The 80’s throbbed with action – survival true stories revealed harrowing brushes with death, P.I.’s tore up every avenue on land , sea and even air! ( who could forget the bright pink Screaming Mimi in Riptide ) and even series fiction found teens battling pulp-rooted conflict with actual nerve rattling suspense! Here are some fave nail-biters brought to you by Cheerleaders ( who put their pom-pom shaking on hold for these
gripping yarns ) enjoy!
Cheerleaders # 17 – Taking Risks
This book kicks off with Olivia down for the count – stumbling during a usually easy forward flip- but it turns out her mother force fed her some medication before practice which left her a little woozy. This somehow sparks off an argument between the other members of the squad , leaving Pres in a strange mood, still mourning the fact that Claudia ( his girlfriend ) is gone – not dead but gone. He’s helping Patrick move furniture and I love how on page 15 (read this quote -‘The two males , both six feet tall and looking too handsome to be doing a physical job like this , stood facing each other. Except for one being in jeans and the other in coveralls they looked like they ought to be male models preparing to be in a commercial.’) the author reassures the reader of a characters beauty ( this is done in every series! ) often likening them to the top beauties of the moment – guys are often Tom Cruise lookalikes and girls are always a Brooke Sheilds lookalike.Or at least have some part picked off of her , her eyes , her hair, her toothy smile. And I have to
mention Angie’s new squeeze Christopher Page with a tangerine Camaro! caught making out in a long goodbye kiss as she is dropped off with the rest of the cheerleaders to drive to the game together – they razz her – Cool lips, Chris does it again! Go for it!
I will definitely have to do an article on 80’s cars they were such a status symbol in the 80’s and the choices were endless. Porches , Camaros , Trans Ams.
The kids pile into the van decked out with a couch and a cooler full of sodas and head off to the game – Patrick wants a longer practice and decides to take a short cut clearing it first with a distracted Pres who’s debating wether or not he should play the field again. As the rain pours down harder the twists on the road increase until the van screeches to a halt. Patrick has spotted an overturned car and they all pile out to see if anyone’s hurt. But the girls are creeped out by the car’s condition – grimy windows – the driver was obviously a chain smoker , torn seats – what kind of person owns this creepy vehicle?! They’re about to find out as two men step from the woods holding gasp revolvers! I almost laughed myself silly when, after Pres and Olivia are tied to a tree , possibly, to be shot and left behind & only untied and ordered with the rest to pile in the van because they don’t want to leave bodies by the car , the pair tell them , they’re driving them to Canada. Canada! Whatever happened to Mexico? And Mary Ellen says ( get this ) – what about the game?! Say what? But Pres resists being overly sarcastic and merely says we’ve go more to worry about than the game. Ya think!
Walt keeps a level head and manages to slightly subdue the edgy kidnapper into allowing them to talk even getting the man to give them their names – Lee and Slim ( a misnomer ) for he is just shy of being a hulk. Patrick driving the van realizes his broken gas gage could work in his favor and pretends they are almost out of gas. Lee tells him to pull into the next station but warns the others any smart moves and Slim is a champion pistol-whipper and picks out Mary Ellen as a target – ‘Any of your friends decide to be brave, you get to find out what kind of plastic surgery one of slim’s little jobs will make you need.’ Mary Ellen the model wannabee is of course horrified. Meanwhile coach Ardith goes looking for them but feels like it will soon become a slapstick scene with her looking for them and them looking for her.
Patrick is full of tricks – hey their’s a visual pun in that! , and appears to the criminals only to have a five dollar bill , meaning they’ll have to make another stop. The girls not without their own tricks demand bathroom breaks but Slim is sent with them to count down 60 seconds – and if they are out in 1 minute he’d barge in after them. Olivia scrambling to leave the proverbial note in the washroom has the door slammed open on her and is stunned – a criminal without manners unheard of?! But I’m being mean , I get it , the shock is when someone actually makes good on a threat. Nancy through a clever trick sparked with Mary Ellen rushes into the station with Slim darting after her to fetch some toilet paper and manages to stumble and pass off the toilet paper to Slim who leaves her alone briefly with the gas station attendant – only managing to just tell him they’ve been kidnaped , she is dragged back to the van. And the attendant an older man writes off Nancy as being a kooky teenager off on a prank and puts her out of his mind. As the van continues on it’s not so merry way to Canada – two poncho clad teenagers join the ranks when they try to flag down the van for help and Patrick is ordered to run them over. A fast swerve stops the car bringing over one hot tempered teen who gets a gun stuck in his face. Matt a handsome teen who offers some distracting flirting for a selfish Mary Ellen as if Patrick didn’t have enough to deal with driving the getaway car with a gun stuck in his ribs! and Matt’s wounded girl friend Vicky who offers Pres some distracting flirting.
As the crooks decide to stop at the nearest out of the way store for some food , the old attendant back at the station realizes due to a talkative customer that the kooky teen was telling the truth!
