Game On

( 2 )


Welcome to the world of high school cheerleading.

At the start of their freshman year, Chloe Davis, Kate MacDonald, and Emily Arellano have just one thing on their minds — cheerleading. The girls are excited to join the Northside High JV squad, and Chloe is a lock for captain. Or so she thinks...

When newcomer Devin Isle arrives on the scene, she unwittingly shakes up the girls' tight friendship and rattles Chloe's confidence. But with regional...

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Welcome to the world of high school cheerleading.

At the start of their freshman year, Chloe Davis, Kate MacDonald, and Emily Arellano have just one thing on their minds — cheerleading. The girls are excited to join the Northside High JV squad, and Chloe is a lock for captain. Or so she thinks...

When newcomer Devin Isle arrives on the scene, she unwittingly shakes up the girls' tight friendship and rattles Chloe's confidence. But with regional competitions right around the corner, this is no time for the squad to fall apart. Building a human pyramid takes teamwork, after all!

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a story created in partnership with cheerleading brand Varsity, ninth-grade best friends Chloe, Emily, and Kate are all on the JV cheerleading squad and utterly devoted to their sport. Chloe, whose older siblings were cheerleading champs, seems like a shoe-in for captain until new girl Devin shows up at practice. Devin doesn’t even want to be a cheerleader (she’s an expert tumbler), but she agreed to give it a try since there’s no gymnastics team in the area. When Devin and Chloe are elected co-captains, the friction is immediate; all that team troublemaker Leila has to do is tell a few lies to get their feud going strong. Third-person narration moves breezily among the girls, highlighting their strengths and insecurities, in this first book in a planned series. The story lifts up the virtues of teamwork, hard work, and the power of a smile as it builds toward a co-captain blowout and a big competition at Regionals. While the endless positivity may overwhelm some readers, the friendship dramas and cheer action should keep fans of the sport entertained. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)
"Like Glee, only with cheerleading...Cheerleading buffs will appreciate all the routines and intrateam travails, but for everyone else, this has plenty of boys, problems, and a few giggles."
From the Publisher
"Like Glee, only with cheerleading...Cheerleading buffs will appreciate all the routines and intrateam travails, but for everyone else, this has plenty of boys, problems, and a few giggles."—Booklist

"The story lifts up the virtues of teamwork, hard work, and the power of a smile...the friendship dramas and cheer action should keep fans of the sport entertained."—Publishers Weekly

School Library Journal
Gr 5–9—This series starter introduces a junior varsity cheerleading squad and highlights the athleticism and competitiveness of this contemporary sport. The Northside High JV squad members have known one another for years and they are ready to compete for regional and state honors. Chloe comes from a family of captains and she fully expects to head up this year's squad. A new girl and gifted athlete, Devin, arrives and quietly challenges Chloe's leadership. They end up as cocaptains, and an envious and conniving teammate works to drive a wedge between them, a move that threatens the team's chances of success. A narrative that shifts focus among four or five team members results in shallow characterizations while cheers and stunts are described in great detail, making cheerleading itself the star of this book. Unfortunately, the constant pettiness and jealousies that the girls display and a very homogenous group of young teens hark back to the stereotypical trappings of another time, undermining the book's success as contemporary sports fiction. While there is sure to be a following for this book, it is an additional purchase.—Martha Baden, Prescott Public Library, AZ
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316227278
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 9/3/2013
  • Series: A Varsity Novel Series, #1
  • Pages: 262
  • Sales rank: 477,231
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Melanie Spring is a writer living in New York City. Originally from Northern California, Melanie was a member of her high school's cheer dance team. Even though she has retired her poms, she's still got spirit.

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Read an Excerpt

Game On

By Melanie Spring

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Copyright © 2013 Melanie Spring
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-316-22727-8


"Come on, Kate! You can do it! Keep those knees locked tight!" Chloe Davis shouted from across the gym as Kate MacDonald landed on the mat with a thud. Kate had been trying to perfect her double toe touch all summer. She was tall and thin—what her mom called "gangly"—with dark skin. With legs as long as Kate's, it seemed like it would be easy to spring up and hit the move on the first try. But Kate had never been the most graceful girl on the squad.

