Is Nancy Drew Still Sleuthing Today?

Beth Kanell, one of my fellow authors from the brand new e-book 25 Years in the Rearview Mirror, 52 Authors Look Back, and I are doing a blog exchange today, so after you read Beth’s post here you can read mine on her blog here!

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Is Nancy Drew Still Sleuthing Today?

Are you one of the many readers — like Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, former First Lady Laura Bush, and retired Congresswoman Pat Schroeder — who discovered Nancy Drew in childhood and enjoyed the uncomplicated successes of this teen sleuth? “She was smart and she didn’t have to hide it!” commented Schroeder in a New York Times interview.

Many mystery authors agree that the Nancy Drew stories marked them in some way. Even crime fiction leader Sara Paretsky, who didn’t identify as a child with the relatively privileged world of Nancy, came to see her as a symbol of independence and exuberant strength.

So, why is it so hard to find today’s Nancy Drews? Since the 1930 start of the original series, the Western world has welcomed smart, independent women, hasn’t it? But have you read anything lately that made you say, “Here is today’s titian-haired sleuth” — and then look for the next book in the series?

Part of the answer has to be the complications that we now expect in our fiction. Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce, for instance, is a dogged sleuth with a lot of intellect. But her fondness for poisons at age 11 is demonstrated to be antisocial and dangerous, if useful, and she knows that her family considers her too smart for her own good. (What woman hasn’t heard that line, even today?) Plus her investigations over subsequent books also reveal an underlying sorrow of her life. Underlying sorrow! Never would that appear in a Nancy Drew book. Independence, freedom of choice, a “roadster” to drive (without owing payments), a boyfriend who does just what she asks — Nancy Drew has the easy life and we follow along, at least when we’re kids, with a hunger and confidence in solutions and justice.

I love complicated books. I believe writers need to confront school bullying in fiction, admit that parents aren’t perfect, and challenge easy convictions that ignore DNA evidence.

But I also can’t ignore the lasting presence of Nancy Drew as an inspiration for people who are smart and committed and independent. Life is complicated; Nancy Drew is simpler. And we need her, even today.

[Beth Kanell is writing a Vermont teen sleuth series featuring Felicity “Lucky” Franklin. Will she succeed in crafting a worthy successor to Nancy Drew? Find out, chapter by chapter, at, and look over the author’s shoulder at]

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