Melinda introduces us to the twelve cheerleaders, two of whom she names Donner and Blitzen! The blondest of the blondes, ironically, is named Raven. Melinda observes that, because her parents only raised her in the religion of Visa, MasterCard, and American Express, she is confused by the Merryweather cheerleaders - it has to be a miracle, she says, that they can sleep with the entire football team on Saturday night and be reincarnated as virginal goddesses on Monday!
They are in two universes simultaneously - in one, they are gorgeous, smiled upon by teachers, spoiled by their parents, and the pride of the Blue Devils; in the other world, they throw wild parties, stink of “Eau de Jocque,” and get group-rate abortions before the prom. She figures they “never stutter or feel like their brains are dissolving into marshmallow fluff.” At the end of the pep rally, she is “accidentally” knocked down three rows of bleachers. She decides that if she ever forms her own Clan, they will be called the Anti-Cheerleaders. They will not sit in the bleachers, but will wander underneath them, committing mild acts pf mayhem.
Melinda devotes an entire chapter to her observations about cheerleaders, probably because, even though they are hypocrites, she has an inner desire to be one of them. This is mostly because they are the darlings of the school, not Outcast like her. Her sarcastic observation, however, hits the mark. We all know or knew girls just like the Merryweather High School cheerleaders and their behavior was less than the perfect image teachers and the community had of them. Melinda might even say to those of us who are out of high school, “How could you now praise these girls when you remember ones just like them when you were in high school?”
Melinda’s accident at the end of the pep rally is obviously no accident. What she did by calling the police is so reprehensible to the students that some are even willing to take the chance on hurting her. No wonder she needs a hiding place! She compensates for this mean act by fantasizing about a Clan she could form - the Anti-Cheerleaders - which is her wishful way of seeking revenge for the way she is treated.
Ever since the pep rally, Melinda has been painting watercolors of trees that have been hit by lightning. One picture is so dark that you can barely see the trees at all. Mr. Freeman doesn’t comment on them; he just raises his eyebrows. When the class complains about the subjects they chose, he yells at them to check out the bookshelves where there are copies of the paintings done by master painters. He expounds about how they didn’t complain about their subjects, but mined them for the root of their meanings. It makes him complain about a school board that makes him paint with his hands tied behind his back by not giving him the supplies he needs. Melinda, like most of the class, zones out on his tirade and tries to sketch trees in her notebook. They are all unsatisfactory to her and she wonders if he is going to make them thrash around the entire year without helping them.
Melinda’s watercolors after the pep rally reflect the dark state of mind she exists in everyday. Mr. Freeman must think she is finally beginning to find the meaning of her art, because he doesn’t criticize her at all. However, she is still dissatisfied with what she is accomplishing which is probably because she is so dissatisfied with her own life. It is interesting that he points out that great painters mined their subjects for every meaning they could find there. That is a comment preparing us for what Melinda is going to have to do before she can find some peace after the summer fiasco. Art will be her sanctuary in more ways than one. The title is also significant, because it again reflects her despair. If she isn’t inspirational, will she just expire or die, either literally or figuratively?