For the past three months, Kate had been determined to get everything right. She had practiced her jumps all over Sunny Valley—at the beach, in her backyard on the trampoline, and at cheer camp last month with her new teammates. Kate was in awe of how Chloe made it look so effortless. After jogging in place for a few seconds, Kate prepped again for another attempt, raising her arms to a high V position. She sprang into the air. One! Two! Clean finish. Much better. Practice hadn't even started yet, and she was already starting to feel the burn. She had to admit, it felt really good.

"That's it!" Chloe smiled, all teeth, as she bounded over to Kate. Chloe's strawberry-blond ponytail swung behind her head. It seemed to glow under the harsh yellow lights of the gym.

"Did you feel the difference that time? You're seriously so close to perfection on that double toe touch, it's scary," Chloe said as she patted Kate on the back. "You got this."

"Thanks," Kate replied, allowing herself to grin a little. "But I think I still have a long way to go before I can get it to look like yours."

"Don't be ridiculous!" Chloe said. "We have all season to work on it before Regionals. You'll have it by then, for sure."

Kate nodded, her confidence rising. Now that she and her two best friends were on the Northside High School Junior Varsity cheer squad, it seemed especially important to get everything right. The three of them—Kate, Chloe, and Emily—had been looking forward to cheering for the Northside Timberwolves since the moment they picked up their first poms together in the sixth grade. After school, they would go over to Chloe's house and spend hours in her backyard on her giant trampoline. Chloe's older brother and sister—already on the Varsity team themselves—would teach the girls elaborate cheers that made no sense but were incredibly fun. They gave every performance their all right from the start, even if the only member of the audience was Chloe's dog, Valentine.

But they'd come a long way since Jefferson Middle School and messing around on the trampoline. The high school division was where it got really fired up, both on the field and at competitions. It was going to be intense and Kate couldn't wait. Neither could the rest of her new JV teammates. It was only the first day of practice, but Regionals were in November and she knew how quickly the time would fly.

Chloe thrived on pressure and was excited to get started. She launched her body into a perfectly executed double toe touch, followed by a standing back tuck.

"That looked sooo amazing," a petite girl with large blue eyes said in awe as Chloe shook out her muscles after the trick.

"Thanks, Lexi! Your back handsprings are looking really solid lately, too."

"You think so?" Lexi replied, smiling shyly. "It feels like they are my worst skill."

Chloe shook her head in protest. "No way! Ever since we practiced them at camp, you've improved so much." Chloe smiled warmly. She was the definition of a great cheerleader—especially when it came to encouraging other members of her own squad. That's why she was almost everyone's top pick for JV captain this year. The fact that she was also an extremely talented tumbler didn't hurt her chances, either. Chloe's round-off back tuck was textbook, and, naturally, everyone wanted her help on how to nail their own skills.

After chatting with Lexi for another minute, Chloe made her way back to Kate's spot, where their friend Emily Arellano joined them.

"You guys want to grab a water before practice starts?" Chloe asked. "I'm already thirsty." Chloe tightened her high ponytail and smoothed down the fabric of her brand-new NHS CHEER cotton tee.

Emily started stretching her hamstrings in a front pike position on the floor. Her dark hair was also pulled up, away from her face. Emily was blessed with a perpetually clear complexion, long eyelashes, and olive skin that didn't require much makeup. "That's probably a good idea. I swear I've sweated out half of my electrolytes from nerves alone," she said. Emily sniffed her underarm warily. "Oh, man, do I already smell? Kate, smell me."

"I absolutely will not!" Kate laughed, swatting away the armpit Emily had presented to her.

"What about you, Chloe?" Emily asked. Chloe responded by scrunching up her small nose.

"What is wrong with you people? That's the smell of success!" Emily giggled, putting her hands on her hips triumphantly like Peter Pan. Her friends laughed, but there were still no takers.

"That's cool. You guys probably won't be able to avoid it once you're lifting me into a heel stretch later. The perks of being a top girl. Everyone all up in your business all the time ... Only Kalyn and Lexi can truly understand my pain," Emily joked, referring to the other two top girls on the squad—Kalyn Min and Lexi Foster.

"I'm so glad I'm a base," Kate agreed. It took a special breed of girl to be brave enough to take the top position. But every position on the team had its advantages, along with its challenges. All of them were necessary to keep the team performing stunts like a complex machine.

"Come on, we only have a few minutes. We can't be late on the first day or Coach Steele will make an example of us," Chloe urged as she led the way toward a vending machine just outside the gym. "And trust me, that is something we don't want," she added.

