Thursday, September 29, 2011

Nancy Drew Diaries - Another Nancy Drew Series Relaunch

Classic Nancy or Modern Nancy?

I'll let you be the judge here--please use the comments section to voice your opinion of the new re-do for Nancy Drew (Nancy Drew Diaries) which I'll discuss below. If you don't voice your opinions, how can you make them count in the long run?

Fans of classic Nancy (hardcovers 1-56 from 1930 to 1979), tend to prefer these to the modern paperbacks. I'd say in my collecting, researching, and consulting expertise, about 85-95% prefer them to anything newly being published.

Why is that? After all, each generation during classic Nancy, if you think about it, had their Nancy. You do realize that 1960s Nancy was not the same as 1930s Nancy during the classic period? The covers had changed, the texts were shorter and being revised during that period. The books were more faster paced. There were differences. But she endured overall. But the Stratemeyer Syndicate was handling the series at this time--it was a family owned operation and run like that, they were really dedicated to these series and Harriet Stratemeyer Adams was like a doting mother. All her time and energy were focused on churning out good "safe and sane" entertainment for children. This kind of business model is very different from a corporate publisher model. That's just the way of the world. Not that one is necessarily better than the other, but they tend to produce very different results sometimes.

Then came the modern era beginning in the 80s with a new publisher, Simon & Schuster taking over publishing in '79 and then outright owning the Syndicate the by mid-80s. We continued the series in paperback from #57 onward. Fans tend to like the early paperbacks--volumes 57 to 78 or thereabouts the best. After the mid-80s, it's hit and miss. There were spin-off series. But the classic series continued on until 2003--ending at #175. During this time-frame every so many years, the series would get a new look or style--different style of covers and models but essentially was the same series with the same formula.

What replaced it in 2004 was the biggest relaunch and update to date--Nancy Drew Girl Detective. This has probably been the most drastic update of the Nancy Drew series over the last couple of decades:

At this time, our fan group was asked for some suggestions while they were revamping the series and working on the relaunch. I sent through some suggestions made on our discussion group list to the editors. We ended up with these drastic changes which differ very starkly from classic Nancy:

1. Stories now told in 1st person instead of 3rd person.

2. Bess Marvin now has mechanical skills

3. George has computer skills and is a hacker

4. Ned Nickerson and Nancy grew up together and live in the same town--he goes to a univ. in the same town.

5. Nancy drives a hybrid car instead of her usual convertible.

6. Nancy is far from perfect--in fact she's seriously flawed compared to her old self--very forgetful, easily distracted, sometimes not reliable.

7. Nancy and Chief McGinnis are now rivals instead of colleagues and his character is not as respectful.

At first the books were pretty nicely written--the camaraderie between Nancy and her chums was believable and easy going, but over time, the continuity and the writing began to suffer a bit. The series wasn't as good as it was at first. And the 7 issues above began to be grating on fans--we've always preferred classic Nancy Drew for a reason--messing with that formula, I think was too drastic of a change in the long run.

The New Nancy Drew Diaries Series:

Now, the Girl Detective series, is being ended--will end shortly next year and then will be relaunched into what lists as the "Nancy Drew Diaries" series. The publisher is at work on a relaunch. So, fans young and older, what do you think about a new series? What kinds of advice do you have for editors working on the series? What kinds of things do you wish to see in a new series? After all you are the ones buying (and collecting) the books--let them know what you'd like to see!

Obviously the market for these books is kids--today's kids--not adult collectors :) However, it's also important to realize that it's adults who steer kids in the direction of various books and series (and who control the purse strings to purchase these for the kids)--often based on our own readings as kids and our own nostalgia. I see parents steering the kids toward the classics more than I do the modern. How do you draw in parents to a new series when it's not like what they read? How do you draw in librarians who look back more fondly on the classics? How do you draw in kids who may not be familiar with the series since it's not as popular as it was back during the classic period--and whose friends may not be reading it or may not have even heard (perish the thought!) of it?

It's a very complicated puzzle in some ways. And I don't think there are easy answers. But what I do feel is essential to Nancy Drew is the classic formula--it has played well over the decades, and still continues to make those classics (1st 56) good sellers. And that formula is good suspenseful mysteries featuring a smart and bold girl detective who is good as what she does and inspires others to do more in their lives--helps others in need and has exciting adventures along the way. Nancy has never needed to be the poster child for any particular movement, a forum for discussion of social issues or political topics (like Eco issues). She's always been a "safe and sane" place for pure fun and escape and adventure for kids to travel to with her. I don't care how modern we get in the world, Nancy has always been that safe haven for kids to just enjoy something fun--and just be kids.

