Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thoughts on the Nancy Drew Girl Detective Series

The Nancy Drew Girl Detective series was a drastic change for Nancy Drew.  The narration changed to first-person, and the characterization of Nancy and her friends was changed significantly.  While I agree that Nancy was made to be a bit too clumsy and forgetful, I did not mind most of the changes.  The key is to see the Girl Detective Nancy Drew as Nancy Drew in an alternate reality, and to me, the books are a lot of fun. 

The Girl Detective books I like the best are the ones that use the new premise.  This is because River Heights really comes alive in the new premise.  Ned's character is fleshed out better, and while Bess and George have some personality changes, they become more interesting characters.  

Even though I like the changes, I have to wonder why Simon and Schuster changed the Nancy Drew character so drastically from perfect to clumsy and forgetful.  Could Nancy have been made clumsy because some people didn't like Nancy's perfection?  If so, that was a mistake because all it did was alienate many Nancy Drew fans and probably did not gain the series new fans.  People who already hated Nancy Drew due to her perfection would not have tried out this series.  A publisher should never change a premise in order to appease people who don't like the original premise.

I began purchasing each book new as it was released and read #1-6 and the first Super Mystery in that first year.  I liked the books and wanted to continue purchasing them, but Simon and Schuster lost me for a different reason.  I purchased the books new up through #8 and then had trouble getting an unflawed copy of #9.  My local stores seemed to only have flawed copies with wrinkled spines.  I was not going to pay between $5 and $6 each for copies that were not in collectible condition.  I was not going to drive all over central Oklahoma looking for nice copies, and I couldn't risk buying from Amazon, since Amazon could also end up sending flawed copies.  I quit buying the books and began acquiring them when I could find cheap, used copies.  That's why I never got around to reading all of the books until this year.

While I enjoyed the seven books I read years ago, I assumed I would end up hating the series because most collectors seem to strongly dislike the series.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed most books in the series.  My only complaint is that the series is quite uneven and could never settle on one premise.  This is because the series has not just one premise, but three of them:  the Girl Detective premise, the Nancy Drew Digest premise, and the Modern Trilogy premise.  The series switches between all three. 

#1-6 These books introduce the Girl Detective premise.  They flow nicely, and we learn all about the new River Heights and its cast of characters.  These are great books for people who like the Girl Detective premise.

#7-8.  Simon and Schuster probably ran out of time to come up with enough original stories based on the Girl Detective premise.  These books follow the Nancy Drew Digest premise and seem like Nancy Drew Digest stories that were revised for the Girl Detective series.  They don't fit in with the first six stories.  They are just like digest books but are instead in first-person narration.

#9-14  The series returns to the Girl Detective premise of #1-6.  These are very good books with the exception of #13 which I do not like at all.

#15-29  These books are a mixture of the Girl Detective premise and the Nancy Drew Digest premise. #27, 28, and 29 may be the very best books from this part of the series.  Just like with the Nancy Drew Digest series, some of the strongest books occur right before either a drastic change or a deterioration in the series. 

#30-47  The series switches to the Modern Trilogy premise.  Now the stories center on very modern story ideas, including identity theft, virtual reality games, reality television, and environmentalism.  I enjoyed seeing some of these new ideas explored.  However, the trilogy format stretches out the stories too much and makes them very predictable. 

Since the series switches from one premise to another, the stories in the Nancy Drew Girl Detective series are more varied than in the digest books.  While I wish the series had been more consistent, I am glad for the varied plots, because I had less trouble getting through these books than I did with the digest books.  Of course, there are also far fewer of these books, so that is a factor.  It may also have helped that I had only read #1-6 plus the first Super Mystery ten years ago and had read none of the others before.  There are some that I know I can never read again should I ever decide to read this series again.

I greatly enjoyed the vast majority of the books in this series.

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