Emily and Kate fell in line behind Chloe. Coach Steele was a great coach, but pretty strict about certain things like tardiness. Chloe loved her friends, but she wasn't going to let them get her in trouble. Not today. It was way too important.

"Copy that," said Kate as they reached the glowing vending machine. She hunched over to drop some quarters into the slot, and made her selection. "Can you get a demerit for being tardy?" she asked. It was as if Chloe had told her they were already in trouble. Kate was obsessed with demerits—the negative point system used by cheerleaders everywhere when squad members violated the Cheerleader Contract. It was common knowledge that they could get demerits for offenses ranging from minor ones, such as wearing press-on nails, to major ones, like being caught drinking at a party. The toughest rule for some of the girls to follow was that they couldn't be seen making any physical contact with boys while in uniform—no hand-holding, no hugging, and especially no kissing. Anyone who earned enough demerits was automatically kicked off the squad. Kate's eyes grew wide as she turned to Chloe. "Did your brother or sister ever get any?" she asked.

"Clem never did," Chloe answered, shrugging. "She was the perfect Northside cheerleader. But I think Jake got a few that time his friends made him streak across campus for losing a bet."

"But it's not like they were gonna kick him off the squad," Emily added, hitting the machine to try to make an extra water bottle fall out. Her attempt didn't work.

Chloe's two older siblings, Jake and Clementine Davis, were legends at Northside High. Her brother had originally been on the football team and had led the school to victory at State Championships during his junior year. Clementine had been on the Varsity cheerleading squad, which at the time was struggling and in need of strong bases for stunts. Clementine begged Jake to join the squad, and he shocked everyone by leaving the football team behind and taking his place on the sidelines instead. He had always been the type of guy to do his own thing. And, just like Chloe, he had undeniable charisma.

He had so much influence, in fact, that several other guys had followed his lead and joined the squad, which led to the most successful cheerleading season in NHS history. Even though Chloe had only been in fifth grade, watching her siblings perform and compete had made her fall in love with Northside. There was even a picture hanging in the hallway at Chloe's house of her at age ten, wearing a blue-and-gold T-shirt that said Future NHS Cheerleader. Her status as part of the "Davis Dynasty" allowed her some valuable insider knowledge about the cheerleading program at Northside. There was no doubt that Chloe was prepped for success on this team.

By the time they got back to the gym, it had filled with other girls on the squad. Idle chatter about the upcoming football season and cute upperclassmen echoed throughout the room. There was a buzz in the air that went beyond even the pumped-up spirit they'd felt at camp last month. Maybe it was because they were finally in their own gym, on their home turf. The blue-and-gold lettering on the wall proudly proclaimed that they were in Timberwolf Territory!

"I'm gonna go say hi to Carley and Jenn," Chloe said as two more girls entered the gym. Carley Chase-Calloway, a tall brunette with coffee-colored skin and almond-shaped eyes, and Jenn Hoffheimer, a short blond with a spray of freckles across her nose, dropped their bags on the bleachers. The two were decked out in their royal-blue cheer shorts and camp spirit shirts that read Northside on the front and Teamwork Makes the Dream Work in glittery gold letters on the back. "Hey, girls!" Chloe shouted, giving them a wave. "Isn't this exciting?" she chirped.

"I swear, that girl is a natural," Emily observed as Chloe greeted the newcomers. A few more girls had entered the gym and started to gather around Chloe, who was now telling an animated story about something funny that had happened during lunch.

"There is no way Chloe won't make captain, right?" Emily added with a slight grin, her dark eyes twinkling with excitement about everything going on around her. She bent down to touch the floor and stretch her hamstrings some more. Emily was so flexible, she could place her face completely on her shins without wincing.

"Of course she'll be captain. Everyone loves Chloe." Kate shrugged, watching as Chloe drew Jenn into a warm and genuine embrace. "Look at her. Chloe Davis—cheerleader of the people!" Kate said with admiration.

Even though many of the other girls on the squad had come from the town's other middle school, Los Gatos, they had quickly bonded as a team. Camp had made sure of that—long days spent together learning new stunts and cheers in workshops followed by nights in the bunks laughing until they fell asleep, their muscles so achy that soreness seemed like a permanent state of being.

The only one who didn't look pleased to see Chloe was Leila Savett, a lanky brunette and fellow base, who stood with her arms crossed and a trademark sneer on her face. Her long, shiny hair was still down around her shoulders. She always waited until the last second to put it up in a ponytail so that it didn't "crease as much."