In the van all their wallets are ordered tossed into a pile. I love these lines – ‘“Well what do we have here,” he (Slim ) cackled and pulled a fifty dollar bill out. He showed it to Lee much like an obedient hunting dog bringing the downed duck to his master.’Olivia is dragged into the tiny store to help purchase the food – Slim picks out chocolate chip cookies , 2 half liters of Pepsi , ( he almost bought a box of animal crackers until Olivia can’t help but jab – what’ve you got? Arrested development? – something more subtle was probably needed – burst into a Shirley Temple’s song – animal crackers in my soup…)
Walt comes up with a plan which doesn’t exactly go smoothly – after the girls on cue complain about not getting anything to eat meanwhile the crooks are cramming their faces with chocolate bars , Patrick tells them to grab something from the cooler ( which has gone unnoticed by the crooks since it’s being used as a seat.) Walt makes a dive for it and gets shot at – end of plan for a while – I kept thinking what in the world kindof plan hinged on opening a cooler – did he plan on dropping ice down the crooks back and as the wiggle and jump from the cold wrestle the gun away. Actually that’s not a bad idea. Ardith tells the team to win it for the cheerleaders! Meanwhile the clerk at the mom & pop store realizes that the cheerleader that was just in that night was with the crooks and calls the cops which are suddenly on their tail. But on the rain slicked road – Patrick ordered to loose the cop does , as the cop car goes sliding off the road. Foiled again. Should I stick in a commercial about now? Of course not the best is yet to come – With all the sharp turns the kids are thrown all over giving Walt a second chance – Let’s go for it! Their plan? – they save the day with Pepsi – or maybe Coke. Anyhoo they all grab cans of soda shake them up and squirt the bad guys all in a geyser os soda suds , totally hilarious but fun I mean how else were they going to resolve it a shoot out? Though for a split second Pres thinks Patrick gets shot in the head and screams his name – only Patrick ducked. Angie smashes one of the baddies over the head with a bottle of apple juice and worries for a second that she’s killed him. ( it’s always strange but nice to see the prey worry more for the predators!)
After tying up the subdued and disarmed bad guys they do what cheerleaders do – cheer of course. Although afterwards Mary Ellen wonders what she’ll have to cheer about wondering if she’s lost Patrick who is definitely not amused by her flirting. Terrific rousing action packed story! Reading this one would make you buy up all the other Cheerleader book just to see if they’re as good. Written by Anne Reynolds whom I looked up but unless she went with another name didn’t do too much – too bad. She has my vote for one of the most exciting series book ever!
Cheerleaders #15 Waiting
Olivia starts the book bored and longing for spring , while Pres is excited for the return of Claudia after her spinal surgery and takes her to Nancy’s party. Vanessa crashes it and gets cozy with Claudia annoying Pres. And Nancy rather than make a scene ignores Vanessa’s presence. Olivia overhears Ben and Patrick talking about climbing Winchester Peak and asks if she can come along. Mary Ellen stiffens with jealousy over the news of Olivia going climbing with Patrick and especially after seeing them dance together -‘ he gives her one of his I-know-whats-eating-you smiles.’ he cools her down. Talk of Olivia going mountain climbing has most people speculating that she’s so tiny will she be any good or a burden on the boys.Vanessa meanly influences Claudia telling her Pres is wild and energetic and Claudia will have a hard time keeping up now. Pres is furious but to show Claudia he can bend to something less fast paced he agrees to turn her welcome home bash into a civilized brunch – with croissants , and fancy jams and marmalade. The day of the climb Olivia layers on clothing , packs food like gorp ( isn’t that a fabulous word – I always think it sounds like a noise a cartoon monster would make – Gorp , gorp , gorp – I had no idea what gorp was until I read an Apple paperback called Just a Little Bit Lost – good story by the way ) , cheese , crackers , apples , chocolate , and a thermos of coffee. Plus peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwiches ( I love how writers are always adding a new sandwich combo it’s like they sneak in their own preference! ) when they arrive together , Patrick talks to the ranger and learns their has been a light dusting of snowfall and new snow on top of old can be dangerous. But nobody wants to back out , instead they decide to take a different route , the windward side of the mountain where it might be more stable. The writer either has done some mountain climbing or really done her homework she effortlessly integrates terminology but delivers it in such a way it doesn’t sound text book ( and knowing that one of the other characters Ben doesn’t know much he’s constantly clued in , along with the reader.)
Patrick discovers straight off that everyone might have been wrong to worry so much about Olivia when it’s Ben that showed up dressed in a parka over a t shirt and not in layers like he was supposed to but Ben brushes it off and Olivia has brought an extra windbreaker so they continue on as planned. A rumble of thunder catches them off guard as rocks tumble down the hillside and for a moment they are worried about avalanches , Olivia sees the clouds high up by the summit and says it’ll blow over. It doesn’t and they continue to climb – Olivia feels like a glorious spider even in the rain. But Patrick smells snow coming and Ben is not doing too hot , completely drenched, he is trembling all over. There is a close brush with death as a sheet of ice breaks away and goes crashing down the mountain before the trio can huddle together and sip coffee trying to keep Matt warm.
