police approach the van and apprehend the criminals, leaving the cheerleaders to sort out their ridiculous personal dramas. “I was so worried about you up there with Lee aiming the gun at you all the time,” Mary Ellen tells Patrick. “It seemed to me you found plenty to distract you back there,” he says. He walks away from her and thinks maybe it’s time to let her go. I wish! Matt is back to cuddling with Vicky, who will be transported to a hospital. ME knows he was just someone to pass the time with. “Now just when they’d survived this grueling ordeal together, it looked like she’d lost Patrick. Maybe forever this time.” I wish!

The cheerleaders are now back at practice. Pres tells them Vicky got patched up in the hospital and she and Matt took a bus home. If she lived closer, he’d have tried to steal her away from Matt. Mary Ellen is sad because Patrick isn’t there. “She’d lost it all because she was a fool!” You are a fool. A FOOL. Mary Ellen is beginning to suspect that she doesn’t deserve Patrick. Just STARTING to suspect????????? Surprisingly they do not make up before the end of the book, but I will not hold my breath that Patrick can stand firm.

Sign of the Times

  1. Mary Ellen bobs her head up and down, which reminds the group of “those weird ceramic animals some people have on the ledge of their cars, whose heads bounce at every bump in the road.”
  2. Lots of pay phones used.

Book Deets
Author: Anne Reynolds
Year: 1986
Pages: 152

Grade: B

Next time on Cheerleaders… Who will keep Mary Ellen from doing almost anything to become a model? Read Cheerleaders #18, LOOKING GOOD.

Bring It On, Tarenton Style (#16 – In Love)

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Analyzing the cover: Not sure if this is supposed to be Angie or Mary Ellen and Chris/Patrick? I guess I’m stereotyping 1980s blondes when I say, they all look alike.

Coach Engborg informs the squad of a tri-state high school cheerleading competition coming up over spring break. They decide they want to do it, even though Pres and Claudia had been planning on taking a trip down to Florida. They talk excitedly at the pizza place about the new cheers they are going to come up with for the competition, which Mary Ellen declares will be a complete surprise to everyone.

Unfortunately, cartoon villain Vanessa is nearby, having been on a date at the pizza place with Mary Ellen’s leftovers, Donny Parrish. “Is that right, Mary Ellen? You really think no one’s going to find out about your stupid cheers?  You think you can keep them a secret from Vanessa? Think again.” Yes, Vanessa is talking to herself, yes, she’s talking about herself in the third person, and I would imagine she threw in an evil villain laugh after for good measure.

Pres asks Nancy for a ride home because Claudia did something to mess up his transmission when he let her drive the Porsche. They have a nice talk about how he’s worried Claudia isn’t as interested in him anymore, and then when Nancy drives by Ben’s house to see his car still sitting in the driveway, Pres gently tells her that’s not healthy. It’s been a few weeks since Ben died. Pres also asks Nancy if she would help with the swim program for handicapped athletes at the junior college. His dad’s company is sponsoring it. Pres is really just trying to help get her mind off Ben, and Nancy agrees. I kind of wish Nancy and Pres would hook up. She’d castrate him if he cheated on her.

At the cheerleaders’ next practice, they are rehearsing new cheers they made up themselves for the tri-state competition. Psycho Vanessa is hiding under the bleachers writing down the words to their new cheers, wondering how much Garrison, Tarenton’s rival, would pay for the cheers.

Olivia, Mary Ellen, and Angie go to Hamburger Heaven and talk about how worried they are for Nancy. They say she needs a new boyfriend, and Olivia jokes that she could lend her Walt, but then seriously tells the girls that Walt is a terrible kisser. This does not surprise me. Mary Ellen says Olivia needs to teach him how to be better. “Patrick used to do this gnawing thing on my lower lip, like Woody Woodchuck. I straightened him out.”

They head to the mall, where they spot a fellow student named Chris Page. Angie isn’t even completely sure of his last name, which shocks the other two. “Have you been on vacation on another solar system? Chris Page is only the most beautiful creature ever to grace the halls of Tarenton High School!” Mary Ellen proclaims. Apparently Chris only transferred to their school a few weeks prior. Angie can’t get up much interest – “Guys who looked like blond Adonises were out of her league.”

She’s so oblivious that she isn’t watching where she’s going when she bumps right into the blond Adonis himself. They make jokes and he smiles a smile at her that “seemed to have about a hundred teeth in it.” Well, doesn’t that sound creepy. She feels electricity when he shakes her hand – turns out to be static electricity from the carpet. Angie asks how he likes it in town, and he says he misses California. Angie invites him to a Friday night event at the Presbyterian church. Chris says he’ll go if Angie is going to be there, and she says she usually goes with her friend Nancy. This isn’t true, but Angie plans to make Nancy come with her. Olivia and Mary Ellen are freaking out, and Angie tells them she plans to match Chris up with Nancy.

