The Girls of Canby Hall #6: Best Friends Forever

Dana's in her family's apartment in New York packing for her trip to Shelley's Iowa hometown. These girls have just spent September through July at Canby, with breaks only at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the past two weeks in August. You would think Dana's and Faith's mothers might want them to stick around a little longer before going back to Canby, or that they might want to spend time with their old friends, but no. They're going to spend two weeks in Iowa with Shelley, who they will again be living with for another ten or eleven months.
At eleven, she would call Faith in Washington, D.C. That's when the long distance telephone rates went down.

LOLOL outdated technology. I love how this is explained, as if the author knew that in the future people wouldn't have to worry about it anymore. I don't have a cell phone but I don't even have to pay for long distance on my landline.

The next day, Faith flies to New York to meet Dana, then they travel to Iowa together. They're both nervous about being in the midwest for the first time and Faith is especially concerned because of her skin color. I'm pretty sure she thinks she's going to be the only black person in the entire state of Iowa.

Shelley and her brothers meet Dana and Faith at the airport. Jeff is immediately taken with Dana. Sorry, Jeff, if no one told you. She has a boyfriend. You're just a few weeks too late. If only you had been there to console her after Bret broke her heart.

"How big is Des Moines?" Dana asked, changing the subject completely.

"About 200,000. That's humungus compared to the population of Pine Bluff, which has only 5.000."

"Really!" Dana said in dismay.

Really, Dana. This is getting ridiculous. How big is Greenleaf, the place where you just lived since September? Maybe it's not, but I picture it as a small town, too. And even if it's big enough for you, a superior New Yorker, you can't spend TWO WEEKS in a small town without being dismayed? Why did you come? You could have pretended your mom wouldn't let you go. I bet she would have even gone along with it.

The group drives around Des Moines for a little while, where Faith is relieved to see some black people. By this time she and Dana have realized that they're being rude and try to find compliments about the city, things such as, "The streets are so clean."

As they sped along the interstate, Dana and Faith expressed their appreciation of the scenery. The farmland consisted of rich brown soil that contrasted dramatically with the golden corn crops. Beef cattle grazed in the fields; immaculate white farmhouses and deep-red barns graced the rolling terrain.

Pretty! The girls catch up on the drive to Pine Bluff, discussing fashion and Faith's two-week photography job while Shelley's brothers talk about hog feed, basketball (wrong season, boys), and tractors. Once they reach the town, they drive slowly so Shelley can point out the sights: the fire department, a handful of shops, the post office.

Look, I live in a town about half the size of Pine Bluff and I grew up in one much, much smaller. I know we don't have any sights to be seen. Why is Shelley so dense? It's not like she's never traveled anywhere before. Surely she visited Boston at least once in the past year, and she's been to Faith's in DC and I think there was even mention of a weekend in NYC with Dana too.

When they reach Shelley's house, Mrs. Hyde immediately feeds them: buttered biscuits, jam, honey, and iced tea. Yum. Shelley shows them around the house -- the guestroom is actually the sewing room -- and especially her room, which is pink and white and looks exactly like they expected. She shows off the ribbon she won for an apron she made in junior high and explains that 4-H is an important part of a Pine Bluff High student's life.

Dana and Faith are impressed by one thing in Pine Bluff: Shelley knows how to drive (and learned on a '67 Chevy, no less).

After they all clean up the kitchen and Shelley's brothers leave, Shelley, her parents, Dana and Faith have a sing-along around the piano in the living room. They are soon joined by Shelley's Iowa boyfriend Paul and his cousin Jack, who have come to take the girls bowling.

In the car, Paul asks what Dana thinks of Pine Bluff. She's not sure yet. They start talking about boarding schools and Paul is clearly not okay with Shelley returning to Canby in the fall. Maybe he feels that way because she's only been home two weeks and now she has her roommates visiting for the next two weeks. They start to get into an argument until Jack steers the conversation into a safer direction.

Shelley's brother Jeff joins the group at the bowling alley. They're loud like teenagers are and draw disapproving looks from the older people around them. Jack says, "Holy cow!" a lot and Faith realizes he's not so bad, even if he did look surprised when he first saw her.

Back at Shelley's parents' house, Faith says Jeff can't take his eyes off Dana. Dana laments attracting a second country boy but admits that Randy came along at just the right time when her heart was broken.

There's a ton of recap in this book. So far they've recapped Paul showing up at Canby and Dana's first meeting with Randy and I'm sure there was more before I started noticing it.

Dana says she could never really fall for Randy because she's too much of a city girl. Same goes for Jeff, whose favorite subject is his heifer Gertrude. Faith thinks the same about Jack. They know they're being snobs but that doesn't stop them from continuing to be that way. They do agree to try to be more open-minded.

The next morning, Shelley wakes them up with the promise of pancakes (which she calls both griddle cakes and hotcakes on the same page). After breakfast she drives them to another farm to meet Gertrude, teaching them all about Iowa and Pine Bluff on the way. Shelley obviously loves her home state a lot and is proud to be an Iowan. Shelley warns them that the farmer they're going to visit acts like he doesn't like people but underneath he's a real softie. Faith thinks that Shelley is warning her that he won't expect her to be black.

When they meet him, he's actually very nice and Faith even gets permission to take take pictures of some of his cows. Jeff is proud to show off Gertrude. Dana is impressed with his dedication and work ethic. Faith and Shelley wander off to find some other cows for Faith to photograph, leaving Dana and Jeff alone with Gertrude. Dana tries to look interested while he works with the heifer.

Shelley and Faith return with permission to take some of Farmer Jensen's horses out for a ride. Dana and Faith have never ridden before, and Shelley claims to be a terrible rider, so Jeff has to go with them. Shelley knows what she's doing, though, as she saddles up some of the horses.

