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.


Coach from Hell (#45 – Here to Stay)

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Analyzing the cover: The two unhappy cheerleaders reflect my feelings about Mary Ellen this whole series. Here to stay? Thank God this series only lasts two more books.

This book combines multiple plots we’ve already endured before, from the squad suspecting that Coach Engborg is leaving them to Olivia hating Mary Ellen trying to coach the squad. This series was really running out of ideas and steam as it approached its final end.

Mary Ellen is starting to dislike her job at Marnie’s, because instead of just modeling, she has to help customers and stock clothes now, too. Her boss, Mrs. Gunderson, sees how unhappy she is and suggests she just go to college full-time instead of part-time, and figure out what she wants to do. Modeling is a “dead-end job,” as no one wants to see your face once you hit 30. Ouch. Thanks a lot, Mrs. Gunderson.

Mary Ellen sees Olivia, Melissa, Hope, and Tara at the mall and cries to them about her latest conundrum. Melissa basically says she wishes she had Mary Ellen’s problems – “Gee Mary Ellen, you have complete freedom to go wherever you want and do whatever you want, you have a terrific husband, a lovely house, and every opportunity known to man or woman.” Of course, this offends Mary Ellen, but she also probably is wondering who Melissa even is.

The girls tell Mary Ellen about all their problems – homework! Feeding the dog! Doing their nails! Diana Tucker! Then they mention Coach Engborg has been acting really weird lately, running late to practices, going out in the middle of practices to take phone calls, and not acting like she cares as passionately as she always did in the past.

Tara, Jessica, and Sean see Coach Engborg at the dry cleaners, and she has a real estate book under her arm. She hurries to get away from them as fast as possible.

Mary Ellen comes home to find that Pres has purchased a 1969 Mustang without consulting her first. He plans to fix it up with Patrick’s help. Mary Ellen yells at him, saying as soon as he and his “grease monkeys” get done and come inside, she’ll be expected to wait on them. What it all boils down to is Mary Ellen doesn’t know what to do with her life, and everything is making her upset. She goes to their bedroom and tells Pres he can make his own dinner.

Coach Engborg runs into Mary Ellen on the college campus and asks her to lunch. There, she tells Mary Ellen she has accepted a job with the board of directors of the National Cheerleading Association in California. She wants Mary Ellen to consider taking over as coach at Tarenton. Principal Oetjen already agrees ME would be the perfect person. ME has to think about it, as she is in shock.

Peter and Sean pass by Coach’s office and see that it looks as if she’s packing up. Then Coach asks them if they’re okay without her at practice that afternoon – something has come up. THEN she spends most of their game talking to Mary Ellen and disappears at one point, which distracts Hope, causing her to fall. I don’t understand why Coach wouldn’t just tell them already??

Mary Ellen and Pres argue about the cheerleading job. He doesn’t think she’ll have time for it along with school, cooking, and cleaning the house. She points out that if she has a full-time job, they’ll have to split the household chores evenly, which he flips out over. Real winner you married, Mary Ellen. Immediately after their fight, they have to get ready for the party they’re hosting for the cheerleaders.

Everyone is having a good time at the party until Principal Oetjen and Coach Engborg show up. Coach announces she’s leaving. What a buzzkill. “You’re about the best group of kids I’ve ever worked with – except for last year’s squad, of course,” she says. “I’m going to miss you terribly.” She also announces that she has one week left, and when she leaves, Mary Ellen has accepted the offer to be their new coach.

The squad confronts Coach the next time they’re at school, asking if Mary Ellen isn’t too young to be their coach. Engborg says that as captain, Mary Ellen received plenty of experience, and Melissa points out that Olivia is captain but isn’t anywhere near ready to be a coach. “Olivia gave her a look but kept quiet because Melissa was helping prove her point.” They continue asking more questions, not seeing Mary Ellen at the doors listening in on them.

Olivia declares that as captain, she’ll make sure they weather this storm, then the squad breaks out into a routine to practice. Mary Ellen walks out to them, and the first thing she says is a suggestion about something they can change. Then she whips out a notepad with comments and criticisms she made during their last game.

After practice, Mary Ellen hears the girls talking about her in the locker room. “We graduate this year,” Jessica tells Tara. “Hope and Melissa will have to suffer through her all next year.”

Duffy tells Pres that in doing research on school history, he found a treasure map that leads to a time capsule the cheerleaders of 1938 left for the cheerleaders of 1988. He’s having a treasure hunt Friday night, to which everyone is invited to go and find the time capsule.

Then Duffy asks if he can talk to Mary Ellen for his column about the new cheerleading coach. Pres hates Duffy, as does everyone else, and yet, he’s still around, annoying the crap out of everyone. Mary Ellen gets rid of Duffy, but when she tries to talk to Pres about her problems with the squad, he tells her he’s going to be working on the Mustang with Tony and Patrick.

Olivia, Tara, Melissa, and Sean talk about Mary Ellen some more. Olivia wishes they could have gotten a hotshot coach, like a former Olympian or something. Sean thinks they’ll never win nationals if Mary Ellen is their coach. Mary Ellen is slightly late to practice, which Olivia points out to her with an attitude. When ME tries to change something in a routine, Olivia insists it’s perfect as is. Sean calls ME “Melon” and she snaps at him not to use that hated nickname. She critiques every little thing they do, and Jessica asks if they did *anything* correctly. ME also kicks Kate and Walt out from watching practice, saying the “new administration” is different in its policy on visitors.

Olivia tells Coach Engborg that, according to Duffy’s research, the Tarenton cheerleaders didn’t actually have a coach until 1938. “They managed, and we can too.” Yes, reverting back to how it was done 50 years ago is always a great plan. Hope thinks they should give Mary Ellen a chance. Coach says they’ll have to work this all out on her own – she only has one more day left at Tarenton.

The time capsule opening is turning into a big to-do that is attracting media and community attention. The cheerleaders are all going to be there and lots of pictures will be taken of them with their new coach. Olivia is desperate to get this situation sorted out before then, when Mary Ellen will be cemented as their coach in the public eye. Hope says Olivia is being as bad as Diana.

Olivia goes to see Mary Ellen at Marnie’s and lays it all out on the table. “The squad and I feel strongly that you can’t take this job. It’s no good for any of us.” Olivia says Mary Ellen can’t just come in and try to change their routines and everything about them. “Everybody’s starting to hate you, Mary Ellen.” Mary Ellen stands her ground and says she’s not backing down. Olivia starts to cry, and then Patrick pops in, looking for Mary Ellen.

Olivia leaves, and Mary Ellen is very upset. Patrick notices: “For heaven’s sake, Melon, you have this great new job and you’re simply more gorgeous every day, and you’re a wonderful person – so why do you look so forlorn, huh?” Patrick asks. She starts to cry, and he tells her she’s going to do a great job as coach. He is the first person to show sympathy for her and give any words of encouragement, including her dumb husband. They hug, and he makes her laugh through her tears. Affair incoming. Red alert. Red alert.

Tara goes to find Patrick and walks in on him and Mary Ellen holding each other and laughing. She is pissed and runs off, and Patrick chases after her. Mary Ellen goes home, and Pres yells at her for being gone all day and not being a good partner and wife. She leaves and goes to spend the night at her parents’ house. This is at least the second time she’s done this, and they’ve been married for all of three months.

Olivia goes to the time capsule treasure hunt and feels a “spark” with Duffy again. Blech. Some other kids find the time capsule instead of Duffy, proving he is worthless as always.

The squad goes to see Coach Engborg off at the airport, and it gets real awkward when Mary Ellen shows up too. Coach Engborg hugs them all goodbye and leaves them with two words: “Make peace.” At the next practice, none of them take that advice to heart as they continue to give Mary Ellen a hard time. She is STILL staying at her parents’ house, but feels lonely when her sister and both parents are gone and she goes home to an empty house.

Tara and Jessica overhear Diana telling Holly that the new cheerleading coach is getting rid of the squad and forming a new one, since none of them are working out with Mary Ellen. Diana claims she overheard Mary Ellen’s father bragging about how his daughter wants to make cheerleading an Olympic sport, and she needs freshmen to fill the squad for “maximum preparation if it happens in 1992.” Jessica doesn’t believe a word of it, but Tara is scared.

Pres sends Patrick to talk to Mary Ellen for him. What a wuss. “He’s desperate to have you home, Mary Ellen, but he’s so upset about you walking out he can’t even pick up the phone.” Patrick says Pres is sorry, and Mary Ellen cries and says she wants him back too. Patrick encourages her to call Pres and make it right. “But why is he acting like such a coward?” she asks. Patrick says he’s afraid Mary Ellen is furious and doesn’t want to talk. “You’re the best friend a couple ever had,” Mary Ellen says. (Until they have an affair within the next few years, that is).