Nancy is at the pool on her first day of coaching the handicapped athletes. She’s paired with Greg Connors, a former Olympic hopeful who hit his head on the diving board and has not been able to use his legs since. Nancy gets in the pool and works with Greg, who is trying to get fast and try out for Special Athletics (like Special Olympics?).

Angie and Nancy arrive at the Friday event at the Presbyterian Church, and apparently it is THE place to be. “There are more sub-plots going on here than three months’ worth of ‘All my Kids,'” Angie says. (Like “All My Children”?)

Pres and Claudia are at the event, arguing because she’s upset their Florida trip has been cancelled for the cheerleading competition. Patrick comes over and tells Pres he wants to talk to him about something business-related. Claudia doesn’t like that. “The thought of Pres having business contact with someone who drove a garbage truck made her slightly squeamish.” She’s almost as bad as Mary Ellen. She says as much to Pres, who shockingly turns to her and says “Pardon my rudeness, but I’d like to respectfully ask you to shut up.”

Patrick leaves Pres and rude Claudia to go watch Mary Ellen and Walt playing pool. He grabs ME and kisses her, which inspires Walt to do the same to Olivia. She tries to tactfully bring up the fact that his kissing is terrible, and he reacts with some humor, but she wonders if deep down she has hurt his feelings. She tells ME this in the restroom, and then out pops Vanessa, who heard the whole thing. Vanessa says she’s going to be meeting with an admissions rep from Vassar next week, but she’s a legacy so she’ll have no problem getting in. Mary Ellen tells her it’s not so easy these days, and then concocts some fake story about how nowadays you have to slide the admissions rep some cash, and that’s what will guarantee you an easier acceptance. Vanessa seems to believe her for some reason.

Chris finally arrives, and Angie waves him over to her and Nancy. Angie is cracking jokes and making Chris laugh while Nancy barely looks up. When Chris asks Angie to dance, she pretends she strained a calf muscle and insists that Chris dance with Nancy instead. Nancy tells Chris she’s not ready to date anyone yet, and he says it’s not him trying to push them together. Nancy thinks Angie’s the one who needs a boyfriend, and Chris agrees – he thinks he’s just the guy for that job.

Patrick picks up Pres the next morning and says he is thinking about buying another large truck and starting a moving business. He wants Pres to be his partner, because Pres is “one of my best friends.” Really? That’s news to me. They barely ever talk to each other. Also, he kind of needs Pres’ money. Pres says he’s intrigued and will think about it, but he doesn’t guess Claudia will be thrilled at the idea.

Later, Pres is with Claudia, who asks him what Patrick wanted. He tells her, and she laughs her head off. “So of course you told him to go fly a kite. I hope you did it tactfully.” Pres says he’s thinking about it, and she can’t believe it. A Tilford shouldn’t be lugging around other people’s junk. Isn’t he going to go to Princeton and work for his father? (I thought he withdrew his Princeton application. Maybe I missed something but I’m not going back to check). I don’t remember Claudia being this snotty in the previous books. Guess it’s time for them to break up.

The squad is practicing again, and Vanessa is spying again. Garrison will be performing before Tarenton since the contest goes in alphabetical order, so her plan is for Tarenton to be humiliated when Garrison does their cheers first. I wonder if the movie “Bring It On” got their idea for a plot from this very book. Hmmmm…..

Angie is the last one to leave the gym after practice, and she runs into Chris. He says he found a scarf in his car after he dropped Angie and Nancy off after the church event. It’s Nancy’s, but Chris says Angie can just give it to her. Angie thinks he’s too shy to go to Nancy himself. He offers to bring Angie home,  and tells her he writes poetry. She’s surprised – “She thought guys who looked like he did just kind of hung around, being gorgeous.” I can’t imagine any variation of teenage boy poetry being good. Angie tells him she writes poetry too, and he says they’re kindred spirits. Angie thinks he just needs a friend like her. She is so dense, but her complete assurance in the alleged fact that he would never be interested in someone like her allows her to be herself around him. As they walk to his car, Angie spots Vanessa’s car in the parking lot as well and makes a note of it.

Nancy helps Greg again at the pool and has a great time with him. When he asks her to go to Hamburger Heaven with him afterwards, she wants to but is completely unfamiliar with how someone like him, unable to walk, in a wheelchair, can get around or DO things. So she’s really shocked when he says he’ll drive her, and she watches him get in the van and pack up his wheelchair, all without using his legs. The van has a hand brake and gas lever for him to drive with. He is very light-hearted about her ignorance. “You think footed folks are the only ones who can drive?” They go to the hamburger place, where Nancy runs in to get their order and sees Vanessa. Nancy is actually nice to her, which makes Vanessa rethink her sabotage plan. It’s not too late to tear up the notes she took. She’ll think about doing that, after her interview with the Vassar rep.

