The Girls of Canby Hall #3: You're No Friend of Mine

Someone must have decided to slow this series down because while the first book covered the whole first semester, this one picks up soon after the second book ended. It's still March.

Faith is eating a doughnut (topped with strawberry jam - what?), Dana is painting her toenails pale green (go for grass green, Dana), and Shelley is studying French. Faith, longing for a bagel instead, decides to go into Greenleaf.

As she's heading away from Baker House, a car slows to a stop. (RUN! It might be a kidnapper! Did we learn nothing from Shelley's experience?) It's Dana's father, who recognizes her as one of Dana's roommates. He's here to surprise Dana. They go for ice cream and he breaks his news: he's marrying his girlfriend Eve and being transferred to Hawaii for a year.

And he wants Dana to move to Hawaii with them.

Dana decides not to share this news with her roommates just yet, but she can't hold back from talking to Alison. At the root of her wariness over Eve is that she wants her parents to get back together, even though she knows that won't happen. Dana decides to go home to see her mother and sister the next weekend.

The next morning, Dana does tell Faith and Shelley about the decision she has to make. None of them want to be split up, but the appeal of Hawaii can't be denied.

That afternoon, Shelley goes to auditions for the spring play, joining the Thespians in the Round Table Room. Boys from Oakley Prep will be playing the boys' parts in the play, but this year there's also going to be a boy from Greenleaf High involved. A townie!

You know, the internet make things so much easier. A girl at the auditions tells Shelley that Ms. Mac runs these things [auditions] like a martinet. Shelley doesn't know what a martinet is, and I didn't either. I wasn't going to run for the dictionary every time I didn't know a word in a book. You can usually figure out its general meaning by the context, which I did. But now, I'm already here at the computer while I'm reading so I just typed it into Google and found out its exact definition: a person who stresses a rigid adherence to the details of forms and methods. The very next line after martinet starts Ms. Mac's favorite joke, "Get it? Got it! Good!" a reference to a Danny Kaye movie. I don't know who Danny Kaye is, but I'm able to Google and not just find out about Danny Kaye, but I'm also able to view a clip from the movie The Court Jester.

Shelley has had the best time at auditions, and she can't wait to tell Faith and Dana about it. They eat dinner with a group of girls from Baker House, then walk back to the dorm together, and then finally the roommates are alone in 407. She announces that she's discovered what she wants to do with her life: to be an actress. She's the only sophomore to get a part.

The instant Shelley walks into the Round Table Room for her first rehearsal and sees Tom, the Greenleaf High student in the cast, she almost forgets about Paul, her boyfriend back home. So much for true love. Tom tells her that she's prettier than the pictures of her that were in the newspaper after her kidnapping.

As Shelley tells Faith and Dana about Tom, she refrains from saying she's interested in him, only that he "caught [her] interest." I'm not sure how that's much different, but the girls know what she's saying anyway. Dana is a little short with Shelley, and realizes she really needs to get home to see her mother.

Bret arrives on Friday to take Dana to the train station in Boston. She's already told him about her father and Eve and Hawaii. He doesn't want her to go, but won't make her decision for her.

Back in New York, Dana eats dinner at her favorite deli with her mom and sister, and on Saturday takes Eve up on her invitation to a show. Eve has orange-yellow hair. I mention this because it's the second time in the book that Dana has mentioned it. I can't even imagine. Is Eve really Hayley Williams from Paramore?

After the show, Dana and Eve go back to Eve's apartment for tea and to get to know each other better. Eve's an only child but grew up with a lot of cousins and she misses being surrounded by family. As Dana is leaving, Eve says she wants the two of them to be friends.

The next morning, Dana watches her sister sleep and realizes that if she goes to Hawaii, she'll be leaving her sister behind, in addition to her mother, her roommates, Canby Hall, and Bret. She's not sure she wants to live with Eve and watch her father and Eve be a couple. Dana asks her mother what to do, but she, like Bret, won't make that decision and that it's not fair to ask her to. She suggests that Dana make a pro/con list.

Back at Canby Hall, Shelley goes on and on about Tom, to the annoyance of Faith and, especially Dana, who is wrapped up in her dilemma. Even after Dana snaps at her, Shelley keeps up her drama, wondering aloud how she's ever going to tell Paul that she wants to go to college to study acting instead of going home to him right away.

"Shelley, will you knock it off, please?" Dana said quietly.

"But don't you understand I've changed the entire course of my life?" Shelley said dramatically.

"The course of your life," Dana said angrily. "What about mine? I may really have to change my life."

I know I'm supposed to side with Dana here, but I can't help thinking that Shelley, melodrama -- which would be incredibly irritating -- aside, has a point. Shelley's issues are just as important to her as Dana's are to her. Shelley's the kind of girl who lives life out loud, while Dana is more reserved. And, honestly, I don't really understand why Dana's dilemma is such a big deal. Her father is marrying Eve whether she likes it or not. He's moving to Hawaii whether she likes it or not. Hawaii is far away, but it's not the moon. Why not just spend the summer with him, then return to Canby Hall in the fall? She can see her mom and sister on some weekends, the way she does now, and spend the holidays in Hawaii. Airfare was probably more expensive (relatively) in the 80s, but this is a family that's paying for boarding school. I think they can manage a few plane tickets, especially if Dana takes a summer job to pay her share.

