What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader

What I Learned From Being a Cheerleader

Adrianne Ambrose

$12.95 July 2010
ISBN: 978-1-935661-94-8

Young Adult - Middle Grade

Bridget Jones channels Miley Cyrus... If Bridget Jones were eleven years old and worried about training bras, boys, Mean Girl schoolmates and her new stardom as a cheerleader for Cross Creek Middle School, she'd be Elaine Rewitzer.

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Synopsis | Reviews | Excerpt

Eleven-year-old Elaine Rewitzer is funny, smart and wryly observant, but totally into her new fame as a cheerleader for the Cross Creek Middle School Buccaneers. Her best friend Bethany warns that Elaine will just become "part of the herd," and her best guy-pal, the loyal and gallant Tim, (who's struggling with nose ppolyps) feels forgetten. Will Elaine survive the roller coaster of pre-teen cheerleader fame? Will she win the heart of the cutest boy on the basketball team? Will she confess her "uncool" love for comic books? Will she lose Bethany and Tim's friendship for-evah? AND WHEN WILL SHE GET HER POM POMS???

For the answer to those burning questions, stay tuned for WHAT I LEARNED FROM BEING A CHEERLEADER.


"I would recommend this book in a heartbeat to any tween. It has a great message while at the same time being funny and honest." -- Geeky Reads Blog

"There are quite a few positive messages that all middle schoolers need to hear in this book, it still comes across as authentic and not at all preachy. I would highlight/recommend this for classroom libraries, to anyone who has a middle-school age student, and I would also recommend it to older nerds and non-nerds alike. It's a fun, fast read that is witty and fresh." -- Elliot Review

"Adrianne Ambrose shines a bright light on human behavior that transcends even the middle school setting and enters the adult world...a fun, easy read...recommend to older readers as well as the younger ones." -- Bibliophiles Support Group Blog

"I could see this book being made into a movie right now...such a sweet book...hilarious." -- The Beaucoup Review

"...a wonderfully cute look at Middle School...[the author gives] a special touch of life to the characters...Throughout the book there were moments of shock, "oh-no-you-didn't's" and "how could you's", but in the end the sweetness of the overall story wins first place." -- Insatiable Readers Blog

"I just adored WHAT I LEARNED FROM BEING A CHEERLEADER. It is a fun, easy read, with very memorable characters, that will have you smiling long after you've finished the last page. I highly recommend it to children going through middle grade, or even adults that just want to reminisce." -- A Girl Reads Blog

"This book brought me back to my sixth grade self in a big way...refreshing. Especially when it's a story of learning to accept who you are--and to be proud of it...adults would enjoy this along with middle grade readers." -- The Ninja Librarian Blog

"I never wanted to put it down, and I hadn't read that kind of book in a while." Guest reviewer and tween reader, Toto for It's All About Books blog

"There was a lot of humor woven into this story and I did find myself laughing quite a bit...moms and girls are going to appreciated WHAT I LEARNED FROM BEING A CHEERLEADER." -- Booking Mama Blog

"This novel was witty, brilliant, and told through a clear voice that just made you think, "This was me." or "This is me." -- Teens Actually Read Blog


Dear Diary . . .

Saturday September 26

Today is my eleventh birthday, and I've received the following presents:

From my sister Amy:

A pack of gum–Juicy Fruit.

A blue ball–Bouncy.

She's only five, so that's pretty generous for five.

From Mom:

New shoes–Really cute! Perfect for school.

A new watch–Green! Now I'll always know what time it is. For example, right now it's 6:37 p.m.

This diary–Mom said it's the perfect time for me to start keeping a diary, because Amy is too young to read it. Mom promises she won't read it unless she thinks I'm on drugs or instant messaging some weird old guy on the internet. I would never do either of those things, so I guess my private thoughts are pretty safe.