Of course, Tara and Jessica see Patrick talking to Mary Ellen in her office and Tara is mad, again. “She wasn’t going to stand by and let Mary Ellen ruin everything in her life.” Mary Ellen goes home and makes up with Pres, who has tried to make dinner, but burned whatever it was he was cooking.

Before the time capsule opening, Mary Ellen is more lenient with the squad as they practice, which surprises Olivia. Everyone is starting to feel good except for Tara. The time capsule is opened and includes a record of the squad’s favorite cheers for the captain, an extra key to some guy named Jack Farthingale’s convertible – “Sigh! Maybe you can get a date with him by 1988!” – some bandages, a stopwatch, a jar of wrinkle cream, and a “new slimming diet.” For the coach, six cheerleading uniforms from 1938.

The girls work on altering the vintage uniforms so they can wear them at the next game. Olivia is talking about writing a letter to the school board about getting rid of Mary Ellen when Mary Ellen shows up. She asks Olivia to take a drive with her, and then confronts her about everything that has happened. Mary Ellen explains that she has to act differently as coach than she did when she was just captain and still a student. Olivia apologizes for being difficult and Mary Ellen assures her that she does think the squad is really good. Mary Ellen also clears up that Diana’s rumor about the Olympics is not true, and that there’s no reason for Tara to be upset about her and Patrick.

Tara has been avoiding Patrick’s calls, so he shows up before the game and demands to talk to her. She yells at him about paying more attention to Mary Ellen than her, and he chastises her for getting all bent out of shape over him comforting “a good friend.” He says Mary Ellen’s been having a really hard time with her new job and her marriage. “If you don’t understand my giving support to people, you’re not the Tara I thought you were.”

The squad goes out in their vintage uniforms and cheers for their first game with Mary Ellen as coach. Everything turns out fine, and Tara makes up with Patrick afterward. The rest of the squad asks Mary Ellen for forgiveness, and then they do a cheer for her.

Other notes and quotes

  • Olivia is still torn between Duffy and Walt. Tara says she needs “a scorecard to tell whether Walt or Duffy’s in favor.”

Sign of the Times

  1. Diana Tucker gets a perm. “All that perfectly normal blonde hair crimped into a rat’s nest. Gee, it’s too bad – Diana’s hair was the only nice thing about her,” Tara says.
  2. Mary Ellen wears shiny blue Lycra tights and a hot pink bodysuit to cheerleading practice.

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

Grade: B

Next time on Cheerleaders… It’s romance, fun in the sun, and a dangerous mystery, when the cheerleaders win a vacation on a luxurious cruise ship! Read Cheerleaders #46, OVERBOARD!

Child Bride (#40 – Getting Serious)

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Analyzing the cover: None of the cheerleaders are actually as happy about this engagement as the cover makes them seem. Note – this is the first book of the series that has the red Scholastic bar at the bottom left of the cover.

The squad is complaining because the whole school has to do some sort of community work. Mary Ellen tells them the daycare she used to work for is desperate for help. The squad was going to volunteer all together somewhere, but Sean says “that’s women’s work.” His girlfriend asks what’s wrong with him and says he must come from another century. She shames him into agreeing to go with the rest of the group to talk to the daycare director.

The squad visits the daycare and reluctantly agrees to volunteer there, since they are out of time to decide and Coach Engborg refused their ridiculous request to be excused from the project. Their first day is a disaster, and they all think children are little monsters by the end of the day. “There’s nothing wrong with children that a few years won’t cure,” Sean says.

Patrick and Tara are being super cheesy and obsessed with each other, like they can barely contain themselves from ripping each others’ clothes off when they see each other. He tells her he’s thinking of buying a piece of land and wants to know her opinion, if she would visit him a lot.

Tara is getting ready to leave for a date with Patrick when her father says she’s getting too intense in the relationship and should date around. Tara ignores him. Patrick takes her up to the lake to see the property he bought, and he walks her around showing her where each room will be in the house he’s going to build. Then he asks her to marry him. She says yes, and he pulls out an emerald and diamond engagement ring. They have been going out for a few months, and not that long ago Patrick was pressuring Jessica to think about marriage. This will end well.

Tara and Patrick are keeping their engagement a secret until they can sit their parents down and tell them, and Tara has been, in Olivia’s words, “a total space cadet” at cheerleading and school. She is so distracted that she messes up terribly while cheering at a game, and Coach Engborg sends her to the locker room and has Melissa fill in for the rest of the game. The squad is trying to figure out what’s wrong and thinks maybe she and Patrick are breaking up.

Tara feels terrible about her performance at the game. Patrick and her parents meet her outside, and she suggests they all go out to eat. At the restaurant, they tell her parents the news that they’re getting married. Patrick says they “think this is the right move.” Like it’s a business transaction. Tara’s mom cries that she’s still a little girl. Her dad is aggravated but says they will at least wait a year. Nope, Tara says, they want to do it right after graduation. When her father says that’s out of the question, Tara yells at them and runs out. Real mature, you’re totally ready to get married. Then they tell the Henleys, who think it’s great that their 19-year-old son and his 17 or 18-year-old high school senior girlfriend want to get married ASAP.

Tara tells the squad about her engagement, and they ask her a million questions about if it’s the right thing to do. She rejoins them at practice after getting kicked out of the game and knows she has to concentrate or risk getting kicked off the squad.

At the daycare, Peter and Sean try to manage infants while Jessica tries to have a heart-to-heart with Tara while watching toddlers: “I probably know Patrick better than anyone except you and Mary Ellen.” Good opening line, Tara won’t see any ulterior motives in a speech from the ex who talks about how well she knows your fiance’. Jessica tries to encourage her to wait a year or more to get married, but Tara says it’s none of her business and they’re going to have a June wedding. Then Tara asks if Jessica is jealous, and they argue some more. “Do you think the only thing you can do out of high school is snag a husband?” Jessica asks. Tara ends up running out of the daycare in tears. Again, so mature.

While hiding in a bathroom stall, Diana overhears some of the girls talking about how messed up Tara is and her marriage plans. She realizes if she can get Tara to mess up badly again, Melissa will take Tara’s place on the squad and Diana can become the new alternate. (Same motivation for Diana’s misdeeds as every other book – no wonder this series ends soon, new ideas were long gone!) She decides to target Tara’s wedding plans – “Poor Patrick – he’s about to get a nasty shock.”

Diana confronts Patrick, tries to jab him about how he’s only been with Tara for 3 months – starting about a second after he broke up with Jessica – and that the ring he bought her was really small. Then she tells him a bold-faced lie that Tara was engaged to the teacher, Nick Stewart, and they had a date set and everything, but Tara got cold feet and broke it off. Please God, why would anyone continue to believe anything Diana says? Especially something as stupid as this. But Patrick seems to buy it and gets angry.

Patrick asks Tara if she was ever engaged to Nick, and she laughs and says that’s such a ridiculous question. He thinks her not directly answering the question means something. Sigh. Tara confronts Diana about planting that in Patrick’s head. Diana claims ignorance/innocence, then says, “Oh, I just noticed your itsy-bitsy ring. Congratulations!”

Tara hadn’t been paying attention when Olivia mentioned an extra practice where the kids from the daycare center are going to watch, so she doesn’t show up to the gym with the rest of the squad after school. Olivia says maybe Tara should be benched for awhile. Tara shows up to the daycare center and finds out about the practice, so she rushes back to the school. Patrick yells at her about driving him and the squad crazy.

When she goes to Coach’s office, Coach basically tells her she needs to quit the squad or Coach will be forced to kick her off. Tara tells Melissa that Melissa would be a better team member than her right now. Melissa refuses to accept the full-time position, saying this isn’t the way she wants the spot. Coach sighs and says fine, Tara can stay. That was easy. Melissa and Tara hug.

Tara confronts Patrick about believing Diana Tucker of all people, then clarifies that NO, she was not engaged to Nick, how could he even think that? “You jump to conclusions much too easily. Are you always like that?” He drops her off without another word.

Tara rejoins the squad at the next game, they all apologize for judging her engagement, and she says sorry for being so flighty. Things are still tense between her and Patrick, and Mary Ellen asks Patrick if he’s sure deep down they are ready for marriage.

Tara and Patrick talk again, and she says she might want to go visit Hollywood and see about acting for a little while, rather than settling down right after graduation. Patrick fears she is breaking off their engagement, but she says she would come back before their wedding. This sounds like a weird and flimsy plan, but Patrick is happy and they kiss. They tell everyone that they won’t be getting married in June, but will take more time to work out their plans and set a date later.

