Most people who were pre-teen girls in the 1980s and ’90s were, I have found, rabid fans of the various Young Adult series that were out at the time: mainly The Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley High. I was absolutely obsessed with the BSC, so much so that I could probably still tell you the vital statistics of all the members of the club. I was less into SVH, but still read the vast majority of the books in that series before I was old enough to know better (which is later for some people than others. For me? College.) There were a lot of other lesser-known teen series and authors I enjoyed, though: The Stepsisters, Candice F. Ransom, Lurlene McDaniel, the list goes on. My number one favourite series, though, was The Girls of Canby Hall. This series always seemed to be overshadowed by the far more well-known BSC and SVH in terms of popularity. Even when the Canby Hall books were still being published, I didn’t know anyone else in my school who read them. My awesome Grade 2 teacher, Mrs. Beck (who I have failed at finding on Google many times over the years) doubled as our school librarian and used to authorize me to leave class and go see her in the library whenever they got a new Canby Hall book in so I could check it out first. (Although jumping to the head of a line of one was hardly something to get a swelled head about.) Like I said, she was da shizzle.
Recently I have found that I am not alone. There is a whole group of women my age out there recapping their old teen novel favourites, and it is hilarious. I was first turned on to this phenomenon by this Washington Post article about a number of modern-day women writing Baby-Sitters Club blogs. I personally really love re-reading my old teen novels, both for the nostalgia factor and to make snarky internal comments about how ridiculously cheesy and untrue-to-life they are. No “good” character ever does anything “bad,” and vice versa. It’s preposterous, but I have to admit that their sense of moral innocence is part of their charm. These days, when I go into a Barnes & Noble and flip through a book in the YA section, I’m taken aback by how dark and R-rated they all seem to be, as if promiscuity and drug use are just accepted to be de rigueur for teens today. There’s something to be said for bringing back the campy series of our youth.
So … I’m going to start this little project I’ve had in the back of my mind for ages, and, just for fun, do a thorough series recap of my beloved Girls of Canby Hall, seen through the eyes of an (ostensible) adult. 35 entries, one for each book. If I was not alone and any of you out there also read these books, share your memories with me! Dana, Faith, Shelley, Toby, Andy and Jane … we’re dragging you into the 2000s. See you back here soon for the recap of the one that started it all, book #1.