Title: Sweet Valley Twins #52: Booster Boycott
Summary: No boys allowed.
Winston Egbert wants to join the Boosters, Sweet Valley Middle School’s cheering squad. No way, the girls say! A boy as a cheerleader? So what if Winston happens to be a terrific gymnast? So what if he makes up fantastic cheers? Jessica Wakefield and the other Boosters vow they’ll do anything to keep Winston off the squad.
At first Winston endures the girls’ nasty pranks, Charlie Cashman’s bullying, and his classmates’ giggles. But something happens to make Winston give up for good!
When the state cheering competition arrives, the Boosters are surprised to see that almost every other squad has a boy as a member. Without Winston, they’re sure to lose! Is there any way the Boosters can get Winston back?
Tagline: Winston Egbert wants to join the Boosters! [Wing: We get it, book. WE GET IT.]
Oh, good, I bet this book is filled with gender essentialism. Y’all know how much I love that. BOYS? In CHEERLEADING? Heaven forbid.
[Dove: I really enjoy this book. It’s good fun, and the Unicorns are hilariously ridiculous.]
Jessica’s staying late after school for another emergency Boosters meeting that might be extra long. Elizabeth’s proud of how hard they’re practicing for the Southern California Middle School Cheering Championship in three weeks; SVMC is hosting for the first time, and this is the Boosters’ first competition.
I … I have so many questions. Starting with, how the fuck are they competing in something they’re hosting, especially when it is a championship and they’ve never been in a single competition before.
But this emergency meeting isn’t about practicing (GOOD! Practices should be scheduled, especially when you’re prepping for competition, not called together as an emergency meeting on a whim [Dove: That’s true, isn’t it, Madame André?]) [Raven: Fuck Madame Andre.], it is about Winston Egbert, who wants to try out for the Boosters. AGAIN, I have questions, starting with why in the world would they hold tryouts in the middle of the school year unless they’re replacing someone? As much as I support guys in cheerleading, you missed tryouts, Winston. Wait until next year.
And then we get #worstjess: Winston’s “insane” and only girls are cheerleaders and boys can never wear a skirt. Fuck off into the sea, Jessica fucking Wakefield.
At the emergency meeting, Amy Sutton speaks up in support of Winston trying out, because it might even help their chances in the competition, which leads to Grace Oliver suggesting they at least listen to him because it can’t hurt. Grace is a sixth grader, too, and a Unicorn (because Amy is, at this point, the only non-Unicorn member), but I don’t actually remember Grace being in sixth grade. (I barely remember her name, and it’s quite possible I only remember it from talking about it on the podcast with Dove.) [Dove: She joined during The Bully. Her pledge task was to tame Dennis Cookman.]
Winston turns up while they’re arguing, carrying a stack of books that comes all the way up to his chin. AGAIN, questions: why did you bring all of those to a meeting when you want to be doing physical activity and also are the Boosters telling everyone about their “emergency” meeting in the first place?
The girls (except for Amy) pick at Winston, who explains that they could add all kinds of new routines with a guy on the squad and also most high school cheering squads are coed, which is true. Despite this, Kimberly Haver says that they’ll die of humiliation if they have to perform with a boy at their first competition. Are you — did you miss that whole point about coed high school teams? In fact, you should know that on your own. If y’all are so gung-ho about cheerleading, you should be all about a guy on your squad, because then you’re looking more like a high school squad. [Raven: I’m pretty sure the Boosters has never been about cheerleading. Elitist purple bitches.]
Janet tells him that when they’re not practicing cheers, they’re talking about guys, and they can’t do that with a guy around. How very heteronormative of you, and also, what a fucking waste of practice time.
Winston calls this discrimination, and Jessica grumps that there’s no such thing as discrimination against boys. Very wrong, Jessica. Very wrong.
I already hate this book and feel like I’ve gone back to the beginning of recapping this series where everything was terrible and I wanted to kill everyone and burn Sweet Valley to the ground. So — that’s fun.
Amy continues to push for them to let him try out, and the others continue to be shallow and terrible. Amy gets off a great line at Ellen (damn, their breakup was rough [Dove: *sobs*]): If you think having Winston on the Boosters will ruin your popularity, Ellen, then you’re probably not very popular to begin with!