Riding comes easy to Faith, but not to Dana. She's feeling a little more accustomed to it by the time they stop to let the horses drink from Round Pond. When they're getting ready to get back on the horses, Faith has a dizzy spell. She brushes it off as the heat. On the way back, Dana loses control of her horse. Oh, Dana. Dana loses the reins and almost falls off as her horse rushes toward the road. Jeff chases them down and manages to stop Dana's horse just as they reach the road. Dana is extremely grateful.

"I think you saved my life, Jeff," she said. Even those dramatic words sounded trite, compared to how she was feeling.

You play your cards right, Jeff, and you might get lucky with a real New York City girl.

The four of them agree not to tell anyone what happened. They don't want the farmer who owns the horses or Shelley's parents to think they're irresponsible.

The girls go to Shelley's father's pharmacy to eat at the lunch counter. While Shelley helps her friend Tad (who works there) make their sandwiches and ice cream sodas, Dana buys some band-aids for her hands and Faith decides to get some aspirin for the "weird feeling in her head." Next they head to the general store, which is packed with dry goods. I guess Wal-mart hasn't made it to Pine Bluff yet. Maybe by 1990.

(Wikipedia says that Walmart didn't expand to Iowa until 1983, and now that I think about it, when I was a kid, Kmart was the place to go. But I guess Pine Bluff doesn't have a Kmart either.)

Dana and Faith poke around while Shelley goes looking for some yarn. They spend some time making fun of the clothing department, offending Shelley when she returns.

"You don't have to be in a big city to buy good clothes. A lot of people manage to dress well here," Shelley retorted. There was an edge to her voice.

She also points out that she makes most of her clothes, which kind of speaks to their point. If you can't buy what you want, you make it. But Faith knows she's being a snob again and feels bad.

Lily, the woman who runs the store, isn't all that friendly. In fact, she's pretty grumpy when she checks the girls out. Shelley has her yarn and Faith buys a stuffed alligator as a present for her brother. Dana asks how the store stays in business with the woman's attitude. Shelley says that when you're the only store in town, it's easy.

Just you wait, Lily. Wal-mart's coming and then you're going to find some real competition.

Their next stop is the Trash and Treasure rummage sale at the fire department. Faith is still feeling weak and has a headache, but she decides to ignore the symptoms.

Dana finds a set of dessert plates because she's 16 going on 60. She's surprised to see the man behind the table reading poetry by Emily Dickinson, her favorite poet. (So much for Grace Phaeton.)

Faith is mopey as she and Dana are getting ready for a hayride that night. When Dana asks what's wrong, Faith says she's afraid she'll be the only black at the party. (I'm petty sure that's an issue at Canby, too, but it's never seemed to be an issue before this book.) Dana points out that no one has treated her any differently. She and Faith are both out of place because they're from the East Coast.

Faith says that she's just tired, but internally she acknowledges that she's exhausted and that even moving requires effort.

Dana and Faith meet a lot of Shelley's junior high friends at the hayride. It's taken me this long -- and I mean in life, not just in the 97 pages of this book so far -- to realize that Shelley probably went to one of those schools where junior high is 7th-9th. In fact, Dana and Faith might have, too. That's probably why they all started at Canby as 10th graders. Although, each one of them was worried about being the only new girl, so maybe not. I do think it's true for Shelley though, because she has mentioned junior high a few times in this book and if 9th grade was high school, why go back to junior high for all of your recollections?

Faith starts feeling left out on the hayride because Paul has his arm around Shelley and she misses Johnny. Dana and Jeff start making out (I TOLD YOU, JEFF! Way to go!) but she pulls away and says they hardly know each other. He starts to play the, "If you really like me" card, but a sudden storm begins before he can complete his sentence. Someone should have checked the weather forecast.

"Keep going," someone insisted. "It's only a little rainstorm."

"It's more than that," Clarence said, trying to keep his voice steady. "It's a twister."

WHAT?! I know they didn't have Doppler radar at every TV station in the mid-80s, but surely they had SOME form of radar to alert them to the fact that it's tornado weather. Okay, I looked this up. There were warnings that didn't generally go out until a tornado was on the ground, BUT STILL YOU CAN TELL WHEN A TORNADO IS POSSIBLE, especially if you're outside.

So of course everyone is panicking. I am panicking right now. Oh and they decide to outrun it. IN A WAGON PULLED BY HORSES. No, no, no. They make a run for an abandoned barn, which could FALL DOWN ON THEM instead of getting as low to the ground as possible.

Dana and Faith have no idea what kind of damage tornadoes can do, so Shelley's brother Larry kindly tells them about the Waco, Texas, tornado of 1953.

In ten minutes the tornado gouged a path a half mile wide and three miles long. It struck more than five hundred homes, killed eleven people, and seriously injured more than sixty.

The tornado has apparently moved away from them, as it started "several hundred yards" off the road and is now reported to be half a mile away. They finally reach the barn and watch as the tornado tears the roof off a farmhouse, then change direction and head straight for the barn they are in. WHAT DID I TELL YOU?

Just before it reaches the barn, the tornado lifts into the air and disappears. It's a miracle. Everyone is joyful and ready to head back to town. Faith has to have help getting back into the wagon and passes it off as fear, but really her knees feel like jelly and her head is still pounding.

Shelley's parents are relieved to see the girls and their sons return home safely. Shelley goes upstairs to take a shower because Paul is coming over later. Faith goes to lie down, and Dana sits with Shelley's mom, who is playing the piano again. They talk about choices. Mrs. Hyde could have had a career in music, but instead of going to college after high school, she wanted to stay in Pine Bluff with Mr. Hyde, who was just starting in the pharmacy business. She's never regretted that decision, but she wanted Shelley to go to Canby Hall to learn that there's more to life than Pine Bluff.

The next morning, Shelley wakes the girls early. It's time to head over to the Browns'. They're the family who lost their roof in the tornado. Everyone who is able will help repair the roof, and everyone else will bring food for the workers and the Browns. Dana reluctantly gets out of bed, but Faith is harder to rouse. She falls asleep in the car on the way there.