Storyline not really worth recapping – Sean befriends a little girl named Megan at the daycare center, and he ends up having to babysit her off the clock, so he finds at least one kid he likes. He also offers to film a promotional video for the daycare center. At the end of their volunteering time, the daycare director tells them they’re the best volunteers she’s ever had! Yawn.

Other notes and quotes

  • In history class, “when the teacher had asked what had been the primary factor in Reconstruction after the War Between the States, Tara had actually stood at her place and stated – seriously – that it was lumber and nails!”
  • Diana tries to torment Tara about the daycare job by saying “Boy, you wouldn’t catch me with a bunch of cranky, dirty babies.”
  • Turns out Coach Engborg got married her 2nd year of college. Never heard a husband mentioned until this book, #40.

Sign of the Times

  1. “Sean snapped off the sweatband around his head and threw it at her.” (Tara)
  2. Patrick also wears a sweatband around his head as he’s moving furniture.

Book Deets
Author: Jennifer Sarasin
Year: 1988
Pages: 155

Grade: D – the daycare storyline was super boring. I skimmed a lot.

Next time on Cheerleaders… Peter inherits money and suddenly has a lot of girlfriends – and a lot of problems! Read Cheerleaders #41, HAVING IT ALL.

Duel of the Dorks (#37 -Acting Up)

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Analyzing the cover: Riding those sweet, red “motor scooters” that will make everyone like them again. I do not recognize the girl in the middle with long hair. I wonder how often they changed models for these covers – sometimes it’s very noticeable that there are completely different people playing these parts for the photos.

The cheerleaders have had a lackluster showing at the latest game, as they watched the basketball team get slaughtered by the competition. It’s funny how the squad always seems to be having trouble getting their crap together during games, but any time they go to competitions they just miraculously clean up in the awards.

As they commiserate at the pizza place after the game, Diana comes by to taunt them. “You’ve heaped ignominy on the very head of Tarenton!” she cries. The squad talks about how St. Cloud has gotten rid of its male cheerleaders, and Diana implies co-ed squads are going out of fashion.

Jessica has been missing Patrick even though she is the one who dumped him. He and Tara have apparently kept their new romance on the down low, because Jessica is suspicious about them but doesn’t know for sure what’s going on. Tara doesn’t really care. “If Jessica was having second thoughts about Patrick, that was Jessica’s problem.”

Olivia’s annoying boyfriend David Douglas Duffy – 3D – has written a column about co-ed cheerleading squads and how they tend to do more risky stunts when guys are involved. He’s gotten a “hot tip” that Deep River, his alma mater, may be reverting to an all-girls squad, joining in on the latest trend. Coach Engborg says it’s true and that Deep River is getting rid of its guys, is training spotters, and is making the stunts simpler to cut down on possible injuries.

Olivia yells at David for not telling her the scoop on Deep River, and when he says he’s working on another hot story, she rages when he won’t tell her what it’s about. She knocks over his coffee cup of pencils on her way out of his office. “People who are crazy about each other don’t keep secrets.”

Diana sees Jessica practicing French in the library and hurries over to make fun of her accent and bad grammar. Diana is apparently an expert in French after spending one whole week in Paris three years before. Then she really goes for the jugular: “I mean, if I were on suspension and lost my boyfriend to a member of my cheering squad, I’d probably want to chuck it all and move to Alaska.”

Jessica misses the bus home and Patrick pulls over and offers her a ride in his van. Tara is inside too. The new couple talks the whole way home, but Jessica ignores them and hurries out of the vehicle as soon as he pulls in her driveway. Patrick feels bad, but Tara doesn’t have too much sympathy for her, telling Patrick that Jessica just needs to get over everything.

Olivia gets a call from former cheerleader and her ex-boyfriend Walt Manners, who says he is coming back to Tarenton. He’s taking a leave of absence from Columbia for the rest of the year and can return in the fall if he so chooses. He’s just too homesick and feels stuck in a classroom. He wants to work and make some of his own money. Dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. If I could go back I’d tell myself to stay in college forever, or you know, as long as I could pay for it.

David Duffy has a new radio show for teens called “3-D’s Hits” where he will play music, interview performers and athletes, and then finish up with a gossip segment called “Rappin.” I didn’t think I could hate him more. The show is being advertised on flyers all around town, and there’s a story in the newspaper about it. When Olivia spots one of the pink flyers and goes to inspect it, she flips out that Duffy kept this a secret from her.

At practice Olivia is distracted by her rage over Duffy and ends up falling. She insists she’s okay, but Coach Engborg scolds them for not being more careful. She warns them about the possibility of “revamping” their methods, which they worry implies getting rid of the boys. Duffy walks in, and tells Olivia he thought she’d be proud of his new show and that he wanted to surprise her. She says she doesn’t like surprises. He wants her to go check out a new nightspot with him, but she says she already has a date and storms out.

Tara invites herself to go jogging with Peter, who enjoys his solitary runs. When she talks too much during their first run, he politely asks her to shut up, basically. She says she can tell he has a lot on his mind – worrying about the squad no longer being co-ed – and she wants him to confide in her if he needs to. He hopes she’ll just be a friend to him without interrupting his jogging.

Tara is so crazy about Patrick, she rides with him while he does his garbage collection on a Saturday morning. That is devotion. They go to lunch and then he brings her to school to get ready for the basketball game. He asks if she’s told her parents about him yet, and she says no. He says he hopes they would approve of him, and she says he’s just as good as anybody else in this town. They say more cheesy things and then start kissing, only to be interrupted by Sean knocking on the window. They look and see Sean, Olivia, Hope, Peter, and Jessica all there, having seen them kiss.

Tara and Jessica find themselves alone in the locker room, and Tara chatters on as if nothing’s wrong. Jessica tells her she doesn’t have to try so hard to be nice, she’s okay with everything because she’s the one who broke up with Patrick. Tara says okay, as long as Jessica’s really not jealous, and Jessica explodes that she is totally! not! jealous! “Anyone with eyes can see he’s just playing the field so he doesn’t get stuck in another no-win relationship like he did with me and Mary Ellen. No, I think it’s really important for him to date lots of other people, so he’ll get a better grip on himself and what he wants.” Jessica must have forgotten Patrick is a serial monogamist. Tara almost fesses up that actually, she and Patrick are really serious, but decides it’s better not to rub that in Jessica’s face. So instead, Tara says, “You’re right! Nothing like some variety in life. The guy’s just stuck on cheerleaders!”

Walt arrives during the game with Mary Ellen and Pres. Olivia lights up when she sees him. I assume stupid Duffy makes even Walt look like a winner in comparison. After the game, Walt tells Olivia he’s taking her to the nicest restaurant in town, the Manor. Mary Ellen scolds her that David would be crushed if he knew Olivia was going out with Walt at the same time he’s making his radio debut. Olivia says he doesn’t care about anything as much as he cares about himself. Walt comes back and says he just heard about this new radio show. His parents used to host a local TV show, so he really wants to listen to it with Olivia, and he can comment on how bad Duffy is.

The squad is split on their feelings as they listen to Duffy’s show. Tara likes it, Kate – Sean’s girlfriend – calls it dopey. Olivia calls it Duffy’s Drivel, which Walt likes. During the gossip portion, Duffy tells a long drawn-out story using fake names that is clearly about him and Olivia (“Nick” and “Amanda”), and how he knows Olivia’s been out with her ex-boyfriend (“Jerry”). The rest of the squad thinks it’s great, but Olivia is pissed and assures Walt that the story was about them. “You want to sue?” Walt jokes. He asks how serious she was with Duffy and if she’s going to dump him now that Walt is back. She’s surprised, and Walt asks how she feels about him. She doesn’t know – they haven’t been a couple in over 6 months. Walt thinks they’d still be pretty good together, and they kiss. He says he wants her to spend the next day “seeing the town” with him, even though he grew up there.

Olivia and Walt are at the mall when they run into Sean, Kate, Patrick, and Tara. The 5 of them leave Walt at a motorcycle sales and repair shop (in the mall?) asking for a job, and they all run into David Duffy by the food court. Duffy is annoyed that no one has asked him for his autograph. He asks Olivia what she thought of his show, and she says, “Interesting.” Then Walt comes running up saying he got the job. Olivia deliberately kisses him on the cheek in front of Duffy. Walt puts his arm around Olivia and tells Duffy that they plan to keep listening to his show. Duffy ignores him and asks Olivia to go get a soda with him so they can talk. Olivia doesn’t know what to do, so she bails on both guys, saying she needs to go talk to Coach Engborg. She drags Tara and Sean with her. Everyone leaves the two guys alone.
Duffy: “Guess you’re going to be sticking around Tarenton for awhile.”
Walt: “As long as it takes.”
Looks like we have a Duel of the Dorks incoming.