There's another reason I really wanted this diary that I didn't tell Mom. It's because sometimes I find it hard to talk about stuff. I mean, I talk about stuff like a normal person, but then sometimes I hold stuff in, and I get really anxious and stressed out about it. Writing in a diary is like having a best friend you can tell everything to and know, no matter what, that they won't blab. At least that's what I hope it's like. I think it'll be cool to be able to get stuff off my chest and not feel like a total freak about it.

I also got a G.I. Joe action figure from my friend Tim. He gave it to me after school on Friday because he had a doctor's appointment and couldn't make it to my party. It wasn't wrapped or anything and I'm pretty sure he just grabbed it off his shelf. He also gave me a handmade card that said Happy Birthday Elaine and drew a Cyclops beheading a unicorn. Mom says it's the thought that counts.

9:01 p.m. - I love my new watch! I can't stop looking at it!

It was kind of a small party. None of my friends could make it. Grandma didn't even come over, which was weird, but in a way it was a lot nicer than when she does come over. After we had cake, Amy and I tried to see who could bounce the blue ball highest off the sidewalk in front of our apartment. I let her win a lot, because that's what big sisters do.

9:52 p.m.

P.S. If diaries are for keeping secrets, then here is a HUGE one. I am going to try out to be a Cross Creek Middle School basketball cheerleader! I can't think about it anymore, or I'll never be able to sleep!

Sunday September 27– 8:12 p.m.

Grandma came by for my birthday today! Seriously! When Mom told Grandma it was yesterday, she said, "Nonsense! I should think I know the birthday of my only granddaughter.” When I pointed out that Amy was her granddaughter too, she said, "Of course she is. I never said she wasn't.”

Grandma gave me a huge present wrapped in silver paper with pretty pink netting making a giant bow. I got totally excited, but when I opened it, here's what was inside:

A white slip–Boring.

A beige slip–Extra boring.

Three pairs of socks–White with lace around the ankles–Uhmmm . . .

A training bra–Really embarrassing!–Gee Grandma, thanks for noticing.

A pair of white gloves. White gloves!

When I asked Mom about it later she said, "In a way your grandmother is still living in the nineteen-fifties.”

Grandma spent the rest of her visit saying things like, "This party isn't very festive,” and "It's rude to cut the cake before all the guests have arrived.” I could tell Mom was really mad, but Grandma pays for Amy and me to go to school, so Mom usually doesn't say anything.

I know it wasn't a smart thing to do, but I asked Grandma if my dad maybe sent a present or anything. She said, "Elaine, your father is too busy to worry about that kind of thing right now.” She also told me, "You shouldn't be so greedy. It's unladylike to beg for presents.” That's when Mom told Grandma that the party was over and it was time for her to go home. Grandma said that was fine because she was getting a headache. She gets a lot of headaches.

9:37 p.m.

Now that I think about it, I'm kind of mad at Grandma. I wasn't begging for presents! I just wanted to know if Dad remembered my birthday. My dad almost never remembers my birthday. It used to make me feel really bad. But now that I'm eleven, which is practically a teenager, I am not going to worry so much about those kinds of things anymore.

After Grandma left, we had fun dressing Amy up as a bride. We put her in the gloves, the white slip for a wedding dress and used the pink mesh from the present as a veil. She looked really cute, and it made me feel a lot better. I have to go to sleep now, because starting after school tomorrow, I have to learn the cheers for cheerleading tryouts. I'm kind of worried about telling Tim what I'm doing, because he kind of hates most of the popular boys and a lot of them are on the basketball team.

Monday September 28 - 2:16 p.m. Study Hall

I don't know if I'm allowed to write in my diary during study hall, but I don't really have any homework. So I guess it's okay.

I brought the white gloves to school today to show Tim during lunch. We had fun putting them on and inspecting the table for dust. We sit at one of the small, non-cool tables with my friends Bethany and Linda. As usual, Bethany just read her book. She loves reading and doesn't really care what we do. But Linda made it really obvious that she thought we were stupid. She shielded her eyes with her hand and turned her head away from our table, as if she was too embarrassed to even look at us. Linda really, really wants to sit at the popular table.