When Nancy gets back to the car, she and Greg continue talking and then he leans over and kisses her, long and hard. This is witnessed by Olivia, Walt, and Vanessa. Olivia and Walt start talking about kissing again, and Walt says if he is going to get better at it, they need to practice, practice, practice. When Angie finds out Nancy was making out with someone not named Chris Page, she’s upset.

Vanessa emerges from her meeting with the admissions rep beet red and furious at Mary Ellen and Olivia for their lie about slipping the rep money being a common practice. She calls them the Cheerleaders from the Black Lagoon and vows her revenge. They try to apologize, saying it was just a joke, and offer to help her get in somewhere else, but she storms off. They feel bad, and they really should, though Vanessa was pretty stupid to actually do it.

Talking to Pres about Claudia and how she might only love him for his money makes Mary Ellen feel bad about the fact that she tries to deny loving Patrick, if only because he doesn’t have money. She goes to find him and tells him for the first time that she does love him. I really thought she’d already said this before, but whatever. They make out.

Chris comes to one of Tarenton’s away games, and Angie is finding herself crushing on him. She wants to get it under control and not act “goony” around him, since that would ruin their friendship. Chris says he was in the neighborhood and thought he’d drop by to see if “anyone” needed a ride home. Angie had been planning to pester Nancy about the guy she was kissing during the bus ride home, so she says no. Chris actually was not just in the neighborhood because the game was 25 minutes away and he specifically came to see Angie. When he shows his disappointment, she says okay, she’ll ride with him. On the way home he points to a manila envelope filled with his poems and says he wants her to read them. She promises to keep them safe. Before she gets out the car, he takes her hand and kisses it. Angie was puzzled. “Maybe guys in California were into old-movie stuff,” she reasons. Angie, get a clue!! Hilariously, she taps him on the jaw and says, “Here’s looking at you, kid,” then gets out the car.

Chris and Patrick run into each other at Taco Taco, where Chris somehow ends up spilling to Patrick that he’s crazy about Angie but she seems to just see him as a friend. Patrick, drawing on his aggressive pursuit of Mary Ellen, tells Chris to take the “sledgehammer of love” approach and just be direct. Chris asks if Patrick ever did this – he says yes, with Mary Ellen, about six months ago. Did it work? “Well, not right away. For the first five months and most of the sixth, she wouldn’t have much to do with me.” I wouldn’t say making out with him every day is “not much,” but he’s right that she wouldn’t admit her feelings for him verbally, I guess. “With love, honesty is the sanest policy. Otherwise, everybody gets confused. Girls are crying in the bathroom, guys are moping around the basketball court.” Patrick is the best. As he’s leaving he sees Vanessa in deep conversation with Betty, the captain of Garrison’s cheerleading squad. Were teenagers really still called Betty in the 80s? Somehow I doubt it.

The girl cheerleaders sit around gossiping after making up a new cheer at Nancy’s house. Olivia says Walt is a quick learner at kissing, Nancy says Greg is just a friend, and that Chris is actually interested in Angie, which Angie refuses to believe. Mary Ellen says she confessed her love to Patrick, “garbageman of my dreams.”

Greg comes by to get Nancy, as they have a date to go see a movie marathon. The other girls, who weren’t warned about his disability, just kind of stare at him uncomfortably, while Nancy’s parents introduce themselves and then scurry away. What a bunch of jerks. The girls try to recover from their surprise and pepper Greg with questions about himself, which still makes Nancy uncomfortable. They leave to go to the movies, and end up kissing some more. He brings her home late, and her parents corner her when she gets inside. They ask her a bunch of questions about Greg and what’s happening between them, and she gets really defensive.

Angie is babysitting during a big thunderstorm. The phone rings, and it’s Chris, who said he called her house and her mom gave him the number to her babysitting job. He says she’s only a street away from him. “There’s a girl here in Tarenton I’m crazy about. I think she likes me, but every time I get close to her, she acts like we’re in the same coin-collecting club or something.” He tells Angie that she’s the girl, and he thinks he’s falling in love with her. “We must have a bad connection. You can’t have said what I think you just said,” Angie says. Chris says he’ll hang up and try for a better connection. Angie waits and he never calls back. Then suddenly she sees him running up to the house in the rain. (This is the most genuine romance I have read in this entire series!) He tells her again that he’s falling in love with her, and they kiss on the porch. Meanwhile, the two girls she’s babysitting lock her out of the house.