Leila threw her duffel bag on the ground and sat down on a mat to start stretching, like it was a chore. She looked at Chloe and narrowed her kohl-lined eyes. The look was meant to be intimidating, but it didn't faze Chloe—she'd known Leila and her competitive streak since elementary school. It was weird to think that they used to be such close friends. Friends who carpooled to Sunny Valley All-Stars, the cheerleading gym where they trained on the weekends. Friends who would get smoothies together at the snack bar. And, once in a while, friends who would sleep over at each other's houses.

But when Chloe advanced to the elite team and Leila didn't, something changed. Leila no longer wanted to be friendly. She took Chloe's achievement personally and responded by working extra-hard to get to the same level as Chloe—putting in tons of time at the gym and signing up for private tumbling lessons. Chloe respected Leila for working so hard, but even though Leila's cheerleading had improved, her attitude had not.

The girls' coach, Meg Steele, sat on the freshman bleachers, watching over the gym like a queen on her throne. She wore navy warm-ups with a gold stripe accent down the sleeves of the jacket, and a brand-new pair of running sneakers. Tortoiseshell sunglasses sat pushed back on her head, causing a few pieces of her short brown hair to stick out in various directions. She sipped from a stainless-steel coffee thermos as she surveyed the squad. Even though she was in her midforties, Coach Steele could almost pass for a high school cheerleader herself. Only the deep laugh lines around her eyes—the result of years of smiling while shouting cheers—gave away her age.

The girls loved how the coach could joke around but would also display tough love when it came to training them for competition. They knew she wanted to bring out the best in her squad. The Varsity team had already warned the JV girls that there was a time for messing around and a time to work. If they wanted to get on Coach Steele's good side, they would learn the difference—fast.

Coach Steele was furiously scribbling something on her clipboard—probably the agenda for today's practice. Every day before practice, she liked to come up with an action plan. Coach Steele reminded her squads that cheerleaders are athletes, just like football players. If the football team went over plays before practice, why shouldn't the cheerleaders also have a plan of action for each practice and game? Emily hoped today's action plan included cradles so she could attempt a full down again. There was nothing like the rush that accompanied a perfectly executed stunt. Of course, that was probably too advanced for day one.

"Who's that?" Kate asked, squinting and gesturing toward the bleachers.

Emily scanned the group. "Coach Steele?"

"No, her!" Kate said, pointing to the top row. The girl in question had her head down and her legs propped up on the bench, bouncing nervously.

"I have no idea. I thought this was a closed practice," Emily said, shrugging. "And it's not like she's on the team." Tryouts had been held back in May, after all. Not one of the final squad members could forget that grueling week of learning routines and stunts, then having to perform them before a panel of judges. But that was the deal. It had to be tough enough to weed out the candidates who just liked the idea of wearing a cute uniform. Cheerleading wasn't something you decided to do on a whim—it required hard work and dedication. Passion.

Coach Steele smoothed her hair and blew her whistle. "Good afternoon, my lovely Junior Varsity TIM-BER-WOOOOLVES!" she hollered as if it were its own cheer. "Please gather 'round, ladies!" Everyone obliged, forming a huge circle around her. Kate and Emily hung back, and Chloe joined them. "I know you're all excited about your first official practice of the season, so I'll make this as brief as possible. First off, I want to welcome you all to Northside. I know we are going to have a thrilling year cheering at games and pep rallies, practicing hard, and competing together. As long as you all follow the contract you signed when you became a part of this team, we should have a great season. You should all be very proud of yourselves—you are the cream of the crop and are all very talented athletes to have made it this far. I'm lucky to have every one of you here. Give yourselves a hand, ladies!" Coach Steele smiled and started clapping her hands together above her head.

Everyone started to whistle and clap.

"Okay, okay. Now, calm yourselves for a moment—I have an important announcement." Chloe fidgeted. This was it. The moment she'd been waiting for all day. She reached over and squeezed Emily's hand for support.

"As some of you may have noticed, we have a new face among us today," Coach Steele said as she looked around at each of the girls. Chloe didn't notice any new faces. She looked at Emily in confusion. Emily shrugged. "I know I normally don't allow any extra visitors at practice, but I want you all to give a warm Timberwolf welcome to Miss Devin Isle!"


Excerpted from Game On by Melanie Spring. Copyright © 2013 Melanie Spring. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2013


    It was a great book and I am a cheerleader so it was easy to relate to!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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