The girls take the Browns' daughter to the local swimming hole to keep her out of the way. Faith sits under a tree to rest, and Dana asks if she feels sick and suggests a doctor. Faith (SNOB) says they probably have great veterinarians but she doesn't have hoof and mouth disease. Dana (SNOB) agrees with her.

The next day is the start of the county fair, where Jeff will be showing his heifer. Everyone except Faith is up early. Faith finally gets up but isn't moving very fast. As Dana and Shelley are trying to decide what to wear to the square dance that night, Faith admits that she's not feeling well and has decided to stay home. Mrs. Hyde is concerned, but Faith doesn't have a fever and says she doesn't mind being left alone. She just wants to spend the day resting so that she'll be able to go to the square dance.

At the fair, Mr. and Mrs. Hyde deliver her pies to the bakery booth while Dana and Shelley go looking for Jeff. Shelley explains that Faith is sick. Jeff isn't happy; Faith will never get the opportunity to see him show Gertrude again. I'm sure she will regret it for the rest of her life. Um, Jeff, you've been working with Gertrude for probably months. Faith just met her -- and you -- a few days ago. It's not the highlight of her life. It's probably not even the highlight of her summer.

Dana and Shelley try to calm him down, but Jeff becomes inexplicably furious over this slight. How dare a girl he barely knows skip his event at the fair! They still have two hours until the heifer class starts, and Jeff is nervous. Mr. Jensen suggests that he go home for a shower and to change clothes, but warns Jeff to be back on time. If he isn't, no one else can show Gertrude.

As Jeff drives home, his anxieties over the showing return. He knows he's being unreasonable, but he's still angry with Faith.

A little cold shouldn't keep her away, he though, his irritation increasing. I think I'll tell her what a snob she is, afraid of a little fresh air because she sneezed twice. Or maybe people from Washington, D.C. don't realize how important the fair is in our lives...

By the time Jeff pulled into the driveway of the house, he was seething with rage.

Seething with rage? Over THIS? I think Jeff is a domestic abuse timebomb waiting to happen. Get a grip, man! Faith's been a snob, but she's covered it well, sharing it only with Dana. She has gamely gone along with everything since she's been in Iowa up to this point. And it's not like this is Dana, the girl he likes. Faith is basically his kid sister's tagalong friend.

So he walks into the house, seething with rage, and starts shouting for Faith. When she doesn't answer, he thinks she's not even there, that she's probably out with her camera. Yeah, Jeff, because the fair wouldn't be a good place for her to get some pictures.

After his shower, Jeff hears a noise coming from the sewing room/guest room.

Jeff opened the door slowly and was shocked to see Faith, full clothed, sprawled on the bed. She was breathing heavily, beads of perspiration covered her lip, and her eyes were half closed.

You want to rethink that seething rage yet, buddy?

Faith's able to speak but she's burning up with fever and in a lot of pain. She tries to make him go back to the fair so he won't miss his moment. He gets her up and helps her walk downstairs, where he hastily scribbles a note for his family before taking Faith to the hospital ER. He's upset about missing the showing at the fair, but he's more worried about Faith.

Jeff has to wait in the reception area while Faith is taken to a room. They won't give him much information other than to say that she's seriously ill. Jeff has a long wait, both for his family and for Faith's doctors. Eventually he sees Faith being wheeled to a room, but she's not allowed visitors until some test results are back.

The Hydes and Dana finally arrive. Still no one is allowed in with Faith. Mr. Hyde tells Jeff that they're proud of him for making the decision to take care of Faith instead of return to the fair.

Shelley and Dana are feeling guilty for ignoring Faith's symptoms. Mr. and Mrs. Hyde return from seeing the doctor. The doctor won't say what he thinks, but Mr. Hyde, base on his pharmacy experience, thinks Faith could have mono or meningitis. The family goes home to rest, since they can't see Faith yet anyway.

Shelley's mom has to call Faith's mom. I'm surprised the hospital didn't already do that, looking for insurance information and parental consent. Faith's mom will be flying in the next day.

Paul and Shelley's best friend Cary come over to keep her and Dana company. They all decide to go to the hospital to sit and wait. There's still no change in Faith's condition. Since Shelley's worried about Faith dying, maybe someone should call Johnny in Greenleaf and at least let him know.

The next day, there's still no change. The doctors do a spinal tap, which comes back clear. Faith doesn't have bacterial meningitis but she does have an infection of some sort. They only thing they can do for her right now is to give her aspirin and fluids, which she could be getting at home for a lot less money! Shelley and Dana finally get to go into Faith's room to see her. She's able to say a few words but quickly goes back to sleep.

Faith's mom arrives later that night. There's still no change. Faith gets slightly stronger over the next few days, and is able to have visitors (other than her mother, who is staying in the room with her) twice a day for ten minutes. It's at one of these visits that Faith asks Dana and Shelley if she's going to die.

Faith's mom wants to have her moved to a hospital in DC. Her doctors don't advise it, however, and the Hydes don't think it's wise either. Dana understands though, and surprisingly, Jeff does too. When they return to the hospital after dinner at the Hydes', Faith's condition has worsened. Now Mrs. Thompson is desperate to get her home, but the airlines won't take her because her illness is undiagnosed. Mr. Hyde contacts a rancher he knows who has a private plane, and arranges for the flight. Dana and Shelley decide to go along.

Jeff gives Dana a a stuffed cow as a going away present. They share a goodbye kiss at the airport, and as they leave, Dana is crying. She tells Shelley that she's homesick for Pine Bluff.

Faith's mom escorts her to the hospital while Faith's sister takes Shelley and Dana back to their home. While they're getting settled in, she asks if anyone has talked to Johnny. Shelley thinks he deserves to know, so Dana makes the call. Johnny wants to come to DC immediately but Dana says it's best if he doesn't, that Faith is unconscious and won't know he's there. He promises to call tomorrow for an update.