There, I've solved the entire problem. It's not exactly the offer her father extended, but Dana does have some power here. It's not even like she would be choosing her mother over her father, because she won't be living with her mother either. She'll be at Canby.

Fed up, Dana storms out. I guess Shelley's not the only drama queen in Baker 407.

At play practice, Shelley wonders, to herself this time, why she feels the way she does about Tom if she's so in love with Paul. She finally gets to spend some non-rehearsal time with him when she gives him a tour of Canby Hall and as they part, he offers to give her a tour of town. It's a date!

The next night all three girls are at their desks, but only Dana and Faith are studying. Shelley is trying to write -- with a purple pen on pink paper -- to write to Paul. She's overly dramatic out loud about the whole situation again and Dana starts to argue with her when the fire alarm sounds in the hallway. They think it's just another drill until Faith goes to the door and sees smoke. They, along with all the other residents in Baker, file outside. Alison herds the girls into the dining hall temporarily while they wait to find out what happened. A girl had been smoking in her room and when she dropped the cigarette in her wastebasket, it caught on fire and the flames spread to the drapes. The fire is extinguished, but there's still too much smoke, so the Baker girls are split up and sent to stay in the other dorms.

Dana rooms with a girl named Nancy. Nancy has a single but her room is connected to the rooms on both sides by a door, so she can open the doors and have roommates if she wants to or keep them closed and have privacy if she wants that. Sounds great to Dana! Their conversation leads from Nancy's artwork, which reminds Dana of Hawaii, to Dana's dilemma. Nancy's a good listener and her parents are divorced too. Both her parents have been remarried for as long as she can remember.

Over the next few weeks, Dana, Faith, and Shelley drift apart. Poor Faith. She has no part in all of this but stands to lose both of her best friends. Dana's even stopped showing up for their daily soap opera that airs between classes and their extracurricular activities. She's also spending more time with Nancy.

Dana and Faith both receive invitations to Oakley Prep's Photography Exhibit opening. Dana's, of course, is from Bret. Faith's is from Raymond Dixon, an Oakley photographer who was mentioned back in the first book. Theirs is the slowest possible romance ever. Here we are in book 3, more than six months into the school year, and they've only met once. Meanwhile, Dana's been with Bret for awhile and Shelley has two boyfriends.

Along with the invitation, Dana also gets a letter from Hawaii. She tells Faith that earlier that morning she had decided to move to Hawaii, but now that she's seen the envelope she's unsure again. OMG, Dana, just make a decision. Dana heads off in the direction of some girls, including Shelley, who are exercising to a Jane Fonda tape. Dana ignores Shelley, who pretends not to notice that Dana has joined the group. Faith's mad at Dana for this, and upset that Shelley was hurt by it. Faith knows she has to do something, but she's not sure what. She decides to turn to her mother, a social worker, for help.

The next weekend, the three girls fly to Washington DC to visit Faith's hometown, where Dana and Shelley are forced to share a room, just the two of them. As they unpack, Faith explains the problem between them to her mom.

"It's just getting worse, Ma. Dana is impatient and really almost mean to Shelley. She doesn't spend much time with us anymore. She is with this Nancy most of the time. Whatever Shelley does or says annoys Dana. And Shelley gets more and more irritating as Dana gets nastier. And Shelley's feelings are so hurt."

Seems like Faith is putting most of the blame on Dana here too. Faith's mom says she'll do what she can, but that the girls really need to work it out themselves.

On Saturday night, Dana helps Faith's mom prepare dinner and asks her if Faith brought them to DC to talk to her. Mrs. Thompson provides some counseling, and some advice.

"You're right that you've got a whopping decision to make. But Shelley probably thinks her problems are just as whopping. People are like that, you know. All people think their lives and their problems are the most important ones."

Did I not say that? Seriously, girls, it's 1984. There's widespread famine in Ethiopia. Now that is a real problem.

Dana tells Mrs. Thompson that she wants to be friends with Shelley again.

After dinner it's Shelley turn for a counseling session. She starts to ramble on about acting and Tom and Paul but she stops herself and says she knows she shouldn't do it but she just can't help it. She wants to be friends, too, and she wants Dana to stop being mean to her. Mrs. Thompson points out that Dana is confused and upset and scared and doesn't have time to worry about other people's problems.

The next day is just like old times for the roommates. They laugh and have fun...until they get back to campus and Dana runs off to tell Nancy about their trip and Shelley gets three messages from Tom.

Shelley's schoolwork has been slipping since rehearsals started and she met Tom, so she resolves to set aside some time to study French. With no rehearsal one afternoon, she should have plenty of time, and she's on her way back to her room to study when Tom arrives on campus on his new motorcycle. That's the end of that. She doesn't want to disappoint Tom, so she takes off with him for a ride, and then that night during Study Hours, she has so much other work to do that she never gets around to catching up with her French.