Janet accuses Winston of already causing chaos they can’t afford three weeks before their first competition and he finally leaves, but not before promising them he won’t give up without a fight. While the other girls celebrate their win, “something in his voice made Jessica think the Boosters hadn’t seen the last of Winston Egbert.” Is — is that something the fact that he flat out told you he wasn’t giving up without a fight? I mean… [Raven: “Something in the way Jessica polished her stabbin’ knife made the Boosters think they’d seen the last of Winston Egbert.”]
Winston POV: he feels like he’s either braver or dumber than he thought for saying that to the Boosters. Todd and Winston bump into each other in the hallway, Todd dismisses cheerleading as impossible to be more important than basketball (fuck off, Todd), and Winston finally admits to him that he’s trying to join the squad. Here’s why: he likes gymnastics a lot, the Boosters could use some help in the competition, and it seems like a good way to meet girls. Gross, and also, I hope you mean girls from other schools, because (a) you know everyone on that squad, and (b) why the fuck would you want to date any of them, they’re terrible to you. [Dove: I really didn’t read that as predatory. Winston has a history of shyness, with his ears turning red almost every time he speaks, especially to girls. I read it as “I’m socially awkward, this would be an ice-breaker.”]
The next day, Elizabeth talks to Winston about the Boosters. Winston jokes around a little, but then becomes serious and tells her that he’s not a bad gymnast and he wants to join for probably the same reason Amy did. To meet girls? Because, you know, Amy/Ellen was great before that breakup. No, the real reason is to put her talent to good use (dirty) — her baton talent — and he took a gymnastics class last summer and has been watching ever since, plus he’s been studying coed high school and college cheering squads. Well holy shit, Winston you are fucking prepared for this shit. (I probably should not be surprised. He seems prepared for everything he decides to do, at least when seeing him in the background.)
Elizabeth thinks that a coed cheering squad is a great idea and tells him that she bets plenty of students agree with that; this, of course, inspires him to hand around a petition so that the Boosters will have to let him try out.
B plot is, I guess, a science project because Todd brought it up to Winston earlier and now Belinda and Amy are talking about it at lunch. Amy’s going to do something with frogs because there are a ton of them in her backyard. Fried frog legs, anyone? (Probably overcooked with the house fire and all.)
When Elizabeth tells them she thinks the petition is about the Boosters, Belinda immediately says that she’ll sign it; she’s the most respected athlete in the school (is she? this feels like a huge leap from where she was before, even though she’s always been a good athlete) and the only girl on the Little League softball team. “The” softball team? Isn’t the — isn’t the point of Little League that there is a league which implies multiple teams? [Dove: To be fair, when Belinda joined the school, Jessica’s nose was put out of joint that Belinda aced everything sporty and the school was abuzz with her sporting prowess, which put Jessica in the #2 spot. Thankfully she realised that Belinda was awesome and befriended her, instead of killing her and burying her in the Mercandy backyard. Also, assume they mean SVMS’s team, and the league is made up of other schools/districts?] [Wing: Little League’s not a school sport, but maybe Big Mesa, etc., is considered part of their league.]
(Winston’s middle name is Xavier. I hope he’s named after Professor X in the X-Men.) [Raven: And Winston Zeddemore from Ghostbusters.]
Winston takes the petition to Janet right at that lunch, even though he has, what, 10 signatures at that point and has been passing it around for all of thirty seconds oh my god do you not know how petitions work, ghostwriter?
Oh, wait, eight. He has eight entire signatures. Lila scoffs at this. As she should.
There’s some talk about how certain Unicorns are betraying the group (Belinda and Mandy, who both support Winston), and Janet finally says that if he gets 100 signatures, she’ll be convinced to let him try out. See? That is far more like how a petition actually works, GHOSTWRITER.
Grace says she’ll sign, until Janet threatens her (and Ellen calls her Benedict Armhole, the traitor, oh my god [Dove: ♥] [Raven: Love Ellen.]), and the Unicorns flounce off to practice cheers.
I hate this book.
Boosters practice goes badly that night; they can’t decide on a new cheer to use (why are you adding new cheers 3 weeks from competition?!), Tamara is tired of being stuck in the back just because she’s the tallest, Amy’s mad about how they’re treating Winston — when the human pyramid collapses for the sixth time, they take a break for Janet to shout at them.
