Two-Timing is the New Monogamy … or, Canby Hall #5, Summer Blues


Regarding this cover, may I remind you that we are supposed to believe that Shelley is chubby, and may I also point out that Faith looks like a creepy child molester? “Heeeere, kiddies, want some candy?”

Because there is no story if these girls are ever allowed to return home, it turns out that each of them is staying for a month of summer school in an artsy subject. Shelley will immerse herself in drama, of course, Faith will study photography, naturally, and Dana will be doing poetry. Before final exams are even over, though, Bret finally shows his true colours and asks Casey out as a prelude to dumping Dana. “I told you in the beginning I wasn’t a one-girl guy,” he tells her by way of explanation. Actually, I’m probably the only person faithfully reading these books in chronological order, and I don’t think you did, buddy. Everyone else told her that, but not you. Anyway, Dana is blindsided — blindsided, I say! — and moping around, especially when she runs into Bret getting cozy with the hot French exchange student. I love how she’s so devastated that she just skips her philosophy final, and no consequence to this action is ever mentioned. At a school as hard-nosed as Canby Hall? I still have a recurring nightmare in which I find out I have a final exam in a class I never attended (and I am twice this character’s age) but I guess that’s just me.

But don’t worry too long about Dana, friends! No one in these books is ever single for long! She randomly meets what must be the only cowboy in Massachusetts, who of course spontaneously falls for her. This is the official introduction of long-running character Randy Crowell. She obsesses over whether they have too little in common (because Dana is a big-city New Yorker, in case this fact wasn’t mentioned enough) but when Bret weasels his way into Randy and Dana’s date in order to check Randy out and embarrass him for being a country boy, Dana realizes that Randy is who she really wants. Bret shows up the next day to ask Dana to take him back and, in a stunning show of YA-novel brazenness, comments that he still can’t promise to be faithful to her. In a not-so-stunning show of YA-novel spinelessness, she actually considers this tempting offer, but finally comes to her senses and sends him packing. She does this by reading a poem very obviously directed at Randy during the summer school closing program. Because Randy, despite being said country boy, wrote her a poem that showed her there was more to him than she thought. Or something. I don’t know, it was all getting kind of ridiculous. I don’t know any teenagers this obsessed with poems.

Meanwhile, Shelley has been blithely dating her new guy Tom while conveniently never mentioning that fact to her hometown boyfriend Paul. Unfortunately for her, Paul surprises her by showing up at Canby Hall. Shelley embarks on an incredibly immature and farfetched scheme in which she tries to make Paul think Tom is Casey’s boyfriend while simultaneously making Tom think Paul is just an old school friend. Did you get that? Never mind, it’s over soon enough. While Shelley and Casey are in the bathroom, the two guys talk to each other, figure out the truth, and leave, ditching the girls at the restaurant. Now there’s some spine, even if it is short-lived. Eventually, Shelley works things out with Paul — apparently he’s been seeing someone on the side too — and they both agree to … well, I couldn’t really figure out what their agreement was, except that they both get to do whatever they want and see each other too, I guess. That would totally work in real life. Anyway, Shelley somehow manages to wrangle the same deal with Tom by placing a rose on his doorstep, but not before a nosy neighbour calls the police on her because they suspect she might be the famed Greenleaf Cat Burglar. (Really, the police in this small town are seriously overworked. For a relaxing break, they might want to moonlight with the NYPD.) So in the end … Shelley emerges unscathed and no longer has to hide her cheating. Life lesson noted.

Random noteworthy items:

– Shelley says to Faith, who’s attempting to roller-skate, “I thought black people were supposed to be more coordinated. Where’s all that natural rhythm?”


– Alison’s close friendship with Dana is illustrated by the fact that she “gasps” and dashes up four flights of stairs when she hears something is wrong with Dana, and is especially upset because no one told her about it. Dana’s crisis? A sunburn. The time elapsed in which the entire planet was conspiring to keep this momentous news from Alison? Approximately 8 minutes.

– Randy and Dana have the following exchange the first time they meet, when she tells him she’s from New York. (Did you know that? Because she’s from New York.)

Randy: “We’ve got some of my mother’s kin in New York. Up in Hunter’s Junction.”

Dana: “Oh, I meant New York City. Manhattan.”

Randy: “Yep. I’ve heard of that too. It’s south of Hunter’s Junction, I believe.”

This Randy guy ain’t so bad!

– Faith refers to Dana as “culturally overprived” because she knows all about ballet and highfalutin’ stuff like that (because did you hear? She’s from New York) but doesn’t know what s’mores are. Apparently knowing what eggs Benedict are is further proof of this, because no one else at Canby Hall has ever heard of them. Were we really that uninformed in the eighties?

And that was book #5. It ends with them all heading home for what’s left of summer vacation and Shelley inviting Dana and Faith to come stay with her in Iowa for two weeks. And everyone’s parents cheerily agree. These kids are away at boarding school all year, then spend an extra month in summer school, and their parents don’t care if they spend another two weeks away from home? Neglectful parents or problem kids? Discuss.