They Hydes and Johnny call a lot over the next few days, and for three days there's no change. The DC hospital is unable to come up with a diagnosis but confirms that the Iowa hospital gave Faith the proper care. That night, Dana and Shelley are making dinner for the Thompsons when the phone rings. It's Faith's doctor with good news: Faith is awake and her fever is gone!

Dana and Shelley are able to see Faith again the next day. Faith remembers the hospital in Iowa and says that it was just as good as the one in DC. She and Dana are ashamed that they were such snobs and have come to realize that small town life can be pretty great, even if it's not what they're used to.

The Cover
Dorky hat, Shelley. You too, Faith. We can tell here that Dana is the one with the mother who works as a fashion buyer.

I think Shelley's lost some more weight. She's thinner than Dana.

The Girls of Canby Hall #5: Summer Blues

June, a week before finals. Shelley is trying to study but keeps getting distracted by the sounds of Canby on a beautiful late spring day, her own thoughts on how far she's come in nine months, and Faith crashing into their room on a pair of roller skates.

Shelley and Faith will be staying at Canby for the month-long joint Canby-Oakley summer intensive program. Shelley will be taking drama, of course, and Faith photography. Dana is undecided, but Faith and Shelley think she probably will stay too. Bret will be around and the poetry intensive is being given by the famous Grace Phaeton, who Dana loves and who wrote such lines as:

"Oh void! Oh, dark abyss, vortex of the shriveled soul!"

Grace Phateon, by the way, is not a real poet. (Thank God.) Once again, Google to the rescue. This just was not possible when I read these books the first time around.

As Faith and Shelley ready themselves to go into Greenleaf for ice cream, Dana walks in with a bad sunburn. She fell asleep tanning on the Baker House lawn. Dana ends up in the infirmary and gets to skip classes the next day, which gives her a lot of time to think about Bret. He hasn't been calling as much lately, but she doesn't want to think about that. She wants to think about him being a senior next year and then going to an Ivy League college and getting married (with her sister, Faith, and Shelley as bridesmaids) and having two kids after she becomes an architect.

Dana falls asleep and when she wakes up, Casey is there. After hemming and hawing a bit, she says that Bret asked her to go to the movies.

"Why would he do something so dumb as ask out one of my best friends, though? Why wouldn't he ask somebody I didn't know so well?"

"I think he's already asked most of them," Casey said.

Uh-oh. Better put a hold on that order for a boy and a girl, Dana, unless you want to be a single mom. Casey tells Dana that Bret's been getting around lately and that Dana needs to ask him about it.

When Dana gets out of the infirmary she calls him and asks him out. They decide to take a walk on Friday night. To Ketchum Falls. There's a WATERFALL within walking distance of campus. Why did we not hear about this before? This is important information! How cool would it be to go to boarding school near a waterfall?

They sit to watch the waterfall when Dana brings up Casey. She makes a joke of it, saying that Casey thought Bret had been asking her out to a movie on a date, not to go with him and Dana together.

"Well, that is what you meant, isn't it?" She was giving him every opportunity to get out of this.

"I didn't know you'd want to get together tonight," he said.

"You mean you were asking her for a date, is that what you're saying?"

"I guess," he said, his voice dead.

Oh, Bret. You're not very good at this. Not good at all. First, you're supposed to break up with your girlfriend before you ask another girl out. Second, you're not supposed to ask one of her best friends out. Third, when you're confronted about your trying-to-cheat ways, OWN IT.

"I guess I'm just not any good at this, honey.

You don't say.

He dumps her. Man, now the falls are ruined for her. She's not going to be able to go back there and enjoy them ever again.

They walk back to Canby. Dana remains stoic on the walk, until they get back to her dorm.

"Oh, Bret!" she threw her arms around him. "Couldn't we try just a little longer? I thought you wanted us to last forever."

Secondhand embarrassment, right here.

After he leaves, Dana remains on the front steps of her dorm until Alison comes to lock the doors.

Three days later and Dana hasn't gotten out of bed except for exams. She didn't even bother with her philosophy exam. Casey smuggles some food to her and forces Dana to get out of bed and accompany her to an amusement park. There's an amusement park nearby too? Casey tells her that the other girls at Canby are starting to talk and that one of them is going to talk to someone at Oakley and then Bret will find out that Dana's moping and she doesn't want that.

The amusement park and some junk food improves Dana's mood, and she's able to open up to Casey. She's starting to feel better.

Dana goes home to NYC for the week between the regular school session and the summer intensive. Her mom takes her to a fancy restaurant for a Talk. It's the one about boyfriends coming and going in life and having to be happy with yourself instead of relying on other people to make you happy. Dana knows she's right but it's going to take some time.

Back at Canby, summer intensive classes begin.

"Now all your senses are deprived," she was saying. "Here in the darkness and silence, you will be free to turn toward your inner selves and find the poetry within. You'll be able to listen to the voices of your souls."

Someone ribbits. Pretentious words don't always go over well in high school poetry intensives. Grace Phaeton kicks Ronald Stillwell, the richest boy at Oakley Prep, out of the class.

Dana's walking to Baker House, relieved that she hasn't yet seen Bret, when she spots him walking arm-in-arm with a French exchange student. She's forced to make small talk but manages to extract herself from the situation quickly.

iPod Walkman full of sad country love songs in hand, Dana goes running out to a wildflower ridge to work on her nature poetry assignment. She's concentrating on nature when she's almost run over by a horse!

And a rider.

He was beautiful. Handsome was not the right word. He was beautiful. His hair was blond and longer than the guys at Oakley wore theirs. It curled in locks of pale gold around the collar of his chambray workshirt.

His face was narrow with a thin nose and high cheekbones. His eyes were a steely gray. Right now they were looking down at her coldly.

