Friday, August 5, 2016

Point Horror: The Cheerleader (Caroline B. Cooney)

Althea was once a popular girl with friends, a great skier, and an award winning horseback rider. When she got to high school through, everyone went their separate ways. Despite having a dance and athletic background, she lost a spot on the cheerleading squad to a freshman, Celeste. The ancient evil who lives inside her home offers her a deal: bring him Celeste and he'll make Althea popular.

See, Althea's house has a turret with shutters on the inside and outside of each window. A vampire lives inside that room, and despite being told multiple times not to go inside, she did and met the creature that would change her life. He promises that Celeste will just get tired and that she'll actually be back to school the day after “it” happens. Still not sure what to do, she decides to ingratiate herself into Celeste's life.

Althea suddenly goes to practice and goes out of her way to be friends with the younger girl. At every turn though, she gets shot down. Celeste says she can't come over to her house because she has cheerleading practice, which she says in a snotty kind of way. Althea keeps trying though, which eventually leads to Celeste coming over to her house and Althea suggesting that they check out the shuttered room.

Everything changes the next day at school. Becky, one of the cheerleaders, suddenly acts like her best friend. She invites her to come hang out with the popular crowd at McDonald's, talks to her about school, and pushes her to flirt with this guy Ryan. Ryan is so enamored of Althea that he follows her to class, talks with her about astronomy, and makes it clear that he can't wait to see her at McDonald's later.

At chorus, a bunch of kids make fun of Celeste for showing up looking super tired and pale. Althea is suddenly so popular that she can sit wherever she wants. Despite having a massive crush on Michael, she's more than willing to flirt with Ryan at McDonald's, especially since Michael has his own girlfriend. Nothing much happens over the next few chapters though.

She thinks that she sees the vampire outside in the sun a few times. Becky convinces her to throw a party for the popular kids in her house. Then they get the news that Celeste dropped off the squad. Since high school kids are sheep who go along with the popular kids, when Becky calls Celeste a loser and says she's a quitter, everyone follows along.

Althea makes it on the squad because almost no one else tries out. When the JV squad pitches a fit over not getting to try out, the coach gets super quiet and weird before calming them down. Althea briefly wonders if someone or something forced the coach to choose a new cheerleader instead of someone from the JV squad. She then runs into one of her older friends and graciously invites the girl to her upcoming party.

The vampire then comes to her and tells her that she has to give him one of her party guests. If she doesn't, he'll make her unpopular again. He tells her that she can make her choice known by putting her arm around the person she chooses. Jennie, her former best friend, winds up telling a bunch of stories from when they were younger. They laugh, have fun, and agree to always be friends and never let things get in the way again.

Althea makes the mistake of putting her arm around Jennie though. Freaking out, she runs outside and screams that this wasn't her choice. She smells a dusty or moldy scent and watches in horror as Jennie suddenly gets the urge to go outside. She also sees the vampire's arm reach out for Jennie. The vampire later tells her that he'll wipe the minds of those there to make sure they don't remember her freak out.

Jennie doesn't come to school on Monday and actually doesn't come back to school at all. Everyone pretty much gets over it, and Althea becomes one of the most popular people in school. Even the seniors know her name. Becky suddenly becomes way less popular though. The other girls get really snotty with her and talk about her behind her back.

While at Pizza Hut, Althea sees Becky come in looking super nervous. She invites her to join them at their table. When everyone gets up to leave and ignores her once again, she asks Becky to spend the night that weekend. Michael's girlfriend Constance stops by and hangs out with Althea, Michael, and Ryan. Even though she wants the older girl's boyfriend, Althea is in awe of Constance. By inviting Becky to her house though, she's sealed the poor girl's fate and made the cheerleader the vampire's next victim instead of choosing her competition.

To save Becky, she offers to spend the night at the other girl's house, especially after the vampire demands Becky as his next victim. Becky sets it up so that Ryan can come over to see her. Althea senses the vampire outside and begs Becky to stay in the house, but the girl goes outside the next day. When they wake up the next morning, Becky is so weak that she can't even lift her juice glass. Her mom flips out and seriously considers making her quit the squad because it takes up so much of her life.

This makes Althea rush home and up to the shutter room. When she can't get the windows open to close the exterior shutters, she actually breaks the glass. Before she can close the interior shutters, the vampire shuts the door and starts taking her over. That's when Ryan shows up outside and sees her. He plays his music so loud that she can drown out the vampire's voice insider her head and get outside. They go back to Pizza Hut and find Becky is suddenly all better.

Though she might think that she's safe, the vampire comes back. He says that Becky's house was just a little too far away, which is why he didn't affect her the way he did others. When Althea claims she doesn't need him and will no longer help him, he suggests she go to school the next day without him. It goes about the way you would expect.

First, her car won't start. Then while walking to school, someone splashes mud all over her clothes. No one will talk to her or even acknowledge her. Girls from the JV squad tell her that try outs for the basketball cheerleading squad are coming up and that there's no chance she'll get a spot. Varsity cheerleaders talk about how much she sucked like she's not even there, and even Becky acts like she doesn't exist. Ryan seems to have no interest in her either. She then sees Celeste and Jennie sitting near each other in the cafeteria with a space between them that practically screams out her name.

The vampire agrees to change her life back to the way it was before and even give her back Becky if she agrees to give him Constance. When she goes back to school, everyone loves her again. The captain of the squad gives her a ride, Becky apologizes for being a creep, and Ryan sends her an apology note too. Constance and Michael suggest they go out on a double date. Though Constance seems pretty nice, Althea suggests they hang out at her house and even agrees to let Constance check out the shutter room.