She gets a D- on her French exam.

Her French teacher sends Shelley to special study every afternoon. Shelley's not sure how she's going to work an extra two hour daily study session in with play rehearsals, but her teacher says her oral work in the Language Lab is the only reason she's not currently failing. I remember reading this book and desperately looking forward to going to Language Lab, whatever that way, when I reached high school, but my school offered no such thing. A boarding school exclusive, maybe.

So, obviously, after this news, Shelley goes straight up to her room to study, right? Nope, she goes up to her room and stares at herself in the mirror, then wastes time imagining herself as a great actress. She's still doing this when Faith returns to the room. Shelley decides not to tell anyone about her French grade. She's sure she can turn things around with only a week of special study. Sure she can.

After Faith accepts Raymond's invitation to the photography exhibit, Dana and Shelley help her get ready to go on her date. Faith's nervous and decides that Raymond is too preppy. She finds little faults with everything: his hair, his clothes, his car, the way he greet Alison. Once she loosens up, though, she has a good time. She and Ray go with Dana and Bret and some of their other friends to get pizza. One of the girls is in Shelley's French class and tells Dana that Shelley is failing.

Back in the dorm, Shelley is late for curfew. Dana tells Faith what the girl said. They agree that they need to help Shelley. Shelley rushes in and wants to know all about Faith's date. Faith says it was fine and that Ray is a nice guy, he's just not her type. She wants a guy like her father, but not a cop. Faith then tells Shelley that she and Dana know about her difficulties in French. They want to help her catch up, but they need to know where to start. As they go through Shelley's French book, it becomes obvious that Shelley is very far behind, and finals are only three weeks away.

The next day, while Shelley is meeting with some of the members of the cast of the play -- including Tom, of course -- Dana and Faith decide that they're going to have to tutor her. Never mind that Dana isn't even taking French! (She's taking Latin and I remember that she took Spanish in the first book!) They work through their schedules and finally decide on times: Tuesdays and Thursdays the hour before dinner. Both of them are going to have to give up some activities to make it work, but they're willing to do it for Shelley.

So that's, what, only six hours of work before finals? Hopefully Shelley is going to be going to those special study sessions her teacher set up too, because those were about 10 hours a week (two hours a day five days a week).

After ten days, Shelley is still struggling. Dana doesn't feel like Shelley's taking it very seriously. Her choir practice gets switched from Wednesday to Thursday, which means she has to decide whether to go to practice or skip it for tutoring with Shelley. She decides to honor her commitment to her roommate and heads off to the dorm. While they wait for Shelley to arrive, Faith reads a magazine and Dana works on a list of vocabulary words for Shelley. Faith finishes her magazine and asks Dana if she's made a decision yet. She hasn't. They're both aware that Shelley is now very late, almost the entire hour. Dana's angry because she could have gone to choir practice. She looks out the window and sees Shelley finally arriving...on the back of Tom's motorcycle.

Shelley was at rehearsal and then with Tom, and time just got away from her. Now she wants to just skip this one study session. She just doesn't feel like doing French right.

"I feel...I feel...after the rehearsal and all, I don't want to come back to such things. It's hard to express in words."

"Express it in action, Shelley," Dana said. "The following action: Sit down in that chiar, pick up that book, and translate what's on page one forty-four."

"Don't speak to me that way, Dana," Shelley said. "I appreciate what you're doing for me, helping me and all, but I think sometimes you're not very nice about it."

You think? This time I have to side with Dana. Shelley doesn't even seem sorry that her roommates have been waiting an hour for her. FOR HER.

The fight progresses and I imagine this is the fight on the cover.

"You're cruel and you're mean and you're not understanding," she shouted at Dana.

"And you're childish and selfish," Dana shouted back. "You're a baby."

Faith tries to stop them from saying anything more, but they continue to trade insults and Dana storms out again. Faith tells Shelley she's had it with both of them and she leaves too.

The girls are all miserable. Faith seeks advice from her mom, who tells her to stay out of it. Dana avoids their room, until one day she remembers that Shelley will be at her special study and the room will be empty. She goes back to the room and has a good cry, and when her dad phones, she tells him she's decided to move to Hawaii with him. He and Eve are thrilled, and Dana feels good that she's finally made a decision.

Shelley's grades are still going down, and it's not just French. Her algebra grades, which used to be A minuses, are now C pluses. Rehearsals are still fun, but she's really starting to worry about her grades now. She has a French essay due the next day and she's barely begun. She decides to write the essay in English first, and then translate it into French. That makes sense. Then she starts wondering whether to write the whole essay first or do it one line at a time: one line in English and one line in French. Really, Shelley? Just write the thing. She's making things much harder than they really are. No wonder she's failing almost everything.

Shelley starts to panic as reality sets in: she knows very little French. She can't do past tense, she doesn't understand the idioms Dana wrote down for her, and she can't write her essay. She ends up staying up all night and it's not very good, but at least she finishes it.

