Sweet Dreams #159 Long Shot – Joanne Simbal – This heroine needs a slap shot!


        Sweet Dreams #159 - Long Shot - Joanna Simbal
    I re-read this book the other day partially to discover what I didn’t like about it the first time around. It starts off good with arty Ariel a sophomore who plunges excitedly into a ‘movie’ making competition at her high school only to discover too late the ‘movies’ have to center around the school curriculum with a limit of three minutes long. Sounds more like a commercial. She winds up with hockey as her subject. Her groan was no louder than mine. Part of  my distaste could be that I’m not fond of sports themes, only there’s hardly much mention of hockey to justify this other than to label our hero, Cooper, as a hockey player.  I think the real trouble is that the characters fail to make an impact. In something as fluffy as a Sweet Dreams the writer has one of two choices – knock your socks off with an original plot – #148 Riddles of Love Judy Baer or give us some great characters – #18 Ten-Boy Summer – Janet Quin-Harkin to root for. Long Shot does neither.
    Here’s the plot –
    Ariel Bresson is an arty sophomore who talks her wisecracking BFF Patty into entering the film making contest at their high school. Though Patty is reluctant , they are after all only sophomore’s , Ariel is exuberantly determined. Both girls have seemingly interesting back grounds – Patty is Native-American and Ariel is French-Canadian ( but don’t get you’re hopes up that anything cultural will make an appearance – these are merely labels ) and though they reside in Minnesota any old suburb with a hockey arena can be pictured. After deciding to enter, the girls learn there are a few hitches in their plans – like the teacher is assigning themes and as they watch apprehensively at the doorway all the good ones are being snatched. A shove from Patty into the classroom leads them with the most loathsome ( for Ariel ) hockey. She can’t stand jocks – hockey players in particular. When she attempts to explain to the teacher she already has an idea for the movie he tells her in a ( can anyone believe this excuse ) that the cost of film and camera are covered by a sporting goods store so it’s out of the question. Say what? Two pages ago he rattled off other non-sports themes and admitted the school was supplying the camera and equipment – that’s a bit of a whoops!
             No matter. It should be interesting to see how a art lover handles herself around jocks.
            Ariel scopes out the boys practice , giving us a bit of her background , a defense of why she hates jocks. Eddie her obnoxious ex who when her drawings started to receive attention , got jealous. As far as he was concerned there was room for only one star , him. Naturally there is a bonus to getting the hockey team – dreamy Cooper Garris ( could be an authors inversion of Gary Cooper! He is after all six feet with strawberry blonde hair!  ) who comes to her rescue when Eddie snatches her sketch pad and starts to mock her work. Naturally Cooper asks for a peek and praises it – though he does point out the accuracy of the spacing between the rinks lines. Ariel flutters between being charmed and being on guard because when he comments that he’s never seen her around , and she counters there’s more to life than sports , he gives the usual jocular reply as like what?
           Is he teasing?
          Ariel spends the next chapter in her art class trying to decide. Patty in perfect m.o. as the bff is only there to steer Ariel in the right direction ( give him a break ) no matter how much Ariel objects. I’m starting to think all Sweet Dreams Bff’s are merely symbolic rudders or good-fairies. Their whole bustling, busy-body image is capped with an unmentioned I told you so attitude very much like a well meaning mom. Though there is no rule that states that the heroine can’t have more than one BFF it’s always odd when a second one appears. Fudge , Ariel’s cousin is added to the crew to help them film – and her job mirrors that of Patty , both of them try to get her to lighten up on Cooper.
          Cooper is a hero whose true nature wavers in order to maintain what little suspense there is – when he hunts Ariel down at lunch and hands her a diagram of the rink , eager to get a specific time out of her as to when she’ll be filming , she is torn with thinking him pushy and arrogant or listening to the reasoning of both Patty and Fudge.
    Of course it’s not the girls she listens to – Nothings that easy.
    So far the book has been okay – no real qualms and as we enter the next chapter – Ariel invites Patty and Fudge over for a meeting to discuss filming and has set up a sign that says BNB films with a cereal box cut out of Tony the tiger for a joke. BNB are the initials of the girls last names. The meeting is disorganized though showing their glaring lack of knowledge of the project and subject. It gets even worse when they show up at the rink having never even talked to the coach about their plans. Fortunately Cooper had informed him. He’s not thrilled but allows the girls to be there on the condition that if one of the boys object they’re out of there.
      The next chapter starts with some silliness with the girls teasing Ariel about Cooper and Fudge screaming at the sight of Eddie in a hockey mask. She acts as if she’d never seen one before which I seriously doubt in Minnesota , in the 80’s with – Ahem – the movie Halloween and all it’s sequels. By now is where I’m starting to get annoyed , again. Little things like that irk me – but the whopper happens a page later as our hot shot director walks into the half wall surrounding the rink – so busy concentrating on the players that the camera flies out of her hands onto the rink. As it skims along nearly colliding with a group of scrimmaging players – Cooper darts in and saves it. The coach calls for a break and glares at Ariel – I think you’ve got enough footage for today.
