Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Comparing the Nancy Drew Diaries to the Hardy Boys Adventures

I have not been thrilled with the Nancy Drew Diaries series.  I purchased a set of remaindered Hardy Boys Adventures books in December.  I wanted to read them to see whether Simon and Schuster is treating the Hardy Boys as badly as Nancy Drew.  I had already commenced reading the original Hardy Boys series, #1-58, at that time.  I decided to read all of the Hardy Boys Digest series and Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers books so that I would know the entire history of the Hardy Boys and would be able to judge the Hardy Boys Adventures books accurately. Indeed, I read approximately 175 books solely to prepare for writing this post.

Let's start with the observations I made before reading any of the Hardy Boys Adventures books.

The target age printed on the books for both series is ages 8 through 12.  Since the books are aimed at the same age range, they should be presented in a similar fashion.

Nancy Drew is pictured very young on the Nancy Drew Diaries covers.  She is shown with so much detail that one cannot ignore how young she looks. The Hardy Boys are also young on the covers but are not shown close.  Since we cannot see the Hardy Boys well, their youth is not as striking.

The text size is different in the Nancy Drew Diaries and the Hardy Boys Adventures. Simon and Schuster has never made the text different sizes in the two series.  Then why do it now?  Perhaps the text is larger in the Nancy Drew books to make them seem more like diaries.  In fact, the text is in a fancy font, which makes one think of a diary.  It's also possible that the text is smaller in the Hardy Boys books so that the books require fewer pages and are less expensive to print.  This could be right if it is true that the Hardy Boys series has lower sales than Nancy Drew.  The text may also be smaller in the Hardy Boys books to make them appeal to older readers.

The difference in text size may be due to a combination of all reasons listed. Regardless, I feel that the larger print and younger-looking depiction on the covers result in Nancy Drew appearing to be aimed at a younger audience than the Hardy Boys.

Based on those observations and my distaste for the quality and tone of most of the Nancy Drew Diaries stories, my suspicion was that Nancy Drew is currently being treated worse than the Hardy Boys.

I read Nancy Drew Diaries #11 and #12 right after the Hardy Boys Undercover Brothers series and right before the Hardy Boys Adventures series.  I was favorably impressed with both books, feeling that both are an improvement over earlier books.  I was feeling good about the Nancy Drew Diaries series again.  My opinion about the Nancy Drew Diaries once again became negative after I read the Hardy Boys Adventures.

So what did I learn?

I noticed that all of the Hardy Boys Adventures books would work as Nancy Drew Diaries stories.  Most of them have very little action.  Almost every Nancy Drew Diaries book is sabotage, and several stories feature very boring sabotage plots.  Not as many Hardy Boys Adventures books are sabotage, and most of the sabotage books are creative sabotage that is engaging and interesting.  As a result, most of the Hardy Boys Adventures stories are better quality than the Nancy Drew Diaries stories.  Several Hardy Boys stories are extremely creative and suspenseful.  The better story ideas are being used for the Hardy Boys Adventures series.

Several of the Hardy Boys Adventures books read in a similar fashion to young adult dystopian fiction.  Perhaps the publisher thought that the content is too dark for Nancy Drew and more suitable for boys.  If true, that's a shame, since dystopian novels are quite popular today and are read by both boys and girls.  Those kinds of stories should not be limited to the Hardy Boys, when lots of girls read dystopian novels.

When I reviewed the Hardy Boys Digest series, I commented that Nancy Drew was held back by her gender in the Nancy Drew Digest series.  In the Nancy Drew Diaries series, Nancy Drew is once again held back by her gender since she is not allowed the same thrilling adventures as the Hardy Boys.  Exactly why is it that one of the two series gets less interesting stories in every new relaunch?  Why can't both series be given equally interesting stories?

Nancy Drew is portrayed in a juvenile fashion.  In Secret at Mystic Lake, Nancy thinks about the case, realizes that someone is talking to her, and tells herself, Oops.  I'd wandered off into sleuthyville there.  I guess it's kind of cute, but I don't want "cute" when I'm reading a Nancy Drew book.  Nancy is supposed to be focused, flawless, curious, and insightful when working on cases.  She does not visit "sleuthyville"!

