Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Will the Real Nancy Drew Step Forward?

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.


Anonymous said...

I can understand why people feel this way, even though the only Nancy I won't accept is On Campus. What amuses me, however, is the assumption sometimes that even if "your" Nancy is a later one, you will eventually prefer the earlier versions. Yes, the OT books are very well written, and I love how they give a glimpse into the past, but to me they always feel like a precursor to the RT and Files Nancy I grew up with.
I think one of the best things about the series is that Nancy has grown and changed over the years, so everyone can find the version they like best.

Laura said...

Just found your blog today. Loved this post so I'll have to go read all the earlier posts.

I grew up when the Paperbacks (57-175), Files and Super Mysteries were being published but I started with the hard covers. And I like all the ones I've read. I've never read any of the Girl Detective or On Campus stories but I'd give them a shot.

As for the "real Nancy", I believe she is the one from 1-56 and that her hair is red/blonde/strawberry blonde. Personally, a brunette Nancy has no place in my picture of the teenage sleuth (although I have no problem if others see her that way.)

I actually have a couple of the unedited versions of 1-34 and (idiot me) I thought they lengthened the shorter ones to fill the extra five chapters. D' oh!

21, 23 & 56 wouldn't be my faves either, though I also don't think they'd be the bottom of my list. In no particular order, my faves are Glowing Eye (51), Secret of the Old Clock (1) and Shadow Ranch (5).

Jennifer White said...

What amuses me, however, is the assumption sometimes that even if "your" Nancy is a later one, you will eventually prefer the earlier versions.

That does seem to be the common belief, and I am an exception.

Yes, the OT books are very well written, and I love how they give a glimpse into the past, but to me they always feel like a precursor to the RT and Files Nancy I grew up with.

That is basically how I feel. While I enjoy the original text books and agree that they are written better, I tend to prefer the revised text books. When I read the original text books, they come across as quaint older versions of the stories that I first read.

I could go off on an entire new post about how I feel about certain Nancy Drew books. To keep it brief, I like the revised Shadow Ranch and Lilac Inn books very much more so than the original text books. I like both the original and revised text Twisted Candles, but I like the search for the secret compartments from the revised text, so I prefer the revised text. I could make similar statements for many of the first 34 Nancy Drew books.

Some of my favorite Nancy Drew books are, in no particular order, Bungalow Mystery, Larkspur Lane, Twisted Candles, Hidden Staircase, and Brass Bound Trunk (revised only). Heck, I do prefer the revised text books all the way even though I like the original text books. I even like the bad revised text books!

Just found your blog today. Loved this post so I'll have to go read all the earlier posts.

Welcome! I'm glad you found it.

Wendy said...

First of all, I just love your blog! I've been reading it for a while, but this is my first comment. =)

I'm 22, and I didn't have many Nancy Drews as a kid, but there were a lot to pick from. I remember being pretty taken with The Fox Hunt Mystery at one time, but revised text #1 was usually the one I'd cite as a favorite. I guess I grew up with a titian haired Nancy.... so even when reading OT books, I imagine her redheaded. I tend to see her with red hair in a '40s style (like she wears on the DJ for #25, which is one of my favorites now).

To me, one of the best things about Nancy or any other book hero/heroine is that you can see them any way you want. No one can stop your imagination. =)

Anonymous said...

You are not the only "exception". I, too, prefer the RT books. It's likely because these are the ones I grew up with in the mid-70's. When I read the OT's, I can appreciate the more detailed writing and the glimpse into their time, but some portrayals and situations just seem ridiculous. The OT of "Broken Locket" is the first example that comes to mind. RT Nancy will always be "my Nancy".

Laura said...

I also really like Brass Bound Trunk (RT). And my favourite parts are when Nancy, Bess, George, Nelda and Rod search the trunk, too.

One thing I find funny is that Bess warns Nancy not to captivate some young man on the ship and get Ned worried back home. And Nancy says there's no chance of that and that the best-looking man she's seen so far on ship is 30-year-old Rod. Then later she goes on a date with a different guy she met on ship. (The other three had dates with Nancy's guy's friends and they were supposed to meet them 15 minutes apart and Nancy and Nelda go to meet their guys together and get tossed over the side of the ship.)

That always bugged me that Nancy would go on a date with someone else while being attached to Ned. I guess now that they weren't exclusive and it bugs me less but I still believe in just one guy and one girl, like Claire in The Breakfast Club.

That was probably one of the things I hated most about the Files, when Nancy would "have to" go on a date with a suspect/lead and she'd think "Oh, well, Ned'll just have to understand." Like she could never mention beforehand that she's going and asking if he minds and just decides that he'll have to be okay with it.

Anonymous said...

i recently began working at a library as a page and i came across these new Nancy Drew graphic novels. I was pretty appauled because they were Nancy Drew: Vampire Slayer (and ive always liked my Nancy Drew and Buffy tales to NOT mix). Have you read any of those?

Also, growing up, the series I read were the Nancy Drew Files. I know they get a bit repetitive over the many years they were published. Can you give me your best judgement on when you think the Files series started to tank (as a pre-teen I only read the first 10)? thanks

Jennifer White said...

I have not read any of the graphic novels since they don't appeal to me.

The Nancy Drew Files did not tank; they were just repetitive. The problem is that the titles are all generic, so I can't look at a title and remember anything about a particular book.

The entire series consists of 10 to 15 different plots that are recycled over and over. Nancy Drew investigates at a dance club. Another time, she investigates at a comedy club. That type of thing.

I remember that I did enjoy some of the titles that were in the last 1/4 of the series. The trouble is that by that time, the repetitiveness had gotten to me pretty bad.