Well plotted mysteries with lots of intrigue and suspense have always carried the day and I think they still can even with modern influences like cell phones or computers. I'd like to see Bess as her old self and Chief McGinnis go back to his jolly friendly self. I'd like to see Nancy kick up some dust in a convertible while adventuring around town in River Heights. Send her off to a spooky mansion and it's out in the woods where there's no good cell phone reception, so she has to use her wits as she always used to, to get out of a sticky situation. Let a villain be "haunting" the house to cover up some kind of modern day type crime and let her unmask him with a neat Gothic spooky backdrop. These things can work together--good old suspense and Gothic mystery so prevalent in the classics--and modern style mysteries. And just because we live in a modern world, don't forget, people still do like to see a mystery about missing heirlooms or old-time cold cases being solved. No one ever gets tired of that! It's a lot more exciting than zucchini.

So, friends and fans, please voice your opinions to this Blog on what you'd like to see for Nancy Drew in the next decade or two--be diplomatic about it and keep in mind that postings are on moderation here to weed out the spammers. If your comment doesn't appear right away, do not repost--it will eventually get approved when I see it and get posted.

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Thanks for your comments and opinions :)



Matthias Smith said...

It's about time! Personally, the idea from the Girl Detective series, that Nancy was flawed is a great one. I never cared for the Mary Sue Nancy of the rewrites, but the more brash and thoughtful one of the 30s.Her-Interactive does a great job of channeling a modern Nancy that is a mixture of 30s Nan and Mary Sue Nan. Personally, I think a rewrite of the original series is in order. Starting from the first edition texts and updating some of the dated materials (modern clothing,cars, the removal of racial comments, but leaving minority characters). Going back to reread some of the rewritten editions, they seem a tad dated, and in some cases one can tell they've been condensed, and toned down. Some of the later books (40-56) seem quite stale and could stand a revision. Another thing that could help is a bit more continuity, that the original texts kept. these would make nice companions to the yellow classic editions. While not crazy about the series title, a first person version of classic mysteries would certainly be interesting.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with what you've said. I did read some of the first "new releases" in the 90s, but even then I definitely preferred the classics. Now that my daughter is reading them, I've only introduced the classics to her. As she shows interest we may branch out, but I doubt we will come to the newest relaunch if they are written too "modern." It just takes so much away from who Nancy is, in my opinion.

Matthias Smith said...

Oh and I forget something! I'd love to see a series aimed at the same age group that the series originally was marketed to (12-16 I believe, was the figure), and not the 7-12 age group that Nance and the Hardys have been given since the rewrites.

Jenn Fisher said...

While an interesting idea, I think a rewrite of the classics would be the death of classics--it's an interesting concept, but in the long run, would maybe be too drastic. They're still really good sellers after all, so that format is working :) But what about writing modern books along the lines of the classics to go along with those as companions at a nice lengthy size compared to the short ones they do not--that might be interesting!


Jenn Fisher said...

Jamie--that's true, sometimes we have to consider how modern we make a series that has a very imbedded existing fan base spanning generations--if we alienate that base, then we can only rely on new buyers to carry a series financially and those buyers can't really be counted on the in the long run to carry a series. You have to appeal to the base to get a broad appeal and get a good stable footing with a new series. This is one reason the 2007 movie failed--they failed to take account of the legions of fans already in existence, who overall snubbed the movie. So there are parallels there. If you turn a character into a shell of what she once was--to make it almost unrecognizable or maybe even not as likeable, then you will alienate that base.


Matthias Smith said...

@ Jenn, your right it might mean the end of the classics. but, a higher quality series (bi-yearly release, not every other month) would last longer and make a better impact.A true revival of Nan and the Hardy Boys , treated as real breathing characters and including a flavoring of old and new (not unlike the PC games), could get new fans. the newer series added nothing to the character or world, and seem mostly tired and cheap after a few rounds. I agree with the your comments on the movie as well. It certainly tried to appeal to the 50s book style, but completed ignored the books relationships and development and felt flat. Emma Robert's Nancy seemed like a Hollywood parody of the character and not a true representation of it.

Jenn Fisher said...

@Matthias--yes I do think that maybe 1 or 2 books per year as they did with the classics--longer ones--would be better developed and would allow for more time spent to draw out the mysteries/etc. I think that might make for stronger sellers too in the long run. I do think that putting out 6 or so books per year did contribute to the lower quality at times of these.


Rachel Leigh Smith said...

I for one will NOT miss Girl Detective. I haven't read on in years because I was so disappointed with how everyone was portrayed. And Deirdre was damn annoying...

I want to see it have more of the classic feel. And definitely ditch Nancy as a forgetful slob. Everyone who reads imagines themselves as the character. Nobody wants to be the current Nancy.

But everybody wants to be classic Nancy, no matter which incarnation you prefer. While she does change in each decade of the classics, there are still things that are the same. Her commitment to solving the mystery and helping whoever's in trouble, being the best person she can be, drawing out the best in those around her. Those are all things we aspire to do, and Nancy lets us do it with her.