That day in class, she learns that the French final begins tomorrow. Now she's really in a panic, sure that she's going to fail. She goes back to her room to study, but she knows it's no use. There's not enough time for her to learn everything she needs to know. There's only one thing she can do: cheat.

Armed with cheat sheets, Shelley is ready for the final. To her surprise, she knows a lot of the answers to the early questions. Then the questions get harder and she's lost again. She slips her cheat sheets out, but has an attack of conscience and knows she can't go through with cheating. She puts the papers back in her pocket, but it's too late. She's caught. Her teacher confiscates the cheat sheets and tells her to meet him in his office in an hour. Shelley says she didn't cheat and pleads with him to believe her, but he's already arranged a meeting with the headmistress.

When Dana returns to the dorm after an afternoon with Nancy and another friend, some of the other girls give her the news. Dana insists that Shelley wouldn't cheat, no matter what. She runs up to their room, where Shelley is getting ready to meet with Ms. Allardyce. Shelley tells Dana that she almost cheated but didn't. Dana and Faith want to go with her to meet the headmistress, but Shelley says she has to do it alone.

They wait in silence in their room for Shelley to return. A girl from Shelley's class stops by.

"Boy, that was a gas in French today," she said, laughing. "I've seen terrible attempts at cheating in my time, but nothing compared to Shelley's. I was coming over to show her how." She laughed again.

"It's not funny, Molly," Dana said.

"Sure it is," Molly answered. "Shelley's so inept. She took those notes out of the cuff of her sweater, crumpled them in her hand, and stuffed them into her pocket. She didn't even look at them."

It's a big contrived that Molly would suddenly stop by and reveal this information and not know that Shelley's in big trouble. I mean, if someone gets caught cheating, they're probably in trouble!

Dana and Faith take Molly straight to Ms. Allardyce's house. Fortunately Ms. Allardyce actually believes Molly and lets Shelley off with a short lecture. Everyone's relieved, enough for Shelley and Dana to make up. Shelley's feeling better about French now, sure that she's going to pass the makeup test (how?) and that everything will work itself out. She loves Paul, but she loves Tom too, and she maybe has a crush on her French teacher as well. What?! Aren't two boys enough for her? She still wants to be an actress, but she has time. She doesn't have to decide everything right now.

Dana does, though, and she announces that she's changed her mind. She's coming back to Canby Hall in the fall.

Just like I knew she would.

All that drama for nothing.

The Cover
Shelley? Still not chubby. And she says in this book that Tom calls her pleasingly plump! What kind of compliment is that? I'd go as far as to say that she's the exact same size as Faith. Maybe she's still down that kidnapping weight. Her hair continues to kill me. Dana's looks okay, and I don't know enough about African-American hair in the mid-80s to have an opinion on Faith's, but I just find it unbelievable that this is the better hairstyle they came up with for Shelley at the end of Roommates.

The Girls of Canby Hall #2: Our Roommate is Missing

You would think a title like that would deserve an exclamation point: Our Roommate is Missing! The roommate in question is Shelley. Sadly for Shelley, her disappearance isn't even noticed at first. Everyone's too busy with the big Canby Parent-Alumnae Weekend.

Dana's mother and Faith's mother and brother visit for the weekend, but Shelley's parents can't make the trip from Iowa. It's too far and too expensive. Instead Shelley subs for Casey, who threw a tantrum when her parents sent her aunt instead of visiting themselves. I know from the first book that Casey has issues with her parents, but it seems like she could have been a little more mature about it, especially knowing Shelley's family couldn't even attend at all. At least she got an aunt.

It's not until late Sunday night that Dana and Faith start to wonder where Shelley could be. Asking around Baker House, they discover that no one remembers seeing Shelley since noon. They reluctantly start to head up to their housemother's apartment to tell Alison that Shelley hasn't returned to their room, when they hear her phone ringing. It's after midnight, so it must be an emergency. They hear Alison going down the stairs and start to follow her when the room lights up from headlights turning into the drive. They rush to the windows and see...

Three cars, all long, all black, and all gleaming under the lanterns of the drive, had pulled to a stop and simultaneously hooded their lights.

Feds! Or have I been watching too much of The X-Files? Faith recognizes the couple that emerges from the middle car as Casey's parents, the Flints. They showed up after all! Looks like Casey threw that tantrum for nothing.

Dana and Faith hide as Alison leads Casey's parents up the stairs to check Casey's room. They overhear Mr. Flint mention the word kidnap. But Faith knows Casey hasn't been kidnapped. She talked to Casey earlier when she was looking for Shelley.

Alison goes to Casey's room and returns with Casey, who doesn't understand what's going on and doesn't want to talk about her parents...until she sees them. Then she flies into their arms for a tearful reunion. Alison suggests that the group go up to her apartment to figure out what's going on.

After they leave, Faith and Dana sit on the stairs and slowly begin to realize what's happened. Someone has been kidnapped. Shelley is missing. Shelley, who took Casey's aunt to the train station in Greenleaf. Shelley, who Casey has been emulating with her clothes and hairstyle over the past few weeks. Shelley is missing.

Once again, they head up to Alison's apartment. It's Faith who finds the words.