7 responses »

  1. Pingback: Roosters in the Henhouse … or, Canby Hall #13, Here Come the Boys « The Girls of Canby Hall … Revisited

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  4. Thank you so much for this blog! It’s so much fun to revisit these books (all of them… kinda especially the ones that make me cry out in pain!)

    I recently reread this one, as I have a number of times (Carol White is my favorite of the ghostwriters so most of what I saved were hers) and only noticed now, as a 42 year old person, that THE LAST SCENE OF THIS BOOK MAKES SEVERAL LAYERS OF NO SENSE. The girls are all back in 407, right? Intensives are over, right? The recital presumably just ended a couple hours earlier, yes? So Shelly proposes the Iowa visit and they all rush off to call their parents and have answers inside of fifteen minutes.


    Shelly’s parents were at the recital!

    Shelly’s parents, who live in Iowa!

    And are probably at that very moment on a plane… back to Iowa!

    Intensives are over, right? And Shelly’s needed in Iowa to make sodas at the family drugstore for a couple weeks so, um, WHY ISN’T SHELLY ON THE PLANE WITH THEM?

    Come to think of it, why aren’t all three girls traveling back home with their parents instead of staying in the dorms another night?!

    I… guess… everyone’s parents could be staying in town for the night instead of traveling back to Iowa/DC/NEW YOOOOOOORK so the girls just…. called them at their…. hotels?

    I’m thinking about this too much, aren’t I.

    BUT YOU UNDERSTAND, don’t you? 🙂

    • Hahaha so true! I’m assuming that the parents were at hotels that night so they could all travel home together the following day, but then again, sending them home separately from the daughters they never see for no discernible reason is exactly the kind of thing these ghostwriters would do. I TOTALLY DO UNDERSTAND! There is no such thing as thinking too much about this, no matter what our psychiatrists tell us 🙂

  5. I actually rather enjoyed this one because Dana suffers in it. But my enjoyment of her sunburn and humiliating break up is marred by the usual Dana-worship and Dana insufferability. Alison’s overreaction to the news of Dana’s sunburn made fourteen-year-old me roll my eyes so hard I nearly sprained them. Since when do tenth graders study philosophy? And then there’s Dana’s pretentiousness regarding her poetry workshop. At one point she says that “only true students of poetry” can truly understand poetry (Chickadee, you’re 15, not a PhD candidate), and that resident poet that she reveres so much who writes about the trials of a single woman poet living alone in a city sounds exactly like the kind of over-privileged, under-enlightened white woman who would aggravate Faith no end (and does — I recall Faith pounding a fist against the wall as she points out that the people in her neighbourhood in D.C. have more pressing life concerns).

    But to get back to Dana’s suffering, I enjoyed that, too freshly post-sunburn, she tried her best to look good for her date with Bret only to have him tell her that he thought they’d let her out of the infirmary too soon, and that she tries to put a good spin on being dumped by telling him that she’s looking forward to her poetry workshop only to get the douchey response that “it’s good that she’s going to be busy for awhile”. Very relatable adolescent humiliations. Bret’s awful, but one can’t complain that he’s unrealistically drawn, because I’ve known guys just like him.

    The poem thing didn’t seem unrealistic to me because my high school boyfriend and I did write each other poems. Although [cough] he did turn out to be gay….

    I liked that Casey remarked that Shelley’s dumb plan for pulling the wool over Paul and Tom’s eyes “sounded like a bad episode of Three’s Company”. Very apt, Casey, though I do have some minor nitpicks: it sounded like *every* episode of Three’s Company, and there were no *good* episodes of Three’s Company. It really was unrealistic that Paul and Shelley would agree to have an open relationship and that Tom would be okay with that when he was exclusively seeing Shelley. I think this was another way in which the writers’ ages showed. It was more common for people to date multiple people simultaneously back in the days when dating remained (or ostensibly remained) platonic until marriage, say pre-1965 or so, but that sort of thing went out when casual sex became more the norm, even for platonic dating. When I began high school in the late eighties, seeing someone became exclusive pretty quickly if it lasted at all, and open relationships were not a thing, even when you weren’t sexually active. You might see a dating situation like Shelley’s back in the early 1960s or before, but you wouldn’t see it in the 1980s.

    That neighbour of Tom’s sounded like such a prig. That’s right, call the police on a 15-year-old girl who leaves a box on a neighbour boy’s porch, because that’s a totally responsible use of police resources and it’s probably a bomb.

    • Seriously, Dana was the embodiment of white privilege before that term was mainstream. (Exhibit A: The Hawaii Dilemma.)

      Ugh. Stupid (Strangely Seductive) Shelley. Just, ugh.

      And that neighbour, while training all his faculties upon the threat to society that is Shelley Hyde (well, he wasn’t wrong), was no doubt simultaneously ignoring the triple homicide going on next door. Not that I’d be out fundraising for bail if Shelley was unjustly arrested, mind you.

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