He's not much of a talker but introduces himself as Randy Crowell, one of the Crowells. The Crowells own a lot of land in the area, and she's on some of it. He invites her to stay as long as she wants. He learns that she goes to Canby and asks if he can call her sometime.

Bret who?

Classes are cancelled due to extreme heat. Dana wants to go swimming in Hudson's Creek, an idyllic swimming hole complete with rope swing,

so they get a group together and head out for the day.

As they return, Shelley's talking about meeting her boyfriend Tom in Greenleaf for pizza when she sees a familiar face: Paul!

Paul, her boyfriend. Her other boyfriend, the one from Iowa. The one who has no idea that she's been dating Tom for months. The one who is unknown to Tom, too.

Paul is in the area visiting colleges. He wanted it to be a surprise for Shelley.

(I thought Paul was the future farmer type. If he's going to major in agriculture, a fancy New England college probably isn't the place to do that. I mean, they might have ag majors, but all of my family members who were ag majors (and there are quite a few) went to schools closer to home, like in Kentucky and Illinois and Iowa and Missouri.)

Shelley comes up with an amazing sure-fire plan. Casey is going to pretend to be Tom's girlfriend to fool Paul and Shelley is going to pretend that Paul is just an old friend from Iowa to fool Tom. Tom and Paul get along very well and the plan works. Then Shelley gets another brilliant idea: go to the restroom and drag Casey along, leaving the guys alone. When they return, the booth is empty except for a note




Now Shelley's the mopey one, having lost both boyfriends in a single minute. She's back at the dorm when Paul comes looking for her. He's mad and he doesn't have much time before he has to leave (for Harvard) but he wanted to see her. He and Tom spent the evening together watching the Red Sox game at Tom's house.

Shelley says that the distance is so hard, that they were bound to drift apart. (That is, after all, why her parents sent her there.) He's pretty understanding, mostly because he's been hanging out with -- but not (yet) dating -- another girl. Shelley is instantly jealous. Really, Shelley? You're the one who's been cheating.

They go for a walk, kiss, and decide to wait and see how things go. Seems like they're both on the same page then, the one Shelley's been on all this time.

Randy stops by Baker House to see Dana. He wants to taker her and show her around his family's land. While he mends a fence, she tells him about herself. Laying in the field in the sunshine, she falls asleep. When she wakes up, a storm is approaching. They make a run for his pickup but don't make it before the rain hits. Randy drives to an old cabin where there's a woodstove they can light to keep them warm and dry off.

Randy tells Dana about the old hermit who used to live in the cabin. Egan taught him a lot about living off the land. Because that's something you totally need to know in 1980s Massachusetts.

It doesn't take long for them to get warm and for the rain to stop, so Randy starts getting ready to leave.

"Ready?" he said and turned toward her.

"Ready to kiss you," she said in a flash of bravery. She grabbed him by the collar and aimed for his mouth, but he turned his head at the last second, and so she wound up planting it on his jaw. She felt like a dope, een more so when he said, "We go slower on that stuff out here in the country."

Oh, Dana. This is almost as bad as when you begged Bret to take you back minutes after he dumped you. To make things even worse, she slips and falls in the mud. Randy, trying to rescue her, falls too.

Mud-covered, Dana returns to her dorm. After a shower, she talks to Faith about him. Faith wonders whether they have anything in common. Shelley comes in with news: dinner that night is a wienie roast in the birch grove. Everyone's there, even Grace Phaeton wearing

a pair of striped pedal pushers that Faith and Shelley were never going to let Dana forget.

What's wrong with striped pedal pushers? Aren't they basically capris? Now it's true, I have an unusual intense hatred of capris, but most people seem to love them. Maybe they were out of style at this time. I guess that's probably it. I used to read a bunch of old teen books (from the 1960s) and the girls were always wearing pedal pushers. I remember asking my mom what they were and having her explain them to me. I guess it's because people weren't wearing them anymore at that time. Well, Grace Phaeton, you just wait. They'll come back into style and then you can remind Faith and Shelley about this day.

Anyway, we have a MUCH more pressing problem than worrying pedal pushers. Dana doesn't know what s'mores are.
She DOESN'T. KNOW. WHAT. S'MORES. ARE. This makes me very sad. Where has she been? Do they not have s'mores in New York City? They must have them in DC, because Faith knows what they are.

Shelley panics when she doesn't hear from Tom after a week. Faith says to give him more time. Dana says to find someone else. Casey tells her to concentrate on acting. The dorm cleaning woman tells her to make him a nice stew (in July?). Shelley's acting teacher tells her to take him a rose. She decides to follow his advice. She leaves the rose in a black box on his doorstep at six in the morning. On her way back to Canby, she remembers that she didn't put his name on it. She thinks his mom will assume it's for her, so she goes back, writes his name on a leaf with lipstick, and slips it under the ribbon on the box.

But nothing is ever easy, so when she's hiding behind a tree to see if Tom's father will pick it up (he does), a neighbor who owns the tree asks what she's doing. She tries to say she's been jogging (in sandals) and stopped to rest but he's been watching her. He saw her go up to Tom's door twice, pick up something (the leaf) from another lawn, and now she's lurking around her tree. He's already called the police.

And the police car arrives, siren blaring, and the entire neighborhood comes out to see what's going on. Shelley tries to explain that she was just leaving Tom a rose, but they don't believe her. They're about to handcuff her and take her to the police station when Tom comes running out of his house.

Oh, my. This is worse that Dana begging Bret to take her back AND kissing Randy. Tom is finally able to convince the police that Shelley is telling the truth and they let her go She's not the Greenleaf Cat Burglar after all.

Tom and Shelley take a walk.

"Nice of you to bring by the flower. Hope you didn't have any trouble."

That Tom, what a sense of humor. They laugh for two blocks and even though they don't talk about it, Shelley realizes that things are going to work out.

Big news! Grace Phaeton is going to give a poetry reading! Dana is excited but Faith and Shelley are super unimpressed. Faith even goes as far as to call GP pretentious. This quickly blows up into a fight.