I was also NEVER a fan of the first person POV. I really don't like it. The only first person books I read are ones published by authors I'm lucky enough to consider friends. Otherwise, I'm not picking it up.

Matthias Smith said...

@ Rachel, I have to disagree with you there, Nancy was more believable to me as a bit forgetful. Being straight out of high school and extremely intelligent and smart, giving her that forgetfulness was something I can actually see happening. The Nancy Drew currently seen in the rewrites currently published, seemed too perfect. I understand not wanting to give her the gun or have her talking back at authority figures like in the original text, but having a flaw makes her more palatable without giving her a negative trait. As a frequent reader, I think first person would suit Nan fine, if it was handled properly. In the original series it was sometimes hard to follow Nancy's thoughts or to understand her actions, and if they were explained they were done without a personal view, or flavoring. I agree the Girl Detective series suffered though.

nicki richards said...

I think instead of starting a new Nancy Drew series it would be better to re-release the original mysteries in paperback with gripping covers like the ones used on the collins hardback versions in the late 60s,early 70s or even the covers that were used on the Armada versions,i love a lot of those covers.The covers that were on the flashlight books are dull and dont stand out and make you want to read the book.I started reading Nancy Drew in the early 70s and thats the Nancy that i love,yes she was a bit too perfect at times but they were full of action and danger which is what i love about Nancy Drew books.

TL said...

I must be one of the few that actually didn't mind the concept behind the Girl Detective series - sure, some elements were a bit drastic (Nancy being too far from perfect, the Chief's animosity toward Nancy, etc), but some things were refreshing (George and Bess were more fleshed out and less stereotypical, the consistent supporting cast, etc). The thing about updating and changing something that has been around for so long is MODERATION! Don't change things so drastically that it is no longer recognizable. Tweaks and minor changes go a long way to keeping old fans and drawing in new fans.

I think one of the biggest mistakes S&S made with the Girl Detective series is believing that today's children have no attention span. At one of the conventions, I was told by an S&S rep that "kids today have too many things vying for their attention, they don't have time to sit down and read lengthy books." Hmmmm, Harry Potter, anyone? And for those who say that Harry Potter is an anomaly, then check out other bestselling kids' series, such as the Sisters Grimm, the Heck books, Gilda Joyce Psychic Investigator, and others - they are anywhere from 250 to 300 pages per book - and they sell well! Why? Because they are written with care, not rushed just for the sake of getting something out there, and they are fantastic stories in their own right, not dependent on the "name" to sell it. "Nancy Drew" is a very popular name, indeed, but the name itself is not going to make the product sell well.

So now we have the upcoming "Nancy Drew Diaries". Why "Diaries"? I'm sorry, but a diary does not instill in me any thoughts of mystery or secrets - instead, it makes me think of girl romance books. But, I guess we shall wait and see what S&S has in store and hope (and pray!) that they will make a step in the right direction.

Jenn Fisher said...

@Rachel--I think you hit one nail on the head perfectly--most kids when reading, do tend to project themselves onto a character or vice versa. Someone like classic Nancy was to be admired and had such a fun life. Girl Detective Nancy isn't so much someone I'd want to be necessarily if she's always being forgetful or not doing things as well. Too realistic to be very thrilling in my opinion. These books were never designed to be realistic, they were to be fun entertainment as it should be.

@Todd--I did go for the GD concept at first, it seemed refreshing and all, but I think over time, when it didn't fare too well among fans, and the writing wasn't as up to par and other issues, I realized in the long run that I didn't care for it as much as I did classic Nancy. I don't think Bess needed to have mechanical skills to be a buddy of Nancy and George's--that was such a 180 it was almost too drastic. I think as you said, moderation is the key.

Pam H. said...

In this case, quality counts. The quality of the plot, sophistication of the characters, detail in the setting. If the story itself is GOOD, kids will read it, and parents will buy it. And bring back some quality artwork. Certainly not the cartoonish stick figures of the 70's, but the finer line drawings from the earlier books. These could go a long way in helping a new generation fall in love with ND.

Amanda said...