We're awfully sorry," she said carefully, "but we had to tell you that we can't find Shelley anywhere. She's gone -- simply gone."

Alison can't understand why she wasn't informed earlier. Surely the dorm monitor should have noticed at bed check? Unbeknownst to Alison, Heather Blackburn is well-known for going to bed early. A better question might be why Alison doesn't keep track of her girls. What is she being paid for anyway? Alison rushes to check the sign-in sheet on the girls' door. Shelley signed out to go to town; she never signed back in.

Mr. Flint calls the FBI. He just picks up the phone and calls Mulder and Scully the authorities. Just like that.

This next part is a little confusing, so pay attention. While they wait for the FBI, Mr. Flint launches into an explanation. He and his wife frequently travel abroad to purchase artwork for their gallery, as well as pieces for clients. Many of their clients order copies of famous art for exhibition rooms. In the last year, the Flints have imported six excellent copies (good enough to "almost" fool Mrs. Flint, who is known for her skill) and three have been stolen from the gallery.

Wait, what? I'm no expert in copyright law, but this doesn't even sound legal. I didn't read through everything here, but it seems like it's questionable, at best, and depends on the age of the piece.

Last fall, they were checking out the originals in museums in Europe when Mrs. Flint spotted a fake!

"You mean you were selling a copy of a copy?" Casey asked?

He shook his head. "It was worse than that. This was a giant swindle. The criminals were using us to achieve their ends. After we examined and accepted the copies, the criminals replaced them with stolen originals. So the pictures we imported to America were originals, but we didn't know it. Then, one by one, they were stealing back from us the originals, which we unknowingly had to sell. The copies were hung in European museums in the place of the stolen originals."

That sounds awfully convoluted. It's hard to believe that no one noticed that certain European museums were being broken into twice. It's also kind of genius, since no one caught on until Mrs. Flint's eagle eyes spotted the fake.

Mr. and Mrs. Flint are now working with the government to build a case against the art thieves. Their lives have been threatened, and this is the reason for the kidnapping: the thieves want to scare the Flints into silence until the trial is over by kidnapping their daughter.

Switching over to Shelley's point-of-view, she had initially told Casey that she would spend the weekend with Aunt Edie to try to shame Casey into doing it. It hadn't worked, but Shelley finds that she likes the woman and has fun showing her around the school. Before she leaves on the late Sunday night train, Aunt Edie gives Shelley a bracelet for her to give to Casey. It belonged to Casey's grandmother and Edie has had Casey's name engraved on the inside.

Shelley waits until the train leaves then goes to find a taxi. When a man calls out to her, she hesitates and a van pulls up next to her. She tries to run back into the train station but she's too late. She's pulled into the van and her arms are tied behind her.

They drive for a long time, first in town and then out in the country. After a stop for the driver to call Casey's father (he leaves a message) to inform him of the kidnapping, Shelley makes an escape attempt, hurling herself out the door of the moving van. Good thinking there, Shelley. Try to get away when you're out in the middle of nowhere.

Monday morning, February 22, back at Canby Hall, it's snowing. The trial is scheduled for March 1. It's been decided to keep Shelley's disappearance on the DL. The rest of the school has been told that Shelley and Casey are under quarantine and Faith and Dana are also excused from classes due to being Shelley's roommate.

Alison drives the girls to the Inn to meet with the FBI, who have set up a headquarters there. They listen to the recording the kidnapper left, trying to determine whether they recognize the voice. Like Dana and Faith know any international art thieves! The Flints don't recognize it either. After Shelley's parents arrive, Alison drives Dana and Faith back to school, where they are to return to classes on Tuesday.

If Shelley is still under quarantine, wouldn't that mean she's contagious? And wouldn't that mean Dana and Faith could still be carrying whatever germs they might have picked up from being in the same room with her, if not sick themselves?

Casey's parents will be leaving so she's going to be moving up to Alison's apartment. She's supposedly quarantined in her room, so I don't see why she doesn't just stay there, but this gives Dana and Faith the chance to poke around amongst Casey's things while they gather supplies to take up to Alison for her.

Bret calls several times for Dana, and grows impatient when she won't take his calls. She doesn't want to have to tell him, without a good explanation, why she can't see him on Friday night. When she finally does take his call and refuses to explain, he gets angry. Swell guy, that Bret. After what he put her through first term, you'd think he could give her a little slack.

Or she could have just lied and given him a made-up but plausible reason.

Returning to Shelley, at least she didn't knock herself unconscious or injure herself badly when she jumped out of the van. One of the kidnappers picks her up off the ground and throws her back in the van, showing her for the first time that he has a gun and revealing that he believes she's Casey Flint. Shelley insists that she's not, but they don't believe her, especially after they find the bracelet with Casey's name on it in Shelley's pocket. They leave her alone in a cold, dark, nearly empty room in an abandoned sawmill.