Janet shouts about tradition, Lila points out they only just organised the Boosters that year, Janet first says there will be no Boosters next year if they flop in the competition and then that it is an honor to host the competition especially because it is the first time the Boosters are participating. Because they couldn’t. Because they didn’t exist before. Jesus fucking christ.
Lila came up with this cheer: Go Sweet Valley, please don’t dally. Amy and Jessica both call that terrible, and it is. Jessica came up with a cheer that ends with a pyramid, but Amy points out Grace is the smallest and should really be on top, not Jessica who invented the cheer.
Ms Langberg, gym teacher, calls them on their breaks during practice, which actually, breaks are a necessary part of practice. Also, we learn that the Boosters purchased uniforms with their own money for the competition: purple and white pleated skirts and v-necked white sweaters with SV on them. School colours are blue and white, but the purple is so dark it is basically navy blue. Oh god. [Raven: Why does it not surprise me that the school couldn’t fund the Boosters uniforms? Bunch of feckless gimmers.] [Wing: I read it as the Boosters funded their own uniforms so they could sneak in that purple, but it’s also possible all the teachers are fucking off with any money raised so far this school year.]
Lila points out they just had practice yesterday, too, which (a) daily practice leading into a competition is normal and (b) no you did not, at least based on what we saw, you had an emergency meeting about Winston.
Jessica comes up with a plan to lie about Winston’s petition to keep him off the squad because then they can really focus on practicing. Sure. I hate you. Thank god this backfires from the beginning.
Winston gets 107 people to sign, including eighth-grade girls. Goddamn, Winston, you are kicking ass at this. And then Grace admits to the Unicorns that she signed it, too. I love you, Grace. Mandy signed, too. I love y’all. #bestunicorns
Janet takes the petition and promises to talk to Ms Langberg. Winston trusts her. What the fuck, Winston, you are so much smarter than this.
Sure enough, they tear it up at their emergency meeting later. Jessica feels guilty when Elizabeth walks over, Todd figures out it’s the petition, and Elizabeth is disappointed in Jessica, because that ever changes anything. They tell Winston, he is determined to keep fighting, Jessica is terrible, I hate this book.
Later, Ken fucking talks about how Winston can’t possibly be serious about joining the Boosters are you fucking kidding me right now Ken. After all that shit with the basketball team. Amy, you’re too fucking good for him. [Dove: I hate Ken. Literally everyone is too good for him. I’ve also typed and deleted about a dozen spoilers here. My fear of Wing made me delete them.] [Wing: I appreciate your restraint! Even though I am looking forward to more reasons to hate him.]
Todd is fucking grumpy over Elizabeth supporting Winston, because clearly he’s getting jealous as fuck and I hate this book so much. [Dove: … yeah. Minor spoiler here. I don’t think you’ll be happy aboard the good ship Elizodd. Toz. Todabeth. Wilkfield. Wakins. Fuck. How do we name this fucking ship?] [Raven: Lizkins?] [Wing: LIZARD KING. Oh, wait, what were we talking about again?]
Ms Langberg pulls Janet, Lila, and Jessica into her office Thursday morning, because they’re the only ones on the Boosters who are in trouble? Doubtful. She flat out tells them to give Winston a tryout. Ms Langberg has a copy of the petition because Winston was fucking smart. I take it back, Winston, you did have a backup plan. I still don’t think you should have trusted them for a second, but I guess you had to give them the benefit of the doubt. Also, Jessica almost admits what they did to the other copy because she’s #worstjess in this book.
The Boosters watch a tape of last year’s national cheerleading competition. Grace thinks they’re looking for new moves to use in their competition (on the one hand, I love you Grace. On the other hand, we’re like 2 weeks out at this point, NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO BE ADDING NEW MOVES OH MY GOD). The others are coming up with impossible things to ask Winston to do. [Dove: Given how this ends, I have questions: If there are boys in last year’s competition, why is it not mentioned and discussed? If there are not, what made literally every other school suddenly decide to add boys this year? This can’t be a spoiler, it’s on the summary on the back of the book.]
(Jessica wants to watch a made for TV movie because she still wants to be an actress; Janet snaps at her to try out for drama club, which is true and also why didn’t she try out?)
Oooooh, Grace has a crush on Winston, it looks like. That’s kind of adorable.