Patrick is the first to arrive at Tara’s house, where the group is going to gather to listen to Duffy’s show. Patrick tells her that he realizes that he was all about the chase and the challenge with Mary Ellen and Jessica, but with Tara it feels good to love someone who really loves him back. These people move fast. He gives her a box from Marnie’s, which contains a necklace chain. He takes off his school ring and puts the ring on the chain, then fastens it around her neck. And she starts to cry and says she loves him.

Everyone arrives, and Jessica almost immediately sees the ring around Tara’s neck. “It was proof positive that Jessica was out of the picture now, probably forever.” This edition of Duffy’s show involves call-ins from listeners, and then he goes into his new “gossip” story, which is about the only cheerleading squad left in the district that has guys and how times are changing because people only want all-girls squads. Jessica calls it “sexist nonsense” and Tara says he needs “a good lecture…. This is just his forum for saying he’d rather see girls running around in skimpy costumes than see really fine cheerleading.” The group argues about whether or not they should be worried that the squad is going to lose Sean and Peter, and if Duffy knows something they don’t.

Diana tries to rub it in Jessica’s face that Tara is wearing Patrick’s ring, but Jessica realizes that Tara and Patrick really are well-suited for each other. She’s even started noticing other guys, like a French exchange student Jean-Pierre. She silently thanks Diana for forcing her to recognize the reality of the situation.

Duffy ambushes Olivia outside of school, as he hasn’t been able to get her alone ever since Walt moved back to town. He tells her the gossip on his show is wildly embellished or even made up, but she yells at him for playing with people’s feelings, making people think Sean and Peter’s spots on the squad could be in jeopardy. The least he could do was tell her what was real and what was fake. Duffy says he calls the shots on his show without having to clear it with her or anyone, and she says that’s all she needs to know. “Your friends – if you have any, which I doubt – are just grist for your extraordinary creative mill, right?”

At the next practice, Coach Engborg says other schools such as Garrison and Edgemont are also letting their boy cheerleaders go. I seriously have a hard time seeing all these schools doing this in the middle to end of the school year. Engborg says not to read too much into it, Tarenton will still do its own thing.

An article in the school newspaper written by Diana’s friend, Betsy, suggests otherwise, asking who will be the female replacements on Tarenton’s squad and stating that auditions will be held next week. The girls confront Coach Engborg, who says it’s a work of fiction. The girls tell her if the boys are kicked off, they’re quitting too. After school they see Diana and five other girls dressed in leotards. Diana tells them these girls are all getting ready to try out for the squad, and they’d better watch out – the new girls might be so good that the whole squad is replaced, not just the boys. I’m so sure!

Walt is successful at his new job, having already sold a few motorcycles, scooters, and snowmobiles. He gets an idea to give the Tarenton cheerleaders a gimmick without having to get rid of their boys – riding scooters in the gym. He asks his boss to borrow three “red motor scooters.” He goes to Olivia’s house to talk to her about it, and she kisses him on the cheek in gratitude. Duffy calls while Walt is there, and Olivia tells her mom to say she’s sleeping. Walt wants her to dump him once and for all, but Olivia feels kind of bad for how she acted last time she saw Duffy. She really told him off.

Duffy had planned to beg Olivia to return to him – via their fake names from his gossip segment – on the air, but decides to do the decent thing and not talk about Olivia anymore on his show. He plans to write about new characters instead, and goes over to her house to tell her about it since she refuses to answer his calls. When he arrives, he goes up to the door and can see the shadows of Olivia and Walt standing in the foyer. He can hear Olivia telling Walt she likes him maybe more than she did last year, and Walt pulls her close and asks, “But do you love me, baby?” David sees the shadows of their two faces turn into one big blob of a shadow. David leaves sadly. “Stupidly, he’d been convinced that his relationship with Olivia would get better once he was on the air. Instead, he had driven her back toward the guy he thought she’d outgrown a long time ago.” Duffy nixes his plans to rewrite his monologue begging Olivia to take him back and forsake her ex-boyfriend. If she won’t talk to him in private, he’ll make his point publicly.

Walt feels bad about how everything has gone down, so he goes to the newspaper office and asks Duffy to let him buy lunch and have a professional chat. The subject of their discussion is revealed during the next radio show. Walt tells Olivia he can’t listen with the group as normal because he’s got to do something with his great-aunt. As the show starts, David says he has a “friend of a friend” as a guest to clear up some rumors. He introduces Walt under a fake name – Malt Sodas – and they clear up the fact that Tarenton, which has been disguised with the name “Jumping High,” isn’t really going to get rid of its male cheerleaders. Then they get into a discussion about who’s better for “Amanda” – Duffy gives an impassioned plea for “Nick” – himself – and Walt talks about why “Jerry” is the guy for her. “He loves her quietly; no drums, no trumpets,” Walt says.

The squad piles into Patrick’s van and drives to the radio station, where Walt and Duffy are walking out the door – not exactly friends but not enemies either. Olivia thanks Duffy for clearing up the rumor about the male cheerleaders, and then he asks “What about us, Livvy?” Walt asks the same question. Olivia tells Duffy that they need to cool it for awhile. Duffy apologizes for everything and says it isn’t the end for them. Olivia walks back to Walt, “her heart so full, she thought it might spill over.”

At the next game vs. Garrison, the new all-girls cheerleading squad at Garrison does a special cheer about how wonderful they are for being girls, or something. Then rock music plays and the Tarenton cheerleaders come out on 3 scooters, two people on each bike. They make circles with the bikes and then do their cheer to a roaring crowd. They do another routine with the motor scooters at halftime, and everyone loves it. They successfully overshadow the all-girls Garrison squad.

Other notes and quotes

  • Stupid hats worn by David Duffy in this book: an Australia bush hat, a Greek sailor’s cap, a cowboy hat, a Navy officer’s hat, and at the end, when he’s been proven wrong about the cheerleading squad, a dunce cap.
  • Jessica invites Jean-Pierre to their radio-listening session and he says yes.

Book Deets
Author: Jennifer Sarasin
Year: 1987
Pages: 170

Grade: A

Next time on Cheerleaders… When the cheerleaders tangle with a mysterious fortune-teller, can anyone predict what happens? Read Cheerleaders #38, TALKING BACK.

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.

Thank You For Smoking (#26 – Taking Over)

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Analyzing the cover: Olivia and Sean/Peter trying to stop Jessica from barging in on Slammer. I will never be able to tell those guys apart.

The regional cheerleading competition is coming up, and of course, the squad is not ready. Ardith rails against them, saying basically how much they suck. “Could you kids give me an inkling of why you went out for cheerleading?”

Jessica goes out to eat with Patrick and Pres, and a Garrison basketball player makes snide remarks about Tarenton’s team and its cheerleaders. “They couldn’t somersault their way out of a wet paper bag.” Good one. Jessica runs out crying.

At the next practice Ardith goes off on the squad again and says maybe they should drop out of regionals. Jessica loses her crap and tells coach all she does is criticize. Jessica leaves, and coach says anyone else who agrees with her can leave too. Practice ends and Olivia goes to talk to Ardith, who says she needs to have an operation on her knee, which she injured many years ago while running in college. She has been in a lot of pain and maybe has taken it out on the squad.

Olivia goes to Benny’s and tells the rest of the squad, who debate how long Ardith might be out of commission. Sean says they don’t need a coach, they do all the work anyway. “You’re an idiot, Sean,” Tara scoffs. Truer words. As they’re all sitting there, Patrick leans over and kisses Jessica. Their kiss is interrupted by a “hello” from a certain wannabe model who just happens to have walked in at that very moment. “Mary Ellen, who had had Patrick wrapped around her little finger until graduation day last year.” Pres and Olivia greet her enthusiastically, and Mary Ellen says she’s back in town bringing some runway samples to Mrs. Gunderson, her old boss at Marnie’s. Pres decides to give Mary Ellen a big kiss “to break the awkward silence,” but then they both get really into it. “It was almost as if she had come back to Tarenton just to stand there in the hamburger place and get kissed by Preston Tilford III.” Every girl’s dream I’m sure.

Olivia says maybe Mary Ellen can help them with their cheerleading problems since Ardith is going to be unavailable. Pres ushers Mary Ellen away and Patrick “felt nothing at all” when he watched her go. Good, we can officially declare this couple – Mary Elrick? PatrEllen? Matrick? – dead as a door nail. RIP 4evah.

Since Patrick and Pres are business partners and apparently attached at the hip, they along with Mary Ellen and Jessica all ride to the basketball game together. It’s not completely awkward, though Jessica is still intimidated by Mary Ellen and thinking about the fact that Patrick will be sitting with her the whole game.