Dana leaves the room to call Randy and invite him to the reading. After she endures some teasing from one of Randy's brothers (who Dana had mistaken for Randy), Randy gets on the phone and agrees to go. He's not interested in the poetry reading, but he wants to see Dana.

There's not a good turnout for the reading. Grace's students are all there, of course, but only about ten extra people show up. They sit in the middle of the auditorium, to try to make it look less empty, and Dana tries to explain to Randy why she likes poetry.

After the reading, it's clear that Randy hated it. He makes a joke that she takes badly, and she runs out. She ends up in the woods, thinking about how much she misses Manhattan and how little she and Randy have in common compared to how much she and Bret shared.

Faith apologizes to Dana for being down on Grace Phaeton and poetry, and Randy drops off a poem he's written for Dana.

I talk a good game.
Tell you about listening to the forest
then I turn around and tromp
right over your feelings.
Egan would cry.

Would you give me a chance
to make it up to him
and to you?

Well. At least he tried?

He's outside waiting for Dana, and waiting for a kiss.

Dana, Faith, and Shelley take a picnic lunch out to the skating pond. Shelley and Faith say Dana seems happier with Randy than she was with Bret. Dana doesn't understand how they work as a couple, but they do.

Dana and Randy go for ice cream and run into Bret. Bret sits with them and eats his cone, but Randy takes it the wrong way when he teases Dana and tries to defend her. After Bret leaves, Randy says that when Bret was there, it was hard to tell which of them she liked. He storms out.

The next day, Bret finds Dana when she's outside working on a poetry assignment. He apologizes for the way he treated her when they were breaking up. He wants to get back together. It's not working out with his French exchange student, and anyway she's going back to France.

Dana sees through Bret. She accuses him of not wanting her until she got a new boyfriend. She says she needs some time to think about it.

On the last day of school, all of the intensive program students have their exhibitions and performances. Dana reads a poem she's written for Randy, who's standing in the back of the auditorium. Bret causes a disturbance when he abruptly leaves.

Before leaving for home, Shelley invites Dana and Faith to visit her in Iowa the last two weeks of August.

The Cover
Shelley is no longer considered chubby, having lost 15 pounds, which is good because she is again pictured as definitely not chubby (although her thighs do look kind of large if you ask me).

Dana looks absolutely miserable. I'm not sure whether it's because Bret finally showed his true colors or if it's the mustard knee socks worn with shorts.

(I have a thing for holiday themed socks and for some reason the mustard socks led me to Sock Wizard where I found many holiday socks I want, but also I MUST HAVE THESE SOCKS.

The swimming hole pictured in this review is actually in Texas.

The Girls of Canby Hall #4: Keeping Secrets

Faith needs a Canby girl to take pictures for the Historic Homes of Boston feature for the school paper. Really? This is the kind of news they put in the paper? Are historic homes of interest of teen girls in the 1980s? Faith has narrowed her selection of victims lucky girls who fit her requirements (live within 15 miles of the Boston area, know something about photography, not already involved with the paper) to one: Mary Beth Grover.

Yes, that Mary Beth Grover. The Mary Beth who rebuffed Shelley's friendly attempt at conversation in the laundry room the first week of school. The Mary Beth who turned Dana down when she asked Mary Beth to perform at Song Night. The poor girl is probably just socially awkward and would rather be left alone. Stop bothering her, roomies of 407!

Of course Mary Beth says no when Faith asks her, but Faith can't let it go and makes her say no twice more. Even that's not good enough for Faith, who grew up with a social worker for a mother. Faith believes that Mary Beth is behaving like someone with a terrible secret. Apparently Faith has never met a shy person before. After class, Faith invites Mary Beth to go to Greenleaf with her for ice cream. Again, Mary Beth says no, and again Faith persists. Mary Beth rushes away to her next class, no doubt glad for an excuse to get away.

Faith finds another girl to do the assignment and later tells Dana and Shelley about Mary Beth. They decide that there's something "basically wrong" with her. Dana wonders what her boyfriend Bret would think about Mary Beth. My guess is that Bret wouldn't even notice the girl.

The next afternoon the roommates walk to Greenleaf to go shopping. On the way Shelley tells the others about her biology class, where they are dissecting frogs. Shelley thought the whole thing was disgusting, but she's glad she didn't have to leave the room to throw up the way a girl named Millie did. Millie, like Mary Beth, is socially awkward. She's basically a mess: the last one picked at sports, never prepared to be called on in class, the kind of girl who throws up over a frog dissection.

The girls split up to shop in different stores and agree to meet for ice cream in an hour. It doesn't take long for Faith to pick out a record to send home for her sister's birthday and she heads for the ice cream shop, where she orders a double cone with scoops of maple walnut and pistachio mint. Suddenly I want ice cream but I think I'll have to settle for the homemade blackberry chocolate chip frozen yogurt in my freezer. That sounds better than maple walnut or pistachio mint anyway.

While she's waiting to pay for her cone, there's some pushing several people behind her in line and the strawberry ice cream belonging to the boy behind her lands on her shoulder.

He looked about seventeen, was almost a head taller than Faith, black, handsome, with the deepest brown eyes she'd ever seen. When he smiled at her apologetically, Faith thought she might melt more quickly than the ice cream.

He's so dreamy! He pays for her ice cream and they sit down to talk while Faith waits for Dana and Shelley. His name is Johnny Bates and he's a junior at Greenleaf High. His father owns a gas station. Johnny wants to be a detective. That's a huge turnoff for Faith, whose father was a police officer killed in the line of duty. Johnny gives Faith his phone number before she rushes off to meet Dana and Shelley.

Dana tells Faith that Johnny's cute, and Shelley says they make the perfect couple. Faith likes the idea of having her first boyfriend but she tells her roommates that he wants to be a cop and she just can't go there. They encourage her to call him; it doesn't have to turn into marriage.