Winston practices for his tryout and tries to psych himself up. Oh, god, you are adorable. Elizabeth, Amy, and Grace come by, Winston has a crush on Grace, and they warn him that the Boosters are going to make his tryout tough enough to embarrass him in front of the entire school. He’s pretty chill about it, though, because he’s made a fool of himself before and will again, and there are worse things than embarrassment — like not even trying.
Well damn, Winston, you are working your ass off to salvage this book for me. It’d almost work, too, except the rest of it is so terrible that not only these delightful friendships and his badassery and bravery are saving things. [Dove: This book is where Winston is awesome.]
At home, Elizabeth shows she still has no spine because she flat out tells Jessica she doesn’t want to fight about even though she thinks Jessica is wrong. Fucking hell, Elizabeth.
A huge crowd shows up for the tryout. The Boosters bask in the attention, until the audience calls them sexist pigs; Jessica is furious they’re being called sexist. Lila is furious they’re being called pigs. Oh my god, I am dying. [Dove: Never change, Lila.]
Winston goes through the first cheer with them in perfect unison. Even Janet has to admit it’s not bad. They do the “He’s Our Man” cheer for Bruce; Winston says he’s going to update it a little because they have to remember the girls’ teams too. Now, on the one hand, that part is true. On the other hand, what, you can’t cheer for guys? On the other other hand, oh my god, all their cheers are boring as hell. [Dove: On an additional hand: would you really want to cheer for Bruce? Especially if you were a “nerd” like Winston, who he picks on all the time? And Bring It On didn’t really have a great audition cheer either:
Then comes the gymnastics. First, somersaults. Then no-handed cartwheels, which he pulls off perfectly. Which is fucking amazing, considering he had just a few weeks of classes. Damn, Winston.
Handsprings are next, and he does front and back. Winston, you don’t belong on the Boosters. You are a billion times better than all of them put together, holy shit. [Raven: Winston should have defected to East Germany with the fucking flippy demons.] [Wing: I just choked on my iced tea over flippy demons.]
Next up is the 30-second headstand that is a requirement for all Boosters; even though Ms Langberg calls them on that being a lie, he pulls it off, too.
AND THEN AND THEN AND THEN. He has Grace come do a trick with him. She stands on his shoulders and then flies through the air in a perfect somersault before landing on her feet. WELL GODDAMN WINSTON. (I do have a question about with whom he’s practiced that before and why they aren’t trying out for the squad, but I’m going to let that little handwave go.)
Elizabeth writes an article for the Sixers about Winston and tells him that he’s about to become famous. UMM. From the Sixers? Doubtful. [Dove: Shhhhh! Liz doesn’t know that nobody but her cares about that paper.]
Oh! Winston did a lot of that trick in gymnastics class last summer and he was sure Grace could pull it off. (a) I wouldn’t be so sure considering you’re a better gymnast than the entire rest of the squad, and (b) did you go to the circus gymnastics class or what? That doesn’t sound like the kind of tricks they’d be doing in a normal summer gymnastics class. Why not make it a cheerleading camp, ghostwriter?
But all is not well. Someone covered Winston’s lockers with pink wrapping paper and bows, and Bruce Patman starts calling him Winnie. I need someone to start kicking Bruce in the shins again. The Unicorns walk past giggling, and Elizabeth is furious at Jessica again, but does nothing about it. Again.
Todd continues to be a jealous asshole. I’m tossing you into that fire with the Unicorns, Todd.
Winston gets teased again at lunch but holds his own really damn well. I love you, Winston. Lots of people are happy for him, both for making the squad and for how he’s standing up for himself. This part of the book is great. Everything else is a dumpster fire.
Oooh, this backfires, though, because Charlie and two of his gorilla-sized enforcers catch him alone in the hallway and beat him up. Jesus. Meanwhile, most of the Boosters are getting ready to sabotage Winston’s first practice. Goddamnit, I am going to burn everything. [Raven: To be honest, I was pretty shocked at the actual violence in this one.]
They put peanut butter in Winston’s sneakers, but he laughs that off. He offers them pointers for their pyramid, they glue him to the bleachers, and his advice works amazing. He shrugs this off, too, and promises to see them the next day at practice.
That night, Elizabeth is grumpy at Jessica but doesn’t, actually, do anything like tell their parents, oh my god. Then Amy and Elizabeth talk about how Todd is being a jealous ass because he likes her so much. Jealousy happens, I get that. Being a dick about it is shitty.
