Second Form at Malory Towers

Review by Laura Canning (February 2, 2005)

Oh, another goodie. Darrell loses it again, resulting in some very unladylike scrapping on the floor, and Mary-Lou nearly comes a cropper. Darrell is of course well settled in by now, so the first focus of this book is the new girls. Belinda is the typical Enid Blyton mad artist character—scatty and forgetful but naturally a genius. She pairs up with Irene from the first book, who is just as mad and scatty and just as much of a genius (maths and music are Irene's forte). Like Darrell before her, Belinda settles in and is quickly popular.

Daphne is very rich, has a picture of wonderfully good-looking parents on her beside table, and is immediately latched on to by Gwendoline. Mary-Lou, surprisingly, latches on to her as well, although at first Daphne only uses her to get help with her tres terrible French.

Ellen is a 'scholarship girl', very grumpy and unpopular. The girls do not know she is worried about not being able to pass the exams at the end of term.

The green-eyed monster raises its ugly head again, not in Sally this time, but in Alicia. Alicia is furious that Sally has been appointed head girl, and she and best friend Betty try to goad Darrell about it. Darrell doesn't bite, yet, but something's got to give...

And give it does. The girls have been missing various things—a brooch by Emily, some money by Gwendoline—and Alicia starts to suspect Ellen. Ellen has decided to cheat in the end of term exams and is caught by Alicia a few times rummaging around desks in the form room. Alicia tells the rest to the girls that it is Ellen who has been stealing, but Sally says they can't do anything without proof.

Alicia, still annoyed at Sally for being head girl, ignores her and accuses Ellen to her face. Ellen had actually all but decided not to cheat after all, but being called a thief angers her so much she decides she will go downstairs that night and look for the exam papers. If they call me bad, I'll be bad, Ellen decides, in an early example of labelling theory.

She has just found the papers when she hears a noise outside, and she quickly hides in a cupboard. Enter Darrell, who had been woken up when Ellen left the dormitory. She finds Ellen, sees the exam papers and wrestles her to the floor to retrieve them.

And the next day...Ellen is gone. The girls think she has been expelled for stealing, so they do not ask about her. But Ellen is in the San., after 'one of her headaches' became so bad she could hardly think. Darrell frets about what to do, and finally decides not to say anything about the cheating—if Ellen was expelled for stealing, what's the point?

Gwendoline and Mary-Lou, meanwhile, have another spat. Daphne has wanted a parcel posted and Mary-Lou decides to take it to the post office for her. It is dark and stormy, and Gwendoline tries to persuade her not to go. When kindness fails, Gwendoline goes for the kill, telling Mary-Lou that Daphne doesn't like her anyway and only pretends to be friends with her to get help with her French. Mary-Lou, rather pathetically, says that regardless, she is still Daphne's friend, and she takes the parcel (have some dignity, Mary-Lou! Darrell would have decked her in the face!). But she doesn't come back.

Gwendoline, in a rare flash of sense, tells Daphne the full story. Daphne is horrified and rushes out to look for Mary-Lou (telling Gwen first that she was wrong and that Mary-Lou is a much better friend than she is). She goes along the cliffs, hears a cry, and there is Mary-Lou, blown over the cliff and hanging on to a small bush.

Ingenius use of mackintosh and tunic belts have Mary-Lou and Daphne hanging on to each other, but for how long? Luckily, Gwen has yet another flash of sense (two in one day!) and finally tells Authority what has happened. Daphne and Mary-Lou are found and Rescued.

But the tale doesn't end there...the next day the storm has stopped, and Sally, Darrell and a few others decide to go and look for the Very Important Parcel. The paper has come off it so they take the contents out. And there are the missing things.

This is a matter for Miss Grayling, so Sally goes to see her. Miss Grayling is astonished to hear that the girls think Ellen has been expelled. She says that she is sure Daphne is the thief. When she talks to Daphne, it turned out that Daphne has been expelled from two other schools for this, and that if she is expelled from Malory Towers her grandmother will stop paying for her education. It also transpires that she lied about being rich and that the photos on her bedside table are not of her parents. A liar as well as a thief!

Miss Grayling gives her a grim choice—she can stay at Malory Towers if she tells the girls the whole story, and if they agree that she can stay. The bricks of the second form (except our Gwendoline!) agree that she can. Daphne and Mary-Lou become Friends (the capital F kind), and Gwendoline is once more left out in the cold.

And on we go...