Sunday night turns into Monday turns into Tuesday. Breakfast brings milk and sticky buns, lunch and dinner are both sandwiches and cold French fries. Shelley keeps track of the days using little heaps of sawdust under her cot, one pile for every day. By Thursday she realizes that the sawmill isn't abandoned after all, when she hears trucks and men talking. She is sometimes able to hear her kidnappers' voices too, and hears them mention Melrose.

That night, Shelley is blindfolded and led to a phone to talk to Mr. Flint. She tries to tell him, in code, that she's at a mill in or near Melrose.

"Nobody's mean to me. I get regular meals." She forced a little laugh. "Not my favorites, no mushroom soup or mashed potatoes, but I'm fed."

"Oh, Casey," he said. From his tone, Mr. Flint was as choked with emotion as she was.

"Listen, Daddy," she said swiftly. "Tell Mama-Millie that I love her. And thank Aunt Rose for the magnificent days. I'm fine, not marvelous, but fine."

Thursday night at Canby, the FBI shares the recording of Shelley and Mr. Flint's conversation with Dana, Faith, and Casey. They immediately pick out that Shelley hates mushrooms and mashed potatoes and got Casey's aunt's name wrong, but they chalk it up to her being drugged. Faith goes into town to pick up the pictures from the Parent-Alumnae Weekend. When she returns, she shows Dana and Casey a man in one of them. He's the same man in one of the pictures of Casey's father that they saw when they were picking through Casey's things on Monday. Alison takes the pictures to the Flints to see if they know who he is.

While she's gone, Dana and Faith come up with a plan. They're going to get Bret to drive them around to look for Shelley. Because fifteen year olds are better investigators than the FBI. Faith is sure that Shelley was trying to send them clues in her conversation with Mr. Flint. They decipher that Millie could be a mill and Rose is somewhere nearby. Checking the atlas, they settle on Melrose, "just north of here and maybe a little west."

Friday night, Dana and Faith check out to go to the Oakely Prep dance and then take the train to New York to visit Dana's mom. This last part, of course, is a lie. They're going to sleep in Bret's car (IN FEBRUARY. NORTH OF BOSTON.) and then have him take them to Melrose on Saturday. They don't tell him about Shelley, or the details their plan, only that they need to sleep in his car and for him to drive them somewhere. He points out that he could have taken them back to Canby that night and then just picked them up again Saturday morning.

At least someone is thinking clearly. That would have made a lot more sense.

Dana's family simply wasn't one where people kept things from each other. Yet here she was with a trick recording on her mother's machine, sleeping in the parking lot of a boys' school in the dead of winter, and all because of some clues (or imagined clues) from a girl who sounded drugged.

Am I the only one who thinks this is crazy?

Dana, Faith, and Bret drive around the Melrose area in a snowstorm looking for mills. Bret is still in the dark about why they're doing this. He has his faults, but he's a pretty good guy for going out of his way like this on very little information.

The storm has worsened by the time they finally reach the mill. Bret remains with the car. The girls split up and Dana is walking up to the mill when the kidnappers come out and spot her. Dana recognizes the man from the pictures. She runs away from them, slips on the ice, and lands in the mill pond.

Well, she's as good as dead. Landing in icy water in a snowstorm? The kidnappers say it's only going to take three or four minutes for her to freeze to death.

Faith sends Bret for help then hides and watches as the men put Shelley into a van and drive away. Even worse, she realizes that they're going to catch up with Bret soon. She rushes inside the mill and finds a phone, then calls for help.

Somehow Dana has dragged herself out of the pond and managed to reach the mill. Faith tries to keep her warm and finds some dry clothes. It doesn't take long for Bret to arrive with the police.

Shelley has been rescued, thanks in part to Bret, who was driving too fast on the snowy road and ran into a snowplow. A policeman traveling with the snowplow was trying to help with the accident when the van came down the road, tried to speed past the police car, and ended up in a ditch. The original artwork was inside the van, so it, too was recovered.

Back at Canby Hall after a celebratory party at the Inn in Greenleaf, the headmistress meets with the girls. They're not going to be punished for breaking the rules, but only because the FBI admits that they wouldn't have followed up on Shelley's clues if they'd been told. They would have considered them too whimsical.

What? You always hear that you're supposed to report anything and everything. If they don't have anything else to go on, and they didn't, what harm would it have done? Fifteen-year-olds cracked this case!

After the headmistress leaves, Alison brings out a birthday cake for Dana, who's turning 16 on February 29. She's a leap year baby so I guess this takes place in 1984 even though the copyright date in my book is 1983.

The Cover
Shelley still isn't chubby. Some people just have round faces. It doesn't mean they're overweight. The book does mention at the end that she's lost weight, but really it was only a week and the kidnappers did feed her, even though the food was disgusting and cold, so how much weight could she really have lost?

Why does the kindapper have that hat perched on his head just so? It looks like it doesn't fit well. And why is he smirking?

The Girls of Canby Hall #1: Roommates

In this first book in the series, we meet the three Girls of Canby Hall that will be the main characters. Dana is from New York City, a tall, thin brunette with divorced parents and a younger sister named Maggie. (When this group of girls graduates, three new girls take their place to continue the series. I had hoped Maggie would be one of them. Alas, she was not.) Dana's mother is a fashion buyer for a department store, so naturally that gives her the best fashion sense of the girls. That and being from New York City. Think an older Stacey McGill from the Babysitters Club.