Winston breaks up a fight between Janet and Jessica about whether to practice or take a day off; he does this by suggesting they practice for half the time, because they do need to practice but don’t want to wear themselves out. If this fucking squad wins a goddamn thing at the championships I am — well, I can’t quit recapping because that’s not fair to Dove and Raven or to readers and podcast listeners, and I can’t actually set this book on fire or burn down Sweet Valley so … I am going to shout a lot, I guess. Ineffectual rage sucks. [Dove: Such a strong start. Kind of a weak ending. You could buy a copy of the book you hate and then cut it up for art, could be soothing. Didn’t your sister do book art for awhile? I’m thinking jewellery… or am I mixing things up?] [Wing: Canary does do book art jewelry (and occasionally wedding decorations), good memory. I suppose buying a copy and literally ripping it to shreds might make me feel slightly better.]
Elizabeth and Amy come up with a plan to teach Todd a lesson, Grace turns out to be an excellent artist and has been drawing cartoons welcoming Winston to the squad which she wants to put in the Sixers — and then Winston quits. Everyone but Grace and Mandy cheer over this, though Jessica feels a little disappointed. Even more disappointed when she ends up having to hold Lila on her shoulders for a cheer.
When Elizabeth asks Winston why he quit, he tells her that he really joined because he wanted to get to know Grace, but when he saw the cartoon, he realised that she only sees him as a big joke. I had a feeling choosing the one of him in a skirt was going to backfire, because you are all idiots. Elizabeth convinces him that Grace was being nice, actually, and wanted to welcome him to the team.
Elizabeth and Amy set up a confrontation at Amy’s house, though Elizabeth is feeling a little jealous over all the time Amy has been spending with Todd. I am headdesking so fucking hard right now. Todd learns a lesson, Elizabeth learns a lesson. Elizabeth tries to teach Jessica a lesson about jumping to conclusions, but it’s Jessica, so you can guess how well that goes.
Winston shows up to rejoin the squad. Janet doesn’t want him back on the squad, Grace apologises to him for making him feel bad about the cartoon, the championship happens and there are a ton of male cheerleaders there, BECAUSE OF COURSE FUCK YOU BOOSTERS, the Boosters make fools of themselves (oh thank god), the Boosters start to fall apart backstage, Janet shouts about how she could possibly know that every cheering squad in California had gone coed GEE I CAN’T IMAGINE HOW FUCKING HELL, Winston rejoins the the squad, Charlie and his goons show up to beat him up again, the Boosters defend him, the Boosters do great in the final round of competition (how the fuck have they even made it to the final round, the first round should have had some fucking eliminations), they pull off a perfect pyramid with Jessica’s somersault dismount, and they get second place.
They. get. second. place.
I am done with this goddamn series. *BURNS DOWN THE WORLD*
Couldn’t even finish recapping after that bullshit. Something something Amy spills frogs in the classroom and the next book brings Jessica searching for stardom again, which I generally love but I don’t even care right now because FUCK THIS SERIES FUCK SWEET VALLEY FUCK THE GHOSTWRITERS I AM BURNING EVERYTHING TO THE GROUND.
[Dove: Well I actually liked the book. I thought Winston was brilliant – well-researched, dedicated, talented, and able to shrug off all of the Unicorns’ bitchery. The Unicorns were on top form too, their idiotic lack of knowledge was funny – Benedict Armhole was a high point, but then again, I love Ellen. I thought Winston/Grace was sweet on both sides, and nice to see another Unicorn isn’t as shallow as the rest. I’ll agree that everything is very fuzzy on the rules of the competition and so forth – one thing that gets mentioned about Bring It On is that they shouldn’t have been competing without a coach, especially because of their high-flying stunts, so I’m pretty sure the Boosters probably needed a coach. And Ms Langberg showing up every 20 pages or so does not count.]
[Raven: Yeah, this is pretty fun. The Unicorns are at their true hideous best, Winston kicks ass, there’s some clear and present danger from Charlie and the bullies,and the Boosters don’t actually win. They come second, which is fucking annoying, but at least they don’t win. Also, yay dissention in the Uniranks! Go Grace, Go, Mary!]
Elizabeth’s book-long soulmate: Winston Egbert