Everyone goes to an impromptu party at basketball player Ray Elliott’s house after the game to celebrate the win. Tara has had her eye on Ray. Mary Ellen compliments Jessica on her cheerleading skillz, and Jessica can barely talk. “This practically famous and beautiful person was praising her!” Let’s simmer down now, ME is NOT famous except in her own mind.

For some reason Ardith is at their party and has a friend with her named Sam Akins, aka “Slammer.” He used to coach Little League so he thinks he’s qualified to preach to the basketball players about how they need to work harder and jump higher. All the cheerleaders feel uncomfortable in his presence.

Pres and ME drive to the lake, where she starts to cry and says how much she misses Tarenton. She says she doesn’t have any friends in New York, she shares a crappy, tiny apartment with 2 roommates and several cockroaches, she has to waitress because she’s not getting any good-paying modeling jobs and she’s not willing to sleep her way to the top. She’s not ready to give up on her dreams yet, though. They make out, and then Pres takes her home.

The cheerleaders find out that the douchey Slammer guy is going to be their “coach” while Ardith recovers from her operation, even though he’s never even been a cheerleader. At their first practice with him, he makes them run laps around the gym and do jumping jacks until they can’t breathe. He abruptly picks Olivia up to move her somewhere else for a routine and she almost falls. He addresses each member as “hey you” and is abrasive in his “observations.” The squad visits Ardith in the hospital after her operation, and Tara brings up how horrible Slammer is. “He treats us like we’re a ball team, like he can bully us into doing a good job, but we’re artists,” Olivia says. Ardith tells them they’ll survive, and they decide they will just do everything Slammer says for a week. If after one week of being submissive and obedient his attitude isn’t better, then they’ll unleash hell on him.

At the next practice, they all fall all over themselves to obey Slammer’s every harsh command. When Pres and Patrick walk in during the practice, Slammer angrily kicks them out for interrupting, even threatening to call the cops if they come back. Then when practice ends, he calls the squad “six losers” and says he’s starting them on a strict nutrition and exercise program to whip them into shape.

Jessica and Patrick go see a movie and happen to run into Pres and Mary Ellen. Jessica feels awkward and wants to leave, but Patrick says yes when Pres invites them for pizza with him and ME. That doesn’t work out too well either, with awkward silences and Mary Ellen stirring up bad feelings when she asks how the new cheerleading coach is working out. Pres suggests to ME that they not double date with those two ever again.

At the next practice, Slammer is really on a roll, making the squad take off their knee pads and removing the crash pads that they normally put out as a precaution. He insults every single member at some point, and when he goes after Hope, Peter has finally HAD IT. He says he doesn’t think Slammer has any idea what he’s doing, and then Slammer asks what kind of guy would become a cheerleader anyway? That pisses them all off, and when they do their next cheer, Slammer yells something which distracts Hope and she falls. She isn’t badly hurt, and Slammer blows it off as just a little spill and deflects when Tara says it was his fault. “If she can’t perform on Saturday I’ll sue that man,” Tara declares.

Slammer sneaks off to his office, and both Tara and Jessica want to go after him and tear into him. “I hate to sound like my father, but this is a man’s job,” Sean said. The girls stared at him in disbelief. Olivia says that it won’t go well if Sean does it, and Peter needs to take Hope home, so the remaining three girls will go in together.

The girls go in, and Slammer says he’s disappointed in them, any squad in the state could beat them. They tell him that his yelling and over-the-top criticism breaks their concentration, and they need encouragement. Slammer scoffs. “You’re all too sensitive.” Olivia says they’re done doing it his way, it’s not working and they’re miserable. Slammer says they just worry too much. Nothing the girls say gets through to him. They really should have sent in Sean.

Jessica forgot her bag in his office, so she runs back in to get it and catches him smoking. He had just lectured them on the perils of smoking and didn’t believe them when they all said they didn’t drink or smoke. It’s also against the rules to smoke on campus. Slammer tells her that snitches get stitches. Or maybe he just tells her that if she rats on him for smoking, she won’t compete in regionals.

If that isn’t bad enough, when Jessica approaches Patrick’s truck in the parking lot, she sees Mary Ellen in the passenger seat, touching Patrick’s cheek. “How dare he even consider seeing that rotten, beautiful girl again?” She storms to another side of the parking lot, and misses seeing Pres retrieving ME from Patrick’s truck and walking her to his Porsche. Patrick comes over and surprises Jessica from behind, and she lays into him about Mary Ellen. He tells her she’s insecure, and does she want him to hibernate and not talk to any other girl? Patrick says maybe he is still crazy about Mary Ellen, but she knows that’s not true and he just said it to hurt her. She runs over and jumps in Sean’s car, where Tara and Olivia also are. On the way home, Jessica suggests they practice together for the next three nights and get advice from Pres and Mary Ellen.

At their special practice, Pres and Mary Ellen arrive with Patrick in tow. After the practice, Patrick and Jessica both say they just need a little time before they talk. Jessica and Mary Ellen have a little standoff as well where Mary Ellen tries to imply to Jessica that Jessica doesn’t need to worry about Mary Ellen anymore.

Mary Ellen ends up leaving a week early because she got a commercial audition back in NYC. Pres is upset because he wanted to talk about the future, and she says it will have to wait. He says he thinks he loves her. Oh brother. These two are perfect for each other though.

Slammer makes the poor drama kids move all their props for the school play off the stage in the auditorium, because he wants the cheerleaders to practice in the same environment where they’ll be competing at regionals. The ever-present Pres and Patrick are there to help move stuff too. During their practice, something in the wings off stage catches fire, and pretty quickly the flames spread. There’s so much smoke that when most of them get out, they don’t see Jessica, so Tara runs back in to find her. Sean goes after her and ends up finding both of them sick with smoke inhalation. They finally escape, and everyone congregates in the parking lot. As the police chief and principal talk about what happened, Slammer comes over and accuses Pres and Patrick of “handling matches” earlier. They do have matches, which they use to sear nylon ropes, and the chief marches them over to his car and takes them to the police station for questioning. LOL okay.

Jessica goes to the station and filled with worst-case-scenario visions of Patrick in handcuffs, demands to see the police chief. She says she saw Pres and Patrick dispose of matches they used in water, and that someone else, perhaps someone who SMOKES, would have had matches too. Slammer admits he smoked at one point, and the fire captain says they did discover a cigarette butt in the backstage area near paint and turpentine. Slammer insists he stomped out the butt, but the captain says obviously not good enough.

Principal Oetjen says Slammer will have nothing to do with the squad anymore, and Olivia says they don’t need a coach at regionals, “just each other.” Somehow Tara, who has been hospitalized, is well enough to compete, and Coach Engborg even shows up too, in her wheelchair. They compete and shockingly come in second place, but they do win the prize for Most Team Spirit.

Other notes and quotes

  • “Tara stood on her head for a moment and wondered why she wasn’t more interesting.” I do that all the time, just standing on my head, thinking bout life.

Sign of the Times

  1. Someone put a cassette into “the tape machine”
  2. Patrick and Jessica go out to see a movie and the tickets are $4 each

Book Deets
Author: The cover says Jennifer Sarasin, the copyright page says Judith Sachs, is this the same person? I am sooooo confused.
Year: 1987
Page: 172

Grade: C

Next time on Cheerleaders… Will the New Orleans Mardi Gras be too hot for the cheerleaders to handle? Read Cheerleaders #27, SPRING FEVER.

Running Away From Home (#6 – Splitting)

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Analyzing the cover: There is one pool scene in this book, when the squad goes swimming after a game. I think this is the model portraying Mary Ellen, but at no point does Mary Ellen bump her head, as this picture indicates, and I’m pretty sure none of the guys are walking around in full uniform. So this picture make absolutely no sense for the book.

Pres has a fight with his parents after his dad says he wants him to get a job with a family friend’s investment company and stop messing around with cheerleading. Pres is so distracted during the next game (football this time) that he drops Nancy. Everyone gets on his case, but he tells them to buzz off and leave him alone, stalking off the field and leaving them high and dry. For some reason Coach Engborg berates the rest of the squad as if this was their fault. Walt offers to give Olivia a ride home, and Nancy watches them with eyebrows raised. Looks like Walt is finally going to have a storyline that doesn’t revolve around being annoying.

Pres goes by his house and packs a duffel bag. He’s running away from home. Poor little rich boy. He decides to go to his Uncle James’ house. Uncle James is an “artist and loner,” rejected his inheritance, and is estranged from his brother, Pres’ dad. Uncle James is pretty cool and doesn’t mind Pres staying with him, though he shares his brother’s opinion on male cheerleaders. “You’re not really dancing around out there with the pompons, are you?”