On the first day of school, all the popular girls and trying-to-be-popular girls ran to one of the big tables in the cafeteria and grabbed seats. I didn't know what was going on, and by the time I figured it out, there were twelve girls crammed around a table for eight. The popular boys did the same thing at a different table. I wanted to sit with Tim anyway, so I guess it's not that big a deal. We are the only co-ed table at Cross Creek Middle School. Bethany doesn't really care about being popular. If she sat at a table with all those girls talking all the time, then it would make it harder for her to read. Linda wasn't fast enough to get a seat at the cool table, so she had to decide which table was the next least losery. She picked us, even though she spends most of her time running over to the cool table and whispering in some girl's ear. If anyone is ever sick at the cool girls' table, Linda eats with them instead of us. Bethany said she thinks Linda spends every morning checking the attendance sheet to see if anyone is absent.

Bethany was out of town with her parents over the weekend so she couldn't come to my party, but today at lunch she gave me a present. For a minute, I was totally excited, but it turned out to be a book. Seriously. It's called "Animal Farm”, and there's a pig wearing a hat on the cover. It's not even a cute pig, but kind of a mean looking pig smoking a cigar. I'm not sure Bethany really understands what makes a good birthday present.

Linda gave me a pair of really pretty hair clips that look like tortoise shell with blue rhinestones. I love them! I put them in my hair right away, but then I felt bad because I didn't even invite her to my party. I mean, we've been friends since we both had Mrs. Lehman in third grade, but she spends so much time ignoring me lately that I didn't really even think about inviting her. I guess I should have, because we do sit together for lunch almost every day. So, I didn't know what to say, and I was feeling totally stupid until Tim came to the rescue by asking what else my grandmother gave me. I told him about the socks, but did NOT mention the training bra. We all laughed at Grandma coming a day late to my birthday. Everyone but Linda, of course, she was too busy texting someone and pretending like she didn't know us.

5:43 p.m.

The most important part of today was the start of cheerleading tryouts. Tim was really surprised when I told him I couldn't go to the comic book store after school, which we do almost every Monday. That's when they put out the new comics and mark down the stuff that goes on sale. I tried to not tell him what I was doing, but he guessed pretty easily. He gave me a funny look, like I was doing it to hurt his feelings or something, then he said, "You know they're going to be mean to you, right?” When I asked him what he was talking about, he said "The other cheerleaders. You know they won't be nice to you. It's not going to be any fun.” But that's stupid. We haven't tried out yet, so he doesn't even know who is going to be on the squad. I think Tim has a prejudice against cheerleaders.

Bethany was there too. She just rolled her eyes and said, "Being a cheerleader isn't going to make you popular, you know. It'll just make you part of the herd.” That made me mad, and I almost gave her back the book she gave me. Instead I said, "I am not trying out to be popular! I've just been taking ballet for a really long time and I want to try something new.” But then she said, "I've been taking classes with Mrs. Stevens just as long as you have and I wouldn't be caught dead trying out for cheerleading.” In a way, Bethany is right. We've both been taking ballet at Steven's Dance Studio since we were six, and Bethany is the best in our class. Mrs. Stevens wants to put her on pointe, but her mom won't let her because she says the shoes will deform Bethany's feet.

Anyway, tryout practice went pretty well. They showed us two simple cheers which were super easy for me. I'm used to learning dance routines because Mrs. Stevens is very strict. Linda was there too, but she ignored me most of the time. The only bad thing is when Ashley Little was in front of me in line at the drinking fountain. She acted like she was looking me over, then stopped at my new barrettes. Then she said in this really snotty voice, "Who are you trying to be?”

9: 07 p.m.

P.S. What does that even mean?

9: 52 p.m.

