I had one of those milestone birthdays yesterday. The kind that means you have to start clicking a different box on internet surveys and such. I suppose I should be reflecting on where I’m at in my life and doing all those trite “I’m an adult!” things, but instead I’m thinking about Nancy Drew.
Yes, that Nancy Drew. The girl detective I was obsessed with from ages nine to eleven or twelve. (The series just celebrated it’s 84th birthday, which really puts my “milestone” one to shame.)
Last weekend my mother-in-law was in town, and we visited with her and some of her friends before going out to dinner. She’s pretty excited about my whole “writing thing” and wanted to talk books. So, I started telling everyone about Protocol, the secret agent/best friend book I just turned into my agent. Usually I try to explain it has the fun Veronica Mars vibe, but the women at the table immediately asked, “Like Nancy Drew?” My heart fluttered, guys.
Nancy Drew books were pivotal to so many women, and I nerded for a moment at being in the same paragraph. But it brought to light an important goal—something I look for in novels I read, something I want in my own writing, something instilled by Carolyn Keene* and the girl detective I wanted to be best friends with—a female character who can save the day.
While Nancy was missing the flaws I’m now so appreciative of in YA lit, I was rapt by this determined, smart, focused young woman who would save her friends (and the boys!). A self-assured woman we could look up to when we were on the cusp of womanhood ourselves? Pretty fantastic.
My mom bought me The Secret of the Old Clock, and by the time I was in middle school I was plowing through those yellow-covered hardbacks. My middle school (which was grades six, seven and eight for me) library had nearly every title lined up on a shelf at the west end of the room. I checked out one after another, and never missed the chance to be dismissive of the Hardy Boys simply because Nancy had this. (In hindsight, the Hardy Boys hate was probably more a boys vs. girls thing, but I’m still firmly Team Nancy.)
What made me even more excited about pre-dinner conversation was discovering every woman in the room connected with Nancy Drew. (I won’t reveal their ages, because, you know, decorum, but generations of women. My mother-in-law and her best friend both read Nancy. I read Nancy. The 10-year-old in the room had just discovered the books and was at the beginning of the series. She loved Nancy.
Just between us? I still kind of wish I could be Nancy Drew.
*and all the writers under that pen name