I was excited when the Girl Detective series first started, because I thought there were some good ideas that could work as "something new" for Nancy Drew. I still love the originals the best, but I also like the idea of new books that I haven't read yet, so I bought several of the GD books. I was actually very disappointed. I understand moving away from people perceive as the "perfect Nancy" of the original books, but I think, in trying to make her not perfect, they overdid it, and made her too clumsy, too forgetful, and too difficult for a lover of classic Nancy too read. I believe that having her make a couple of mistakes is fine, because it gives her the human element, but making her forget to get gas (all the time!) is taking it too far. This is the girl who always has an overnight bag in her trunk, just in case. She won't forget something as important as gas. I also really liked the idea of having the books in first person. I felt like I'd been wanting to know what Nancy was thinking for so long, wanted to witness firsthand how she worked through the problems, and I think these books were a letdown on that as well. I really wanted to hear her reasoning everything out in a logical manner, but she always seemed so scatterbrained that it didn't happen. I like how other people have mentioned putting a Nancy in the books similar to the Nancy in the HerInteractive games. I think that would be a great starting point. That way you have a Nancy who is always willing to try to solve the case, who really wants to help people and who tries to be polite to everyone, but who is capable of messing up sometimes (though not every day, all the time). As other people have said, updating in moderation is the key. Fans are going to be turned off and frustrated if their beloved heroine is forced to make a complete 180 from what they always loved about her. Taking her best characteristics from the classics, and putting that into a modern girl, is the best route to go.
Finally, I am really wondering about the "diaries." Is it Nancy's diary? Because that doesn't sound like the way to write a mystery book. If it was Nancy's detective journal, maybe. But not a diary.

Amanda said...

Another thing (which others have mentioned, and I agree with) has to do with the plots themselves. I think the unfortunate character and behavior changes in the GD series might have been overlooked, or been less of an issue, if the mysteries and plotlines themselves were better. Several people have mentioned how the mysteries need to back to people haunting houses to cover up a crime, or Nancy hunting for a missing heirloom, or other such cases. If the actual mystery is good and engaging, people will read it. GD had a lot of watered down mysteries that weren't very exciting. Part of what makes us love Nancy Drew is that she finds all of the good mysteries that she does, and then she is able to solve them.

LuAnn Sgrecci O'Connell said...

I think the pendulum swung too far with NDGD in making her too flawed--she almost seemed too scatter-brained to actually solve a mystery. And while I liked having Bess and George have areas of expertise, that, too, seemed to be over-emphasized and one-dimensional. It's interesting that the classic Nancy's 1-56 (and even beyond) could repeat certain elements without being grating, but the repeated elements of the NDGD were (Bess always the mechanic, Deirdre after Ned, etc.) I think they were more subtle in the classics, but they hit the reader over the head with them in NDGD. 1st POV is not my favorite, but Amanda is right that it could have been done so much better. And the dumbing down--tsk, tsk!
Getting closer to the classic Nancy--more expertise, less angst and flaws (but I'm not saying none) and including some of the chutzpah of the earliest Nancy would appeal to a broad audience, I believe. I really like the suggestion of making her more like the HER interactive Nancy who is more like classic Nancy than most spin-off Nancy's. And I like Jenn's idea of more Gothic settings--Harry Potter and alot of it's imitators seem rather Gothic. I also didn't like the regular 'bad guys' in the NDGD series--Chief Maginnis almost counts and Deidre--I always liked that ND was free from that as I never like that part of the Dana Girls.
Designing an appealing Nancy is a tricky thing! How do you update yet keep the essence? This very issue as regards another famous detective is going to be debated at MX Publishing's Sherlock Holmes facebook page in October over BBC's Sherlock and Guy Ritchie's movies. I think the former better keeps the essence in a modern setting while the latter substitutes a modern essence in the original setting and thus loses it altogether. Can something similar be done with Nancy Drew? What is the essence of Nancy Drew?

Kate said...

I think when people object to "perfect" Nancy, they mean the unrealistic idea that she is better than everyone at absolutely everything, and is always the prettiest, most popular, etc. The Girl Detective series went overboard and made Nancy LESS competent than Bess and George. Isn't there a happy medium? Nancy should be the best DETECTIVE in the series; she is, after all, the series heroine. But there is no need for her to beat George at golf, win the starring role in the play when Bess has rehearsed her heart out, and attract the attention of EVERY handsome guy who crosses her path! Nancy's flaws should not be SLEUTHING flaws. She should not be forgetful, physically weak, whiny, or easily fooled...but she needn't win every contest, and maybe the cute guy who prefers Bess over Nancy shouldn't turn out to be a villain or gay. Secondly, I suggest more ghostly mysteries as opposed to criminal mysteries. It's obvious from the current YA books being published that today's teens are reading paranormal books. Again, no need to go overboard and populate River Heights with vampires...but it would be cool if Nancy & Co specialized in investigating alleged hauntings. Some could be exposed as cover-ups for criminal activity, but there could also be some shivery apparitions that aren't explained and perhaps a new male character who is part of the team and has some psychic abilities, although Nancy is never quite convinced...Nancy relies on her intelligence to solve mysteries, while the new guy uses his "powers." Adding sex, or too much romance, tends to turn off Nancy's adult fans as well as parents, but new teen fans would be hooked by the addition of SOME romantic tension. The core team of Nancy, Ned, Bess, George, & New Guy provides ample opportunity for shifting romantic loyalties, especially if the mysteries also introduce new girls and guys (some of whom might stick around for more than one book).