P.P.S. I know Bethany thinks being a cheerleader is stupid, and I know that as a ballerina I'm not supposed to even want to be a cheerleader, but I still do. I know Tim thinks being a cheerleader won't be any fun because I'd have to hang out with all the popular kids, and they only like sports and clothes and stuff that Tim finds really boring.

But, I don't care! My favorite part of ballet is in the spring when we do a recital. And it's not at the studio. We perform in an auditorium with a stage and costumes and everything. It's almost like being a real ballerina, except no one has to pay to get a ticket because it's free. I think cheerleading will be a lot like doing a recital, but you get to perform a lot more. I don't care what anybody says, I know it's going to be fun.

11: 28 p.m.

Triple P.S. Now it's really late, but I can't fall asleep. I keep thinking about what Bethany and Ashley said. I have always wanted to be a cheerleader, and I don't care if it doesn't make me popular.

Except, if I was a cheerleader then maybe that would make me stand out a little. Then maybe a cute boy like, I don't know, Todd Watson might notice me.

Tuesday September 29 - 8:50 p.m.

I am the most average person on the planet. I'm not tall or short. I'm not fat or skinny. I'm not pretty or ugly. I don't have blonde, red, or black hair. If I walk past someone on the street, the thing they remember most about me is nothing. Seriously! I'm that average. That's one of the reasons I want to be a cheerleader. When you're wearing a cheerleading uniform, people notice you. Boys notice you. Boys like Todd Watson notice you. It's like they have to recognize you because you're a cheerleader for their team. They have to be nice to you. Maybe you don't get to date them, but at least they know you exist.

Wednesday September 30 - 2:22 p.m. - Study Hall

Bethany is still down on me for trying out for cheerleading. She thinks I'm only doing it to be popular, but that's not true. Maybe I want to be a cheerleader so that I can be more involved with school activities. Mom's always saying that's something I should do. And even if being a cheerleader did make me a teeny, tiny bit more popular, so what? Would that be such a disaster?

5:56 p.m.

Mom heard me practicing cheers in my room this afternoon and asked me what I was doing. After I told her, she said, "Good for you, Elaine. I think that's a great idea.” She likes Bethany and Tim a lot, but she has always encouraged me to broaden my interests and make more friends. This isn't as easy as it sounds, but she thinks it's important for me to become a well-rounded adult. Mom was a football cheerleader when she was in high school, and she said she'd like to help. So now I have somebody who actually knows what she's doing to tell me if I look stupid or if I'm doing something wrong.

9:15 p.m.

After dinner, I was helping Amy make pompoms out of newspaper when Grandma called and asked to speak to me. When I got on the phone she said, "Elaine, I know your mother doesn't care about these things, but polite young ladies write thank you notes after receiving a gift.” I told her I knew that and was going to send her one this weekend, but she said, "You should have sent it Sunday night so I would have it by now.” Then Mom took the phone, and I didn't have to talk to her anymore.

10:00 p.m.

Here is what I wrote in my thank you note to Grandma:

Dear Grandma,

Thank you for the lovely presents. I have been having a great time using the white gloves to check the apartment for dust. You'll be happy to know that so far it's passed inspection. I don't have any dresses right now, but if I ever do get one, I'm sure the slips will be very useful. I love the frilly socks and will be certain to wear them the next time I dress up like Shirley Temple.

One of your loving granddaughters,

10:23 p.m.

P.S. I didn't mention the training bra on purpose. I hope Grandma doesn't get mad, but something tells me it's probably not ladylike to mention a bra in a thank you note.

Thursday October 1 - 6:08 p.m.

