Nancy Drew: the Icon for all Aspiring Young Detectives. Pt 3

In List of Summer Reading, Nancy Drew on June 12, 2012 at 5:23 pm

This post is more for people who are familiar with Nancy Drew– and I’m (hopefully) assuming most people are (although in my Perfect World everyone knows Nancy Drew and she is, in fact, a real person. And Ned turns out to just be her friend so he can go and be my boyfriend…do try to contain your jealousy).

Why has Nancy Drew persisted to this day? (I’m talking about her books, not the computer games, movies, or anything else…although that collection is impressive.)

1) She has been an icon since the 1930s, when young girls were looking for a strong female character to help them through the Great Depression

2) Our mothers most likely read them (mine did!) so…

3) They were more than happily inclined to give us their much-loved copies to their precious daughters so that we could somehow share the same memories our mothers possessed growing up while reading Nancy Drew

4) They’re mystery books! And who doesn’t like a mystery novel? (I especially like how they’re not terrifying…I don’t do well reading scary novels at night, alone…meep)

5) They’re filled with historical charm…personally, my favorite aspect is how frequently Keene uses the word “gay” in its original intention…”Ned gaily skipped to meet Nancy,” “Nancy, Bess, and George, were feeling quite gay that day, ”  “Nancy was in a gay mood as Ned accompanied her to the dance.” I made those up…I didn’t feel like rifling through 56 books to find the exact mentions. The real sentences, though, serve as  lovely reminders of how times have changed! When I was little I would giggle in a silly manner as I read the word in that antiquated term, but I believe it lends quite a bit of historical character to her novels, which make them all the more enjoyable (I’m a history major, if you haven’t caught on yet). My second favorite antiquated phrase—“Good night!” emphatically produced by Ned whenever he hears something startling. Could you imagine yourself saying “Good night!” in a shocked manner to a friend today? Me neither…if I want to retain my friends!

6) She has turned out remarkably well for having no mother since the age of three, and a father who constantly travels and is rarely home. Today some people I believe would take her story and make her fragile or easily broken. However, Carolyn Keene and Nancy Drew’s creators instead made Nancy a very, very strong person who seems to be unaffected by her loss. Fortunately, I do have both of my parents, although they travel as much (my mom) and more-so (my dad) than Carson Drew. But I can imagine that if a young girl with the loss of one parent in the 30s and now picks up a Nancy Drew book for the fist time, she will appreciate Nancy’s resilience and maybe have someone to aspire

Since the Nancy Drew books definitely cater to a younger audience, it makes sense that the novels would be very similar in structure. I recently double checked about a dozen or so, and each novel starts off with dialogue, uttered first by Nancy or her acquaintances. Also, you can’t get past the first page without hearing Nancy’s full name, her age, and a mention of her “titian blond hair.” You can’t get through the first chapter without hearing a mention of Carson Drew, her famous lawyer/father in River Heights, or Hannah Gruen, who has been the Drew’s housekeeper since Nancy’s mother died when Nancy was three (has anybody made any guesses as to how her mother died? I’ve always wondered…) Amazingly, I never realized till I re-read them, but Bess and George actually do not appear in the first several novels! I thought they were always a staple in Nancy’s life, but you don’t meet them till the 5th book, The Secret of Shadow Ranch!  Personally, I love how much dedication Bess and George show to Nancy. They’re willing to do nearly anything for her and constantly let her have the limelight!

Of course, one cannot get through a Nancy Drew novel without smiling when Ned comes on the scene. In fact, Ned doesn’t come around until the 7th, in The Clue in the Diary, where Nancy first believes he was trying to steal her car, instead of move it away from the fire. Another note to mention is the important role Nancy’s blue convertible plays in nearly every  books. My mom and I used to have a running joke about how many times Nancy had her car stolen (although I’m on book 23, and so far it hasn’t really). Good old Ned Nickerson, football player at Emerson College (hot stuff), always is willing to help her out, even when it meant they have to cancel their dates (which they frequently do). He always calls at just the right time, always shows up just before Nancy’s kidnappers get ready to move or kill her (she’s also always kidnapped), and he always brings backup. You go Ned!

I love the level of independence Nancy has in the books. Her father essentially lets her do anything! She wants to go to the bad side of town to talk to a witness? Sure thing! She wishes to hop on a plane and fly to New York to check out a clue? Let me get my checkbook! He also willingly sends her off alone to help him complete mysteries involving his cases, which I find amusing. Sure, let me send my daughter out to the middle of nowhere in some dark bayou, or an Indian reservation! She’ll do fine! It’s clear he loves her, but geez, Carson Drew easily places his daughter in danger 9 times out of 10.

Which Nancy Drew book is your favorite? When I was young mine was the 4th book, The Mystery at Lilac Inn. Now, I’m not so sure. Now, I love all of them.

Word of the Day: Namecheck- a specific mention of someone’s name, for example on a radio programme (Source: And  yes, I specifically looked for a word starting with “N” in remembrance of Nancy (who will outlive us all)

Fun Fact: “Nancy” according to UrbanDictionary (yes, I did just reference that…)

“A vibrant girl with a zest for living life to its fullest. Nancy has the smarts and the looks to make every man fall in love with her without any flirtation. Any guy would be lucky to date a Nancy. She is everything. Adventurous, outgoing, energetic, intelligent, funny, artsy, studious, free-spirited, lively, kind-hearted, generous, enthusiastic, friendly, and loving – all the while staying modest and humble. She becomes uncomfortable when receiving compliments and never boasts about her talents.Nancy is just naturally attractive and doesn’t use makeup to make herself look beautiful. Her style is fresh, comfortable, and gorgeous. Not an athlete – but athletic. Not a voluptuous babe – but sexy in her own way. Unafraid to venture out and try anything, she’ll have you doing things you wouldn’t have thought of doing before and you’ll love every second of it. She gives meaning to life and life to the meaningless. You’ll find yourself becoming more and more addicted to her presence. You’ll ache every minute she’s not with you and she’ll pretty much occupy all the space in your head every second of every day. Nancy’s smile is gold and her laughter is magic.”
Do you find that as amusing as I did? As always, please let me know if you have any questions or comments or suggestions for topics of my blog! And thank you to all who are reading it. I so heartily appreciate it.

  1. The Sign of the Twisted Candles was my favorite when I first got into reading Nancy Drew, but I don’t know about now. I have several of the classic series books on my shelf, along with some other Nancy Drew books. Might be fun to read through them again at some point.

  2. I LOVE Nancy Drew and have enjoyed reading your posts! My grandmother and mother read the books and I read my first one, The Clue of the Dancing Puppet, in 2nd grade in the 60’s and became firmly hooked. Every Christmas, I would get a big stack of Nancy Drew books. Forget all the other toys and games–I would retreat to my room as soon as possible and start reading!

    It was several years into my Nancy Drew reading before I realized there were several writers behind the Carolyn Keene name. It kind of bothered me at first, but it also explained a lot of inconsistencies that really bugged me! The color of her car changed colors a couple of times, and it seems like Nancy’s hair color changed too, as well as Ned aspect you mentioned and many others. Even though I was young, it concerned me that the writer couldn’t keep her facts straight!
    Anyway, thanks for the great posts and memories!

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