Anonymous said...

-I think the stories should go back to third person. I liked the level of awareness we had into Nancy's head - sometimes we knew what she was thinking, sometimes we didn't.

-I don't mind George and Bess having interesting skills, but I'd rather they fit in with their established personalities. I can see Bess being a whiz at social networking sites, for example, but that has nothing to do with hacking.

-Ned should attend Emerson. Unless there are legal reasons for him not to, but for God's sake, he's gone to Emerson since the mid 1930s.

-Nancy should be in a convertible, and she should not be nearly as flawed as the Girl Detective series made her out to be.

-If Chief McGinnis is in the books, he and Nancy should have a good relationship. I don't mind if there's a *cop* on the force who is skeptical of her abilities, but the Chief? No.

I started reading the revised Mystery Stories when I was in elementary school and then moved on to the Nancy Drew Files, because they were published when I was in middle/high school. I love both versions of Nancy. I do think that the new series should be for roughly the same audience that the Files were meant for - without as much soap-opera drama as the On Campus series, but I really think more maturity would be wonderful. Classic Nancy is very mature.

While I don't necessarily think she should be rooted in all the "hot" tropes right now - vampires, werewolves, supernatural creatures - Nancy used to investigate those kinds of things all the time, and I think it would be easily compatible. And if it's a longer (the Files were ~150 pages each), well-told story, I think it would be that much more amazing. I would love to actually get excited about a new Nancy Drew book release again; it's been a long time.

I'm also one of the few people who would not object to seeing a more adult version of Nancy Drew - again, not the ensemble soapiness of the On Campus series, but more about the core of Nancy, Ned, Bess, and George. On that note, I would be 100% behind Nancy and Ned getting engaged, even if they never actually did get married in the series (since I think there's still a bit of a stigma attached to that in series books). But I'm sure that would be an entirely different series. Romance/sex, murder mysteries, intrigue and adventure? I would be totally behind that.

Jennifer White said...

I have long considered Her Interactive to be the strongest licensee for Nancy Drew. The Nancy Drew games capture the essence of Nancy Drew and have a strong following. I believe that Nancy Drew remains viable mainly due to the efforts of Her Interactive. The games have flourished while the books have floundered. Exactly why is that?

Nancy Drew has been successful for more than 80 years because she is resourceful, clever, and levelheaded. Furthermore, Nancy has never had a well-defined personality, which enables readers to assume the role of Nancy Drew as they read the books. For several generations, girls have experienced Nancy Drew's adventures along with her and as her. By keeping Nancy as a blank slate and by making her clever and resourceful, girls could have fantastic adventures through her and have experiences that they would never have in their own lives.

In the Nancy Drew games, the game player literally plays as Nancy Drew and experiences Nancy's adventures just like the readers of the books always have. While the player, as Nancy, makes a few mistakes during game play, the player, and therefore Nancy, maintains her dignity. The games have humor, which is important, but the humor involves funny events along with the antics of the other characters, most particularly Joe Hardy who is always up to something. Nancy Drew is never made to look bad.

This is where the Nancy Drew Girl Detective books fail. The main objective of the books seems to have been to make Nancy Drew look as clumsy and inept as possible, and at the same time, make Nancy's friends appear to be more capable than her. Who wants to read a book about a girl who seems to be developing early-onset dementia since she can never remember to fill up her car with gas? Who wants to read a book about a girl whose friends are all more capable than she is? That concept is rather depressing to me. I want to be the capable sleuth.

Additionally, the books need to have better cover art. While a reader should not judge a book by its cover, the truth is that most all readers do. The covers attempt to make Nancy Drew look trendy, and perhaps they do, but to me, she looks like an airhead with a bit of an attitude. I hardly want to collect the books, which is why I stopped buying them new at around volume 10. I am slowly collecting the set secondhand at reduced prices.

The cover art also suffers from a lazy design department which seems uninterested in trying to make the covers look different from each other. Four books, which I have pictured in my blog, feature Nancy wearing the exact same outfit.

Simon and Schuster should take a look at what Her Interactive has done with the Nancy Drew games. The games feature a smart, inquisitive detective who makes just minor mistakes. The games tell interesting stories, and the dialogue between the different characters is engaging. I greatly anticipate the release of each new Nancy Drew game, while I no longer care about the new books at all.

When I view the artwork for the newest Nancy Drew game, I anticipate how great the game will be and think of the fun I will have playing it. Isn't that how I should feel when I see the cover of a new Nancy Drew book?

Kara said...

Well, to be honest, this is to be expected. I have read much of the Nancy Drew series over the years (with the exception of On Campus), and this is one I couldn't really get into as much. It was lackluster much of the times and suffered from the changes.
As for the future, I wish it would be like the Nancy Drew SuperMysteries. They were modern, but if there was ever anything like Nancy outside of the originals, it's those. I'm not sure how it would go, but they need to have better story lines imo and stick to the Nancy we all love :)

Lea said...