Faith is a black girl from Washington, DC. Her father, a policeman, was killed in the line of duty two years earlier, leaving behind Faith, her older sister Sarah, younger brother Richard, and their social worker mother. Faith is a photographer.

Shelley is from Iowa. She never wanted to go to Canby Hall in the first place, but she's sent there by her parents because they're concerned that she's getting too close to her boyfriend. She's confident that the separation won't hurt their relationship. Long distance romance always works out, right?

On their (separate) ways to Canby Hall, each of the girls has nerves and worries about being the only new sophomore in a class full of returning girls. While Dana is out exploring the campus, Faith takes a nap. Shelley arrives a little later and immediately sticks her foot in her mouth with Faith.

"I was just surprised that you're black," Shelley finally said nervously.

"Is it such a big deal?" Faith asked, defensively.

"Oh, no. I don't know many black people, but" -- Shelley thought for a second about how to finish the sentence -- "but I'm sure they can be as nice as anyone else."


That is CLEARLY not the right thing to say to your new roommate -- or anyone -- even in the less politically-correct 1980s. Even Shelley knows that, but what's said is said. No taking it back. Faith, of course, takes offense and storms out. It's war in Baker 407, and it only gets worse when Dana and Faith don't like Shelley's decorating ideas ("country cottage," complete with pillow shams, eyelet lace curtains, and Chintz dust ruffles).

About a week later, their housemother Alison finally stops by to introduce herself and realizes there's a problem when she sees that they have divided the room with tape ("Shelly's final decorating idea"). My question is, just where has she been this whole time? I met my college RA the first day, and these girls are just in high school. Other than going missing for so long and NOT DOING HER JOB, Alison is basically the coolest housemother ever. I wanted to be Alison when I grew up.

Dana fell in love at first sight with Alison's apartment. It was exactly the kind of place she imagined living in when she was grown-up and an independent career woman.

Dana and every single pre-teen reader of this series.

Posters from art exhibits filled one wall of the living room. The only thing on the facing wall was a neon sign from an old beauty shop. It was a crossed scissors and comb with letters underneath spelling out, KATIE'S KLIP 'N' KURL.

There were plumbing pipes and heating ducts running along the ceiling, but instead of trying to hide or ignore them, Alison had made them part of the decor by painting them in bright, primary, high-gloss colors -- red, blue, yellow, green.

Okay, yes, it sounds a bit tacky now, but try telling that to a ten-year-old me. I dreamed of that Klip 'n' Kurl sign. I don't know if they ever said, I but I always imagined it as pink.

So Alison works her magic and the girls agree to get along. Classes roll right along, Faith gets a spot on the school newspaper photography staff, and Shelley spends a lot of time thinking about and writing letters to Paul. While Dana attends Canby Hall's first mixer with the boys' school down the road, Faith heads into Greenleaf for ice cream with her new friend from the dorm Casey, and Shelley stays behind to plan her phone call to Paul. Too bad for her that Paul went camping with his friends that night. Out of sight, out of mind.

Dana meets a boy named Bret at the mixer and goes on a date with him the next night. A few days later, Alison warns her that Bret is a known player. Dana's wary but continues to see him.

As Bret leaned in to kiss her, Dana dropped her toast, and neither of them noticed when a squirrel scurried up and ran off with it.

Is that not the most romantic thing you've ever read? No?

When Faith confesses to Casey that she's never had alcohol, not even a beer, save a sip of spiked punch at a cousin's wedding, Casey comes up with a plan to change that. I TOTALLY REMEMBER THIS SCENE. It was that amazing. Casey puts on heavy makeup, finishing off with Perfect Peach lipstick that I coveted even though I wasn't allowed to wear makeup, and goes into a store with a hastily written grocery list.

When Faith went in, Casey was already at the checkout counter. She was buying a package of bologna, a loaf of bread, a can of pork and beans, and a carton of milk. She was looking at the scribbled list as the young checkout boy totaled up her purchases on the register. As he was pushing through the last item, the bologna, Casey looked at her list again and said, "Oh, I forgot. My husband said to pick up some beer for him. He's home watching the football game."

"Then he's in for a depressing afternoon," the boy said. "The Patriots are sure to lose today."

"You think so?" Casey said.

"For sure. Say, I'll get you those beers, lady. What's your husband's brand?"

"Oh, no," Casey said. "I can't remember."

Faith's heart jumped into the pit of her stomach. Sometimes Casey was beyond belief. Here she had this guy actually running to get the beer for her and what did she do? -- pushed it for the last little buzz of excitement.

"Wait a minute," she finally said. "Budweiser. Is that the one that comes in the red and white cans?"

"Yup," the clerk said. "How many?"

"Oh, I think two'll do."

So there you have it. All that time you spent borrowing an older friend's ID or standing outside the liquor store waiting for someone to come along who would go in and buy beer for you was a waste of time. All you had to do is dress up like a young wife who feeds her husband garbage and act like you knew what you were doing.

