For August’s entry into Emlyn Chand’s “Books that made me Love Reading” Challenge (I skipped July due to a blogging hiatus), I picked up some Nancy Drew stories.
I remember getting my first Nancy Drew book in about third grade or so. Like all characters older than me, she seemed so grown-up! She could drive, and solve crimes, and travel all over the world with just her best friends, George and Bess. I quickly devoured the series, then moved onto the Hardy Brothers cross-overs. I read the old stuff, from the 40’s. I read the new stuff. I read it all.
So for this month, I picked a random assortment from what the library branch had on hand.
First, because as a kid I had a bit of a crush on Frank Hardy, I read two of the new crossovers: Danger Overseas and Terror on Tour, both written in the last few years. First, they were first person, jumping between Nancy, Joe, and Frank, something that didn’t happen in the ones I’d read as a kid. It was disconcerting, especially as we’d get multiple perspectives of the same event; it hardly moved the plot forward. Second, they were overly sanitized – noticing cute members of the opposite sex and wanting to hold their hands; not typical of older teens.
So, I took advantage of the interlibrary loan system and tracked down one I knew I’d read before: A Crime for Christmas, written in 1991. This book was both accurate, in that all the teenagers had raging hormones, but inaccurate in that you wouldn’t let a bunch of teenagers, even if they’d already graduated from high school, have adventures like this. “Sure, go to New York City at Christmas, with only your eighteen-year-old friend!” “Sure, we’ll let two guys who haven’t even finished college be honorary police officers instead of young-looking undercover cops!” Granted, I did a lot of stuff in high school I probably shouldn’t have (overground Greyhound bus to Cleveland with a sixteen-year-old friend is probably at the top of the list), but what Nancy and the Hardies do is a bit extreme. No responsible adult would let them do any of this.
Finally, I tracked down a Nancy Drew novel I remember owning, #57: Trail of Lies. Nancy and her friend George go to Alaska with Nancy’s dad, to visit an old friend. Again, it was completely unrealistic – 18-yr-olds on the club scene, in the workplace, assisting the police – none of that would actually happen.
Overall, the writing itself wasn’t bad (which is understandable because they bring in ghost writers). The stories were solid and not completely predictable.
However, I definitely prefer the older stories to the newer ones. Nancy was a lot more realistic, at least with her feelings, in those. I looked up the series online, and the ones I read originally were targeted at older kids, whereas the ones currently being written are for younger kids, which is why they tamp down the rampant hormones. In my opinion, the stories lose a lot that way. If Nancy is going to be asexual, make her a freshman in high school, not a high school grad.
So, if you’re looking for mysteries, go for the ones written in the 80’s and early 90’s. The technology is dated, but they’re more realistic.