Sunday, September 26, 2010

Young Adult Female Protagonists: Nancy Drew

I am among the throngs who couldn't get enough of Nancy Drew mysteries when I was younger.  It fed into my obsession with Mary Higgins Clark in 7th grade and is probably the foundation of my love of too many mystery television shows.  I've been trying to read a lot of young adult books with female protagonists to get some insight into why we love certain ones, why we need certain ones (or why we should hate certain ones).  I found a copy of The Secret of the Old Clock for a dollar while shopping with my mom this summer and just re-read for the first time since...1988?

I couldn't get enough of her when I was younger.  In fact, I think I wanted to be her: driving around in a blue convertible, solving mysteries for all my neighbors, a blond beauty.  I'm pretty sure she was the impetus behind the "Mysterioso Club" I formed with my best friend, when we tried to find mysteries to solve in our midwestern neighborhood.  Maybe it was a combination of her cunning and her "smart" outfits that got me. (What are "smart" outfits, anyway?)

Generally, I am a fan of female protagonists who are imperfect--girls a reader could see herself in (the Judy Blume response is coming soon...).  Nancy Drew is so creepily perfect in behavior...and very stereotypical suburban, upper middle class and white that I doubt any of my students could see themselves in her. If I had read the book for literary and cultural study alone (without my nostalgic childhood dreams of fighting crime), this post would be very different.  But I find myself incapable of betraying Nancy like that.  And, it is interesting to me that such an independent, teenage girl character was published only ten years after women got the right to vote.

All that to say, that despite the unfortunate nature of its literary style and characterization, I am still a fan of Nancy's adventures--their vintage nature is perfectly delightful.

1 comment:

Amie Robillard said...

As we have previously discussed, I love Nancy Drew. I have a few of my mom's copies of her books. Also, I do not think we have ever discussed our childhood clubs? I also had one with a friend to solve mysteries in our neighborhood and I still have some of the notes