Meanwhile the others are on their way to Pres’s brunch – Mary Ellen looking gorgeous in ‘a silky white dress with deep green Oriental-style brush strokes and a white wool coat. Interestingly as she is taking in Pres’s beautiful home admiring the luxury he lives in and pictures her own future in a New York apartment wondering if their will be a man in her life the reader has to wonder yikes what happened to Patrick? I guess he and N.Y. just don’t mix. Vanessa shows up for the brunch and in typical catty fashion had the gall to wear the same dress as Claudia only in a striking red and Claudia after her accident looks washed out in white. Claudia remains ever-graceful and only tells Vanessa she looks stunning , stumping the vixen. A blizzard has the brunch goers worrying about their friends on the mountain. And they have every right to –
Ben is getting colder and trying not to let the others know , Patrick feels the weight of being a leader responsible for getting them home safe and sound and Olivia tries to get the boys to smile with frozen M&Ms danging from her mitt. As they all agree they’ll head down the mountain and get down in time for the big game that night a rumbling stops them in their tracks. Rivulets of snow pass them an avalanche! But it’s not heading their way , they turn towards Ben behind him but for some reason he is heading towards the noise , Patrick takes off after him and Olivia knowing something is wrong follows suit ( my meager metaphors can not do this scene justice it really is heart-pounding! ) Ben waves to them before dropping off a snowy ledge. Patrick and Olivia climb down to where Ben fell. One usually assumes in a children’s series that Ben will suddenly croak out something dumb like what a trip and everyone will laugh uneasily and they’ll have to rig up some gurney out of pine branches to drag him down the mountain but the writer actually stuns the reader this time – Patrick proclaims – Ben’s dead he broke his neck. And that’s it. Ben is dead. Back at the game the others are worried about their friend and would rather form a search party than cheer.
But on the mountain it’s getting dark and Patrick suggests a risky idea to glissade ( slide on their boots ) down the mountain. That doesn’t go well as an avalanche sweeps Patrick off and carries him down the mountain. Just able to dig himself out , he finds Olivia and digs out a shelter for the night.
After Ardith makes an announcement about the missing teens , the Cheerleaders are redused to tears but calm down enough to cheer on the game hoping to win one for Ben , Patrick and Olivia. The next morning Patrick and Olivia are found by rangers and Patrick delivers the news of Ben’s death to Nancy who collapses in sobs while Vanessa that skunk skulks into Olivia’s hospital room hoping to get the whole story. What a snoop! Ugly rumors swirl that Ben’s death could’ve been prevented with only backfires getting Vanessa suspended and the book finishes with a memorial basketball game for Ben, once one of their star players. Suspenseful , nail-biting story – good work Jody Sorenson!
Famous haunting words – “We can’t tell anyone when we get back that we were warned,” Ben said. “I hate it when you’re home, safe and sound, and everyone spoils things by saying you’ve done something stupid.”
I remember watching a t.v. movie in the 80’s probably on rerun because it actually came out in 1978 – it starred Blair Brown and was about a woman surviving a plane crash and trying to get down the mountain even though she is totally without supplies or even basic survival skills – one of the things I remember most is she ended up eating her lipstick , she was that hungry! I loved watching those survival t.v. movies and no I’m not a sadist! I just find it amazing at how resourceful and determined people can become thrown into hazardous conditions. I even read a few true-life stories and one of my favorites was called Survive the Savage Sea by Dougal Robertson who went sailing with his two boys , wife and a young man who was there to round out his crew. They wound up surviving I think almost two months lost at sea! I wish I could be more accurate but I’d have to dig the book out of storage. It was totally engrossing , if you can pick it up some where it’s worth the read and filled with interesting little sketches that helped to flesh out just how cramped things were on their new home , a too tiny rubber raft , sleep required the utmost organization. They were literally pioneers at sea! catching turtles and drying out the meat , and using every little piece – to quench their thirst – turtles blood ,to salve their skin – turtle oil to using the shell to catch rain water. I even recall the writer attempting to chart their course with primitive methods and became almost obsessed with the constant challenge of the sea and not surprisingly , the old sea-salt of a man, as soon as he recovered was back sailing again. They made a t.v. movie out of it in 1992 – starring Robert Urich & Ali McGraw and the young girl from Labamba it was pretty good the only thing lacking was the constant cut back and forth from the daughter at home trying to figure out what happened to her family , back to the family lost at sea, it dulled the edge of just how long – loooonnnng – they were out there , two hours just doesn’t do justice to the length needed.
A two part mini series might have been better.
Decided to include a pic of a vintage Coke can Walt’s weapon of choice! p.s. Don’t you just love the cover of Taking Risks with Pres and Olivia tied to a tree! er – rather tied in front of a tree.