We have new upstairs neighbors! They moved in to the middle floor of our three-flat apartment building. There are four guys and one girl. Some of the boys are really cute! Mom said, "That's a lot of people for a three bedroom.” But paying rent in San Francisco is really, really expensive, so sometimes a lot of people have to live in one place. Our apartment only has two bedrooms, so Amy and I share. That's okay because we are close to my school and Mom's work and Amy's school. At least that makes things easier on all of us, especially Mom. She works really hard as an executive assistant so we have enough money. Mom would like to move away from the city because it's so expensive here, but Grandma will only pay for Amy and me to go to school if we stay in San Francisco. Grandma is my dad's mom. She has a lot of money, but she's really mean. Our other grandmother lives in Arizona. She's really nice, but doesn't have any money.

9:09 p.m.

I now know four cheers and some jumps. When you do a leap in ballet, Mrs. Stevens taught us that you don't just use your legs. You push into the air with your whole body. I figured out the same thing works for cheerleading jumps. I can get much higher if I concentrate on pushing my whole body upward.

Ashley and Cheryl and a bunch of the other popular girls formed their own cheerleading squad last year at their elementary school for the fifth grade boys' basketball team. Ashley's older sister is a real cheerleader, and she already taught them all the cheers we're learning now. So those girls are much better than the rest of us. It wasn't an official squad or anything, so it's kind of like they're cheating. I heard Cheryl telling some of the other girls, "I don't know why so many people are trying out for cheerleading. I mean, you guys are just wasting your time. Everyone knows we're going to be the whole squad. You're really acting like a bunch of losers.” Mom says that isn't true and that Cheryl just said that to be intimidating. I didn't tell Mom, but I think it kind of worked.

Friday October 2 - 5:14 p.m.

I didn't do well on my pre-algebra quiz today. I know I should have studied more, but I've been practicing my cheers a lot. I am going to spend all weekend practicing cheers and studying math so I can make the team and still have good grades. I don't want to be a stereotypical stupid cheerleader. I know if I concentrate I can do both.

9:18 p.m.

The Cerberus Comic Book Committee did not meet last weekend because of Tim's nose polyps. Tim is a very healthy person except for his nose, which has a tendency to develop polyps. They are kind of like little bubbles that can grow in your nose or your colon or other places. They are not very good for you so, every few months, Tim has to have his polyps removed. It sounds gross, but he says it doesn't hurt too badly, and he gets to stay in bed all weekend and play video games. Usually on Saturdays, Tim, Bethany, and I get together to read and make comic books. Tim is a great artist and is going to draw comic books when he grows up. Bethany is going to be a writer. I do the writing too, but mostly I just like comic books. I can't afford to buy a lot of them, so it's nice to have friends who share.

Cerberus is from Greek Mythology, and it's a three headed dog monster that guards the gates to hell. Like anyone would want to sneak in there. Bethany came up with the name. She likes it because it's from Greek Mythology. Tim likes it because it's a monster. I agreed to call us the Cerberus Comic Book Committee because I couldn't think of a better name. I started calling our club C.C.B.C. at school, because even though I like them, some kids think they're too old for comic books and would make fun of us if they knew we had an official club and everything. I'm not just making this up. I know it for a fact, because when school started, Tim was bringing in a huge stack of comic every day. Some of the popular guys started calling him Comic Dork Man. Then, I guess someone shoved him when he was in the boys' locker room and a bunch of his comics got wet. Tim takes comics very seriously and he was not happy, but at least he stopped bringing so many to school all the time.

You would think a brainiac like Bethany wouldn't be interested in comics, but it's the exact opposite. She is crazy for manga and reads like a zillion of them a week. She says it's a great way to learn about plot and structure, but I think she secretly likes all the romance.

Anyway, tomorrow is going to be a very busy day. Here's all the stuff I've got to do:

Get up early

Practice cheers before ballet

Go to ballet

Practice cheers

Go to the C.C.B.C. meeting

Practice cheers

Do homework

Practice cheers

This way I'll have all of Sunday free to practice my cheers. Now I have to get some sleep, so I'd better go to bed and stop writing in this diary.

Saturday October 3 - 11:33 a.m.

