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.

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