The topic of which Nancy Drew books are canon, or as I like to say, feature the real Nancy Drew comes up occasionally among readers and collectors. Not only do fans argue about which books feature the real Nancy Drew, but Nancy Drew's hair color is the subject of much debate. The discussion can often become contentious.
The most emotionally charged discussion that I recall was one that began about which actress was the best Nancy Drew that then devolved into an argument about Nancy's hair color. One group of fans insisted that Nancy is blonde and that all other hair colors for Nancy are unacceptable. Other fans insisted that Nancy's hair is either titian or brown. Others, like me, do not care at all and could not understand why everyone else was so agitated. I picture Nancy Drew in different ways depending upon which books I am reading. Note that my avatar features four different Nancy Drews. They are all equal in my mind.
The fans who feel that Nancy must be blonde get upset when fans support other colors of hair. Those of us who either prefer a darker shade or do not care about the hair color tend to get upset at others' insistence that blonde is the only color. In the end, we have to agree to disagree.
This all goes back to which books we read as children. Enthusiasts who read Nancy Drew books during the 1950s and before heavily favor the original text books. In fact, many of these readers strongly insist that none of the Nancy Drew books past #34 are worth reading. These people feel that Nancy's hair color is blonde.
People who read Nancy Drew books in the 1960s also tend to strongly favor the original texts but will often state that all of the Nancy Drew books up to #40 or so feature the real Nancy Drew.
I read Nancy Drew books from around 1979 to 1985. People in my group tend to like most all of the original 56 Nancy Drew books, since all of them had been published by that time. Furthermore, we tend to like the revised text books as well as the original text books.
My preferences were also influenced by which books were available to me. Early in my collecting, I had a strong aversion to the softcover Nancy Drew books. The reason is simple: most of those books came after I quit reading Nancy Drew books. It had nothing to do with whether the books are good.
A lot of people may not realize how strongly they are affected by what was available when they were children. My least favorite of ND #1-56 are #21, 23, and 56. It is odd that I do not like #21 and #23, since quite a few people seem to love those two titles. I hate them. Exactly why is that?
I hate #21 and #23 because those two Nancy Drew books are the only two I did not own as a child. I recall that I did read #23 one time when I checked it out from the library. The only reason I know I read it is because I did one of those shoebox book reports on it, and I remember using white paint to paint the ghost. I have no other memories of that book except for painting the ghost. Since I did not own #23, I only read it once as a child.
I also did not own or read #21 as a child, and I hate that book as well.
#56 was bought in around 1985 when I was losing interest, and I only read a few chapters. That would be part of the reason I don't like it, although upon reading the book as an adult I have concluded that #56 is not a good book.
Except for #21, 23, and 56, I read all of the original 56 Nancy Drew books multiple times as a child. I love all of them except for those three titles. I love all of the revised text books, except of course for #21 and #23.
We were strongly influenced by which books were available to us as children. I do not believe that most people realize that the primary reason they prefer certain books is based solely on what they read as children.
People who are my age consider #1-56 to be the real Nancy Drew. I at first resisted collecting the softcover books simply because they are softcover and I did not read them when young. Once I took that leap, I found that the softcover books, #57-175, are very worthwhile. That is, I can only comment for up to around #165, since I have not read the final volumes. Up to where I left off, the books are enjoyable and worth reading. People who do not care for them likely did not have the softcover books available as children.
Nancy Drew's realness is up to debate outside of #1-175. It also goes back to which ones people read as children. I never read the Files as a child, so I have no attachment to them. I have read all of the Nancy Drew Files, but the books blend together due to generic titles and stories. The Nancy Drew of the Files comes close to being the real Nancy Drew in some ways, but she falls a bit short at times, in particular with respect to her dysfunctional relationship with Ned.
I don't know what I think about the Girl Detective books. I have only read around the first eight, and I have read many criticisms of the rest. All I can say is that Simon and Schuster needs to pay closer attention to detail, because the series apparently has some problems. Click here to view Nancy's wardrobe problems. Nancy must not have enough money to buy clothing.
In closing, I understand exactly how the people who prefer the original text Nancy Drew books feel, because I read the Sweet Valley High books when they were first published. I want nothing to do with most of the Sweet Valley High books that have been published to this day. The only real ones for me are the first 30 or so. That said, I also know that many people have enjoyed the rest of the Sweet Valley series, and I am glad for them.