Also juvenile is the fixation during two books on Nancy's restroom needs, letting the reader know every single time Nancy or another character needs to go to the restroom, and sometimes even devoting multiple pages to the experience.  Say what?

It seems to me that boys would be more likely to want to chuckle about restroom needs.  So the Hardy Boys must go to the restroom all the time in the Hardy Boys Adventures series, right?  Wrong.  The Hardy Boys don't go a single time.  Only three times in the Hardy Boys Adventures does some other character use the restroom, but each mention is brief rather than lengthy like in the Nancy Drew books.  Why are restroom needs mentioned excessively in two books of the Nancy Drew Diaries series?

Nancy Drew is also portrayed in a negative fashion.  Nancy forgets to charge her phone.  She leaves her wallet in a store.  She leaves the lunch basket at home.  She doesn't know how the Internet works.  Her friends smirk at her because she likes to solve mysteries.  When these imperfections are mentioned, they come across as unnecessary and as cheap jabs.

Chet smirks at Frank and Joe exactly one time in the Hardy Boys Adventures series. Bess and George either smirk at Nancy or make fun of her interest in solving cases on multiple occasions.  In one book, Bess and George suggest that Nancy needs a chaperone.  Frank and Joe don't receive this kind of disrespect from their friends.

Frank and Joe do not suffer from forgetfulness or a lack of knowledge about the Internet.  Frank is depicted as a nerd who spouts off information constantly.  While Frank's behavior is amusing, he doesn't look inept or stupid.  It is Nancy Drew who seems stupid at times, like when she doesn't know how the Internet works.

Frank and Joe annoy Chief Olaf because they solve cases before the police can, showing that Frank and Joe are astute detectives.  This is interesting, since this is the premise of the original Hardy Boys books from the late 1920s.  Why did Simon and Schuster return to the original Hardy Boys premise, yet keep Nancy Drew in the world of Girl Detective, which is a modern interpretation?  Fans want to see Nancy Drew return to the original premise where she is not forgetful.

The Hardy Boys Adventure books have well-developed recurring characters in Bayport, and some of them are enemies of the boys.  Bayport's history is explored, and we learn about an underworld culture.  The Hardy Boys Adventures books feature a city with a wonderfully interesting background.

In contrast, the Nancy Drew Diaries series has explored nothing about River Heights, and Nancy doesn't have any enemies.  The best part of the Nancy Drew Girl Detective series is how River Heights comes alive, and the series explores the history of River Heights.  Inexplicably, that best part of the premise of Girl Detective was abandoned, keeping the negative parts instead.  What were they thinking?  I'd like to see Mr. Safer, Charlie Adams, and Mrs. Mahoney again but this time paired with a Nancy Drew who isn't portrayed in a negative and juvenile fashion.  Is that asking too much?

The Hardy Boys Adventures series begins with two excellent stories that set up the series.  The best Simon and Schuster could do for Nancy Drew was turn what likely would have been an awful Girl Detective trilogy into the first two books, which are also not very good.

Let's go back to the target age of 8 through 12 for both series.  The Nancy Drew Diaries appear to be aimed at the low end of that range, probably at around ages 8 to 9.  The Hardy Boys Adventures appear to be aimed more at the high end of that range, around ages 11 through 12.  How very strange.

Now that I have read both series, I am once again dissatisfied with the Nancy Drew Diaries series.  I will continue purchasing the Diaries books, but I can't say that I am looking forward to reading the next one.  I will read it, but I have no anticipation of anything special or of even liking the story.

On the other hand, I eagerly await the next Hardy Boys Adventures book, because it is set in Bayport and may have more information about the underworld characters in Bayport.  That I am eager for the next Hardy Boys book and am indifferent about the next Nancy Drew book says it all, especially considering that Nancy Drew is my very favorite series while the Hardy Boys series is not in my top five.

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