My momma-in-law recently hooked my oldest daughter on the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories written by Carolyn Keene. Telling how she used to ride her bike as a young girl to the library in order to exchange read books for the next couple of books in the series, my mother-in-law noted how the librarian suggested she should be choosing more elevated reading. Of course, my daughter and I giggled at the thought of a librarian doing anything but praising a child for reading.
Never having read any Nancy Drew myself, I borrowed the first novel, The Secret of the Old Clock, from my daughter. The first line drew me in, but not in the traditional, “I was hooked by the hook of the novel,” kind of way: “Nancy Drew, an attractive girl of eighteen . . ..” (1). Granted, this novel in question was first published in 1930, but it is interesting to recognize the stylistic differences. A few lines further, the reader learns just what defines attractive, “. . .blond, blue-eyed . . ..” (1). Nancy’s father, a prominent lawyer in town is described as ” . . . her tall, handsome father . . ..” (13). Yet, the reader never learns what “tall” and “handsome” looks like to the author. So, was there a generally accepted ideal of “tall” and “handsome” during this time period? I could continue with the exploration of Nancy being a recent high school graduate, yet there is never any mention of a job or college aspirations. Instead, she finds it “‘ . . . fun to help in his work . . . [because] Dad depends on my intuition'” (1). Okay, seeing I could write a thesis for a women’s studies course based solely on page 1, I had better move along.
As for the story itself, it was refreshing to read a young adult novel which actually made me think, use deductive reasoning, draw conclusions, etc. I appreciated, of course, the beautiful grammar and mechanics and elevated word choices. In addition, reading about a protagonist who truly cared about other people she came into contact with is a welcome addition to any young adult novel.