The next morning, Faith is still thinking about Johnny so she decides to call him. She runs into Mary Beth, who is coming out of the phone booth. It's early for a Canby girl to be up on a Saturday, so Faith is surprised to see that Mary Beth is already dressed and finished making a phone call.

Johnny's glad Faith called. He invites her on a picnic and she suggests an area near the skating pond. Johnny brings peanut butter sandwiches and Tab; Faith contributes pretzels and mustard, her favorite snack. They run into Alison on their way to the skating pond, and Faith introduces Johnny to her. Faith tells Johnny that Alison is only twenty-five and explains that Alison is responsible for helping her and her roommates work things out. Things are going well for them until they start talking about Johnny's term paper on criminology. He notices a change in her demeanor and asks why she reacted the day before when he mentioned wanting to be a detective.

Faith explains about her father, noting that he died when she was ten. (In Roommates, it's said that he died two years ago, when she would have been about fourteen.) She wishes he had never been a policeman. Johnny said that he was willing to take the risks, and Johnny is too. Faith doesn't want to get involved with those risks again. Johnny points out that he still has to finish high school and get through college before he joins the police force. It will be years before he'll make detective.

They agree not to talk about that anymore right now. She share a kiss but Faith pulls away so she won't get into trouble ("No kissing on campus.") and they hold hands as Faith gives Johnny a tour of the school. As they get back to Baker House, they hear Shelley calling out the window for Faith. It sounds urgent, so they quickly say goodbye and Faith runs up to the room. Shelley is distraught because her new bangle bracelets, purchased in Greenleaf only the day before, are missing.

It's the crime of the century.

"...Maybe someone borrowed them. None of us were here all afternoon, and it's possible--"

"Never. If someone borrowed them, they would have left a note. I think there's a thief in our midst."

No doubt, but I have one question. How would someone have gotten into their room to borrow them, even if they had left a note? Don't they lock their door?

When Dana comes in, she asks if anything else is missing. The three girls check their drawers, but nothing else is gone as far as they can tell.

To distract Shelley, Faith invites her down to room 207 to help one of the girls who lives there set up for an after-hours surprise birthday party. Shelley decides to stay behind and watch out for suspicious activity while Dana goes with Faith. One of the party decorators, Cheryl, is late and when she arrives, she says her best blue linen blouse is missing. She believes it was stolen. Dana and Faith share what happened to Shelley. Cheryl wants to go straight to Alison, but first they have to take Casey to the infirmary to have her arm -- injured when she fell off a chair while tacking up steamers -- checked out.

Alison says they have two options: to call a dorm meeting to discuss the issue or to keep quiet and see what happens. They decide that the meeting wouldn't do anything but put a temporary stop to the thefts and maybe scare some of the freshmen. Alison has to tell the headmistress, but other than that they're going to keep it between themselves and the other girls who already know.

You know, I don't think I agree with that decision. When I was in college, a girl on my floor left her door unlocked and someone stole her textbooks right before finals. After that, we all made SURE we locked our doors whenever we went anywhere, even to the bathroom. I think this group owes it to their innocent dormmates to let them know so they can protect their own belongings. If the thief doesn't have access, she can't steal. I really don't think the freshmen would be that scared. I mean, these girls were brave enough to leave home for boarding school at the age of thirteen or fourteen. Someone who steals accessories is hardly a mass murderer -- or a kidnapper.

But in the end, it doesn't matter. Most of the dorm shows up for the surprise party. One of the girls runs back to her room for her violin so they can sing "Happy birthday," but when she returns, she blurts out, "It's gone! It's gone!"

Her violin has been stolen and now the entire dorm knows there's a thief on the loose. Another girl reports a missing sweater, bringing the total number of missing items up to four.

News spreads to the other dorms, and that week Miss Allardyce speaks about the issue at the weekly campus meeting. As the girls discuss it afterwards, Shelley says she thinks she knows who it is. There's only one girl from Baker who wasn't at the party: Mary Beth. Shelley's entire swim team thinks so, too, but Dana and Faith don't want to accuse her without proof. They're joined by Casey, who says that everyone thinks it's Mary Beth.

The next day, another girl's locket goes missing. It's getting serious now, five stolen items, and still girls are leaving their rooms unlocked and accessible to the thief. Dana decides, to hold a meeting of the girls who had items taken and their roommates, plus a few extras like Casey.

Casey reports that she saw Mary Beth leaving Ellie's (Locket Girl) room earlier that day. Some of the girls are convinced now that Mary Beth is the thief, but others, like Dana, want more proof. They don't reach any conclusion about what to do.

I don't know, maybe it's just me, but I would take this information to Alison and let her deal with it. Whether or not she's the thief, Mary Beth has no business going into anyone's room if the occupants aren't home.

Johnny takes Faith to the Boston Pops on Saturday. That sounds like a pretty fancy second date for high school students. As they wander around Quincy Market before the concert, Faith spots Millie, who, true to form, has purchased a vase from a vendor and broken it before even leaving his booth. Millie rushes away from Faith before she can even introduce her to Johnny.

The whole student body was busier than ever and talk about the thefts simmered down after several days passed without incident. The girls were more cautious about putting their most precious belongings in inconspicuous places and in closing their drawers and doors.

I'm beginning to think they don't have locks on their doors. That just doesn't seem right.

The next Saturday, Dana is alone in the dorm, wandering down the hall, when she hears crying coming from Mary Beth's room. She knocks on the door and asks if there's anything she can do to help. Mary Beth lets her in but is reluctant to share any information until Dana presses her. Mary Beth is upset because she hasn't made a single friend all year and she feels like an outsider. She admits that it's her own fault for not letting anyone get close to her, but she feels ashamed of something and wants to keep it a secret. She finally tells Dana that her father is in jail for embezzling from his company. She's recently decided not to visit him in prison anymore - it's too hard to see him locked up and everything she has to tell him, about her schoolwork, seems so stupid. That day she received a letter back from him asking her to reconsider. She (and her mother) are the most important things to him and the only things keeping him going.