Walt kisses Olivia and she likes it but is socially awkward, so she just asks him to take her home. “Why didn’t girls put up signs when they wanted to be kissed?” Walt wonders. “I’m in the mood or Not today thanks.” Walt, just assume no girl wants to kiss you and you’ll be right 99 percent of the time. But Olivia is in the 1 percent and before they get to her house, she asks him to stop so he can kiss her again.

Angie gets home and finds a letter from her college boyfriend, Marc. She opens it and it’s actually a Dear John letter and he’s breaking up with her. He actually signs the letter with “Best, Marc.” Nancy comes by and says she saw Pres’ car by his uncle’s house, so they can all go ambush him and find out what his problem is. Angie starts to cry and tells Nancy about the letter. “I should have gone to bed with him,” Angie cries. Ugh, NO. At least she gets over this notion pretty quick.

Vanessa finds out about Pres’ new living situation and tattles on him to the principal. Apparently this is something the school can punish, so since Pres isn’t living at home he’s on probation and can’t participate in cheerleading anymore. He says fine, he doesn’t need cheerleading anyway (I thought this all started because his dad wanted him to quit the squad). Coach Engborg brings on a replacement for Pres named Josh who has experience in gymnastics. Nancy is mad because Josh is the son of her parents’ best friends, who they are always trying to force her to date. “He’s a nice Jewish boy. He’s smart. He’s probably going to get into Harvard. He’s everything they ever wanted. Ugh!” Yeah, sounds like a total nightmare.

Mary Ellen is currently juggling Perfect Patrick and Donny, the captain of the basketball team. She’s always juggling Patrick and somebody. She wonders if life would be easier if she just didn’t date at all, but then decides no, life would be miserable without guys (and/or the validation of guys fighting over you). The first game without Pres arrives, and Pres watches from the stands while Patrick blows kisses and makes gestures at Mary Ellen. This distracts dumb Donny, who plays like crap and basically loses the game for the whole team. As soon as it’s over he confronts Mary Ellen. ME wants to be mad at him for losing, but she’s too busy being flattered that he cares about her more than a game! Ugghhh. Donny demands that she stop playing the two guys off each other and choose.

Josh has been trying to win Nancy over, and she finally gives in and agrees to go out with him. Everyone else is starting to catch on to Walt and Olivia’s new relationship. Pres is so depressed he just leans against a tree for 40 minutes after the game. He thought he didn’t care about losing the squad, but he was all kinds of jealous seeing someone replace him. The next day his mom comes over and begs him to come home, but since his dad is still mad at him and didn’t also beg, Pres refuses. Then the squad sans Josh arrives to help him spruce up his new living quarters. They try to do some reverse psychology on him by raving on and on about Josh, but Pres pretends not to care. Pres’ cousin AJ – Uncle James’ son – drops in and says he needs a place to stay for a few weeks. He’s a college student in New York and seems like a loser. He visits Pres at school the next day for some reason and ends up hitting on Vanessa. They leave together, as if that isn’t totally weird.

There is a school dance in this book, and everyone goes. Since Marc dumped Angie via snail mail, she goes with her brother Andrew. Yeah, I’d rather just stay home. Pres and Kerry, Walt and Olivia, Nancy and Josh, and Mary Ellen and Donny also show up, along with Vanessa and AJ.

They have all been there for about 5 minutes and AJ is already hitting on other girls and Mary Ellen is already crying. Turns out Vanessa found ME in the bathroom and told her that Angie had just come to the dance to see Patrick. “She loved to drop megaton bombs, then waltz away before everything crashed around her.” Even though she came with Donny, he’s off talking to other basketball guys, so when Patrick leads her out onto the dance floor Mary Ellen asks him to kiss her. This is going to end up great. Donny wrenches them apart and has to be held back by some basketball players. Then he says eff it, he and Mary Ellen have been over for weeks. Patrick takes ME home, though she STILL won’t commit to him.  Pres comes home from the dance and walks in on Vanessa and AJ in a compromising position. He kicks them both out and feels like an adult, or something.

At the next basketball game (how many games do they play, five thousand?) Mary Ellen watches Donny and thinks about how she dated him for his looks, status, and self-assurance, but after breaking up… it’s now clear to her how shallow DONNY was. Wait, what? Oh and as a side note she maybe kinda sorta was shallow for wanting someone like him.

After the game the squad goes swimming, and Josh drops the bomb that when track season starts he won’t be able to cheer anymore. Olivia says she heard the pompon squad members saying that if the squad loses another Varsity member, the whole squad may be disbanded and they’ll have to start over from scratch for the spring events. AS IF. That sounds like a lot more work than just finding yet another guy.

Walt comes up with the idea that if Pres comes and lives at his house instead, the school might be okay with that and let him back on the squad. Never mind that he hasn’t asked his parents, Pres, the coach or the principal yet. Angie has a better idea and goes to see Pres’ dad and try to explain to him that the reason Pres hasn’t come home is because he thinks his father doesn’t care that he’s gone. At first Mr. Tilford brushes her off, but then he ends up relenting and visiting Pres at his brother’s house. They make up, Pres encourages his father to go see Uncle James, AJ goes back to New York, and everyone is happy again.

Other notes and quotes:

  • Mary Ellen still wishes Pres would ask her out again. “Donny was a lap-dog at her feet; Pres was a dangerous cougar, daring her to chase him down.” I don’t think she and I view the word “cougar” the same way.
  • Walt thinks of himself as “The Amazing Rubber Man,” the guy who bounces back. If I was going to be a superhero that’s not the name I would pick for myself.
  • Mary Ellen thinks if she marries Patrick the headline in the paper will be “Bus Driver’s Daughter Weds Trash Collector,” they’ll only go to NYC on vacation, she’ll start popping out babies, and her looks and figure will be gone by 25.
  • Vanessa tells Pres’ girlfriend Kerry that they used to call Pres “Presto Chango” because he was with a different girl every night. Pretty clever…not.

Sign of the Times

  1. Vanessa teases Patrick and Mary Ellen about their school being a Love Boat. The show ran from 1977-1987.
  2. Walt and Olivia compare Josh to a “John McEnroe type” of athlete.

Book Deets
Author: Jennifer Sarasin
Year: 1985
Pages: 169

Grade: B

Next time on Cheerleaders… Can one wild party change Olivia’s life? Read Cheerleaders #7, FLIRTING.

Lost in New York (#14 – Living It Up)

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Analyzing the cover: The cheerleaders clowning around in NYC. Why wouldn’t they go sightseeing in their uniforms? 

The cheerleaders are suddenly environmentally conscious and are disgusted about a little park being torn up to build a parking lot by the mall. They sit and watch the destruction for over an hour. Mary Ellen then leads everyone over to Marnie’s, the store she models for, to show them the new video ads the store did featuring her. “Aside from that weird harem outfit you have on, you don’t look bad.” Pres is such a charmer. He is also moping about his old girlfriend Claudia Randall leaving for California to have a surgery that will prevent her from becoming paralyzed. The group spots an old man talking to a group of kids, and Mary Ellen remembers him talking to their enemy and antagonist Vanessa Barlow. “The guy has to be a psycho. Maybe a child molester,” Walt decides. That’s a sound argument. Lock this guy up.

The never-ending basketball season continues even though they were supposed to be going to the playoffs like 3 books ago. The cheerleaders spot the old guy – who Walt deemed a child molester with absolutely zero evidence – in the stands at the game with their principal. At halftime, the principal brings the man around to their practice room along with Vanessa and her dad, the superintendent, and introduces him as Mr. Scheckner, who directs ad commercials in New York City. He says he’s been looking for “clean” teenagers who would be perfect for a Clean Soap commercial, and he thinks the whole squad would be a great fit. Vanessa wants to kill them all.

The group gets together to talk about Scheckner and the opportunity. Remembering when Angie got duped by a fake photographer, Patrick calls the company listed on Scheckner’s business card to vet him. Somehow he gets the person on the phone to confirm that Scheckner was casting for a commercial and says he got “a team of hicks from a tiny town called Tarenton.”

The possible trip is not without its challenges. The principal and superintendent say the cheerleaders will not be excused from missed schoolwork. The ad agency needs signed permission slips from parents and administrators. The squad would have to miss games, so they have to convince their coach to let the lowly pompon squad fill in for them. Pres gets down on his knees and begs: “Don’t spoil our chances of success, glitter, big time!” The coach is conflicted. “If they saw the bright lights of New York, wouldn’t it make them resent their small-town life?” That sounds like a good plan, keep your children from ever experiencing anything new so they’re satisfied with the status quo. All the parents except for Walt’s say no, as does the principal. What a bunch of lame adults. Parents just don’t understand.