      Ariel is not looking like an artist , or a free spirit – what she’s looking like is a ding-a-ling klutz. One mistake I’ll give her that – but wait there’s more. Though she dropped the camera she accuses Eddie of nearly breaking it when his hockey stick is knocked to the ice and zooms towards it. Cooper is too polite to consider this crazy talk and offers to have a friend of his develop her film for her. By now the Kate Beekman like wrath inside me ( Kate Beekman is the film obsessed girl from the Sleepover Friends ) was thinking are they crazy – what film? What movie could possibly be worth producing after your first awkward attempts. Cool it sister I tell myself. Read on.
      Ariel gets a message from a guy in her chemistry class ( the developer of the film ) to meet Cooper at the Audio Visual room after school. She is so miffed that he never asked her himself , she’s wondering if she should show up. When she does she scolds him for sending a messenger to ask her. I was busy he says and ushers her into the room. Ariel doesn’t even feel embarrassed when she sees why he was busy – a sign reads Gala Premiere Tonight! Sneak preview of a new film by Ariel Bresson ( by invitation only ) – there’s also Coke , champagne glasses , pastries , bright colored napkins. Napkins! A sixteen year old boy remembering napkins! Grab him girl! Grab him! Awed she allows herself this romantic moment , loosening up a little. Though my brain was still stewing on the movie.
       Luckily they did address that afterwards – the movie she tells Patty was awful , terrible. Her thumb starred in most scenes as a pink blob. She tries to show Patty the film via a flashlight but her father comes up with something better a box containing a movie projector and some super 8’s. Prompting Patty to suggest a movie party showing the old black and white one reelers. So far Ariel is striking out on the artistic character department – despite some great outfits , a scene in which she was supposed to be painting but was wallowing in her dilemma with Patty , she’s had no great moments – even Patty gets the credit for the clever party. There is a cute phone conversation with Cooper however in which he kicks off some flirting by saying I already had plans for that night , I was going to ask you out. Oh she plays along – I couldn’t accept because I already have a date with you.
       But just when things look up Ariel loses her gloss in the next scene when she’s filming and Cooper having set up and executed some action shots from his teammates looks over to find Ariel mouthing no film. His mouth drops in disbelief but he attempts to get the boys to do it again. Eddie protests , a fight nearly breaks out and naturally the coach shows up in time to see trouble and kicks the girls out. At this rate they should switch from film to photography a whole set called – All Thumbs.
        To sort of balance out Ariel’s klutz-streak, Cooper having mis-heard that they will be watching Buster Poindexter silent films shows up with some of his records – so they don’t have to be silent. Ariel laughs – Buster Keaton not Poindexter. He reddens. Well I was close.
        The party turns on a dime when an old super 8 of Ariel getting soaked by a bucket of water from ex-Eddie when she was 12 has her running from the room. Cooper follows to  comfort her but the moment was distracting – not only did it dampen my mood – I hate when parties turn into disasters in lite-lit , but I also noticed that if her family had films of Ariel then they probably had a camera – why didn’t she use her own equipment and make her own movie?!
         Oh well , pressing on…Ariel is invited to a hockey game and I’m clutching the book a little tighter , watch out Cooper , I want to warn him , keep her high up in the bleachers she’s not an artist she’s a jinx. So what does she do I tensed through ever double talk as Patty and her went over whether or not she was allowed to film that night , I guess I should be getting a shot of this. I winced. Visions of Cooper running chin first into her camera hanging over the ice swam before my eyes. And then her super-hunk starts getting pushed around by an opposing player. No fouls are called rankling her. Suddenly as they’re nearing her and the creep is at it again – Ariel can’t help herself and grabs the players jersey shouting foul! Foul! All players stop. The coach literally grabs Ariel by the shoulders and bans her from the rink.
      She’s done it now and with no footage for the film.
      What does Cooper say – he mouths for her to meet him a steak restaurant. They lost the game – but Cooper is nice , too nice – this guy is a dream boy! He’s not angry about the loss , or what Ariel did. It’s as though Ariel is just the one for him , it’s sweet but sort of hard to believe. He even feels it’s HIS fault she can no longer film and agrees to sneak her up into this storage room the next Saturday – she’ll have to shoot in long shots but hey – it’s getting to be there symbol. They’re a long shot – he grins – the artist and the jock – actually I was thinking the coordinated and the uncoordinated would be a better description.
       Naturally because it involves Ariel , trouble brews Eddie whose only had a couple of flare ups makes trouble if only to give Ariel’s faded doubts a re-coat. Cooper is the only one who showed up for the filming – because Eddie sneers he wants to be the star. Ariel believes that snake rather than listen to what Cooper has to say. And his reason is smart , he didn’t want anymore trouble for her or the team, so that way he’d risk only self getting filmed and she could splice it together. Faced with no more time – thinking Cooper’s a washout. Ariel looks down in the box given to her by Cooper’s friend who’d developed her recent efforts and noticed that a hockey training film had been put in – she splices in images from that and is able to enter – not knowing as Cooper will later admit he was the one who did that. Why she asks? And by now she deserves a slap shot for not even guessing – cause I like you. He says. She doesn’t win which would’ve been too much and the story deserves kudos for that alone – but not too much cause it sets up the wonderful end line – “The film may not have won a prize,” she says ( snuggling into his arms ) “but I sure did.”


