In Nancy Drew Diaries #12, The Sign in the Smoke, Nancy, Bess, and George sign up to be counselors at Camp Cedarbark. After the girls arrive, they learn that the previous camp, Camp Larksong, closed five years ago after some kind of tragedy. Another counselor, Bella, insists that a camper drowned and that her ghost haunts Camp Cedarbark. Nancy and her friends are skeptical, but when several swimmers are held underwater by something, they must consider all possibilities.
On page 70, Bella tells the story of the drowning. "The rumor is, one of the counselors went nuts. She was having mental health issues or something, but nobody knew. And she kind of lost it during the middle of the night of the campout."
George then mutters, "I'm pretty sure that's not how mental illness works." Actually, mental illness can work in any way that it manifests itself. Each time I read a statement like this, I realize that the author of the book is clueless about mental illness. I have interacted with severely mentally ill people, and I can assure you that mental illness does not fit a tidy textbook definition.
I find it interesting that cell phones don't get signals in the camp. One of my complaints about the Nancy Drew Diaries has to do with cell phones, and I was glad that phones are not part of the plot.
On page 115, Nancy hopes that there is not a mystery, since she wants to have time off from solving cases. This is a character inconsistency, but it's not anywhere near as bad as what was done with Nancy in previous titles.
I knew as I read the book that it would turn out to be a sabotage book. However, this is the type of sabotage that is not boring. Sabotage is not mentioned until page 135.
Whenever I read the modern Nancy Drew books, I hear Bess's voice just like she sounds in the Nancy Drew games. On page 154, George suggests that the dead camper would haunt what actually killed her, rather than someone else. Bess replies, "Maybe the other thing was really boring. Like an allergy to bee stings or something. Would you want to waste your afterlife haunting a bee?" Now imagine that in Nancy Drew game Bess's voice. Perfect.
There are some things about this story that are less than ideal, but I didn't notice them until after I read this review. There are a lot of spoilers in the review, so don't read it unless you don't mind being spoiled about the entire plot including the ending. The reason I totally overlooked the flaws is because I had just slogged my way through the Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers series. That was some difficult reading which traumatized me. I didn't realize until after I finished that series exactly how bad my experience had been. This book, while flawed, is great literature in comparison to those books.
After I finished this book, I decided that if every Nancy Drew Diaries book were like this one, I would be very happy. I rated the book as excellent. After I had read the review to which I linked above and had time to think about it, I changed my mind. I would now rate this book as very good and suspect that my rating would go down if I ever read the book again.