Monday, November 7, 2011

Nancy Drew Book Review

I have to be honest. It has taken me DAYS to write this book review because I have just been too excited about my Nancy Drew book and haven't known where to begin. From the moment I opened it up and felt that vintage yellow spine sort of crack, a thrill ran through me. And every time Bess made a declaration about what she was going to eat or Nancy made an unheartfelt observation about a victim, I was so tempted to underline the text, and yet, I felt like I needed to keep my copy pristine for the next reader. It's just. So. Good.

So here's how Nancy Drew re-entered my life. Last June, my sister and I descended upon our parents house to help them clean it out. You see, they're moving for the first time in 32 years, and we had a lot of crap to sift through in order to dig them out of there. (Not that they're hoarders or anything. You just, you know, accumulate a lot of stuff over the course of 32 years.) One of the discoveries we made was a giant box full of old hardback Nancy Drews. I believe that somebody, maybe my grandmother, bought these for me and my sister when we were kids. But truth be told, I never really got into Nancy Drew. I remember reading a couple here or there, but I was always much more interested in what the Wakefield Twins were up to over at Sweet Valley High. (I mean, they were getting felt up and going on motorcycle rides with bad boys and getting into accidents and falling into comas...Sweet Valley was pretty enthralling for a 13 year old girl.)

So when we found the box of Nancy Drews, me and my mom and my sister all kind of sighed. Oh Nancy, we thought, why do you have to be so boring? We felt bad that we had never really read the Nancy Drews and we kind of knew deep down that Mom was going to donate them to Goodwill, so we each took one and promised to read it. I chose The Clue of the Broken Locket.

Reading a Nancy Drew book as a 34 year old woman in the year 2011 is sort of a strange experience. As you read the book, you find yourself wondering what "ladies hiking shoes" looked like in 1965. Or how long it took for Nancy to re-do her titian coif after getting dunked in the lake when mean old Mr. Driscoll drilled holes in her canoe to keep her from her "nosy sleuthing." One hour? Two hours? Did she have to sleep in rollers? One of my favorite would-never-happen-in-2011 oddities is when the girls' boyfriends come out to visit them at Misty Lake (where they are sleuthing) so that they can go see a groovy band, The Flying Dutchman, play a show--but the boys aren't allowed to stay at the cottage with the girls. Even though the girls have, at this point, been physically attacked not once, but twice (both times with logs and rocks hurled at their heads, knocking them out), had their cottage broken into and their possessions wrecked, and Nancy has been kidnapped and escaped. But no, the boys are going to stay at Mrs. Hodgkins lodge up the way. For the sake of modesty. "Goodnight, girls! Good luck fighting off your attackers!"

But other than these little societal oddities that we modern ladies might find amusing, the stories are pretty darn enjoyable, and the mysteries are pretty well unraveled. Note that author Carolyn Keene doesn't mess with things like emotions or descriptions of scenery or clothing. She makes sure that Nancy sticks to the facts--who cares how Nancy feels about Ned Nickerson (or if, in fact, he feels emasculated by Nancy's line of work?). Nancy, after all,  only has a mind for clues and evidence--nothing else matters when she's on the case. Except there is one odd thing that happens throughout the book: I am fairly certain that every single meal is reported, and it is usually reported by her best friend, Bess, who is introduced to us as "a pretty blonde, inclined to be overweight." I swear to you, if Bess opens her mouth at all in the book, it's either to talk about food, or to put food into it. One of her first lines in the book really gave me insight into her character and her near-constant fear of running out of food: "We don't know a thing about how good the food is in Misty Lake. Why don't we stop for an early supper?...Look! The sign says fresh broiled lobster. Mmm!"

Other than Bess's hunger, I suspect that Carolyn Keene used meals as a way to help the reader understand the passage of time. As in, "two hamburgers, a bowl of tomato soup, and a pecan pie later, Nancy decided to investigate the grounds of Pudding Stone Lodge once more."

Needless to say, reading this book made ME awfully hungry. I knew I was really invested in the book when I found myself one Saturday reading the book in bed, in my pajamas, while eating macaroni and cheese. Delicious!

Some other interesting observations about Nancy: she really is rather unfeeling. And this was, in fact, one of the only places where I did write a note in my book because I was laughing SO HARD. It's at the end of the book [SPOILER ALERT: She solves the mystery], and they finally find the woman who has been held prisoner inside of Pudding Stone Lodge--this woman's children, in fact, have been held captive by the villains, who are training them to perform in the circus!--and the woman is now free and reunited with her children. She has literally been free for 15 minutes when Nancy says "Sit down, Susan, and clear up a few more puzzles for us," and she goes on to ask her a million questions about the clues so that she can tie up her mystery. As a reader, I'm thinking, Nancy, this woman has been locked in the cellar for a year! Show some tact! Have you even offered her a glass of water?

Ok, in looking back at what I've written, I've come to realize that this is less of a "book review" and more of a "Nancy Drew in general" review. But the point is this, if you like campy writing, and you like Scooby-Doo style mysteries (this one even included a phantom boat!), you should really pick yourself up a Nancy Drew mystery. I guarantee that you will be telling all of your friends about the insane things that Nancy and her friends eat, and thinking to yourself "No, Nancy, don't break open the antique clock in order to search for a's probably valuable! And it's not your property! And...oof...too late." The books are all worth reading. In fact, my sister and I are desperate to know what happened to the rest of the books in the box at my parents' house! Perhaps we need to hire Nancy Drew to track them down at the local Goodwill?

And now, you're probably all wondering, what on earth does Nancy Drew have to do with crafting? The answer is this: very little! EXCEPT for the fact that I realized recently that one of the photos in an STC Craft knitting book, My Grandmother's Knitting, has a photo of a very pretty girl in a very pretty sweater reading THE VERY SAME Nancy Drew book. Other than that, there is absolutely no connection to craft.


  1. I cannot stop laughing. From the photo at the top of the page (fork and knife!) to the crazy photo at the bottom (how did that even happen??), and all the text in between. I can't believe we haven't talked about what a cold-hearted ass Nancy is! And also kind of a moron. Clearly we need to discuss further.

    (You know, I think all of those Nancy Drews might have belonged to Mom as a kid. Or maybe she just told me that. I really hope someone didn't give them to you and me because that was a really bad investment. V.C. Andrews would have been wiser.)

  2. I love this post! I didn't get into Nancy Drew either, but my twin sister and I did spend a summer reading Cherry Ames books, which were very similar, but they are set during WWII and Cherry is a nurse.

  3. Erin, I forgot how much you loved the VC Andrews! Between Flowers in the Attic and all of the Sweet Valley books, we were total trash book readers.

    Katie, I took a look at those Cherry Ames books you mentioned...the vintage covers are awesome!

    I don't know why, but all of this talk about "book series for ladies" makes me want to start reading those Amish romance novels that are all hot right now. Like Wounded Heart:

  4. If there existed a VC Andrews/Sweet Valley High/Nancy Drew-ish series of books about Amish romance, I WOULD EAT THAT UP. I would buy them all, Liana.

  5. Oh wow, I just saw that the Amish books are, in fact, a series. Merry Christmas to me!