First of all, Faith’s sister now goes to Georgetown again. And their father suddenly has a different name. Is a pulse the only requirement to be a teen book editor? Is even that optional?
So essentially, just weeks after dramatically showing the FBI how it’s done and rescuing Shelley from armed criminals, Dana and Shelley now can’t stand each other. Shelley has discovered her love for the stage and is babbling on incessantly about how she’s decided to ditch her dreams of becoming an Iowa homemaker, because her new future is as her generation’s greatest actress. While rehearsing for the school play, she falls for a town boy and is worried about how she’ll break the news of him and her new ambitions to her small-town boyfriend Paul. Meanwhile, her grades take a nosedive. Dana is annoyed (and you can’t blame the girl) by Shelley’s immature habit of going on and on about her self-created situation, because Dana has a real problem: her father is getting remarried and moving to Hawaii for a year, and wants Dana to leave Canby Hall and go with him and his new wife. 80% of the book is some variation on this theme:
Shelley: My heart is in the theat-ah! Whatevah will I do? Woe is me!
Dana: Shut up! You don’t know what a real problem is! I hate you!
Faith: I want a single room.
Dana starts actively snubbing Shelley and spending all her time with new friends. Which I remember is a very effective weapon in the world of teenage girls. Out of desperation, Faith drags them both home to D.C. for a weekend so her social-worker mother can fix their problems. Mama Thompson does, but her magic lasts only until they return to school, when their rift widens again. Despite this, for some unclear reason, once it becomes known that Shelley is failing French, Faith and Dana take it upon themselves to tutor her. Somehow Dana is able to do this in a language she is not taking. Because she’s a “language buff.” Yes, that makes sense. It also makes complete sense that two girls would feel it’s their responsibility to carve out time in their own busy schedules to tutor their roommate so that she won’t fail and Room 407’s honour will be protected, or something like that. It’s not that I didn’t care about my friends in high school, but my own packed study schedule left barely enough time to brush my teeth, let alone theirs. But I digress. Anyway, Shelley continues to be a big immature baby about it all, blowing off study sessions when Dana and Faith have killed themselves to be there. This is the last straw for Dana, who after something like 15 chapters of angst about what decision she’s going to make, finally decides to move to Hawaii.
But then Shelley, in a moment of weakness, decides to cheat on her French final. Just as she pulls out her cheat sheets during the exam, her conscience intervenes. But she is caught and sent to see the dreaded headmistress Ms. Allardyce, who will most likely expel her. In the most absurd plot development ever, Dana and Faith, overcome with sympathy, rush to Shelley’s defense, and Shelley is forgiven because a witness said that although she took her notes out, she didn’t actually look at them. Now, I’m no academician, but that seems like splitting hairs to me. And Dana realizes, in the last two pages of the book, AFTER GOING ON AND ON ABOUT IT TILL I WANTED TO STAB MYSELF IN THE EYE, that oh, she actually belongs at Canby Hall. Sorry, Dad and Hawaii and carefully-thought-out decision! Now that she and Shelley have suddenly stopped fighting (because the ghostwriter reached her word quota) Dana can just change her mind back.
In the end, Shelley never bothers to tell Paul about her new guy, which, believe me, will be a trend with these Canby girls over the rest of the series. But that’s not cheating, because … because … well, because this is some sort of alternate universe.
Snarkable moment: Shelley doesn’t understand what Dana means when she says she left a message for her mom at home. Because Shelley doesn’t know what an answering machine is. Because they’re not very common in Pine Bluff, Iowa. These writers hate Iowa!
Honestly, these characters are more capricious than the weather in April. I’m not sure how we went so suddenly from weeping over their beloved roommate’s kidnapping to wanting to end their friendship over a part in the school play and a D in French. But why am I questioning it, these are the girls of Canby Hall. And you know, in just 3 books, they’ve gotten almost to the end of their sophomore year — and there are still 14 books till they graduate. This should be interesting.