I am very impressed with many of the insightful comments left here and hope S&S actually takes note! I was one of those who was excited by the relaunch of Girl Detective, and I think there have been a few good stories mixed in the series, but that at some point they lost their way. There was an effort in the beginning to create more of a community in River Heights, with several recurring characters. That has disappeared.

-- I am somewhat insulted that the recent trilogies have focused on what I can only assume the editors think are important to girls: modeling, the beach, weddings, fashion. And I have always strongly disliked the idea of Nancy having a mean girl nemesis (1st Brenda, then Deirdre). We don't need to model mean behavior to girls! Girls are more capable and kind than the editors assume.

-- Another suggestion I've had for years (as either a book or TV series) is to bring back vintage Nancy. Have stories set in the 1930s, or even in the 1960s to take advantage of the recent Mad Men/Pan Am craze.

-- I agree with Jennifer that Her Interactive has gotten it right, and S&S show do more cross-marketing with them. Their artwork has great appeal to all ages.

-- And why limit the books in page length? They seem to be getting shorter and shorter - I think they are about 120 pages long now! Flesh out the story to make it more interesting, more colorful. Use vocabulary!

This new concept of a "diary" does seem a little awkward. Does anyone write in a diary anymore? Maybe a journal like Dr Watson's, where he chronicles the adventures of his brilliant friend Sherlock Holmes would be more appropriate! Maybe Bess or George can be the author instead.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see something is finally being done about the Girl Detective series! I, too, was excited about them at first, but agree that there were too many changes and the books have drastically gone downhill.

The Good about GD:

~fleshed-out secondary characters: Bess, George, and Ned have more interests and family background

~a well-built world : I really liked seeing minor characters and places show up more than once, like the mayor, the Rackham family, the coffee shop, and Charlie Adams. They gave a sense of consistency to the books. And Dierdre in moderation actually works for me. I don't want another Lettie, but she provides humor and conflict, almost like the Tophams. Unfortunately, this seemed to largely disappear in the later books.

~Nancy and Ned's relationship: for me, this series had the best balance of them all. Their relationship had more sentiment that the classics without the angst of the Files.

The Bad:
~drastic and unnecessary character changes: after six years I still cannot believe Bess as a mechanic. Make her fluent in three languages or an antiques expert, but not something that requires getting dirty. Chief McGinnis may not like Nancy's assistance, but he shouldn't come across as incompetent.

~scatterbrained detecting: the Nancy we admire doesn't need to be perfect, but she should be confident, capable, and composed. She should not completely lack fashion sense, and she should be aware enough to make sure her car has gas. As written, I don't blame the Chief for not trusting her.

~repetitive and irrelevant plots: after over 400 Nancy Drew books, I understand that coming up with fresh ideas is probably tough. However, in the same series we've had multiple Hollywood/movie plots, fashion plots, bike races, etc. In addition, some of the recent more ostensibly "girly" plots seem like they are chasing a subset of all the girls who love Nancy Drew. I was appalled that the latest features a take-off of "Keeping up with the Kardashians," because that is not my idea of something appropriate for the target ages.

~short books/too frequent/trilogy format: all this contributes to poor writing and thin plots. I know that anyone Nancy suspects in the first two thirds of the book will not be culprit.

Anonymous said...


My suggestions:

~Please go back to longer books with better writing and more intricate plots (aka if you think it would make a trilogy, condense it into a 200 page book). Nancy doesn't have to have every case mysteriously match up with Carson's, but the investigations could benefit from being less linear, similar to the computer games. Space out the publishing. This might not make sense for short-term profits but will make the series more sustainable. The books will have a higher quality, and readers might actually anticipate the new releases with excitement. I don't think anyone was ever counting down to when the next GD was released, even with the trilogy format.

~a mix of gothic and original plots: Jennifer is absolutely correct that Her Interactive hits the nail on the head with this. In addition, they manage to have historical and educational aspects. Not every mystery needs a haunted house, but the plots could involve past crimes coming to light, or missing heirlooms. Troubled Waters actually stood out to me as a great plot because it included multiple storylines, an original situation (Habitat for Humanity), a tie-in to an old crime, and a creative use of modern technology (using a cell phone to record the crook's confession). Several of the early books (3-15 or so) also had good plots.

~Nancy does not need to be perfect, but she should be intelligent. She can certainly make miscalculations, or ask a suspect a question that makes him or her clam up, without losing her ability to be a role model. None of the protagonists on all the mystery/law shows on TV make hare-brained mistakes.

~Keep a well-rounded supporting cast, where the characters have larger defined roles but are not arbitrarily different from the originals. Continue to keep the vibrant River Heights that has been set up, with its industrial history and friendly residents.

