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
- Nancy and Pres listen to Billy Joel when she brings him home.
- “They turned the radio up, especially when the latest Michael Jackson song came on.”
- Angie and Nancy are playing Frogger at the Presbyterian church when Chris arrives.
- Pres plays his new Don Henley album that he got from the record store for Claudia.
- Mary Ellen says Angie couldn’t be in a real-life horror movie because she doesn’t look enough like Jamie Lee Curtis.
Author: Carol Stanley
Next time on Cheerleaders… The squad is together but in terrible trouble… the most serious they have ever faced. Read Cheerleaders #17, TAKING RISKS.