         All in all it’s not a bad book. But I feel like Ariel was given a raw deal. Her character stumbled along and there wasn’t one moment in her project ( besides the romance ) that showed her as anything but incompetent. How can you root for anyone so slipshod? Might’ve been a better story had they scrapped the video club idea and had Ariel attempt to join the boys hockey team. Though the ideas been done – it’s ripe for many layers – even the contrary notion that Ariel could still hate jocks and be one! And Cooper was just too good to believe. ** to ** ½

    OTHER OODLES
* Ariel  wears two dynamite outfits in this book that are pure late 80’s  – I love ‘em!
– cinnamon colored cords , black turtleneck sweater under a black leather jacket , large hoop earrings , and a funky black hat
* As for her party outfit – pale peach loose cotton blouse with a pin at the throat , faded black denim jeans , black flats and peach socks with black polka dots on them – funky socks aw right!
* So when you heard the characters name was Ariel what were you thinking – admit it – The Little Mermaid – okay so I was too, a little , but I also recalled Ariel from Footloose. But doesn’t the girl on the cover remind you of Amy Smart?

ariel the little mermaid

Lori singer as Ariel

Amy Smart from Rat Race

 

    I decided to pair up the book with these funky pics to show how the writer could’ve spread her characters out into more interesting movie worthy subjects. Get out of the high school setting!

80's spearmint colored cowboy boots and fringed jumpsuit

Yiiiii-Haw – a rodeo’s come to town and Ariel’s digging out her spearmint green cowboy boots to film the yahoos for the school’s movie competition!

80's pink denim overalls

80's pink denim overalls from back_edited-1

* The book is re-titled UP IN THE AIR as Ariel Bresson whose afraid of heights finds herself with the dreaded Carnival as her movie contest theme. Worse is her growing attraction to Cooper Garris a hunky carny who works the ferris wheel!

80's roller skate girl with alice band

* Klutzy Ariel is given the school local roller derby as her movie theme project – can the hunky roller-disco champ Cooper Garris keep Ariel on her feet?

80's girl on escalator

* Ariel hopes the mall will bring her inspiration for the upcoming movie competition and has come prepared , baring in mind her past klutzy attempts – an umbrella just in case she sets off the sprinkler system!

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