Dana auditions for and makes the school choir, and it's at choir practice that she learns that Bret has asked another girl to the Harvest Holiday dance. She can't say she wasn't warned. With a little prodding from Alison, and the help of her roommates and Casey, Dana comes up with a revenge idea: Plan Booga-Booga. The four of then don gorilla costumes from the drama department and when Bret and his date are walking to the dance they...

leapt out of the bushes at them, bouncing up and down, scratching their armpits and grunting, "Booga-booga."

 ...and keep it up the entire way to the dance, thoroughly embarrassing the couple. Before she and the girls run off into the night, Dana tips Bret off that she's behind the stunt. He meets her after choir the next day and asks for a second chance. She turns him down and spends the next few weeks mopey and depressed. 

One night Faith gets an after-hours phone call from Casey, who's decided to run away. Casey asks Faith to meet her at a diner. It's already an hour past curfew, so Faith has to sneak out. Casey's upset because her parents, who pay so little attention to her that one year they forgot which boarding school she was attending and sent her birthday present to the last one, are spending the summer in Europe and sending Casey to wilderness camp AND because she's been put on social probation at Canby for racking up enough demerit points for three girls.

Faith tries to talk some sense into Casey -- pointing out she is a bit of a troublemaker and should probably just face the consequences for it -- and invites her to spend the summer with Faith's family, driving a Popsicle bike for her uncle's ice cream company. THAT KIND OF SOUNDS LIKE FUN, if you don't think about how hot it probably gets.

Casey decides not to run away but sneaking back onto campus, they are spotted. By the headmistress. Who calls the police. The Greenleaf cops arrive just after Casey's scrambled in a window at the dorm, leaving Faith to be the only one to take the blame. Faith covers for Casey and says she was on a date and lost track of time.

Faith has to face the headmistress the next day but Casey refuses to confess. She's been in trouble too many times and has too much to lose. Faith gets sentenced to dorm restriction, the incident will go on her record, and the school is going to notify her mother. That last one is the only one that bothers her. Two nights later, Faith is summoned to the headmistress's house, where Casey has finally confessed. With some intervention from Alison ("[they] have suffered enough already"), Miss Allardyce agrees to forget the entire thing, as long as they stay out of trouble and Casey goes to counseling. Much to Faith's relief, she hasn't even told Faith's mother yet.

Wrapping things up, Faith convinces Dana to stop being miserable and give Bret another chance. They talk Shelley into a makeover, bringing her style more up to date (unbelievably, the new clothes include "baggy, pleated jeans") just before Shelley breaks the news that her parents are letting her stay home after Christmas break. They're sad to be losing their friend, but just they want her to be happy.

Back at Canby after break, Dana and Faith are ready to meet their new roommate's Shelley! I don't know about you, but I didn't see that one coming. Nope, not at all. She and Paul have agreed to take their relationship a little less seriously for now and she's going to get involved in the opportunities Canby has to offer.

The Cover
It's always bothered me that my cover has that weird paisley-ish spot on the middle of Shelley's sweater. I'm pretty sure it's something that happened in the printing, not something that's supposed to be there. At one point, actually when she first meets Shelley, Faith says that she's 5'10". If she knows her own height and the cover is to be believed, that would make Dana at least six feet tall, and there's no mention of that in the book. She does dance with a guy "nearly a head shorter" at the mixer, but I still don't think she's six feet. Oh, and Shelley? Is supposed to be chubby. You can't see her waistline because she doesn't have her sweater tucked in, but in what world is she chubby? Speaking of waistlines, love those high-waist jeans, Dana.

Welcome to Canby Hall!

I started my book blog, Rather Be Reading YA, last month. I've been having a lot of fun with it. I'm currently reading, and planning to review, a vintage book. I started thinking about doing a line of vintage reviews and then I remembered that I've been wanting to do a Girls of Canby Hall blog for a long time. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to get it started. Originally I was going to post the CH entries as posts on RBRYA, but I decided to separate them out into their own blog. So here I am! Right now my plan is to read and recap/review one book a week.

I was young when this series started, but I inherited it, along with Sweet Valley High and a lot of other 80s books, from older cousins. As much as I loved SVH, I loved The Girls of Canby Hall more. I read them over and over.

A little rundown on the series: Canby Hall is a fictional girls' boarding school set in fictional Greenleaf, Massachusetts, a small town located an hour north of the real Boston. Google Maps seems to suggest that would place it in New Hampshire, but that's what the book says. I will not argue.

The series focuses on two sets of three main characters who live in 407 Baker Hall. The first seventeen books are about Dana, Faith and Shelley. After they graduate, Andy, Jane, and Toby move into 407. All the girls are sophomores at the beginnings of their storylines, because for some reason the author* chose not to write about them as freshmen. I always wondered about that. I preferred Dana, Faith, and Shelley, and starting them out as freshmen would have given me an extra year of their stories.

* Author Emily Chase was actually multiple people writing under one name. One of the writers was romance author Julie Garwood, who wrote book 14 in the series.