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.

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