Now Dana is crying. She asks Mary Beth to let her share this information with Faith and Shelley, and says that Faith still needs someone to do those historic homes photos since her other choice has backed out.

Dana, Faith, and Shelley agree that this news explains a lot about Mary Beth, and they start to include her in their activities. Things are looking up for Mary Beth. She starts visiting her father again and decides to be more friendly and open to everyone when she returns to Canby in the fall. But one night she's in the shower when she overhears two girls talking about the thefts -- and accusing her of being the thief. Mary Beth is devastated and asks the girls of 407 if they think she's guilty too. She has an explanation for being in Ellie's room that day -- she was taking back a library book that the girl had borrowed from her and was overdue.

Dana decides to set a trap and end this once and for all. There's an all-school assembly the next day. Faith has to attend to take pictures for the paper, but Dana and Shelley hide in their closet. They leave a pair of Shelley's feather earrings in plain sight on her dresser and the door to their room partly open. It takes a few mintues, but they soon hear someone in the room. They stumble out of the closet but no one is there -- and one earring is gone! As Dana goes to the door to look in the hall, Shelley suddenly starts laughing and points to the culprit: Alison's cat.

Since the cat hasn't stolen the other items, the thief is still on the loose. It's now June 1, exactly a year since Mary Beth's father was sent to prison. She and Faith spend the day in Boston finally taking pictures of those historic homes. When they return to school, Dana shows them a column in the Boston paper: A Year Ago Today.

Melvin Grover, accountant for the Zanbar Corporation for fifteen years, was sentenced to eighteen months in prison for embezzlement.

The whole school has seen it. Grover isn't that uncommon a last name, and it's doubtful that anyone at Canby would know Mary Beth's father's first name, but apparently someone connected him to Mary Beth.

Dana suggests that they all go to the Oakley Prep carnival to take their minds off it. Dana's Bret is on the carnival committee, Faith invites Johnny, and Shelley asks Tom to bring a friend for Mary Beth. Everyone has a good time and Ellie even sees them and apologizes for keeping Mary Beth's library book for so long.

The following day Johnny invites Faith to the beach. He lets her know that he was accepted to the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. That's super early acceptance. He's just finishing up his junior year! Faith is upset because he's know since the day before and didn't tell her sooner and because she has feelings for him but can't deal with him becoming a cop.

"I don't want to be in love with a cop."

Johnny smiled. "You said you loved me!" He was happy in spite of himself.

"That's my problem," Faith said and ran up the path to Baker House.

Dana and Shelley convince Faith to keep a pre-planned date to meet Johnny for ice cream on Friday. She's not even sure he will show up, but when she arrives, he's already there with a double cone of maple walnut and pistachio mint waiting for her. She tells him that she does love him but she just can't be with a cop.

"I guess I understand how you feel but I can't agree with you, and I sure don't like it. Faith, the world is full of all kinds of danger. Danger for yourself and people you care about. You can't avoid it."

As if on cue, two gunmen enter the ice cream shop!

One, his arms covered with tattoos, guarded the door, which he'd locked. The other, who resembled a giant ferret, stood in the center of the front room and motioned with his gun for the two terrified girls who had been scooping out orders to come out from behind the counter.

A giant ferret! LOLZ. I love this next part, where the book does as all books do and refer to criminals by their looks. This guy gets called Ferret-face in the narration. But even better is the fact that Ferret-face actually calls the other guy "Tattoo" to his face, as if that's his name.

Johnny calms the frightened customers down and tells Tattoo and Ferret-face to take whatever they want. Faith is terrified but takes note of Johnny's ability to keep his cool. The gunmen tell the shop owner to call his wife and arrange for her to bring $50,000 in cash, his entire life's savings, to the shop.

Obviously these guys aren't exactly geniuses. How likely is it that this ice cream shop owner has that $50,000 in cash just sitting in the bank? Not very. Most of it is probably in investments.

While they wait, the gunmen rob their hostages, getting $6, a pair of silver earrings, and a Timex watch from Faith. When the shop owner's wife arrives with the money Tattoo and Ferret-face prepare to leave. Before they can get all hostages into the backroom, five policemen burst into the store.

Ferret-face turned around, petrified, and started to make a break for the window nearest him, but two policemen blocked his way and wrestled him to the ground, disarming him in the process. Meanwhile, Tattoo was so bewildered that he dropped his gun and bolted for the door. The first policeman grabbed him and forced his arms behind his back, while another cop clapped his wrists with handcuffs.

The cops tell Johnny that the bank manager got suspicious when the shop owner's wife made such a large withdrawal and was acting nervous. They followed her to the store and were able to get in when Tattoo left the door unlocked.

Everyone from the shop owner to the other hostages to the police to Faith are impressed by Johnny's actions in keeping the hostages calm. Faith tells him that while her life was passing before her eyes, she realized that someone has to be a cop and that if that's Johnny, she can handle it.

Faith is in the darkroom at the school paper when she overhears Millie being scolded for unrolling film before she gets into the darkroom, exposing the whole roll and rendering it useless. Tracy says that Millie can't do anything right. Millie says she's good a fooling people and admits that she's the one who stole from the Baker residents.

Faith exits the darkroom to confront Millie and asks why she would do that. Millie said she did it to show that she could. She wasn't even going to take the things home with her. She just wanted to do something special. They take Millie to see Alison, who takes her to the headmistress. Miss Allardyce gets Millie into therapy.

Dana, Faith and Shelley share the good news with Mary Beth. No one believes she's a thief anymore. All is well.

The Cover
Why is there a dance on the cover? There was no dance in this book. Where's Shelley? I want to see if she's being portrayed as chubby yet.

Ferret-face image © Revbev | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images