~Above all, S&S needs to take this seriously, and keep an active interest in the quality of the series. The more reincarnations of Nancy we are given, the less likely they are to take hold with the target audience. If the Nancy Drew Diaries are not a success I will be sincerely worried.

(Whew! I did not mean this to be so long.)


Anonymous said...

I am both excited and concerned about a relaunch of the Nancy Drew series.

There is one thing I really liked about the Girl Detective series. Though rarely used after the first couple of years, the fact that Bess Marvin was portrayed as both Miss Fix-It and a fashion plate was fascinating. Maybe it’s because I live in a rural area and see this in teen girls who work on the family farm and then dress up for Homecoming or prom.

I think what hurt the Girl Detective series most is a lack of continuity as far as cases were concerned. Going to Costa Rica for the first time—THREE times—is a bit excessive.

What do I want to see in the new Nancy Drew Diaries series?

1. A new name. Little girls write in diaries; teenagers write in journals. (Yeah, that’s a broad generalization.)

2. A series for teens. While reading the first Madison Kincaid Mystery by Phillip Margolin and Ami Margolin Rome, “Vanishing Acts,” I realized that what made the series so appealing is that you have a junior high age girl as the protagonist for a series for 9-12 year olds. The saying used to be that kids wanted to read about older kids. I’m not sure that’s true anymore.

3. A higher reading level (this goes along with 2). I didn’t discover Nancy Drew until I was nine years old. I was blessed to have an adult friend who had more of the original text books than revised, and my vocabulary grew as a result. Nancy Drew should be written for the teen/young adult/adult market, not for beginning readers. A rep from S&S once told me that an adult Nancy Drew series, though considered, was labeled a brand killer. Funny, but I consider an eight-year-old Nancy Drew more of a brand killer. When I think of an adult Nancy Drew series I think of the first nine Ellery Queen books (“The Roman Hat Mystery,” “The French Powder Mystery, “The Dutch Shoe Mystery,” etc.) as how the series could be. I’d accept a quality teen/young adult series that didn’t come across as more soap opera than mystery.

4. Mystery. What drew me to the Nancy Drew books over the Hardy Boys was the feeling they were true mysteries. I’d love for Nancy to be working at her dad’s office and stumble across mysteries in his files. Carson Drew’s files could be full of unsolved mysteries: missing heirs, land disputes, wrongly accused persons, and more.

5. A job or college. Most 18-year-olds either have a job or continue their education, or both. Nancy appears to enjoy an endless summer between high school and real life. Even Bess and George work at times.

6. Quality over quantity, or longer stories, fewer times per year. I believe one or two Nancy Drew books per year that are 250-300 pages in length with a strong story would be preferable to the 140 pages or less we’re getting. Sometimes I think the font size has been increased to even hit the 140-page mark. Add in hardcover editions with dust jackets, and I’d be even happier.

7. Relationships. While I believe Ned will always be Nancy’s true love, I’m not against a little romantic tension between Nancy and another guy. That said, I think Nancy’s support team should always include Bess, George, Ned, and Helen Corning Archer (hey, you can’t blame a guy for trying) as well as Carson Drew and Hannah Gruen.

Will any of our suggestions be taken into consideration? Who knows. I do know that I will give the new series a try.


Walter said...

I think that there should be more character growth and development. In the classics, events from previous books are near forgotten with the next installment, and the characters seem to be just treading water, not growing as people, but not regressing either. If the series were to go to just two or three a year and have their be series-long story arcs (not one mystery over three books, those are horrible and make me think that if Nancy can't solve the case in one book she's not very good), recurring characters besides Nancy and her crew/family, and a real feeling of "Look how far we come" it might bring in some new readers who previous thought it was purely episodic.

Lauren said...

I absolutely love Nancy Drew and was very disappointed in the Girl Detective series. This Nancy was, I'm sorry, a wimp! The old Nancy, the one I grew up idolizing, would never be scared by hearing a broken twig in the woods and wish Ned was there to protect her. I didn't like that they turned the strong heroine into a damsel in distress and I really hope that this new series goes back to what Nancy should be like, the old Nancy. The hybrid car was nice in keeping with the new trend of being sustainable but the mustang convertible was an icon. I wanted a mustang ever since I started reading Nancy. Also, Nancy Drew Diaries? She never seemed to me to be the type to keep a diary, unless it was used more as a notebook to keep case notes in. First person never fit well with me; it seemed like the writers were just using it as a way to make her more wimpy. Sure, I get making her girly, but the Girl Detective series took it way too far. Same with the Hardy Boys: The minute they blew their cover I stopped reading the Undercover Brothers series. That was so out of character that I refused to read any more, just like I refused to read Nancy when she got out of character. Hopefully, this new series will learn from these mistakes.

Anonymous said...