Our new upstairs neighbors are having a barbeque. I just got home from ballet, and there are a ton of people in the backyard drinking beer and making a bunch of noise. I was hoping to practice my cheerleading jumps before going over to Tim's, but it doesn't look like they're leaving any time soon. Mrs. Linden, our old upstairs neighbor who died, never used the backyard. It's kind of weird, because the whole party can look right into our kitchen. It makes me feel really awkward if I want to get something to drink or a snack or anything. I guess I'll have to study algebra for awhile instead.

7:19 p.m.

The C.C.B.C. meeting was pretty fun. Tim drew all these cool animals, then we made them tell jokes. I wanted to keep a few of the sketches so that I could glue them in here, but Tim is kind of weird sometimes about sharing his art. He says if he's going to be a famous artist someday, then he has to hang onto everything he draws because it will have value. I think that's stupid, and he's being kind of selfish, but he still wouldn't let me have one. Anyway, here's the text for my favorite of what we did:

Panel 1

Penguin 1 walks up to Penguin 2

Penguin 1: Do you know that it looks like you're wearing a tuxedo?

Panel 2

Penguin 2 looks down at his own body.

No dialogue.

Panel 3

Penguin 2 looks back at Penguin 1

Penguin 2: What makes you think I'm not?

When I got home from Tim's, the neighbor's party was still going on, and it's still going on now. How long can people stand around our tiny back yard and drink beer? It's getting dark, so I hope they go home soon.

Sunday October 4 - 10:26 a.m.

Our new upstairs neighbors' party went on all night. There are beer cans and plastic cups and paper plates all over the backyard. There are big cans full of garbage back there, and it smells. After it got dark last night, everyone went upstairs and made a bunch of noise. It sounded like they were jumping on our ceiling. Guys were yelling and girls were shrieking at the top of their lungs. Mom rang the neighbor's doorbell at 1:30 a.m. and asked them to be quiet. They turned down the music a little, but the people were still really loud.

6:38 p.m.

I was really tired today so it made it hard to study. I wanted to practice my jumps in the backyard, but the neighbors left the garbage out there all day. When Mom, Amy, and I were going to the store this afternoon we ran into one of the neighbors. He's tall with kind of long sandy brown hair and tiny round glasses that make him look a little like John Lennon. He apologized for all the noise. "We were just having a house warming party, but we'll get the yard cleaned up right away.”

9:41 p.m.

I'm just about to go to bed, and they haven't done anything yet.

Monday October 5 - 7:52 a.m.

The neighbors still haven't cleaned up the backyard and tryouts are Saturday! How am I supposed to practice my jumps? I can't do them in our apartment and I would feel like a total dork doing them on the front sidewalk.

5:51 p.m.

Today during practice I tried to explain to Linda about jumping with her whole body and not just with her legs. She didn't get it at all and she told me it was stupid. I asked her if she wanted to work on our cheers together, but she said, "Uhm, maybe.” Then she went to check if she could practice with some of the popular girls. I overheard her making fun of my advice about doing jumps. I'm glad I didn't invite her to my birthday party.

9:53 p.m.

I wish Bethany was trying out, because then we could work on the cheers together. But I think she would rather die by a poisonous snake bite than be a cheerleader. So I guess that's out. I'm pretty sure Grandma just called to yell at me about the thank you note again, which I totally put in the mail. I heard Mom say, "She's already asleep, and besides, the mail doesn't get delivered on Sundays. Your expectations are unreasonable.”

I can't believe Mom called Grandma unreasonable! That was great! Mom does not like it when Grandma is critical of Amy and me, but Grandma is really critical of us all the time. I wonder what Grandma would think if she knew I was trying out for cheerleading. I'm sure she'd say something like, "Elaine, jumping around in a short skirt in front of a whole room full of people is very unladylike. In my day, cheerleaders wore skirts that covered their ankles.”

10:13 p.m.

P.S. The garbage is still out there!

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