The closer they get to her house though, the more she freaks out. She eventually starts screaming at them to leave and get away from her house. Constance thinks she doesn't like her, and Ryan thinks that she's crazy. He pretty much throws her from the car, makes a few rude comments, and peels out with his friends. Needless to say, the vampire isn't too happy.

Althea begs him to let her be popular just one more time. When he agrees, she fights back. She tells him that he only gets stronger when weak people give in to his demands and take his offers. When she rejects his latest offer, it makes him feel weak and gives her the strength to close all the shutters. Though she lost her old life, she thinks that if she works hard enough, she can get it back. It then ends with the vampire sitting in the shutter room and waiting until his next victim arrives.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Sweet Valley Twins #33: Elizabeth's New Hero

The gymnastics team from East Germany is coming to Sweet Valley. Caroline is more excited than anyone because one of the guys is staying with her. Everyone in town had the chance to sign up and volunteer their homes. There were 10 kids who needed a place to stay, and the Wakefields were number 11 on the list. Caroline can't stop talking about all the things they'll do and paints her own sign to take to the airport.

Alice mysteriously tells the twins that night that plans might change. Caroline's grandmother is so sick that she needs to come and stay with them, so they can't take in Christoph like they planned. As long as the board approves, Christoph can come and stay with them. They learn later that night that they got the nod, so Alice makes Steven move into the den and give up his room for Christoph.

Jessica immediately starts making plans with the Unicorns about everything they'll do with him, to the point that Liz wonders if she'll have any time with him. They have to listen to a big speech at the airport before taking him home. It turns out that Christoph is pretty much a normal kid. While he does gymnastics a lot, he also loves music and drumming. He wins them over so much that Steven even likes him.

When the twins wake up the next morning, they try to be quiet and not wake him up. He's actually already up and outside playing basketball with Steven. Jessica wanted to take him to the Dairi Burger to hang out with the Unicorns, but he wants to go to a football game instead. They go to the game, go shopping at the mall, and then go to the movies together.

The Unicorns are super unhappy that she blew them off until they actually meet Christoph. I'm pretty sure half of them have a crush on him. Though all the other guys on the team are pretty nice, Bruno is an ass. He tells Christoph that he should spend more time practicing and less time flirting and makes it clear that practice is the only thing that matters. When Christoph scores higher than him in a competition exhibition, Bruno comes close to pushing him.

The day of the biggest exhibition, the Unicorns take Christoph shopping. Bruno shows up and tells him that the coach changed the time by an hour. When they get there though, they find out it was all a lie. Coach Schmidt refuses to hear what he has to say and benches him so he can't perform. Bruno strides up and tells Christoph that he's now the best.

They have yet another exhibition competition. Christoph is so discouraged and just plain down that he doesn't make any effort and keeps scoring really badly. After a pep talk from Elizabeth, he suddenly does his best, but he still finishes third. He kind of breaks down because he knows the coach will call his dad. His dad dreamed of being a gymnast before an injury ended his career and now wants his son to do what he couldn't do. He's sure that his dad won't let him join a band and will probably make him give up drumming.

The night before they leave, the school puts on a big dance. Christoph, despite having people fawn all over him and getting a bunch of gifts, still feels down. Liz arranges for him to drum on stage with the band. It turns out to be the best night of his life, especially when his team gathers around to congratulate him. The twins see Bruno putting on his coat and sneaking out the back.

When they wake up the next day, Christoph has a stomach bug. After a meeting with the coach and a doctor, the coach asks if it's okay for Christoph to stay an extra few days. While the other boys are going home, he has a training conference in San Francisco. He'll come back in a few days, pick him up, and fly back home. Though the twins think it's great that they can spend more time with him, he spends the whole weekend in bed.

It doesn't take long before they start noticing that food keeps going missing. Someone took that last piece of cake, ate a whole bag of cookies, that kind of thing. Liz finds the wrappers and dirty dishes around Christoph's room. When the twins confront them, he announces that he's defecting to America. Nothing they can say or do will stop him. He even tells his mom over the phone that he's not coming home.

The Wakefield kids team up with their friends and family to make him go back home. They plan a birthday party for him, decorate with German decorations, play German music, and even make German food. His dad calls him on the phone in the middle of the party to tell him that they have a new drum set waiting for him at home. He gets so homesick that he decides to go back home after all. Coach Schmidt comes back to pick him up and take him home without realizing that he came thisclose to losing his star gymnast.

*Can we just have a laugh over the fact that the gymnasts visiting Sweet Valley are from East Germany and not Germany?

*The girls make fun of Caroline for painting a sign with a horrible version of the German flag on the front. Lila snidely comments that she hopes the first thing Caroline does with him is have him show her what his flag looks like. I sometimes remember why I loved her so much.

*Do Johnny Gordon and the Waves ever come back again? That's the band that plays the dance in this one.

*In the beginning, Steven thinks that all East Germans are spies and keeps a watch on the skies. Ah, the Cold War. I wonder if kids reading this book today would even know what the hell is going on.

*The Unicorns give him a gift that is a set of wood drumsticks. It's cute and a nice thought, but then they have to engrave the set so he'll always know they came from them.

*Did a lot of people actually defect from East Germany to America? I was only nine when this book came out so I was too young to know about that kind of stuff.

*It's funny that the book describes him as short, the cover shows him being shorter than Jess, ad yet the girls are all obsessed with him. I can't really picture any of the Unicorns dating a guy shorter than them.