On the same day that they have to tell Scheckner no about the commercial, the school’s boiler breaks down and because it’s still cold, the school has to shut down for several days until it can be fixed. For some reason this means that the cheerleaders can do the commercial after all, even though most of the parents had said no for non-school related reasons. Olivia’s mom gives in “after she threatens to run away from home.” Patrick gets to go too since he’s the school photographer, and villain Vanessa plus her mother are coming along too. She brags that she’ll get to go shopping while they’re all busy working on the commercial. “Well, Van, it’s not your fault Harris Scheckner didn’t want you,” Walt said. “Some got talent, some go shopping.” Dang Walt’s getting sassy.

Because this is the 80s, the cheerleaders have to sing a jingle for the commercial. It goes as follows:
“Clean, Clean is bubble
Clean, Clean is pure
Won’t give your skin trouble
That’s for sure.
Wash your face
Wash it with Clean
Your skin will be the best
That it’s ever been.
Make it Clean…
Get it Clean…
You’ll be Clean!”

Wow, that’s pretty bad. Clean/been don’t rhyme FYI.

The group starts exploring the city once they arrive. Pres meets a girl almost immediately, of course. Her name is Blake and they have a great time until he tells her he’s a cheerleader, and she’s so turned off she gets up to leave. She says everyone in New York thinks cheerleaders are airheads. Okay, pretty sure that’s not true, weirdo. Pres begs for her phone number, and she agrees to go on a date with him. Meanwhile Vanessa is being ignored by the rest of the squad because of all the times she’s treated them like garbage, so she’s not having any fun and whines to her mom about it. Then she calls Mr. Scheckner and asks to meet up with him. And for some reason a busy NYC director will drop everything to speak to some random teenager he met briefly, of course.

The group goes to the warehouse where they are to begin rehearsals for their commercial. The choreographer Dan hates them, and the director’s assistant calls them dull. That’s when Vanessa shows up. She convinced Scheckner that she’s an extra cheerleader and has already learned the routine for the commercial, and now it looks like she’ll be the star of the whole thing. They are all angry at being treated like chattel, but for some reason they don’t spill the beans about Vanessa not really being a cheerleader.

Things get even worse when Angie can’t find the case that had all of their cash spending money. Pres’ annoying new friend Blake shows up and makes them feel stupid for only carrying cash, then tells them there’s no point in going to the police. She calls Angie “sweetheart” condescendingly. Angie still wants to go to the cops, so Blake tells her she better check her room and anywhere the case might be before she does so. “The cops are going to think you’re a real boob if you haven’t covered your bases.” Angie asks her why she’s so cynical, and she shrugs and says she’s a New Yorker. OH the stereotypes.

Blake offers to buy the group dinner, so they all get on the subway and go to SoHo for Thai food. When they tell her how Vanessa has taken over their commercial, she suggests they put something in her Coke to “put her out of commission” or arrange to have her kidnapped and held until filming is over. “Don’t I have a wonderful imagination?” she asks.

The next day at rehearsals they see a drawing of their costumes – tiny cheerleading skirts for the girls and breakaway leg panels that they tear off at some point – and are told the girls also have to get short, spiky haircuts. Their coach tries to defend their original look and says they shouldn’t change who they are for a commercial, and the choreographer kicks her out of rehearsals.

Later, Mary Ellen has an appointment to talk to someone at a modeling agency. She pastes all of her best photos on construction paper and makes a little book out of it. Patrick comes along with her for moral support, but before she goes in she accuses him of not wanting it to work out, because then she’ll definitely leave him and Tarenton behind. Patrick says he just wants the best for her, and this might not be it. Not sure if this is supposed to be a love story, but if so, it’s a pretty terrible one.

Of course, the meeting does not go well. Mary Ellen tells Evelyn, the agency lady, that she models at the Pineland Mall, as if that means anything to anyone outside of Tarenton. The lady has Mary Ellen walk back and forth across the room, then tells her maybe she could be a hand model! Mary Ellen leaves all dejected. She and Patrick go back to rehearsals, where Vanessa has emerged with her hair cut the way the commercial people want all the girls to be styled. “She looked as though they had stuck her head in a blender.” They all laugh at her, but the evil choreographer Dan tells them by Monday they will all look the same way.

That night they all go sightseeing with Blake again, as well as to a club. When they all head back to the hotel after, Pres walks with Blake to wait for a taxi. She tries to get him to kiss her, but because of Claudia, he just kisses her cheek.

The next day they have to wear their revealing costumes and perform the main number for the head of Clean Soap, Mr. Danzinger. And he hates everything about it, telling Scheckner he’s lost the account and they’re going to another ad agency. Mary Ellen pipes up and tells Danzinger that they have something else they can perform for him if he’s interested. They change into their real cheerleader costumes, emblazoned with the T for Tarenton. “Today, it stood for ‘Triumph.'” LOL. Because Vanessa got the stupid haircut and doesn’t have a real cheerleading outfit, she’s not included. They perform some routine they have and sing the Clean Soap jingle. Of course he loves it, then they all pile on Scheckner for underestimating them. “You may think we seem like hicks, but maybe we understand some things you don’t,” Pres says. Take that city jerks. Country folk for the win.

Pres is about to go meet up with Blake again when Claudia calls him at the hotel. Her operation is the next day. Pres gets so caught up in the call that he’s late for dinner with Blake. Blake chews him out, and he finally admits he has someone else that he’s in love with. He and Blake part on good terms.

Patrick and Mary Ellen are saying goodnight when he tells her his hotel room is probably empty. He asks her if she plans to come back to NYC one day and try her luck again at getting a big break, and she says probably. They end up going back to their separate rooms.

The next day when they are checking out before going to their final filming, they are told their rooms have not been paid for and they owe more than  $1,500. They thought Scheckner was going to have the agency cover everything, and they don’t have any other money because it all got stolen. The hotel threatens to arrest them. I am surprised even in the 80s that a hotel would let people stay without securing some kind of payment first. “You kids think you came to town for a free ride?” the manager asks angrily. Well, I’m pretty sure if they planned to duck out of their bill they wouldn’t have come down to the front desk to check out first.

Vanessa refuses to get her mother to help them, and their coach’s credit card limit is $500. Just then they see the taxi driver who originally dropped them off at the front of the hotel. He has their money! Angie left it in the taxi. Every one of these books has a miracle or five. He says he’s been driving around all week trying to remember which hotel he dropped them off at. On the way to the hotel they had sung the Clean Soap jingle for him, so to make sure he has the right group of kids, he makes them sing it again – in the hotel lobby, in front of everyone. Just as they finish, Scheckner runs in with a check to pay for the hotel. Everything works out just perfectly.

After they get home, Pres gets a call from Claudia whose operation was a success. The cheerleaders are being mobbed by everyone in school about their big trip. I don’t think these kids have gone anywhere else in their life. Everyone wants to know how New York was.

They arrange for their commercial to be shown on a large video screen at the mall. As they’re waiting for Pres, Vanessa shows up on crutches and tells everyone that she would have still been the star of the commercial if she hadn’t sprained her ankle. No one believes her.

The commercial is shown and “six very enthusiastic, totally committed cheerleaders danced and sang their hearts out, giving their all for Tarenton and the product they represented.” Barf.

Other notes and quotes:

  • The group plans to go visit the World Trade Center including a ride up to the top. That just makes me sad.
  • Claudia says to Pres, “I’m going to rassle you to the ground like I was a big grizzly and you were some itty bitty raccoon.” Ummmmm….
  • When they go to a club for some dancing, things get a little crazy. “Patrick danced with Nancy and Angie; Walt made it a threesome with Mary Ellen and Olivia.” Sounds kinky.

Sign of the Times:

  1. “Remember that so-called photographer who was going to make Angie into the hottest thing since Cheryl Tiegs?” Patrick asked.
  2. Blake asks the squad why they didn’t bring travelers checks instead of cash.
  3. The hotel manager tells the group that phone calls in NYC cost a quarter. So expensive.
  4. The Trump Tower is named as being an attraction they all want to see along with the Empire State Building, World Trade Center, Central Park, etc. The Trump Tower opened in 1983 so I guess it was a big deal back then, but I couldn’t tell you what it looked like and never thought to go see it or saw it listed as an attraction in guidebooks the few times I’ve visited NYC.
  5. The group takes the subway using tokens. Not sure when metro cards became the norm, but it’s been awhile!

Book Deets
Author: Jennifer Sarasin
Year: 1986
Pages: 168

Grade: B

Next time on Cheerleaders… When tragedy strikes one of the cheerleaders, the whole squad is affected. Read Cheerleaders #15, WAITING.

Basketballers Behaving Badly (#11 – Cheating)


Analyzing the cover: Based on scenes in the book, this should be Walt and Olivia at the phone, but from other covers, I’d guess this is the models representing Pres and Nancy, which makes this make no sense. I’m also pretty sure they used totally different models for other books, so how am I ever supposed to know who these people are? 

