Monday, July 13, 2020

Nancy Drew Diaries #20 The Vanishing Statue

In Nancy Drew Diaries #20, The Vanishing Statue, Nancy and her friends are invited to Duchess Strickland's party at her home.  The Duchess is very reclusive and hasn't been around other people in many years.  Nancy learns that a valuable sculpture has been stolen from the Duchess.  Nancy hopes to find the sculpture and prevent the possible theft of valuable artwork at the party.

Let's start with what I wrote immediately after I finished reading the book on June 23.
I just finished reading Nancy Drew Diaries #20 The Vanishing Statue.  I don't even know what to say at this point.  I really don't.

First, I purchased a digital copy last night after I heard that some fans are unhappy about one aspect of the book.  I like to form my own opinion before reading other opinions, so I had to get the book read.  My hardcover will arrive tomorrow, but at least I have already read the book.  I found it handy being able to highlight passages in the digital copy.  That made it easier on me.

Second, the Nancy Drew Diaries series is the most inconsistent of all Nancy Drew incarnations.  They just cannot settle down and stick with one premise/personality/whatever.  "Whatever" is a good word, in this case.

I feel deflated after reading this one.  It isn't bad; it is just a bit flat.  And strange.

As for the potentially controversial part, I think it is just odd.  There is something else that annoyed me greatly which has to do with vague coded language, but not the part that might annoy others, which also has to do with coded language concerning something else.  Just come out and say it.  Don't write in riddles.  Now I've probably got everyone wanting to read the book because of my coded language, but it's really not even a good book in my opinion.  Actually it might be, but I didn't enjoy it at all.  I think I got more out of the books that annoyed me, like Heliotrope Lane.
At present, I feel depressed when thinking about this book, as though it took something out of me.  Opinion on the book is split.  One reader really likes the book (warning - spoilers in the review) as does someone else who reviewed the book on Amazon.  The other Amazon reviewers very much dislike the book.  One reviewer on Amazon wrote, "I read over 200 Nancy Drew books, and this has to be the worst storyline ever.  Not worth the money."

I wouldn't go that far, but I found this book to be distinctly uninteresting.  The only reason I made it through the book without skimming was that I was looking for the passages that made some fans unhappy.  If I hadn't been looking for subtext, then I wouldn't have been able to read the book.  So yes, I found the book quite boring. 

I am not sure if this book features another new ghostwriter for the series.  The book was definitely not written by the people who wrote a number of the other books, but it could be a repeat author.  A character from the previous book was mentioned, so that author could have been involved.  Most of the books have not mentioned characters from previous books.  One other book that mentioned a previous character did have the same author as the other book referenced.

Even if the ghostwriter did write one or more other books, the tone concerning one character shifted dramatically, so this book is quite inconsistent with the rest of the books in the set.  This series is consistently inconsistent.

There are at least two good things about this book, most noticeably the descriptions of Hannah's cooking.  Also, Nancy is not scared.  That's always good.

One character did look for the bathroom during the party, but quite fortunately, Nancy stays away from the bathroom in this book.

I have written before that many of these books—usually the ones I don't like as much—have an obvious solution to the mystery.  I knew who took the statue from near the beginning of the story.  I realized the culprit's identity during Chapter 2.  How stupidly obvious!

The plot does have a little bit of a twist that makes the story marginally interesting towards the end.  I personally think the vanishing statue plot is pointless and that the main plot should have been crafted around the secret learned by Nancy late in the story.  That would have made the book more compelling, at least in my opinion.

I found the artist characters to be exceedingly bizarre, and that was the aspect of the book that I found really strange that took away from my interest.  One man duck walks, for instance.  He's an adult, but he acts like a child.  The characters dress really, really bizarre.  I think kids might love the artist characters, but they are way too odd for me.

I will now segue into a discussion of the coded language in this story, so the rest of this review contains spoilers about that aspect of the story.

I don't like knowing anything about a book before reading it.  Each time something potentially controversial comes up in a Nancy Drew Diaries book, I hear about it soon after publication and before I have received my book.  I prefer to form my own opinion so I know my own reaction without having it influenced by others.  I have about decided to purchase the digital copy and the hardcover copy from now on so that I can read each new book on release day before the first reviews are posted.

I was careful with my wording in the above part of this post so as not to reveal what is in the book that upset some people.  I will now say and will be specific, so quit reading here if you want to read the book first before seeing what others think.

This first part is just me and my complaint about authors who use vague coded language when describing characters that are not Caucasian.  I understand the desire to avoid labels, but the description of the character should be done in such a way that the reader actually realizes the character's race. 

On page 32, a character is described as having "curly black hair, parted in the middle."  I guess I should have realized what that meant, but I have known a few white people with black, curly hair.  So that just went over my head.  On page 143, the mother of the character with "curly black hair" is described as having a "wrinkled brown face."


I was so annoyed.  If I am to visualize a character as African American, then please be a little better at signaling that to me.

Again, I understand why we should avoid labels whenever possible.  However, there is no point in having an African American character in the story when the reader does not realize the character's race until fairly late in the story.  This actually made me angry.  One of my biggest annoyances as a reader is when authors fail to describe characters at all:  no hair color, nothing.  I like to be able to visualize the characters as different from each other.  An author who telegraphs that information to the reader as if playing charades is not being helpful.

The other coded language has to do with George.  We are apparently expected to conclude that George is a lesbian.  This is a surprising development, since there has been no sign of that in the previous books.  For many years, some fans have insisted that George is a lesbian, and the recent comic book series depicts her as such.  So this development is not something completely outside the realm of possibility, but it has never been implied in one of the actual Nancy Drew books.  That is, if one can conclude that George's lesbianism is even being implied.  There's that problem with coded language and how it can be too vague.

If George is supposed to be a lesbian, I don't care either way.  It is a nonissue for me.  My problem is the author's coded language which attempts to signal this revelation to the reader. 

Page 68:  "I bet George is going to show up in jeans and flannel," I said.

Page 68:  "With her rumpled T-shirt and short dark hair sticking up every which way..."

Page 71:  "I never wear earrings," said George, squinting at the screen.

Page 71:  "George's closet seemed to be filled with nothing but lumpy sweaters and hanger after hanger of wrinkled button-down shirts printed with zigzags, polka dots, birds, palm tress, lightning bolts, and bicycles."

George and Nancy are also a bit flirty with each other.  Ned isn't able to go to the party, so George goes as Nancy's date.  She dresses in a tuxedo.

All this taken together, we are being led towards a certain conclusion.

I believe that the author did this on their own.  I have stated in previous reviews that I believe that Simon and Schuster is allowing the ghostwriters free rein.  There is no quality control, which has resulted in a wildly uneven series.  This is just the latest chapter in the Nancy Drew Diaries debacle.

Some people think that George is to be a lesbian from now on.  That could be, but it's odd to do it in this fashion well into the series.  We will have to see what happens.  If past history is any indication, then the next book will feature George as a girly girl who is crazy about boys.  That's how inconsistent this series is.

I found the mystery to be sorely lacking in this story.  The plot is not sabotage, but I find boring sabotage more interesting than this non-mystery story.  I never felt that I had any reason to care.  The book bored and depressed me.

No comments: