In Memoriam: Nancy Drew

posted in: Various Musings | 0

Originally posted on August 23, 2011

The kidnapper leaves for a short while. Before he returns, Nancy Drew, amateur detective extraordinaire, finds a way to untie the ropes binding her and escapes. Meanwhile, she also unravels the how and why of the mystery, just in time to explain it to her handsome boyfriend Ned and faithful girlfriends, Bess and George. Oh, how I used to get wrapped up in Nancy Drew Mysteries. I loved the idea that a young girl could solve mysteries, and I imagined myself as Nancy.

I was unpacking some boxes from storage a while ago, and I found all my old Nancy Drew books. Looking at the covers and cracking the books open (snickering at Nancy’s “titian” hair) reminded me of the hours of joy they gave me in my youth.

I don’t dare reread them now. These books hold a special place in my heart, but I won’t ever read them again. Why? Well, it’s because I remember enough to know you can never go home again.

For example, I remember Nancy is not just a rich girl; she’s a society girl. Nowadays, if I think society girl, I think Paris Hilton. And, like Ms. Hilton, Nancy is spoiled. She doesn’t have to work, because her lawyer daddy takes care of her (they even have a housekeeper). Nancy is free to spend her days poking around uncovering mysteries. And there is nothing Nancy cannot do. She can perform a Houdini-like escape trick to free herself from harm but she can also play golf and tennis and speak fluent French. She paints; she cooks; she rides horses. She is multi-talented, to say the least.

My balloon is deflating quickly. Today, I can’t get excited about someone who doesn’t know what real work is, and it’s hard to relate to someone with no faults. I’m afraid that if I cracked my Nancy Drew books open now, I wouldn’t like her very much. I prefer my warm memories. I like to remember sitting in that noisy fourth-grade classroom, ignoring the buzz of the kids around me, getting lost following clues. I like remembering that I tried, to no avail, to figure out the mystery before Nancy did. I liked making it through to the end to find out what really happened: I knew it! That wasn’t a ghost. There was a logical explanation, and Nancy—cool as an April breeze—kept her head, whereas I knew as I turned each page that, if I were experiencing that mystery in real life, I would be scared out of my mind.

I like my memories, but they must remain simply that.

So I was looking at that box of books, not wondering how much I could score on eBay for them, but instead pondering what kind of amateur female detective I would appreciate now. Nancy will remain on the pedestal where I have placed her, but maybe I could come up with a character I could root for today. I could envision someone who was fallible but tough. I could write a woman I could respect yet feel empathy for. So what are some of the things that woman would be?

Well, she wouldn’t be rich. She’d have to work for a living, and she wouldn’t have a daddy supporting her treks across the country, enjoying afternoon teas and high fashion. And so what if she didn’t like playing tennis? Give her paintball or snowboarding any day. She wouldn’t have perfectly manicured nails because she has to work. And when she isn’t in a work uniform, she won’t be in a prim dress either. She’ll wear a miniskirt or jeans.

Would she be multi-talented? In a word, no. She’s human, after all.

And men…she doesn’t have a college boy like chaste football player Ned doting on her. She has male admirers, though, and she’s no nun. In fact, she’s promiscuous, but it’s only because she’s hung up on her best friend who’s placed her in the friend zone. And that best friend? Well, Sean is no Ned…in fact, he’s a bit of a bad boy, a tattooed motorcycle mechanic.

Detective? Well, let’s just say she’s stumbled upon it…and she’s not exactly solving crimes. She doesn’t hunt for mysteries, but they find her through her work as a newspaper reporter. She may not work at discovering whodunit, but she gets herself in some tight spots and lives to write about them. Can she writhe out of knots? Nope. Can she speak French? Non, but she can kiss in en français. And golf? Out of the question. But she’s realistic in the way that Nancy is pure fantasy, and she’s someone we can appreciate today. She’s the kind of girl we can relate to now that we’re older. We’re too jaded to love Nancy as we did as kids, but we can find someone to love now just the way she is. If you want a real protagonist with a sense of fun and unexpected adventure, then I know you’ll love Nicki Sosebee.

Nicki currently stars in the adventures Got the Life and Dead. If you miss the idea of Nancy Drew like I do, I think you and Nicki will hit it off.


August 24, 2011 at 6:12 am

I, too, am a former Nancy Drew fan, and I remember thinking how exciting her life was. Furthermore, in those old stories she had a “roadster” a term I’d never heard before to describe a car, which seemed even more dashing than convertible. But you’re right, she’s outdated now, and in a way I’m sorry about that. Still, your new updated heroine would be easier for girls and young women to identify with, I’m sure. I also like the fact that your Nikki is a newspaper reporter, another fantasy of mine (see SNUSVILLE, my coming-of-age novel). That book does describe a generation long past, but dreams will be dreams and girls must become women, so there are similarities. Good luck with Nikki! She sounds adorable.


  • Jade says:

August 24, 2011 at 7:46 pm

Thanks, Jeanne. She’s definitely been keeping me busy of late! 😉

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