Nancy has been thinking about Greg and realizes that while she likes him, she doesn’t think she could fall in love with him. It has nothing to do with him being paraplegic and is just about the fact that they are so different from each other. Eric, the guy who is in charge of the swimming program, calls her over to talk about Greg’s feelings for her. He’s crazy about her, but it scares him and might be too much for him right now, which he confided in Eric. Nancy says she’ll talk to Greg and they can straighten everything out, since neither one of them seems to be ready to embark on a relationship.

Pres and Patrick agree on the partnership, and Pres cleans out his savings account. They have a job already, Patrick’s cousin moving apartments. They enlist Walt to help, and Angie wants to join in as well. When Pres warns that it’s a lot of heavy lifting, she picks him up. “Like this?” Their first job is kind of disastrous where the belt on the truck snaps, they find themselves overwhelmed with the amount of crap to move, and it starts raining. They recruit the rest of the squad to help.

Nancy and Greg have a nice talk where they agree to just be friends. She also makes up with her parents, who assure her they would have supported the relationship if she had wanted to date Greg.

While Patrick and Pres figure they made about 56 cents total on their first job, they agree that they will get better and smarter as they go along. Patrick asks Mary Ellen what it means now that she admitted she loves him, and she says maybe she’s reconsidering leaving for New York. Patrick says maybe he’d go away with her. They figure they don’t have to decide right now. Then Patrick remembers to tell Mary Ellen about seeing Vanessa with Garrison’s head cheerleader, and Mary Ellen immediately realizes what Vanessa is doing, selling their cheers.

The squad rushes over to Coach Engborg’s house and tells her about Vanessa’s plot. Engborg says they will just have to come up with a new program in a week’s time, before the competition. They agree to use a different gym than their own so that Vanessa won’t be able to spy on them anymore, and coach will even put the word out that she’s “given them the week off” so that Vanessa won’t get suspicious.

Pres gets home and finds Claudia playing piano for his parents. His dad says Claudia told them all about Pres’ new enterprise with Patrick, which pisses Pres off. He had been waiting for the right time to tell them. He also tells them about Vanessa stealing their cheers. “Oh, high drama,” Claudia mocks. Pres berates her in front of his parents, then walks her to the door. She tells him his moving venture is a joke and his dad thought so, too. Pres says their relationship is the joke, and they’re DONE. Bye Claud. Back inside, his father actually seems impressed that Pres is becoming an entrepreneur, and doesn’t care that he dumped Claudia either. I think Pres’ dad must have gotten a brain transplant.

The squad holds their secret practices for the next week, and thinks their new program might be even better than the original. They head to Summerfield with Patrick in tow to take pictures, staying in a little hotel there. 78 squads are competing. When Garrison gets up, they do all of Tarenton’s original cheers. Their captain runs and hugs Vanessa afterward. Right before they are set to go on, Angie sees Chris in the stands, and then the Tarenton football and basketball teams, who have come out to watch, do a little cheer for the squad. They do their new program flawlessly. The Garrison cheerleaders look furious. Betty rushes off looking for Vanessa. Both Garrison and Tarenton make it to the finals, and Garrison messes up. Tarenton is perfect, and of course, they win the whole shebang.

Other notes and quotes

  • Walt says the gang should go get pizza at Pizza Pete’s. Sure Tarenton could have multiple local pizza places, but the place they used to hang out at was called Pizza Palace in other books.
  • At the mall the girls go to the store Neon to buy some fluorescent socks. Sweet.
  • Tarenton has one local rock band, and its name is Squid.
  • Claudia makes raw oysters with macadamia nut and blue cheese sauce. Pres lies and says Coach Engborg doesn’t want the squad eating seafood before the competition, to get out of eating it.
  • One of the “awesome” new cheers the squad comes up with is: “We don’t need no music, we don’t need no band! All we need is Tarenton fans, jamming in the stands!”

Sign of the Times

  1. Nancy and Pres listen to Billy Joel when she brings him home.
  2. “They turned the radio up, especially when the latest Michael Jackson song came on.”
  3. Angie and Nancy are playing Frogger at the Presbyterian church when Chris arrives.
  4. Pres plays his new Don Henley album that he got from the record store for Claudia.
  5. Mary Ellen says Angie couldn’t be in a real-life horror movie because she doesn’t look enough like Jamie Lee Curtis.

Book Deets
Author: Carol Stanley
Year: 1986
Pages: 167

Grade: A

Next time on Cheerleaders… The squad is together but in terrible trouble… the most serious they have ever faced. Read Cheerleaders #17, TAKING RISKS.