The squad goes to see a movie together, and they spot Nancy’s old flame Ben Adamson hanging out with two Tarenton basketball players. Since Ben plays for their arch rival Garrison High, a fact that resulted in Nancy dumping him previously (they were a less depressing, less romantic Romeo and Juliet), it is an odd sight. Then Walt drops the bomb that Ben is transferring to Tarenton.

The cheerleaders’ practice is interrupted by the basketball team invading the gym for team photos. Nancy is distracted by Ben who has joined the team, while Mary Ellen is getting turned on by Patrick taking pictures. “All she could think about was Patrick’s hands, steadying the Nikon; Patrick’s graceful body, moving around the court for the best angles; Patrick’s mouth, so often curved into the most seductive smile imaginable.” Is it hot in here or is it just me?

Nancy and Ben approach each other and it takes him about 2.5 seconds to convince her to go out with him. Then they are suddenly making out while Patrick takes pictures. (??) The world’s biggest tease Mary Ellen begrudgingly agrees to get a ride home with Patrick, who has the saddest outlook I’ve ever heard: “Mary Ellen might go for rides in Pres’ fancy red Porsche and she might fool around with Donny Parrish because he was a Big Man on Campus and therefore worthy of her consideration, but she always came back to him.” 

Nancy and Angie get called out by their teacher in front of everyone for doing poorly on a recent test. I’m pretty sure this kind of public shaming today would result in a viral news story across the country and a mob of parents protesting at the school board office. Nancy did bad because she has been overwhelmed focusing on Ben. She tells him they should stop making out all the time and actually have conversations and hang out with other people. Ben says, “Like those cheerleaders?!?” as if she has suggested they hang out with some white supremacists.

Pres has been messing around with Vanessa again, for some unknown reason. No self-respect, perhaps? “Even though he was turned on by Vanessa and dated her when no one else was available, he didn’t like her very much.” Vanessa is also seeing Johnny Bainbridge, the basketball captain of Tarenton’s rival Garrison. Nancy was basically crucified for doing the same thing, but Vanessa apparently can get away with it. Vanessa suspiciously goads Pres into making a bet with her for $50 that Tarenton won’t beat Garrison the next time they play, despite getting Ben on their team. At the next game, Ben inexplicably plays like crap and gets benched. Sadly, even the cheerleaders’ “Growl Wolves Growl” cheer can’t will their team to a win. Ben gets his groove back in the next two games, but then he is back to sucking again. Is he on drugs, maybe? Oh wait, this book is called “Cheating.” Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Mary Ellen gets a visit from a college-aged guy who works for a lawyer’s office saying a great-aunt she met once as a child has died and left ME $2,000 in her will. The guy, Barry, is obviously interested in Mary Ellen, which seems a little unprofessional.

Barry shows up at the next basketball game and makes some excuses to Mary Ellen that he had driven 4 hours just to update her on the status of her inheritance, but he’s full of it. He asks her to go out with him, and they run into Patrick as they’re leaving the school. If looks could kill, possibly both Barry and Mary Ellen would have holes in their heads. Later, Mary Ellen informs the squad she has to go to Mayville or wherever her great-aunt lived to finalize the inheritance thing at the law office. Why she needs several days to do this is beyond me, but Pres and Angie decide to tag along so they can practice their “trio dance” with Mary Ellen in Mayville whenever she has free time.

At the next game, Tarenton is losing yet again and the cheerleaders cheer their hearts and souls and brains out trying to will them to a win. Mary Ellen even thinks she can show Patrick how she really feels about him this way. “It was almost as if she was trying to tell him with her frenzied cheering that everything was going to be okay between them.” Yep, I bet he got that message loud and clear in between her going out on dates with other people and telling him he’s not good enough for her. She runs after him after the game and asks him why he’s ignoring her and treating her so poorly. Get a clue Melon. “Like how you normally treat me?” he asks. Boom. Got her. But of course he’s a pushover and they kiss and he wants her to promise not to see Barry again, but Melon will never change. “Am I a masochist?” Patrick asks. Yes. Patrick walks away from her and sends Mary Ellen into a tailspin of self-introspection. “She wondered what she was doing – with her life, with her friendships, with her very soul.” Her VERY SOUL!

Walt has started to suspect some Tarenton basketball players of throwing games, so he tape-records them in the locker room. (Pretty sure that is illegal). He hears a vague phrase said by Donny that convinces Walt he is correct. Olivia points out after I have already considered it that taping the players like that might not be legal and he should quit while he’s ahead. But Encyclopedia Brown is determined to crack the case.

Nancy thinks her and Ben need to take a break because their relationship might be distracting him and causing him to play badly. She also isn’t as attracted to a loser. For reals. She starts to worry that Ben has been playing bad on purpose to make Donny look bad (not sure about this logic).

Mary Ellen is getting ready for her trip to Mayville when she hears music outside. It’s Patrick, playing a song for her on the guitar. Patrick is wearing a blue pin-striped three-piece suit with a burgundy tie. Snazzy. She tells him he looks lovely, and then he gives her a speech about clothes not changing a person.  Then he drops his mic and leaves.

The next day Mary Ellen, Pres, Angie, and ME’s little sister head to Mayfield where they go to ME’s Uncle Roger’s house. Barry comes around and ME realizes he’s boring and she is just so much more into Patrick (same story book after book!) The cheerleaders end up going to eat with Barry and some of his college friends, who just randomly start talking about the prevalence of point shaving in college sports. Later ME and Barry go on a date alone and she ends up dumping him. And I’m left wondering what the point of this trip to Mayville was.

Back in Tarenton, the cheerleaders all come together again and talk about the possibility of point shaving on their own basketball team. Nancy mentions that Ben has seemed to have a lot of extra money lately, buying her gifts.Walt is still convinced that it was Donny, thanks to his vague illegally recorded tape.

Mary Ellen drives in a snow storm to go see Patrick. Her car slides out of control and she starts to walk toward his house. Patrick meets up with her and scolds her. “You little idiot! What in the name of Pete are you doing out in this storm?” You little idiot. That’s my new fave nickname for Mary Ellen. ME tells Patrick she’s sorry for always leading him on and going out with other guys, and no one is as special to her as he is. Patrick once again falls for it. Personally I’ll believe it when I see it.

Nancy is studying at Ben’s when a strange car pulls up outside. Ben goes out to talk to the driver, and Nancy watches through the window. It’s the captain of the Garrison team, Johnny, who hands Ben a brown envelope. Ben tries to throw it back at Johnny, but it lands in the snow. Johnny drives off, and Ben puts it in his pocket. So Nancy plays coy when Ben comes back in, but she tries to take his jacket from him and he jerks it away. Money flies out like confetti. Ben tells her Johnny tried to bribe him to throw the Tarenton/Garrison game and gave him a $50 advance. That was how Ben paid for Nancy’s gifts, but Ben paid him back and insisted he wasn’t going to do it. Johnny had collected $200 from other players at Garrison to pay Ben if he would throw the game. He insists his bad play in previous games was just because he was uptight and not because he got paid. Nancy gives him back the earrings he got her because they were bought with “blood money.” A little dramatic, Nance.

Before the game Walt says he is going to confront Donny with his “magic tape recorder.” Sometimes I root for Walt to get his butt kicked. Walt’s magic tape recorder gets jammed at the moment of truth, so Walt just lays out his accusations himself. Walt sounds like a raving lunatic and the guys express zero concern about him calling them out. The game starts and both Ben and Donny play like they want to win, and wonder of wonders, Tarenton beats Garrison. Walt is super confused. So apparently Ben gave Johnny the money back, and Donny was never actually involved?

Everyone has their happy ending – Pres wins the bet against Vanessa, and Nancy takes Ben and his earrings back. That was anti-climactic.

Other interesting notes and quotes:

  • Pres says, “Maybe I am just talking through my hat.” I have never heard someone utter that phrase in my life.
  • The lyrics to Patrick’s song for Mary Ellen are:”Oh, sweet lady, hear my plea/I’m the one for you/Clothes don’t make the man, you see/Tell me that’s not true/I’m no lawyer, I’m no prince/I’m no shining knight/But this heart that loves you so/Will see you through the night”

Sign of the Times:

  • Nancy and Ben hang out in the basement with a stack of tapes to watch on the VCR.
  • Pres tells ME she should use her inheritance to “buy one of those new compact disc players. The sound is like you’re right there in the recording studio.”
  • Mary Ellen tells Walt, Nancy and Olivia to come up with their own trio dance, but “no slam dancing.”

Book Deets:
Author: Jennifer Sarasin
Year: 1985
Pages: 171

Grade: C

Next time on Cheerleaders… Who is the strange young man who has been approaching the girls? Read Cheerleaders #12, Staying Together.