I've read quite a number of the original, hardback Nancy Drew Mystery Stories (the revised versions, mostly), and I've read a decent amount of the Nancy Drew Files spin-off series. I like them both, 'classic' Nancy as well as a more modern Nancy. (Yes, yes, I know it's already 2012.) I am generally afraid to buy a "Girl Detective" book because of all the flack that the series has received. I think I'd be very happy if Nancy Drew was rewritten for the Diaries series as something between the 'classic' Nancy and the NDF Nancy. Sometimes the Nancy in the NDF can be really self-absorbed and not care what other people feel (like poor Ned), and I really don't see Nancy Drew as being a self-absorbed person. She could be a teensy-weensy bit too perfect sometimes in the classic books, but that really is a minor complaint. I guess what I'm saying is, I liked the target audience for the NDF series (a little bit older, but still not 'adult') but I liked the wholesomeness of the Nancy from the revised hardbacks. Nancy doesn't need to dizzy herself from gorgeous suspect to gorgeous suspect. She just needs to solve her mysteries, George and Bess and Ned in tow. And a little bit of characterization fpr all of them in the process, a la NDF, really couldn't hurt anybody. ~K

Anonymous said...

Oh. And one more thing: I would like to read a new Nancy Drew series that has some sort of consistency to the quality of the ghostwriting. I noticed in the NDF series in particular, the caliber of the writing could change drastically from one story to the next (even if the plots were equally interesting). Perhaps that is the editor's fault somehow, I don't know, but it can be irritating to read one installment of a series and really love the writing, and then read the next volume and feel like it was written by a third-grader. :(

Anonymous said...

Okay, okay, ONE MORE THING: I think it would be awesome if the publishing company would have an old-fashioned contest for a fan-written Nancy Drew book, which could be published as part of the existing canon if that particular entrant won. It would have to be a mystery (not a romance or a fantasy or whatever), appropriate for younger readers, etc. But that would give some opportunities for new mystery ideas and things to be injected into the Nancy Drew universe, while still meeting requirements of character, length, quality, morals, and all of that good stuff. That's just what I've been thinking recently, anyway. ~K

Anonymous said...

I just checked the forthcoming Diaries series out at Amazon and I have to say, I dislike the cover art. I think they should bring back paintings like in the classic Nancy Drew mysteries and the paperbacks. ~K

Louise said...

Some great commments have been posted. The Girl Detective Series was wrong on so many levels. It was supposed to offer insight, but instead even "hannah" became Mrs Gruen the housekeeper! (not real heart showing how she was a substitute mother). I agree with a lot that has been said. Nancy can be flawed, but for crying out loud let her be good at detective work. I agree with the most recent author. The Files almost got it right but in the end tried to become a little too much like "Sweet valley High" at times. Send Nancy to a local college, give her a job, but keep the focus on the mystery at the end of the day.

Anonymous said...

I have just read the first book of the ND diaries...I am not impressed. Bess has a new boyfriend, no mention of Burt Or Dave!!!!
Over a 100 pages in and no progress on the mystery at all. This Nancy pales in comparison the the original Nancy (vol. 1-56)
They also changed Bess and Gerorge a bit too much

Anonymous said...

I have hope for the new series. I think the covers and the generally apparent return to the classics feel are the source of this hope. Despite negative reviews, I will read the series without being too judgemental until I've read a few. I have no issues with the modernization of the world. However, the 1959 revisions of the first Nancy Drew classics remain largely unchanged today, and are still well read. While any argument that Nancy Drew should remain the same is ultimately a bad one (things always change!) as long as three things are kept in this new series, I should be happy, and count it an improvement upon Girl Detective and far worse 'The Files'.

1. Nancy should not be perfect, necessarily (she cna be cool and collected like the revised 50's Nancy, but still be more flippant like the earlier Nancy. but yeah, she should be organized, resourceful and actually be good at solving mysteries.

2. I actually think sometimes the mystery in the classics took up too much space, and there was often not enough time for normal stuff like dancing and eating and talking - the bits inbetween - cos if its just Nancy solving a mystery, its never going to appeal to younger readers. However, there should be a mystery, and it should be the major part of each installment, not a minor backdrop.

3. I think there's room for improvement regarding continuity. I think it would be interesting if Nancy changed throughout the series, got older perhaps, or merely just became a better or different person through her experiences, rather than (like Ash forgetting how to do stuff with Pokemon) becoming the same Nancy at the beginning of each book.

That said, will the REAL Nancy please stand out? I think we all want to see the real Nancy again, and she will be the most appealing character anyway. Someone that isn't Bella (who has nothing going on anywhere except wanting to be a vampire, and without any really significant motivation either) but the strong willed, strong hearted Nancy who teaches us how to be better people, and shows us up if we look in the mirror and see that we are not being the best of ourselves. And chasing boys rather than 'THE TRUTH' is not going to help us out on that front.